Slackdhu - 496m
Friday 20th November 2009
Friday 20th November 2009
Until this day, I'd had my route up alongside the escarpment and, for a while, got my kicks out of climbing it's steep slopes. But I'd always looked to another break in the cliff bands and wondered the feasibility of climbing it. Then in June 2009, I happened to see another person ascending via. that route while I was climbing my own way. I suddenly had confidence in the knowledge that someone else could do it and when the seed was planted, it was only a matter of time before I would go.
On this November day, my plan had been to climb Dumgoyne from the Blanefield memorial. And I followed the approach track with a firm plan until Slackdhu came into view. And I looked at that break in the crags that I'd always wanted to climb. Before I had sense to stop myself, I was walking on rough ground towards a route I'd been looking at for months. I couldn't help myself, even if my mobile had no credit.
On the way up Slackdhu
I felt nerves and excitement building together in my stomach. I knew this probably wouldn't be a major route, but it looked steep enough for me to consciously decide that if it was beyond my limits, I'd turn around and live another day. Besides, steep grass isn't exactly ideal scrambling material, even though I find myself climbing a lot of it in the Campsies. So much of the rock is crumbling dangerously that to climb most rock routes would be a gamble with mortality and it's always easier and safer to climb on grass.
The ground steepened towards the final slopes. I had a good feeling now that I was on the face and enjoying the adrenaline, the exposure and the feeling of being up high and climbing higher still. I first had to tend towards the left to keep clear of the crags, and used hands and feet for this section. The steepness was similar to my older route, although much more sustained and probably more exposed too.
Then higher up, the last section presented itself; a grassy break in the crags leading onto the plateau. It was steeper still, but I felt confident. The wind had picked up and being blown from underneath, was now hurtling over the escarpment edge with startling force. And here I was clinging onto the side of this mountain with the wind battering its way up from below at perhaps 60-70mph. I hadn't felt the wind, height and exposure come together like this for a long time (perhaps never) and I suddenly found myself moving from a normal state of mind to acting within 'the zone' - that state of mind that climbers so often talk about, where you are forced to think about only the task at hand but achieve some most incredible of feelings. It's when the simple act of climbing just feels so right. Without wittering on much longer, I just love it.
It just feels so damn good.
Up to the Summit
I'd have to focus on this last ascent to make sure I got up without hitch. I felt the terrain steepen, I held onto the mountain and worked my way upwards, wind screaming from below and sun shining to make the most beautiful of climaxes. I barely lifted my head to look about but savoured those metres and appreciated them to their full, knowing fine well that this was just a fleeting moment and that it would come to an abrupt end when I topped out on the plateau above.
Once over the top, I walked the final metres to Slackdhu's summit feeling elated and reeling from the ascent. And there would be no better way to finish this walk than to down-climb my old ascent route, essentially circumnavigating the main escarpment cliff band. So I passed the waterfalls-turned-fountains (the wind blew the water straight back up the minute it poured over the edge) then down the steep slopes below.
Finding the route from the top wasn't too problematic, so I jumped down the slopes in small steps, beating the approaching rain. If I got down quick enough I could even make the earlier bus. As I lost altitude, the terrain levelled off and I found myself back at the approach path to Blanefield. I was back at the memorial 1.15 after I'd started (an excellent time for me) so I walked for five minutes to the Kirkhouse Inn from where I took the bus home.
Final conclusions about this walk?
VERY fulfilling. My most fulfilling in a long time, and perhaps more so than many bigger trips I've done in the recent times. Also, unless I climb this route in winter conditions (which is a rare sight in the Campsies) I don't expect it to be so thrilling. There's always need to find the bigger hit and that quest is addicting. Compared to my original route up Slackdhu, this route trumps it in two ways - firstly, the approach is by far less of a tedious slog, and secondly, the quality of ascent is far greater, the steepness more sustained and exposure larger.
I expect to revisit this route in the future though for now I hold it in high regard. It's well worth visiting.