Had my first trip of the year to Auchinstarry last night with Jim. The whole area is looking quite gentrified, with bright new-build housing around Croy and Kilsyth. As you come over the hill on the road from Auchenkilns Junction, before dropping down to the Forth and Clyde Canal, the quarry looks different, too. The left -hand end is a striking bright orange where the car park area has been “landscaped”. Plenty has been written about this elsewhere, but it’s beginning to look a bit better than the pictures from a few months ago. Unfortunately there’s a surface layer of sand over most of the climbing surfaces, certainly in all the nooks and crannies. The only thing that I’d not anticipated was the striated patterning of scratches caused by falling debris on all the slabby areas.
We headed round to the back of the quarry towards the Trundle Slab. I was surprised at how overgrown all the paths were. As usual, we missed the downclimb first time and had to double back. As we made our way along the jumble of fallen blocks and rubbish of the Costa del Croy, I was saddened by the state of the place: not, I would add, because of the post-industrial squalor, but because so many once-fine climbs are vanishing below vegetation. The place is not getting the traffic it once did in the less-frequented areas away from the Trundle slab and the Red Lead/Mascarade buttress. We looked, dismayed, at a superb corner groove with a fine crack in its back (Glass E1?). It is choked with grass, and the briars are encroaching.
Even the popular Trundle Slab has not escaped nature’s ravages: the thin and essential gear crack of Midas Touch is sprouting tuffets of grass. As we geared up, jackdaws by the dozen flew noisily above our heads. Perhaps they have benefited from the absence of climbers.
Jim wasn’t in a leading mood, so I set off up Trundle to give “the new shoes” an airing. They seemed to cope fine. They’re a pair of Climb X Redpoints, bought cheap online from Go Outdoors. I’d got a pair of Mad Rock Flash ridiculously cheaply from them some time ago, but wore the toes through. I’d read that the Climb X shoes were an almost exact copy, designed by the guy who had set up Climb X and who’d previously worked for Mad Rock. I'd taken a chance on a bargain, and it seemed to have paid off.
Next up was Walk on the Wild Side. I swithered for a while, then changed into my old Jokers. Even with one toe through, I was confident I could stand on the little positive edges. The new shoes would need a few more routes yet.
I really enjoyed the route. It’s bold at the beginning, but if you keep calm you’re never out of balance, and if you keep on trucking good holds appear as you need them. Eventually, when the slab steepens, the climbing is well-protected, assuming you have a good number of small wires. Despite the unglamorous surroundings, it’s a genuinely great route. I finished up the groove above from the big ledge, and belayed Jim as he Sherpaed up with my trainers, guidebook, excess gear etc.
We decided to retire to the pub to see the end of the Euro football match. There were only two other teams in the quarry: one top-roping at the car park, one on Red Lead. We watched Germany beat Holland, and mused on the changing fashions in both football and climbing.