“It gets E3 5c in this guidebook”. That’s the bit of my conversation with Ian at the top of Internationale at Kilt Rock on the Isle of Skye, that took me a little while to process. I’d just topped out, sweaty and scratched having led the beasty 45m pitch and he and Cat had kindly directed me to the belay stakes. It took a long time for the penny to drop if I’m honest, I was still buzzing. Turns out I’d unwittingly just non-sighted my first E3!
Thinking about it my mind flashed back to the scene in Climbing Blind where Alastair asks Molly “Do you ever lie to him?”. Now to be clear, Molly didn’t lie to me about the grade before I set off, she was just careful not to press the issue, probably a good thing, as otherwise I might have been put off trying it because of the number 3.
It was only the first afternoon of our trip to Scotland and the second route after Grey Panther which had been my main objective for the trip. I’d thought beforehand that if I could get a couple of E2s on the trip I’d be really chuffed, I hadn’t thought about trying anything harder than that.
Molly had had a look at Internationale as we’d abseiled into Grey Panther as they’re next to one another, and clearly decided I was capable of leading Internationale too. She said it was a bit harder than Grey Panther, looked amazing and would definitely suit me. For some reason I never asked the grade. With her encouragement and the loan of several big cams from Ian & Cat, I’d decided I wouldn’t get a better chance “If you save the hard routes forever then you will never get them done” was bouncing around my head as it had before I’d climbed Forked Lightning Crack, it was clearly time to pull on.
Molly abseiled down first and set up a belay at the base of the route, then I came down to meet her. Lets face it, if I’d have gone first I may have ended up in the sea!
The route follows a continuous wide crack for the full length of the crag (about 45 metres). It’s a good job I had this feature to follow as Molly was unable to guide me for all but the starting moves, there is a bulge low down that blocked her line of sight for part of the route and in the top section I was too far away for Molly to see any detail of where the holds are. I probably missed some of the holds either side of the crack, but that’s usually the way, I feel around and find my own beta. She spent most of the time watching a pod of dolphins swimming out in the bay. I’m not sure what it is about wildlife watching while I’m on the sharp-end of a big lead, but it seems to be becoming a theme!
It was a fantastic route, Molly really is great at picking out climbs for me. It was a battle but never felt desperate. Lots of jamming, wedging and torqueing different limbs into the crack. I managed to find a few spots where I could get the weight off my arms and recover a little before the next round! The crack ended and for the last few metres it was steep and blocky but with big holds. I pulled on a block that appeared to move, so gently letting go and finding another way, added a little bit of spice at the end.
Now I’ve had a chance to process it, I’m really happy I did decide to commit to the line. It was a hugely unexpected bonus on the first day of a stella trip to Scotland. 2 ‘Extreme Rock’ ticks in a single afternoon I’ll be catching that James McHaffie at this rate….haha…