8th June 2016
Silver Dollar – HVS 5a – Alt Lead
Well there’s a few lessons to be learned from this climb. When guidebooks refer to Carn Gowla, they are basically using a different form of climbing dictionary..
‘Generally good rock’ = ‘Some holds may remain attached to the cliff”
‘Reliable protection’ = ‘Placements will only explode after you load them’
‘Good holds’ = ‘They may break and you will plunge to your doom’
‘exhilarating climbing’ = ‘You’re going to die’
I base this upon the adventure Dave and I had tackling Silver Dollar and fantastic, if mentally draining climb on the Baptist Cliff. The abseil in sets the tone for the adventure. A long drop down a V groove which involves free descending for a way. Then having arrived at a ramp in an amazingly beautiful but overwhelming section of coast you traverse across to a large cave and the start of the climb.
From the bottom it looks intimidating. Once on it, it becomes a mental game of you vs the unreliable rock. I had the honours for the first pitch which climbs slightly rightward, angling over the cave initially and then cutting back to finish under the silver dollar.
The climbing is great, forcing shapes and moves, but none too hard. The pro is spaced and only just adequate. Of all the pieces I placed I would probably only have really trusted 3 to definitely hold.
However, the cliff forces you into a level of concentration you normally dont have to create. Move delicately, test each hold and foot placement and work your way up into a magnificently exposed part of Gowla. So good and so terrifying at the same time.
Dave set off from my only just adequate belay and moved up and around the Silver Dollar. We used the Pat Littlejohn guide and I think the route diagram is wrong in this book. It stay too far right of the dollar. The climbers club book is more accurate. As a result Dave ended up on the upper reaches of Castaway, an E1 variation. This was still brilliant climbing but was definitely more 5a than 4c and more E1 than HVS for pro. Still Dave handled it well and reached the second belay, which was effectively a pile of tottering choss. It was in keeping with the final 10 metre scramble across mounds of earth, grass tussocks, loose gravel and paper thin flakes of rock.
As I crawled over the edge onto the grass above I have never been so relieved to grad a Rabbit Burrow, which was the best hold I encountered during the whole of the last pitch. Next time, we will be placing a pre placed rope for the final section. God it was awful!
The evening’s end though was not. A setting sun, warm breeze and massive amounts of contentment and self congratulations capped of another Gowla epic. Will this place ever stop scaring me?