It seems that summer has moved on in the north east of Scotland, some might wonder if it was ever here at all, but I know it happened. It may not get real hot, or real dry, but the super long days and the many weekends of traveling far and wide testify to the summer’s existence. A friend of mine made the recent comment “it’s time for sunsets again.” Too right. Sunrises as well for that matter. In the height of Aberdeen summer the sun goes down after ten with gloaming almost until midnight only to have the sun rise again at 4:30 a.m. The days are much shorter now and fall is here and that means no more long days in the mountains. But that’s ok, because we can return to our local sea cliffs!
I love the coastal climbing around Aberdeen. So many crags, all beautifully situated on the north sea, and the variety! Bullet hard granite, swirly schist, soft and compact sandstone and everything else in between makes the coastal cragging here a lot of fun. I also like it for the fact that routes tend to be on the shorter side. I’m less intimidated by them and find I can commit to climbing harder routes more often. Just a couple weekends ago we got out with Pete and Anna and the coastal climbing didn’t disappoint.
We picked them up on a fine Saturday morning. Anna had been up all night working and somehow Pete had talked her into coming out with us today or maybe she was just keen to not waste a beautiful day. Either way, bravo!
We decided to head north of Aberdeen and discussed a few options along the way. We came to agree on Harper’s Wall, a crag Amelia and I had never been to. Even though Pete had been there a few years ago he was keen to go back. I think he had a rematch pending.
Harper’s Wall has a unique feature. The base of the wall is steeply overhanging for the first 2 meters which makes the start of almost all the routes the hardest part. Not only that, but the base is also home a number of very green and nasty looking pools of standing water. Climbers and belayers both have to be careful not to fall in.
Pete and Anna warmed up on the aptly named 1, 2, 3 Go! (HVS 5b). The route is so-named because of that steep start I was mentioning. Meme and I did it after our warm up, the less gymnastic Renegade (VS 4c) which traverses in from the right to left and then climbs up the highest part of the wall. 1, 2, 3, Go! begins by reaching as high as you can to grab the first hold and pulling up onto the climb as best you can. It’s basically a chin up followed by a throw to the next good hold, a stop to fiddle in some gear and then another long reach to the next good hold and only then does one get their feet on the climb proper. The rest of the route maintains interest by negotiating a bulge and then climbing up a groove. It’s excellent climbing. We had to get a little crafty with gear so Amelia could follow it, but it all worked out well.
Pete and Anna then moved on to the more serious Silent Partner (E2 5b). We’ve got pictures of Pete on the lead in the gallery below. It looked hard! Nice one Pete. Amelia and I, not to be outdone, upped our game as well and got on Che (E2 5c). Ok, I actually thought I was on the neighboring route Rock Mushroom (E1 5b) as they both share the same start, but it seems I missed the turn off and ended up in thin cracks high on the wall. I remember thinking it felt quite hard and sustained for E1 and that’s when Anna, with guidebook in hand, called the error in route finding up to me. That’s great! I’m not weak, this is hard, I’m climbing at my limit. I continued on higher and higher above my last bits of gear with a slight quiver in my legs expecting to fall off at any moment, but thankfully just enough holds were there and I made it to the top without taking the fall. Climbing hard is often fun, but the jury’s out on that one. No stars for you Che.
By this point the incoming tide was encroaching fast so we headed to the nearby non-tidal favorite Meikle Partans. We’ve climbed at this crag quite a bit, but there’s still a few challenges within my abilities and one of those is Boardman’s Crack (E2 5b). It’s not a long climb, but it’s deceptive in difficulty. I watched a friend of mine fall off this route on his birthday earlier this year (he got it clean on his second go). It starts off steep and awkward but there is good gear and the crux is short lived. Slam in good nut, grab the next hold and lean far out to the left while moving the feet up and before you know it, it’s all over. There’s no gear for the next few meters but the climbing is not hard. Felt more like a boulder problem really. Good though. Glad to have that one done.
The reason for the crag’s popularity is the abundance of high quality climbs in the lower grades. Down at the left end of the wall is a favorite lead of Amelia’s. Constellation (Severe) climbs a beautiful corner of immaculate rock. The climbing is quite easy all the way to just before the top where a nice little crux awaits. There’s also the crag classic, Strawclutcher’s Wall (E1 5b) which Anna cruised despite having been up for more than 20 hours straight. Nice one Anna! Pics are in the gallery below.
Pete’s last climb of the day was Comedy of Errors (E2 6a). I’ve not done this one yet, but it’s there for the next time. A friend of mine did the first ascent in 1996 so that’s reason enough to try.
It’s worth noting that we had barbeque’d bananas with melted chocolate there courtesy of Pete and Anna. That’s now 3 times we’ve had bbq at this crag! Brilliant. Thanks guys!
Wow, coastal cragging at it’s finest. A short drive, 2 crags, 5 routes and a bbq all before sunset. Bring on the fall I say, the season suits me just fine.