Slackdhu - 496m
Thursday 2nd August 2012

Weather/Conditions: Amazing! Great sunset and perfect conditions. Except the jungle of growth on the lower slopes of the hill...
Distance/Ascent/Time: 7.4km / 500m / 5h
Accompanying: Alone

This was one of the first times that I headed for the slopes of Slackdhu with a rucksack full of climbing gear. The summer weather was just amazing and I'd caught on that there might be some decent rock up there worth climbing. I also knew from previous visits, that Jenny's Lum Buttress has a small stake sticking out the top. So although I was going myself, I could still self-belay and see what I found.

The lower slopes of Slackdhu were a jungle. The vegetation was just so thick and I quickly ended up falling through thick bracken, nettles, falling in swamps, being pounded by the hot sun and having a huge rucksack tip me off balance on boulder fields. Quite simply, it sucked - but as I approached Jenny's Lum, the grasses thinned out and I made better progress towards the buttress. And when I got there, I saw this big sweep of clean rock on the side of the buttress, unrecorded and just dying to be climbed.

The face was just big enough to warrant it's own set of moves, but at this stage I couldn't make out any of the holds. There were just no features to be seen, and also no protection in the way of cracks. I set up a rope and swarmed all over the face for the evening: finding the handholds, cleaning them off, working out sequences... It was a great process, and I had enough information in hand to know that it would be possible as it's own climb.

The Scottish Mountaineering Club publish a guidebook to the area, but their list of climbs on Slackdhu made no mention of this climb. When I got home, I got in touch with them, and they could offer no extra information besides suggesting I looked at the old SMC district guides. I did this too; and my climb wasn't there. It's hard to believe all the rock within touching distance of Glasgow hasn't been climbed. But Slackdhu is a place you'll never find people climbing. And perhaps when people did climb in this area, they weren't trying to use holds as small as the ones I was attempting. I don't think whoever put up Coffin Gully Buttress (a super-grassy/chossy V.Diff), would have clocked the badly protected, blank face in the corner. In those days the quality of the aesthetic line was paramount, so perhaps my line was missed?

But it had been a really nice, chilled-out day. To take advantage of the sunset I walked up to Slackdhu summit with my camera in hand. I went up through Coffin Gully which is just grimy. It's got a 5m section where you bridge across the gap. It needs a bit of trust in some crumbly rock, but I got out of there and went up to the summit where the colours of the sunset are some of the best I've ever seen from up there. It was fantastic.

Then as the light began to fade, I headed back to the rock climb: I de-rigged the setup, packed up and headed down into the jungle of the lower slopes. I got picked up in darkness - my parents had driven up the Campsie Dene road, which saved 5 minutes walking I could do without.

* * *

I went back to the rock climb twice more. The next time, the forecast was for thunder and I was up on the hill with ropes set up. Immense showers piled up around Glasgow and thunder shook the atmosphere. It was a day with an edge and I felt very exposed the whole time. But Slackdhu was always dry, so I continued climbing. When the rain began to spit, I packed up really quick. I nearly ran off down the hill. I'd found a route-of-least-resistance through the jungle, and must have been down within about 15 minutes. I was terrified the heavens were going to open, and thunder would descend on Slackdhu with me still on it! But I was in luck: it only began to rain heavily as I walked the last minutes back to Blanefield. (Around this very moment, my dad took a picture of a tornado in Glasgow city centre, which a newspaper consequently used without his permission...)

The last time I went to Jenny's Lum was a sunny morning. Everyone was away from home and I had the car to myself. I went out without a partner, and despite having jelly arms from a TCA session the day before, I eventually soloed the climb. An estimated grade is E1 5a. The moves on the climb aren't that hard, but the route is non-stop for 10 vertical metres and gear amounts to a couple of micro nuts below half-height. So not too hard - but possibly serious. I sent the route details to the SMC - very gratifying all in. I named it Maya: after months battling with the animation program of the same name, Dave suggested that since I talked about it so much, I should name a new route the same.

Now for the next unrecorded project...

Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 5.25pm Blanefield
(1.10) 6.35pm Arrived at Jenny's Lum
(3.25) 8.50pm Slackdhu
(4.15) c. 9.40pm Left Jenny's Lum
(5.00) 10.25pm Blanefield

Written: 2012-10-30