Sheigra, perched about as far up and left as you can get on the British mainland about 10 miles south of Cape Wrath, was perhaps our favourite discovery of our last Scotland trip.
Remote beach camping, immaculate rock and stunning seascapes add up to something pretty magical, and we were blessed with fabulous weather too!
Funnily enough, we were a bit uncertain of making a return visit, as it would be hard-pressed to live up to our memories. The weather wasn’t looking quite so kind and it seemed likely that the growing popularity of the North of Scotland generally, the dreaded North Coast 500 in particular, and the trend to “stay-cations” might make for less tranquility. In the end, the magic was too strong and we decided to take our chances.
Here’s the view of the campsite from the adjacent headland – look very closely and you might just be able to spot our van and a couple of others. Whilst it did fill up a bit later, it was certainly never busy – the hoards were probably put off by the scandalous hike in the honesty-box contribution; now £5 for a van for the night, up from £3 a few years ago – outrageous 😉
Lurking just out of sight of the beach lies Sheigra’s First Geo. Literally only 2 minutes from the van, it skulks menacingly, ready to swallow the unwary!
We’d sped past its brooding presence on our previous visit, hurrying on to the more open aspect of the Second Geo, but this time we were motivated to investigate – partly in search of fresh territory, but also in the hope of escaping the buffeting wind. Rapping in (though you can also scramble straightforwardly) we were at least rewarded by a reduction in the wind chill.
It’s an atmospheric spot, if not quite in the Huntsman’s Leap league. Although the south (righthand in the picture above) wall should be basked by the sun, the narrowness of the zawn means it’s in shadow for most of the day. Roll in the spray from the frothing waves at the mouth of the Geo, and the week-long monsoon (which we’d been carefully dodging on the east coast) and things were pretty damp down there. There’s climbing on both sides, but the pick of the quality routes are on the gently leaning north wall, and they were absolutely sopping. The 4* must-do E3, Monkey Man, will have to wait for a future trip. We did a few routes on the south side, until drizzle intervened: Casey Jones, E1, Culture of Silence, VS, and Rampart, VS. These were still a tad damp, which may have detracted from the experience, but we weren’t super-impressed with any of them. By evening, the weather system had blown through leaving a glorious end to the day, and I had a wander over the top of the hill to catch the sunset…
… and the sight of the Second Geo lit up in blazing orange by its dying light.
Next day we spotted a couple of climbers walking in from the adjacent parking area – noteworthy as most of the visitors are solely there for the camping or the beach. On closer inspection we were surprised to realise that it was John and Petra – what a nice surprise to bump into Peak friends such a long way from home. We headed around to the Second Geo a little later to find them starting off up Juglust:
Conditions were atmospheric, to say the least!
Whilst the routes are largely non-tidal, the crashing waves were making their presence felt! The spray was also combining with the effects of overnight rain and the general moistness to coat the whole crag in a greasy wet veneer. Gopping! Perhaps the only “design flaw”, in an otherwise near-perfect crag, is that the Second Geo faces North West – even in the glorious conditions of our previous visit, it felt a bit smeggy until the sun arrived around 3ish, but today it was just plain soaking 😦
Inspired by John’s perseverance we put our ropes down beneath the adjacent Juggernaut, E1 5a. To coin a technical climbing term, every hold was “pi$$-wet-through”, however the clue is in the name – after the first couple of moves there isn’t a single hold that you can’t wrap all four fingers around. Jug-City! Just as well, as it’s STEEP, especially on the jutting prow at the top.
We all retired to a slightly dryer ledge opposite the crag to eat butties, catch up with news from the couple of years since we last met, and watch and wait as the sun slowly crept around to start the battle to evaporate the moisture faster than the spray could deposit it…
Another team of hardy (foolhardy?) souls appeared over the hill, and I was beyond surprised when it turned out to be Michael who I’d met about 2 months and a thousand miles ago at Lower Sharpnose – what are the chances? Only two other teams on this remote crag in its far-flung corner of the land, and I knew them both! It’s a small world!
By now, the occasional squally shower had joined forces with the “wet” alliance, but sunny interludes were making some headway on the “dry” side, so we decided to roll the dice and do another route. Sideslip, VS, is short but distinctly uphill. Great fun, and lulled us into the impression that perhaps the scales were tipping towards the dry end. Our subsequent ascent of Bloodlust, E1 5b, proved otherwise, and some route selection foolishness on my part (not helped by a misleading topo line in the Latter guide) had me embarking on a mildly harrowing traverse of the crag trying my best to leave enough gear to protect Helen from a huge pendulum into the abyss.
She was still smiling when she came into view, which seemed like a good point to quit while we were still ahead!