Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Neilston: E2 or not E2?

Caroline and I headed for Neilston a couple of weeks ago. We'd seen the chat on Scottish climbs, and the new topo seemed to spur us on. Arguably it was a bit further from Edinburgh than we had anticipated, and much smaller than I had come to believe (having not looked at the topo myself - totally unprepared, me!). We followed numerous diversion signs, wondering exactly how far out into the wilds this wee place was, but eventually spotted the quarry with it's scary iron sentry. It's a delightul wee place.

Not quite the Eiffel Tower....

We've done a ton of sport and bouldering, and we both enjoy indoor climbing too, but trad is still a strange and mysterious world to us. So we started on HVS, neither of us ever having led HVS before. Why not? It looked ok. In fact it was very nice and pretty straightforward, much more so than I thought it would be. The climbing itself was fairly easy as far as we were concerned. We did both Punk Rock and Curved Crack at HVS 5a, placing as much gear as was humanly possible, just for the practice. Then we did Willie's Route, which is marked in the book as Severe, with an E2 6a variation. After much debate (see below) we followed this with a VS route to the right, unsure whether it was the VS 4c or the VS 4a....

Having admitted that we are not trad bunnies, we are slightly confused by Willie's Route and it's variation. Some friendly chaps there before us, who seemed to know the crag pretty well, said that the Severe went up the crack and then to the right of the grassy scoop. There's a good bit of gear in the back of the scoop, and the right hand option looked pretty easy and with lots of gear.

Always up for a challenge (!) we opted to go straight up the back of the scoop, and straight up the slab above. This fits the Lowland Outcrops description of the E2 6a variation as well as we thought it could, given the brevity of the description, but seemed pretty easy for E2! We thought E2 was meant to be Hard and Scary! We wondered whether the variation might have avoided the broken crack from the ground to the scoop and gone up the slab to the left of it, but that sounded more like the E3 between Willie's Route and Curved Crack - a proper scary-sounding route! Diff also rightly pointed out that in order to be a variation, the E2 option needs to share some parts in common with the original Severe option. Usually a "variation" shares the start, otherwise it's known as a "direct start", which would presumably share an upper part of the route.

Willie's Route (S) marked in red. The line we took (the E2 variation??) in yellow. Punk Rock (HVS 5a) in blue and Curved Crack (HVS 5a) in green.

There is no gear that we could find on the slab above the back of the scoop (along the yellow line above), even for side runners as suggested by Lowland Outcrops. Getting out of the scoop and onto the slab above wasn't a particularly hard move, either. The slab at the top was quite airy, I suppose, but nothing like balancing on the fairy sized ledges of any slab in Font!

So what is E2 6a supposed to feel like? Did we get the right route and it genuinely isn't as hard and scary as we had thought it would be? Or were we completely off route? We'd love to know, if only as guidance for what else we might try. Clearly routes of the same grade can vary enormously, but if this really was E2 we might try some other routes which previously we had written off. I hear warning voices in my head already not to get too cocky - pride comes before a fall, and all that - but maybe I should try things like Grasp the Nettle, Dead Ringer and Elgin's Crack. Caution has previously limited me to anything VS or below, which now seems a bit daft, especially given that on bolts I'm at least up for trying anything up to 7b (on a strong day!). Maybe I should be a bit more adventurous. It would certainly open up a whole new world of possibilities!


Chocolate coated star biscuits only from Gregg's in Barrhead. Yummy!

9 comments:

sam clarke said...

e2=f6a+ish with alrightish gear??
You probably were on route. Trad routes and grades seem to be built up a lot in Britain even though they're way off the mark compared with sport climbing. Regardless of whether or not you were on the right route you should go and do grasp the nettle and cruel summer as they're bothe well within your limits and they're really good (for local routes).

weedavie said...

As an ex- Neilston local- the E2 goes up the thin slab to the right of your red line with side runners in either Fornication VS (to the right), or Willie's Route S (to the left). Or no side runners if you're mental. I have decked off the E2 due to rock failure. No harm done.
The yellow line you drew is just a variation on Willie's Route.
Davie

weedavie said...

The line of the E2 6a is the slab to the right of your red line- straight off the ground. The side runners are placed in the cracks of either Fornication VS (to the right) or Willie's Route S (to the left).
I used to live in the village.
Davie

alpinedreamer said...

So if the E2 starts off the ground to the right of the crack of Willie's Route, it sounds to me like a different route, not the variation on Willie's Route as detailed in the Lowland Outcrops guidebook. Is that right? Either that, or the route you describe sounds more like a "direct start" to Willie's Route.

Having said that, the guidebook also says that Fornication is "round the corner" from Willie's Route.... which is doesn't look to be so.

Why are guidebooks so ambiguous? Discuss....!

georgef said...

i second what sam says...no pun intended. grasp the nettle is a tiny bit bold at the start but VERY steady as is elgin's crack (steady that is, not bold).

Dave Redpath said...

That biscuit looks good, not like I spend more time eating than climbing or anything...

alpinedreamer said...

It was good! I thought it was icing, but it turned out to be chocolate! Even better!!!

weedavie said...

Hi again,

The guidebook descriptions for Neilston are not ideal. Fornication is not round the corner at all- but the guide has said that it is for at least the last 2 editions. The E2 definitely goes up the slab. There are no side runners available high up on the line you drew.
Davie

Dave Redpath said...

I've just discovered a Fords bakers not far from my house. Now I'm sorted for iced biscuit at weekends ;) Not long now before I'm enjoying Tenias (those spanish rock hard coconut biscuits) again. Oh and the sunny limestone cliffs of Siurana and margalef... :D