Wednesday, 8 June 2016

An Inconvenient Tooth

In 2008 I visited my friend Es on Skye, who was working there for the summer. He had already shown me a photo of the Bhastier Tooth taken when he had climbed Captain Planet, which is a great E4 on the right-hand face. He had spotted the hanging grove and crack above the huge roof on the front of the prow and wondered whether there might be a route possible straight up the prow and through the roofs. I thought this looked amazing and have gone back and looked at that photo many times over the years. That trip, I gave it a go on-sight, not getting very far after failing to find where there is actually good protection. For some reason, we never got around to checking it out properly on abseil. 

In the 8 years since I first visited the crag I’ve always wanted to get back and give it a good go. I’ve raved to a lot of people about it and was always waiting to hear someone had a gone and climbed it! There were two more trips to Skye when I wasn’t able to have another go on the route. Once I actually hiked up there, even though it was covered in hoar frost. I abseiled down and had a very brief look and found a surprising number of holds along the lip of the huge lower roof, and the potential for small gear.

It had been a long time since I was last on Skye and plans came together this year for another visit, with Ross McKerchar, after a week on Arran. This also happened to coincide with a few weeks of fantastic weather in Scotland. We got up to the ridge straight away for some thorough abseiling and cleaning of the line. I was chuffed when I realised the route was going to be doable and really high quality. Above the roof on the right it’s fairly blank, but we found a line of holds leading along the lip and dug out some breaks for small cams at the start of the hard climbing.

After the abseils I had a reasonable idea of the sequence I was going to use, even though I hadn’t actually tried the moves yet. I almost did it on the first attempt but then screwed up on one of the last tricky moves, and I groped for a cluster crystals as I fell and trashed two tips! I had to wait 4 days until they’d healed enough to try again, luckily the weather held out! The next go it all went well and I improvised an easier sequence to get it done. 

Ross had kindly been giving me a chance to climb this pitch before throwing himself at it. I think he was champing at the bit by the time I passed him the ropes. He had a really good first go and almost got it, but also ended up testing the microcams. His second go he completely forget the sequence with heel hooks, but managed power through regardless! Ross then led the second pitch of the route which follows the striking arête of the Tooth, first on the right then on the left, topping out in evening sun. This is also a great pitch, easier than the first, and has absorbing climbing and is quite serious. For us both to succeed on the route was a great end to the trip.

We suggest a grade of E8 after trying to imagine what it would be like to on-sight. Getting the cams in well and reading the sequence along the big roof would make the route much harder than it was for us. The meat of the route is a great section of climbing along the lip of the roof on slopers, crimps and heel hooks and felt in the region of v6 to us. Given that the other route names have an eco/climate change theme, we’ve called the route An Inconvenient Tooth.

Ross having just led the first pitch
Ross leading the second pitch

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