|Me on "The Screen" 1976. No runners just head down with "The Terrors" until the rope stops|
- Big Ride
- Yo Yo
Carnivore. I was beaten to this by Fiona my wife. We climbed very many routes together and she was a pretty able climber. Sadly removal of the lymph glands on one side from breast cancer has scuppered that now! We lived in Duror when first married and I worked as a woodcutter. To say I was fit and strong would be an understatement. George Reid my regular climbing partner phoned me up to see if I would take the afternoon off and go climb "The Villains Finish" with him. I was away up the wood out of contact so Fiona offered to hold the rope. The back rope on the first traverse pitch jammed so they climbed the entire route on a single 9mm which is pretty necky. The Villains finish had a fairly big reputation for being brutal so good effort. To say I was pissed off would be an understatement. The monsoons came and winter and I had to wait until the following year to work off my frustration. I was in a hurry to get it done and I press ganged a young instructor at the Glencoe outdoor centre to be my rope man. So mid March in a snowstorm I stormed the first pitch. Linked the second two in a one'r and prepared for the overhanging crack that gives the direct finish. Good rock, but hanging out over big space it's an up out and right move with a stiff 5c pull onto the wall above where its a gearless runout to the top at a steady 5a. All in a blizzard. Kev Howett and Dave Cuthbertson were on the crag that day dropping a rope and cleaning what is now a tunnel wall bolt classic. Kev snapped a photo of me which I have always wanted to see. I knew Don Whillans quite well as I played darts against him and Joe Brown at the Padarn on trips to Wales, and he was well known by Hamish. I never climbed with Don but I did climb with Joe who was a fairly regular visitor to Glencoe at that time.
|Carnivore first pitch|
My early interest in the route came from the infamous graded list in the red colored guidebook I had covering Buachaille Etive Mor and Glen Etive. This guide listed Agag's Groove as suitable route of decent from Rannoch Wall (Ian Nicholson is the only person I know who used it as this). With various friends and later Fiona I had been working my way up the graded list and only Shibboleth was left. Many routes at the bottom deserved a place nearer the top! I had looked across at the route from various angles doing routes on either side and watched another party from the SMC (Graham MacDonald) on it while I was doing Bludgers/Revelation with George Reid. I even had John MacLean (The Great White Hope was John's nickname after Smith got chopped) regaling me with the tale of the 2nd ascent he did when he was "looking for that fucker Wheechs peg" while rolling a fag while I was on the crux of "Pete's Wall" at Huntly's Cave. "Wheech" being Smiths nickname.
|Gearing up for Shibboleth with George aka "The Mole"|
I can still remember stepping onto the first pitch, up past a block with no gear until just before the winking black groove. I was pretty nervous. The black groove was wet necky and hard with a cold welded nut hammered into the crack. The 3rd pitch up to below Revelation flake is a joy but with a sting in the tail pulling onto the belay ledge. The best pitch is up the wall to the right of Revelation flake. A long pitch of steady successive 5b moves on little rough holds on a plumb vertical wall, then a pull over a small overhang then up the wall to the belay. With one runner! All with the gaping maw of Great Gully below, and Ravens winking from the shadows. Absorbing climbing. The final two 45m pitches to N. Buttress are great 5a climbing up steep walls, or go back as we all do one day and do the route again but traverse right across the cave and do "The True Finish" which Smith added later. The Hard Rock book version is the 5a finishing pitches which really are great. The cave is just truly spectacular! On finishing we went across and did Yamay, Yam, Happy Valley and May crack in the company of the now sadly late Tam Macaulay and Dave "Paraffin" who were well impressed we had done Shibboleth, especially as the crux groove was so wet.
We went to "The Ferry Bar" later that night (under the bridge at Ballachulish) which was "the" climbers pub at that time. Ian Nicholson and several others shook our hands saying well done lads, and for the next week we had folk saying I hear you guys did Shib well done! I don't think many routes had that reputation credibility and aura in Glencoe. It was nice for once to feel the equal of the legends. I can't think off many mountain routes since that were such a turning point in confidence. Winter perhaps doing the point in the early 1970's was still something, even though Ian had soloed it in an hour. Rock climbing probably doing Cenotaph Corner in a pair of big boots might come close!