The fact that I had been attentively belaying Sam for the last 50 feet, and his shrill tone of alarm testified to his discomfort.
I knew the reason: I'd heard him make the wee noise. You get to recognise it; it's the wee noise that speaks of both everyday disappointment and existential angst. If you climb long enough you'll make it a few times yourself, the wee noise that you make when you've got that crucial last hold before the long reach to the jug. And it's crap. And you can't pull on it. And you're about to fall.
I mustered all the sympathy I could for his plight. " Get your lazy fat arse up there you useless git!"
There was some terrified but determined scrabbling. Sam appeared to have turned at right angles sideways. But he hadn't fallen off.
"I'll be okay. Just give me a moment to collect myself, " said Sam. And in no time at all he was organising the belay at the top of the route, the brilliant three star E1 5b called Plain Sailing on the Main Fin near the Souter in Berwickshire.
We'd been surprised to find a pair of climbers atop the stack when we arrived, a couple of young guys from Edinburgh. To clarify: young in Sam's terms; every climber seems young to me nowadays. The guys managed to get their ropes fairly wet when the wind blew them round the side of the stack and the ends dangled in the drink. We made a mental note not to make the same mistake.
We had a scout around then set off traversing round the side of the stack to reach the plinth below our chosen line, the imaginatively named Ordinary Route (HVS 5a). There's a wee tricky step round an arete, but we arrived safely and set up a commodious belay.
Sam set off and made good progress up a tricky groove protected by a peg of uncertain vintage, then rightwards to further awkward moves, then onto a final slab out left and thus to the top. "A right tidy bit of climbing."
I enjoyed following the pitch and the great feeling of exposure perched on the summit of the Souter, which is festooned with a huge array of abseil tat including several modern karabiners. I made great play of ensuring we knew which rope to pull once we'd descended, then of course spent ten fruitless minutes pulling the wrong one once we did get down. At least we didn't get them soaked in the sea.
We ate lunch. I would have been happy to have headed off home, but Sam was psyched for action. I led a wee severe on what is apparently called the Limpet Fin ( the entire climbing area is composed of vertical fins of greywacke jutting out into the sea) just for the sake of appearances.
But in the meantime the tide had continued to go down and the deep slot between the Limpet Fin and the Main Fin was accessible. It was from here that the sensational steep line of Plain Sailing struck up. So Sam checked out top and bottom, girded his loins and set off...eventually successfully.
With some considerable heaving and grunting, and the loss of an unrecoverable number 2 Friend belonging to Mhairi, I too eventually flopped over the top.
It had been a memorable day in an unusual venue.