Yesterday I headed back to Newtyle quarry with my friends Tim and Finlay. Meeting up at half 8 we all packed into the small Fiat to escape from the morning cold, dressed accordingly with our bright soft-shell trousers, down jackets and axe Wielding rucksacks. We must have been some spectacle to those passers-by missing out on a lie-in to grab their morning paper, paracetamol and the other Sunday morning essentials.
Arriving at Dunkeld, slightly later than anticipated (thanks to Finlay’s ‘Detour’!) but non the less within good time and with a bright and full day to climb ahead of us. We grabbed our kit and took the narrow path away from the road towards the crag.
We soon realised all three of us had relied on the others to bring the quick-draws to protect ourselves on the easier walls at the entrance of the quarry, so decided to head straight to ‘the tube’ that is equipped with in-situ draws.
We finally reached the opening to the cave. With Finlay being a dry-tooling virgin and Tim a Newtyle newbie’ they knew not what to expect. I watched them as we stepped over the crest of the hill, to see the familiar apprehension and excitement take over the both of them as they caught sight of the steep, scarred walls of ‘the tube’ for the first time
‘The tube’ is the remnants of the blasting from when Newtyle was an old slate quarry. Left behind is a deep cavern of smooth overhanging walls tunnelling deep into the hillside that has been transformed into a drytooling Mecca by resin bolts and drilled pockets.
We soon got started on ‘Fast and Furious’, a D10 test piece that takes the furthest right line of bolts across the roof of the cave. Having been to Newtyle a few times before, I had tried all the moves and started to link them together on several redpoint attempts, we thought it best that I jumped on the route first for my warm up and so that the others could learn some of the moves. As I got through a fair part of the route before feeling any sense of fatigue I realised I was feeling pretty strong today and that I might be in with a good chance of topping the route out on a later attempt when fully prepared and warmed up.
Tim and Finlay both learnt the moves pretty quickly on their first attempts and made some fair progress up the route. Tim managed to top the route out, taking a few rests just to verify the beta and correct any mistakes, a pretty strong effort as it had taken me several attempts to even work out how to climb the top section on my first visit. Finlay struggled a little with moving off of some of the shallow pockets on the first section of the route. Never dry-tooling before and having to jump on a powerful D10 for your first route requires some amount of enthusiasm. Taking it all in his stride, Finlay jumped on the route happily taking the fall from the first clip a few times as he learnt to trust his axes and started to work the moves through the beginning section. We all untied, sat down and relaxed as we stopped climbing to grab some lunch.
Mars bar scoffed, moves perfected, arms warm, feeling strong. It was time to go for it…
With the pre-clip in, (it’s a potential 7m fall from a figure four otherwise!) I started up the route. I Cruised through the several treacherous beginning pockets and onto the middle section where the meat of the route is found. Within this section lies several fig fours, numerous axe swaps and hand stacks, the routes gradient is turned up a notch and continues to increase every meter you climb, and the footholds become non-existent. Put simply, if you mess up one move, your probably coming off. Pushing through this section and without making a single mistake so far I could taste success before it was guaranteed.
I feel my arms start to burn, my mind panics and I begin to rush. “Three draws to go. Three moves, that’s all. But They’re the biggest in the route! Shut up and relax.” I think to myself. I focus my mind and blank the pain of my exhausted muscles battling to reduce the pump. My crampons scratch at the rock, looking for any minuscule feature to push off. they stick, I’ve found something. I push my body to full extension and raise my axe to make the first of the three moves.
One. Two. Three.
That’s it, the worst is over, the climbing done, just to clip the chains. I’m The height becomes irrelevant and the cave disappears before me, everything shut out of sight apart from my hand as it raises the rope to the clip. As i Struggle I hear my friends shout frantically in the background, wanting it almost as much as I do.
It’s not enough. I have nothing left, with my muscles spent, my hand relaxes. I’ve let go. I’m falling. It’s over.
I’d love to tell you all that I managed that clip. That as I fell I miraculously flicked to rope in with the tip of my fingers, but it would be a lie. I Left Newtyle that day not having completed ‘Fast and furious’, but I also left with the confident feeling that it was within my reach, that next time, without a doubt, I’ll leave with no disappointment. Next time, It’ll be