Saturday, 19 September 2009

Ya Dancer

After last weeks disappointment at Strathconnon I was pretty angry at myself for not having broken the E7 barrier , not angry at failing on the route but more angry at myself due to the nagging doubts of losing my bottle etc . A while back Dave and Gaz both soloed an E7 slab in the Gorms called Firestone , Dave called me shortly afterwards telling me it would suit my style of climbing . However the route gets seepage from Hells Lum and takes days to dry , which hadn't happened for near two months . On Wednesday night I checked the forecast for the weekend and saw that Friday looked good and it had been dry for three days , time to go for it . I picked Kieran up early and headed to Aviemore to meet Fran . The closer we got to the Gorms the better it looked . We got ready and headed on in and even though I kind of knew what I was heading for I felt perfectly content with it.

Kieran and Fran heading up the Goat Track

We headed up into the Corrie in a fairly strong wind but stunning views everywhere , one of those days that make you glad to be alive and in the mountains . On arrival at the crag the route looked exactly as it said in the guide "devoid of holds and protection" perfect!! I got on top rope right away and , as happened last week , only fell once first attempt. I tried it afew more times but then realised that what will happen will happen , harness off , rope gone , just myself and time to play the dark mental game.

Tope-roping Firestone , Fran on belay...

I sat away while the lads set up for film and pics. I always have to try find the right motivation triggers before doing things like this and they usually follow the same line and this time was no exception but I usually feel pretty scared and yet this time I felt nothing . Just an emptiness that seemed to come from focus , total committment to doing the line and a kind of resignation to the route. I felt free.

I got on the route and climbed the first few metres , my foot slipped and I hurtled down , no pain though so no excuses to quit. Straight back on and went for it , I went way past any possibility of down-climbing and remember thinking to myself that I was strangely happy to be in a position like this. As I approached the crux , which is in the last few moves , I could feel my feet start to slip again but then something happened and I focused totally on the subtle smears in the rock , no racing heartbeat , no hurling stomach , just a crystal clear picture of what had to be done.

Approaching the midway point on the solo

I got to within one move of the good hold at the end and just as I tickled two fingertips onto a tiny hold my feet once again felt insecure , relax , keep going , no chance to quit now. I reach through by the skin of my teeth to the finishing hold , mantle and literally run the last few metres and it was just the best I've felt in years.

Contemplating what I had just done and pondering whats next

As we were packing up our kit I took some time to myself to think , and realised that although I was stoked at doing the route I was also feeling somewhat lost as I dont really know where to go next in rock climbing , I have always said that soloing E7 was my lifetime ambition and I wouldn't solo any harder but already the niggling thoughts were there. I also had to try explain to myself how far I'm willing to go to climb a route , the risk , purposeful depression , severing contact with important people in the build up and came very quickly to the conclusion that those fleeting seconds of pure undiluted happiness after the climb are worth all the sacrifice.

Time to focus on winter plans................


  1. Great news! Thought you'd be keen when I seen Dave Macs post earlier on in the year about Firestone. There's lots more of Jules' lines for you in the Gorms I'm sure.

  2. Cheers Dave , aye I'm pretty keen to go back to the Unknown Soldier when its a bit cooler....

  3. Strong work kev! looks a great bit of rock. I love it in there. Hoping to head in for the needle next weekend. Take it easy.

  4. Congrats Kev Great effort!

    Neil Silver