The Cobbler - 884m
The Cobbler North Peak - 870m
Including attempt on Cobbler South Peak - 858m

Saturday 23rd July 2011

Weather/Conditions: Beautiful, clear summer weather. Warm all day and huge views in every direction.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 17.6km / 1000m / 6h 25m
Accompanying: Alone

This was a spur of the moment trip - and here are the 24 hours that preceded it:

I got up on 22nd, and had an uneventful day until drumming at a ceilidh in the evening. I finished at midnight and got home at 1am on the 23rd. Unable to sleep, I put on Avatar and happily passed three hours between 2am and 5am without falling asleep (It's a riveting film, you see). This was perfect time to leave for a trip to Arrochar and I cycled to Westerton and got on the West Highland Line to Arrochar. How I still felt reasonably fresh I don't know.

Cycle in and Ascent

The morning looked amazing from the outset. I brought my bike and cycled through Arrochar. The Cobbler looked huge in the morning light and I had one of those I-can't-believe-I'm-going-there feelings. 11 previous trips appears not to have diminished that feeling, although I may never look at it again with the awe I felt my first time up, when I sat at the dam with my mouth wide open in shocked disbelief.

Since I'd cycled in, I attempted to cycle up the track. If nothing else it would provide a wonderful downhill ride on the way back. And although bikes may trump walking along the roads, I felt I was expending as much effort trying to cycle uphill - if not more - and I dropped my bike behind the mast at 100m, soaked in sweat and glad to be walking.

Without company for pacing, I as usual bombed up the hill without the patience to slow down. Thus I reached the summit two hours after leaving Tarbet train station - a time to be proud of although short of personal best. I scrambled onto the summit pinnacle, an easier objective than it had ever been before. The mental block that had stopped me was removed in April (17th) for the first time in seven years, and for the first time I regarded the pinnacle as easy. The joy of being so high up is almost indescribable, surrounded by open air and feeling at home when everyone else was tucked into warm beds. You can't buy this stuff, there was nowhere I'd rather have been. Sometimes I loathe the loneliness of the hills. On The Cobbler, there was just overpowering unity.

South Peak

One of my main objectives was to climb the South Peak. I'd thought about packing rope to abseil from the summit, but decided against, preferring not to lug a bulging rucksack up the hill. I'd climb it without rope or not at all. And if I couldn't safely climb and downclimb every move, I would go no further and come back intact. I brought along a small rack and a harness if any moves could be protected by gear, but there transpired to be little natural protection whatsoever...

A terrace on the side of the South Peak is guarded by a gap and a block which requires of me the use of belly-friction and shimmying to get past. I'm sure there are more dignified ways to go about it, but I can claim to jump the gap on the return. These are all things which I learned when I climbed the South Peak (with abseil) in April. There were no unknowns about the route today and my only doubt was whether I could downclimb whatever I climbed up. The moves were no place to fall - you would bounce off the terrace then probably over the cliff below.

I left my rucksack at the bottom and started up the rock. It became clear almost immediately that the top wouldn't yield easily, although this route was a 'scramble'. I climbed as many moves as I could make, then downclimbed to the bottom. When confidence grew, I made an extra move. I must have spent 20 minutes doing just this. Still a few metres up and trying to get my head in order, I reached the top of the first block and the outlook wasn't good. The rock is mica schist and unlike the perfect rock of, say Glen Coe, where holds are solid and a dream to the hands, my route followed large blocks with rounded, flat and usually insecure holds. The rock were damp in the shade and the midges gathered. The route would be climbable with faith and power, two things that eluded me as I searched for the courage to mantle on top of the great block and straddle it a cheval.

It was clear it wouldn't go within a safe margin for error so I climbed down and packed up to leave the terrace, quite happy with my decision. Even if I had decided to bring rope, there were no 'bomber' anchors that I could find that would secure me in the event of a fall.

Back across the summits, then home

I went back to the Central Peak and climbed the pinnacle again. I went to the North Peak, where I bagged the top and went exploring. I found gullies and scrambled about the blocks, dangling feet over North Peak overhangs. More people were up on the hill by now and it quietly buzzed with activity. On days like this I could happily walk all summer...

Back at the Narnain boulders I worked on a wee boulder problem I'd found. Doubtless it's been climbed before but I continue to work on it every time I am up there...

Back in Arrochar, I stopped by the shops before cycling around to the train station. The road was busier than in the morning, but I found the cycling enjoyable. And I was completely shattered too, having been on the move for about 30 hours. I nearly dozed off on the train, but got off at Dalmuir and cycled home along the canal.


The Cobbler 180° - North

The Cobbler 180° - South
Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 7.10am Tarbet station
(2.00) 9.10am The Cobbler
(2.10) 9.20am The Cobbler (left)
(2.20) 9.30am South Peak (arrived at bottom)
(3.25) 10.35am The Cobbler (again)
(4.00) 11.10am The Cobbler (left)
(4.05) 11.15am The Cobbler North Peak
(6.25) 1.35pm Tarbet station

Written: 2011-10-13-24