The Inaccessible Pinnacle – Part 2

5 09 2013

Part 1 of this report left you hanging above the scary Inaccessible Pinnacle (or In Pinn) just before I had to tackle it. I’d put my rock boots on and had a little rest – now the time had come to head down the steep slope to tackle my rock climb of around 150 feet up the steep, very narrow and exposed east ridge…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(All photos by Richard Wood)
I looked down the steep and loose slope which drops all the way down to Coire Lagan a couple of thousand feet below. There are two choices down here – either a very smooth basalt slab – which will be lethal in damp weather – or Jonah’s safer route of a zig-zag path down the loose scree. As always on loose ground, I descended very carefully indeed. Richard followed – although he wasn’t doing the In Pinn, he was doing the photography and so would have to get below the In Pinn to find a suitable vantage point. We’d decided to do An Stac anyway – the pleasant and easy peak just below the pinnacle.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Descent to base of In Pinn (above) descent to Coire Lagan – infinitely worse (below)
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
An Stac – a pleasant and easy clamber

We clambered very easily up onto An Stac where Richard stayed as it was a superb viewpoint for the In Pinn and the route up the east ridge. Jonah and I went to rope up below the start of the route which goes about 20 feet up the south side of the ridge to gain the sharp arete for the rest of the climb. Although it doesn’t look it on the photos, the arete is exceedingly narrow, being only a foot wide in many places and overhanging a huge drop of a couple of thousand feet on the north side. On the photos, you are also looking at the north side and it looks like part of the climb and makes the pinnacle look wider – it isn’t – only the left-hand edge of that is accessible on the climb.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I tied in to the end of the rope and Jonah set off to the first stance where the route up the south side gains the narrow ridge above. I watched carefully where he put his hands and feet and was slightly perturbed to see there was quite a difficult ‘hollow’. I noted with surprise that I wasn’t really nervous at all but was just concentrating hard on what I had to do next. Jonah reached the stance, took in the rope and I shouted up the usual climbing call of “That’s me” when the rope came tight which is followed by his “Climb when ready”.

I set off up the non-alarming start up the south side (this section never had me worried during my research), puzzling for a while on how to get up ‘the hollow’. I soon found a way up it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Two little dots on a rock blade!

In addition to concentrating on locating hand and footholds, I also had to really concentrate on climbing in a more delicate style than my usual. At the climbing wall I have the very bad technique of totally relying on my handholds, hauling up hard on them – on the In Pinn, this is verboten! I’d already been warned by Jonah that, as the pinnacle is basalt and is extremely friable, I mustn’t haul myself upwards on any handholds at all but I had to push up with my feet. Indeed, I was finding plenty of loose rock already! I was also slightly perturbed to be accompanied by a faint and seemingly constant tinkling of rockfall all the way up this section – I was later told that was people moving about up and down the slope and up above – it did sound quite distant so I knew it wasn’t me.

I was installed in a comfortable little niche on the edge of the rock flake – here would be the point where the two-thousand foot drop into the corrie below hove into view – I ignored it. At this point Jonah was starting the second pitch which includes ‘the crux’ and so I had to pay attention to where it was and how to ascend it. He shouted down when he reached it and I watched him more intently. I couldn’t see exactly where but he said there were ‘two little knuckles’ of rock around to the right which I needed to put my right foot on. From there he demonstrated the step I had to put my left foot up onto – apparently quite a stretch for smaller folks but I am tall so wasn’t worried about reaching that second foothold. He also showed me two firm blocks above which apparently could be hauled on (unlike any other holds on the Pinn) to pull myself up from there. He then continued upwards out of sight.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As I gazed up at the disappearing rope, I could see the next section was as near vertical as makes no difference and looked reasonably hard – I would really have to concentrate up here. Soon the call for me to set off floated down and I began my ascent.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The climbing up this section was a good deal harder than the first pitch and I had to really look hard for firm holds (there were quite a few which were ready to fall off and had to be discounted). Very quickly I reached ‘the crux’ and searched around for the ‘knuckles of rock’ round the side. I looked and looked but could see precisely nothing to put my feet on – he must have taken his knuckles up with him!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Where’s that knuckle??

I seemed to be stood there for quite some time trying my foot on this and that but not really wanting to commit to any of the tiny holds I could see. In the end, I knew upward progress was imperative and chose a tiny rounded lump sticking out of the front of the sheer piece of rock. As I had rock boots on, this was fine and I stuck nicely to it and was easily able to reach the left-hand foothold with my foot.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I had hold of two blocks above but wasn’t sure whether they were the right ones so tried not to haul up but rather pushed up from the block under my left foot which felt pretty safe. Suddenly I was above the crux – phew! Jonah later told me he timed people up the crux and gave them around 30 seconds before he worried at all – he said I’d been around half that – it had seemed like ages!

From there the climbing was exceedingly steep and narrow but easier – I had no doubt there must by now be horrific exposure from the drops either side of me but never looked or saw them at all. I clambered on up until I met Jonah on the next stance where he clipped me into a sling. I looked up ahead to the third and final pitch – it looked very steppy, much easier and even had a little ‘bannister’ of narrow rock to my left. The bannister looked to continue for a good way above and gave security from the drop down the south face – of course, this was the drop of around 100 feet and not that worrying – it’s the drop down the overhanging north face which you need to avoid looking down!

I heard someone clattering up the slope below me to the summit of Sgurr Dearg over my little bannister and looked to see it was Richard coming up to a new vantage point to get photos from the side of the climb. I was really surprised that I was so calm at this point I’d ceased to watch Jonah above and was just looking at what Richard was doing and began directing him to the path we’d come down (he was slightly off to the left). I chatted away with him as he chose a new stance and soon the rope came tight and call to continue came.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
It says in the Munro book that this climb is ‘gently-angled’ – not sure I agree with that on this photo! The 2nd pitch wasn’t anyway…

I shouldered the sling and set off up the next section quite calmly and methodically, finding much more loose potential handholds so having to be careful in hold selection.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I was slightly worried that there would be a long, flat traverse along the top of the blade to the summit – I was sure that would seem very exposed if there was. After no difficulties whatsoever, and having noticed a lovely little ledge to my left at one point which made me feel very secure, I came up over a little crest and saw Jonah sat there…

“Is that it?” I asked, incredulously and even perhaps a little disappointed? He confirmed he was indeed sat at the summit. I couldn’t believe I’d got up the In Pinn with no panic at all and so quickly, albeit having encountered a couple of difficult sections which had made me think a bit.

While I’m sure the route is exceedingly exposed, I hadn’t seen anything of the drop to the right at all, had only seen the smaller drop to the left when I’d been chatting to Richard and when the comforting little ledge had appeared and had seen nothing of the drop behind me! This shows that I’ve finally acquired the correct thinking to do this kind of route at last and had only looked at what I’d needed to do and got on with it.

I had a moment’s nervousness about turning round to sit down as instructed by Jonah – maybe I’d then see the exposure. However, I cautiously turned round and sat down – still not noticing the drop but rather noticing the views across the corrie. Before I’d turned round I’d had a quick look at the summit area and judged it to be comfortably spacious – I’d originally thought it would be terrifyingly small. Also, as you could see what I call ‘the gallery’ ahead – the long comfortable ridge of Sgurr Dearg where people settle down to watch In Pinners abseil down again, it didn’t look like there would be a huge drop off the oncoming west ridge (of course there is a drop of around 50 feet but it didn’t look like it). I could have sat up there all day in the sunshine!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I let out a whoop to the grinning Richard, gave him a thumbs up as he was yet again aiming the camera at me, no doubt with full zoom, and returned his grin. In fact, for the next few minutes I grinned non-stop. Jonah congratulated me and shook my hand – icing on the cake – I felt really exhilarated and happy – I’d done it at last and it hadn’t been worrying at all!

I shouted down;

“Piece of cake” to Richard and other assorted onlookers…

“Was it easy?” shouted back Richard.

“No, send me UP a piece of cake” I shouted back jokingly.

Unfortunately for Jonah, this is the point where, having got past the thing which has worried me for ages, I suddenly became the non-stop talking mountain coward. I prattled away while he sorted out ropes for the abseil – must have been driving him mad. Richard would know exactly what I was doing so would have been grinning more.

Soon Jonah asked me to clamber round the few blocks to reach the flat table you abseil down from – this area seemed huge to me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Those two little dots again! we look small and insignificant up there…

I sat for a while and chattered some more while he clipped me onto a safety rope for my abseil. It was then time for me to stand up, turn round, fix my abseil rope and back towards the edge. I was expecting a moment’s anxiety as I looked down the big drop but there are a few shelves to lower down first so you aren’t yet looking down the main drop.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After negotiating the shelves, it was then time to lean out backwards over the drop. I needed a bit of encouragement from Jonah to lean further out, straighten my legs more etc and then I was off down the rope. I actually found the vertical section much easier as I could abseil properly without having to look for where the edge of the shelves were and I started to notice the holds on the west ridge climb as I was interested as to whether I could have done the much shorter climb. I’d pretty much decided the overhanging start was above my current standard though.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The vertical section was totally non-alarming and soon descended. The only difficulty came near the bottom where the pinnacle is undercut. I started to swing into a hollow under the pinnacle and veer towards the steep slope down the south side we’d descended earlier. I didn’t want to do that and kept trying vainly to get back to the narrow, vertical section to my left.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

No matter how hard I tried though, I couldn’t get to it and ended up swinging into the hollow which probably didn’t look very elegant to those watching. Then my feet were on the ground and all I had to do was untie the two ropes and give Jonah a shout I was down.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I grinned and did a mini highland jig as I stomped back up to the waiting Richard on the lovely summit ridge of Dearg and we went off along the ridge to admire the views down to Loch Coruisk two thousand feet below and also the surrounding peaks. We also admired the In Pinn and An Stac which looked dramatic and black from this side. A very scenic summit indeed!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Misty Sgurr Banachdich again
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
An Stac Above Sgurr Mhic Choinnich

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
An Stac & In Pinn North Faces

We then rejoined Jonah who’d bounced very quickly down his abseil, tidied up the ropes and was waiting at the cairn for us. He offered to take a photo of both of us with the pinn behind before we headed back down – a nice thought. For once, on this Cuillin photo, I was grinning just as much as Richard was!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Some notes for the wary who still have this to do. I found the In Pinn fine in the end but there are several reasons for this. One is that I wore proper rock boots which are smaller, give good feel and good grip, and can be placed on much smaller holds with safety than walking boots. Another is that I’ve finally developed the right mental attitude and could concentrate solely on the climb and completely ignore my surroundings, exposed as they would surely have been, and concentrate totally on hand and footholds and the route ahead.

The right mental attitude has been cultivated by me for a couple of years now in the following ways: I’ve worked up to the In Pinn doing harder and harder Munro routes – that’s a fairly obvious strategy followed by most nervous Munroists I would think. But regular visits to the indoor climbing wall have prepared me hugely – on my first visit to the wall I was terrified to let go of the holds at the top of the climb and trust the rope or lean back to be lowered down – now trusting the rope and my equipment is second-nature. I also think that the single outdoor climb I’d done with my friend Mark in Langdale, being multi-pitch and around 250 feet, has helped enormously. In the Cuillin, I’ve kept seeing horrifying looking climbs ahead but kept thinking back to that outdoor climb and knowing that I can do them, scary or not.

If you’re a mountain coward like me and aspiring to be a Munro-compleater, you will almost certainly need to do at least the same amount of preparation as I have – the sooner you start, the better!


Actions

Information

28 responses

16 09 2013
McEff

Hell’s bells. I was on the edge of my chair all the way through that, Carol. That’s an amazing write-up and the pictures are great because they really capture the drama. The downside is I have yet to do it myself and I am definitely not looking forward to it.
Cheers, Alen

Like

16 09 2013
mountaincoward

Preparation is definitely the key. But it’s safer than most of the Cuillin peaks as you are on the rope for the whole thing, unlike beasts like Sgurr Mhic Choinnich which is just an hour or so of pure hell each way along the ridge.

Like

16 09 2013
McEff

You are not filling me with confidence.

Like

16 09 2013
mountaincoward

You really don’t need to worry about the In Pinn – get yourself some rock boots, some sessions at an indoor wall and, when you get there, concentrate on the job in hand and what your guide is doing above you and you’ll be fine. As you’re climbing upwards all the time and always on the rope, it’s perfectly safe.

Mhic Choinnich is the only Cuillin peak I’d say I really hated – some of the others have their moments but they’re usually pretty short-lived. I’d do any of the others again.

Like

16 09 2013
Susie

Congratulations! I’m so pleased for you Carol! Bet your confidence has taken a huge leap and the next scary challenge will be just that bit easier. Bravo to Richard too for the wonderful photos that let us watch you climb.

Like

16 09 2013
mountaincoward

When I did a later peak where I wasn’t on the rope for the whole thing, I wasn’t quite as confident as the guide thought I would be. I think I’ll always be at least very cautious – but no bad thing that!

Very pleased with the photography πŸ™‚
Carol.

Like

11 09 2013
Colin Gregory

Thats well heroic considering the many times you’ve mentioned your fear of such dramatic places. I remember you commenting on my Sgurr Dearg pics on the W.H. site as if to say no way!! congrats on completing that Munro. I think I’ve reach the age when I’m happy just to get back to the car after a day on the hills so I think my ambition to do the Inn Pinn has been well and truly put on the back burner. However, I’m in Glen Coe next week and a madness might befall me and I could end up on the Aonach Eagach!!
Cheers (Colgregg – W.H.)

Like

12 09 2013
mountaincoward

Hi Colin,
Nice to hear from you again – hope you have a good week in Glencoe! πŸ™‚

I do seem to have come on a bit with my mountain cowardice – but then I was on a rope for the whole thing and that really helped – especially seeing as I’ve taken up indoor climbing and now have total confidence in the rope etc. I definitely couldn’t have done it a couple of years ago, that’s for sure,
Carol.

Like

22 09 2013
Colin Gregory

Yeah is was a decent couple of days. Weather a bit iffy but got 2 full days on the tops (though not the A.E.).You can view a few pics here along with some of my other trips over time.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/27538469@N06/

Like

22 09 2013
mountaincoward

You got some nice photos in Glencoe so your weather must have been okay – better than I normally get in Scotland anyway! I’m wanting to do Beinn Fhada sometime but don’t fancy either the route from Stob Coire Screamhach or the route up the end from the road! 😦
Carol.

Like

9 09 2013
chrissiedixie

Fantastic photos and I am mega impressed! Excellent stuff!

Like

9 09 2013
mountaincoward

Thanks Chrissie – even I’m impressed with myself and I’m certainly impressed with the superb job Richard made of the photography!

Like

8 09 2013
chrisharrison2013

You do some pretty hair raising things for a ‘mountain coward’. I wouldn’t even look at that pinnacle, let alone climb it. Big round of applause for the achievement.

Like

8 09 2013
mountaincoward

If you want to ‘compleat’ the Munros, which I do, you’ve got no choice! But at least you’re on a rope for that one – there’s far worse things in the Skye Cuillin which you also have to do. And the best way to do it without fear is never to look at the drop. I can honestly say I have no idea what any of the drops were like as I just didn’t look – you’re busy enough with the climb anyway.

Like

7 09 2013
LensScaper

Great writing – it really tells a vivid story of the climb. And well done to Richard too for documenting the climb so well. You prepared well and that obviously helped a great deal.

Like

7 09 2013
mountaincoward

The preparation was essential I think. If it had been a couple of years back, no way could I have done it – I’d have been terrified. But my prep helped me to actually enjoy doing it, which I never thought I would!

Like

6 09 2013
thecurvyhiker

Wow! Well done!

Like

6 09 2013
mountaincoward

Thank you πŸ™‚

Like

6 09 2013
fedupofuserids

Well done πŸ˜€
A fantastic effort & great pics from Richard. Not many left now too are you planning to compleat this year?

Like

6 09 2013
mountaincoward

I was… but then Knoydart and its damned weather seems to have different ideas. I was up there trying to get the 3 done straight after Skye but only managed one – and that was in very high winds and bad viz. The next days the cloud was down to the ground so I didn’t bother with the other 2. That all means I have to go back again now this month, with all the difficult logistics that entails 😦

Like

6 09 2013
Paul Shorrock

Well done Carol (and Richard!) Great post with images to match!

Like

6 09 2013
mountaincoward

Thanks Paul. Richard certainly did a great job with those – it’s nice having your own personal photographer for the climbing peaks! πŸ˜‰

Like

6 09 2013
smackedpentax

Brilliant! Well done you! What an amazing place and a superb climb – with lots of exposure to keep your adrenaline flowing. And Richards photos are the icing on the cake…

Like

6 09 2013
mountaincoward

I’m sure there was a lot of exposure but I diligently didn’t look so have no idea! πŸ˜‰

Like

6 09 2013
bob

Well done Carol. Some lovely pictures. I’ve never been up the long side myself but it always looks impressive and knife edged on the telly. You’ll remember that one for a long time. You got a lovely day for it as well.
You’ll be bagging Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis next and buying the scrambles guide when you finish the Munros.

Like

6 09 2013
mountaincoward

Ha ha! Actually, I was looking at the Skye Scrambles guide (Tony Hanley’s I think – or Mike Lates) while I was in the Sconser pub in the evenings – some did look quite interesting πŸ˜‰ Of course, if I go for a ‘tops compleation’ next, I’ll be going up Knight’s Peak, the Basteir Tooth and other interesting peaks!

Like

6 09 2013
drt1965

Well done!!!

That is a fantastic achievement. Richard’s photography is stunning and really does bring this climb to life in a way I have never seen before. Perhaps one day I will pluck up the courage to see it for myself πŸ˜‰

Like

6 09 2013
mountaincoward

I was really pleased with how many superb photos Richard got (and that zoom he has on his camera) – he did a superb job that day and I’m really chuffed. Makes for a better set of memories for me πŸ™‚
Carol.

Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: