2015 Review

Written by Andrew

Leaving behind the fantastic summer of climbing we enjoyed in 2014 we entered the new year with high expectations for more of the same. Al’s review of the year ended on an optimistic note: “We’re looking forward to hopefully another summer like last.”

Our optimism gradually succumbed to a dose of harsh reality however, as the weeks dragged into months with only the occasional dry day breaking through. Despite the weather, we made the best of the hand we were dealt—a must for any outdoor activity in Shetland—and managed to squeeze in a few great days out regardless.

Christine at Bannaminn

Christine at Bannaminn

The year began, as it always does for me, with excitement building as we head from January into February, the nights start to lighten, the occasional freezing cold (but dry!) day pushes through and I wait expectantly for the first bouldering opportunity of the year.

Mike soloing "Goudie's Search" on Bressay

Mike soloing “Goudie’s Search” on Bressay

My focus this year was on Levenwick, a venue developed a few years ago by Paul. Unfortunately none of my projects fell, but sometimes just getting outside on your own when you least expect it is enough reward in itself.

Al expressed both his frustration and optimism as April arrived and we still hadn’t made it out on Trad, writing The Exploration bug. (We got back to the crag he wrote about later in the year and gave it a clean; the routes are still awaiting a return trip).

Thankfully we didn’t have to wait much longer. The first trad climbing of the year arrived later in April when Kevin and I headed to Bannaminn for a few gentle warm-up routes to shake the dust off. The welcome dry weekend certainly wasn’t wasted, the very next day most of the rest of Shetland’s climbers descended en-mass on the South Gill. Despite being one of Shetland’s most frequented crags over the years, Al and Andy still managed to find some gaps and fit in three new routes.

First time visitor Imelda leading "Silent Street" at Pobie Skeo

First time visitor Imelda leading “Silent Street” at Pobie Skeo

In May Climb Shetland had their first club trip of the year, to Skaw Point in Unst. It was the first time at the crag for most of us and both the climbing and camping proved to be well worth the trip. The sun graced us with its presence—if not its warmth—and plenty of the existing routes had rare repeats.

Christine at Fidlar's Geo

Midway through the year the poor weather broke again and we enjoyed three June weekends of dry rock in a row. Heading to The Grind of the Navir always feels a bit like being reunited with an old friend; it has a very different feel to any of the other crags in Shetland and most of the climbers who have passed through the Isles over the years have left their mark on its walls. As Al noted in his midyear roundup, it’s often tempting to think of the crag as “climbed out”, but sometimes all you need is a new perspective and I managed to spot a new line next to “The Scientist” while we pottered about on the tiny walls opposite. This gave an engrossing route on small crimps, well worthy of its stars.

The following weekend Climb Shetland were out in force to take advantage of the beautiful conditions at Fidlar Geo. This is one of Shetland’s newest crags and offers an excellent venue for beginners and new leaders. The West Wall slabs are a bit of a sun trap and we made the most of it by repeating every single route on the wall and adding three new ones. We’re constantly being surprised by the little gems that keep turning up in every corner of the islands.

Mike on the first ascent of "Motion Suspended", Bressay

Mike on the first ascent of “Motion Suspended”, Bressay

Nearing the end of June some of us made another trip out to Pobie Skeo. This was a popular crag in 2013, with several visits to repeat existing routes, and add a few of our own. This year was no exception and Al and I both managed to fit in a new route up the sandstone slabs. The routes on this wall offer an “interesting” start, pulling straight through an overlap that runs across its full length.

Ross and Christine at the Warie Gill

Ross and Christine at the Warie Gill

Ross and Mike also had a successful trip up from the Mainland in June, initially with an attempt on one of the impressive Foula cliffs in mind; but after being put off by the forecast they spent a couple of weeks travelling the length of the isles, picking off new lines on several different crags. Al covered most of these in his article, and Ross also wrote an excellent roundup of their new lines on Bressay for us.

Continuing the years’ developing theme of repeating existing routes, we headed to the Warie Gill at the beginning of July to squeeze in a couple of lines before being rained off. Most of the routes here were put up by Wilson Moir in the late ‘80s and the crag offers a unique piece of history in the form of Shetland’s only in-situ peg (as far as we know). After almost thirty years of pounding North Sea waves I wouldn’t recommend falling on it!

The rest of July was spent staring forlornly at the rain breaking trails down our windows and daydreaming of warm, grippy rock. Thankfully that’s exactly what we got on the very first day of August. Amid calm seas and high temperatures we spent a fantastic day at the Eshaness Lighthouse, again repeating some of the best lines. There are now very few gaps on the walls here and these will mostly be in the higher (and/or looser!) grades. When the right conditions arrive it’s hard to beat the longer, more committing routes at the Lighthouse and similar crags, where you can really get lost in the climbing.

Kevin seconding Gwydion on "Black Watch" at the Eshaness Lighthouse

Kevin seconding Gwydion on “Black Watch” at the Eshaness Lighthouse

The weather again took a turn for the worse throughout the rest of August, but we did our best to work around conditions. Two more evening sessions at the Warie Gill both ended in slippery top-outs, hard shells and a mad dash to cram gear back into our rucksacks before it got too drenched. Al and I each repeated Wilson’s “Wall of Sound”, and I clipped the aforementioned peg for the novelty, squeezing a reassuring micro cam into the break right next to it! It’s interesting to consider how different routes like this feel without a lot of the smaller modern gear we rely on today.

Between routes

Between routes

Ross and I rounded out August—and my climbing for the entire year—by making a quick after-work trip out to Blovid in the south. This crag was only discovered last year by Ross and has very quickly filled up with lines, mostly in the low E-grades. My first impressions were that everything looked easier than I expected—that was until we got on a couple of the routes! The whole wall is much steeper than it seems, and this is compounded by the less-than-positive rounded sandstone holds. We did manage to squeeze in another two routes, although mine was somewhat contrived. Ross also managed to develop an entire new wall of short solo routes while he waited out of sight for me to walk past him twice in either direction trying to find the crag!

The final four months of the year brought terrible weather and an abrupt end to the climbing for most of us. A couple of routes were squeezed in here and there between the showers, but generally our focus shifted to other things. In fact it’s been so long since we’ve climbed outside that both Al and I managed to completely forget about compiling this roundup until January was underway; I then spent the next three months writing paragraphs every now and then and struggling to pluck up the motivation to turn my mind back towards climbing.

As usual though, thinking back over the previous year’s new routes has lit the spark again, and I’m already preparing my mental ticklist for summer 2016. The days are much longer, “spring” (winter) is getting shorter every day and I’m going to go sort through my rack—any chance of a belay?

Andy at the Eshaness Lighthouse

Andy at the Eshaness Lighthouse

P.s. Thanks to everyone that followed us over the last year, we really appreciate the support and hopefully this year we’ll have more to write about! A special thanks to everyone that’s taken the time to write up new route developments and help us to grow the database.

2 Comments

  1. Chris Webb says:

    Fantastic round up of a years activities, well done guy’s. Hopefully this year will be a bit more pleasant and the rain will hold off a bit more than last year.

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