Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Coming up: David Craig's First and last Climbs.

 "Across the loch a burn zigzagged down the tawny mountainside in a fierce bolt like white lightning. On all sides the limbs and heads of the bens lay calmly, uneventfully, assuring us that nothing seismic or desperate had happened or would happen here for many millions of years. The clouds were dry and high and bluish-grey like goose-down, the very look of July in Aberdeenshire. We were making for one of Bill and Kenny's classic routes, The Talisman on Creagan a' Choire Etchachan. After an hour's steady climbing up from Loch Avon, over the col past Loch Etchachan and into Coire Etchachan ('corrie of great space'), we off-loaded our sacks where a buttress sprang out of the northernmost slope of Derry Cairngorm and rose for three hundred and fifty feet, as hard and clean as steel to the touch.
From the guidebooks, always a mixed blessing, I knew that the climb started up a 'short crack', on which they spent few words. The first moves up it were like trying to wade in rock. A huge recumbent flake is propped against the buttress proper. The fissure between them was obviously what to use. I stuck my left foot crossways into it, knowing it would lodge, hoisted my right one towards the shelf made by the flake, and ... nothing happened. My foot sank into the crack, and in and in – my other one couldn't quite hook onto the top – I was half-riding an obdurate stone steed, or rather I was slumping back off it in a sweat of frustration. There must be something. I braced my left foot hard, pressed sideways on it and ... it kept disappearing into that narrow, seemingly bottomless shadow.'

This Friday- a beautiful and poignant piece of writing from the master of perfectly pitched climbing prose David Craig. Certainly a strong contender for one of the best articles ever published on this site.

Illustration from an original painting by Bill Wynn