Sarah's hen weekend meant I had a full two-day pass with no wedding admin. I'd lined up Robin Thomas for Saturday and since we'd not climbed together before I thought it would be a bit selfish to ask him to slog up to Brin to belay me on my project. So, the west coast and Diabaig gneiss it was, or at least until the wind died and the midges forced an early retreat. Murdo was lined up for Sunday and I didn't feel quite so bad about making him go to Brin. Even then, I was still praying for an iffy forecast that would rule-out the trad climbing F.O.M.O. In the end it worked out well because Murdo is working The Force at Zed Buttress, just down the hill. We agreed that I'd have the morning redpoint shift while Murdo gently warmed up and then we'd head down for his turn in the shade.
It would be a lie to say conditions were optimal that day: hot august sun beating onto a south-facing crag, but a strong easterly took the edge off and made it worthwhile. Building on gains from the previous sessions I made another babystep forward: discovering a knee twist that makes the penultimate move in the crux sequence more manageable, and on my best go I pinged off going for the last hard move before the rest. Enough progress to keep the dream alive.
More importantly, Murdo made his best links yet on The Force. I hear the send-train a' comin down the line.
Diary scanning after that showed an alarming lack of time for potential Brin trips before the wedding bells ring out but luckily for me Mhairi was happy to squeeze in an evening session on Thursday. It won't be long before there's not enough daylight left for after-work sessions and I could feel the pressure mounting. I decided to be canny after a full redpointing session on Sunday. Monday: rest. Tuesday: session in the shed trying a sustained 10-move problem trying to replicate the length of the crux sequence. Wednesday: 40 minute run but no climbing.
Thursday came along and I was concerned about the lack of time I'd have at the crag to get the clips in, warm up and still have time for a couple of redpoint goes. Seeking inspiration from Murdo I remembered him talking recently having really good sessions in the afternoon after light fingerboarding in the morning. Something about recruitment? I still don't understand physiology. I guessed it could either work well or ruin me, so in desperation I raced to the wall in my 45 minute lunchbreak and dangled from the campus board for a bit before racing into town to pick up the waistcoats a friend has made us for the wedding and then back to the office for a few hours.
Driving to the crag I implored Mhairi to ignore the drizzle tickling the windscreen: "it'll be bone dry in this wind". I tried to sound confident. Luckily I was right. Putting the clips in and resting bolt-to-bolt I could tell the rock felt much better than Sunday and things were looking pretty good, although if anything there was a danger of it being too cold. Also, in the back of my mind I was very aware that I'd not actually done the full link from the rest after the crux to the top. Between the 5th and 6th bolts there's a stiff pull that I could imagine coming unstuck on if I didn't get much back from the rest. Still, nothing ventured...
It all came together on the second redpoint that evening. After clipping the second bolt I downclimbed into the niche and sat looking out over Strathnairn and the relentless motion of the Farr Windfarm turbines sailing round on the wind. I closed my eyes and ran through the 11 move crux in my head. Even though I was climbing in my mind, by the time I hit the flake jug at the 4th bolt I was pumping with adrenaline and had to take another minute to get my heart rate back down. As is always the way, when the time came to move it all flowed and before I could think I was bowling over into the jug and milking the rest for as long as possible. When you rest, you rest. When you climb, you climb. Eventually, when I got some blood back into my fingers, I flicked the switch between the two states and swarmed through the top section as I'd hoped, yelping into the wind as I clipped the chain. Another journey over.
Phew. Now I can get married.