OFF THE WALL
The good news is that spring has sprung and I’ve uncluttered both my room and gear.
The bad news is that there’s little hope of any more ice and snow play within 5 hours drive this season, and that I’ve turned into a gear tart.
Too wet and too mild to do anything except suffer the smelly dirty climbing wall, my mind feverishly looks into the next season. On a bright warm February afternoon I spread my gear around me on the carpet in my bedroom. I need to get reacquainted. I feel we haven’t communed for a long time. I see that some of it looks care-worn, and it’s about time some of it was returned to its rightful owner. Difficult decisions of retirement and replacement have to be made. My borrowings have been generously tolerated and it’s time to give them up – to say goodbye.
Not that difficult as I get to have new shiny gear...
I love hexes. Once placed they make me feel as safe as a limpet, but my old hexes have been regularly vocally abused by climbing partners- ridiculed because of their weight. I have defended them stoutly, even secreting them about myself on a route occasionally. They’ve been objects of desire to me – a perfect combination of form and function...but I‘ve eventually come to see the error of my ways: I’ve come to hate their weight. The latest models are as light as a feather and I’ll do anything nowadays to reduce the burden of my rucksack.
Cam’s amaze me. They look so efficient, so shiny and so handsome. I don’t quite understand them but I know they’re worth getting to know thoroughly - a bit like someone who knows how Excel works. I have 3 that have been borrowed. For my last year’s birthday, I requested and was given a number 1 Camelot and found how much more versatile they were than ordinary cams (when I remembered to put them on my harness). I’ve repeated the request this year and now, sitting on my desk is a brand new number 0.75. Its chrome greenness is eye catching: its magnificence is enhanced by the matching green tape from which it will hang in the months to come. I squeeze it and watch the cams move – so smooth.
I can see the future – me and this green prince out on warm rock on a sunny day at Baggy Point, the blue sea twinkling, and the smell of ozone in the air. Soon...please.
Posted by fishinwater
Day one: The Grey Corries. A superlative horseshoe of spectacular alpine-like ridges nestling under the gaze of the Ben.
Good start to the week – I forget both my winter boots and axe, so am reduced to summer Gortex. Thank God I remembered Baz’s mantra: ‘New Classic bindings will fit any boots’, and thank God Rob has a spare pair of NCB crampons in the van.
I discover Scottish bogs are unavoidable and that the need to walk up again after walking up and down is a bitch. Sprightly mountain leader girl and mountain goat Rob make easy weather of it, while I feel sick. I’m a portable sauna. The unkind thought enters my head that ‘at least I’m not as far behind as the other two’.
Summer boots can’t grip on the increasingly large stretches of neve and the northerly gusting 70mph wind promised by the forecast comes true. I discover trying to fit crampons with frozen fingers in a gale is a bitch.
The cloud gets thicker, the ridges steeper, the gusts stronger.
I am immobilised like a frightened frog on the ridge by the wind. Not happy.
We get to where we’re going – but it’s difficult to tell because everything is white - and windy. I can only tell by the grins on the Munro bashers’ faces.
A descent from hell batters feet and ankles and brings us down to rain.
Day two: Glen Nevis and Polldubh crags. A spectacularly picturesque glen of rushing river and indigenous forest nestling under the gaze of the Ben. Nearby the crags of Polldubh provide a quantity of easily accessed quality climbs.
Murky drizzle-damp day. Beautiful valley but we’re walking too fast to notice much. At least I’ve got the right boots on. The Steall falls are a wonder.
I tip-toe nervously across the wire cable bridge over the busy river and then realise it’s not that scary.
Rain stops enough to consider the possibility of climbing ‘The Gutter’ on the crag on the way back. Not easily accessed as promised – I’m rope donkey again on a path that goes upward forever. I’m a portable sauna.
Evil seeping slab + rigid boots = unhappiness. Boots don’t bite. Ice bites fingers. I try to climb without using either. It starts to rain again.
Day three: The Big Ben. Take the ‘Ledge Route’ on the spectacular north face for an interesting winter’s day out to the top. A guide will brush up your skills and make sure your day goes smoothly.
Route march up to the CIC hut and I’m a portable sauna before we’ve even begun.
I fall into a stream, trip over my feet and see concern increasing in the face of the guide as I lose grip of my axe and trip over my crampons trying to stop its descent down the first snow slope of the day.
This is a big big mountain. I am a small small person.
The deep gully shows evidence of recent avalanche but we stomp up it roped together anyway.
The way up is absorbing, with perfect neve snow on ridges and steep slopes, and keeps me focussed. I’m happy in my work despite being acutely conscious of any rope slack behind me. Clumsiness is blown away down the huge drop-offs with the increasing wind.
I top -out as leader and feel inappropriately clever, but then discover the summit is a steep slope walk away through another near white out. Another sauna moment occurs. We stop for quick sustenance and a quick-freeze effect occurs.
The Munro tops basher has an ambition that involves steep up and down backtracking, (more sauna) and by now my legs are not in their right mind. I wonder 1) why a mountain has two summits 2) how I’m going to have the energy to get back up the slope we’ve just come down, and 3) why I’m here.
Clouds lift. Hurrah.
Down is for a long time. Thighs, calves, ankles, feet, toes hurt. Car park comes into view and doesn’t get any closer for hours and hours.
Day four: Aonach Mor. Delightful ski slopes for all abilities in a spectacular setting under the gaze of the Ben.
Crystal clear view-of-the-world day. A rest day. Not a day for a rank amateur to ski on slopes of ice. Lack of snow confines me to the top slopes where I Just about avoid doing too much damage to my knees, but I find uses for the only leg muscles that haven’t been over-worked the previous day. Not happy.
Warm bright sunshine at the top. Happy. No sauna impressions all day.
Day Five: ‘The Cobbler’ in the spectacular setting of the Arrochar Alps has the most distinctive outline of any mountain in the Southern Highlands and makes a great short day out.
Up up up again. We have chosen the shortest and therefore the steepest way up. Today my calves burn like they’re in a vice from hell. I hate uphill. I never want to walk up anything again. I want to be a TV slouch.
The path that eventually emerges is smeared with hidden ice.
I poke my head through the hole in the mist-shrouded rocks at the top and look at the distant valley below. I can see why this is ‘the alps’. I can’t raise enough energy or adrenaline to scramble up to the top rock – and anyway there’s probably ice hiding on the move that will kill you if you slip.
Down down down again. The van doesn’t get any closer for hours.
Scotland is for hard nuts.
Posted by fishinwater
The climbing novice and steep learning curves
Want to read my old blog entries? Browse through an achive of all my posts below:
- April 2013 (1 post)
- March 2013 (2 posts)
- February 2013 (1 post)
- January 2013 (1 post)
- December 2012 (1 post)
- November 2012 (1 post)
- October 2012 (1 post)
- July 2012 (1 post)
- April 2012 (1 post)
- March 2012 (1 post)
- February 2012 (1 post)
- January 2012 (1 post)
- December 2011 (1 post)
- November 2011 (1 post)
- October 2011 (2 posts)
- September 2011 (1 post)
- August 2011 (2 posts)
- July 2011 (1 post)
- June 2011 (1 post)
- May 2011 (2 posts)
- April 2011 (1 post)
- March 2011 (2 posts)
- February 2011 (2 posts)
- January 2011 (1 post)
- December 2010 (2 posts)
- November 2010 (1 post)
- October 2010 (2 posts)
- September 2010 (2 posts)
- August 2010 (2 posts)
- July 2010 (1 post)
- June 2010 (2 posts)
- May 2010 (3 posts)
- April 2010 (1 post)
- March 2010 (2 posts)
- February 2010 (2 posts)
- January 2010 (3 posts)
- December 2009 (1 post)
- November 2009 (3 posts)
- October 2009 (2 posts)
- September 2009 (1 post)
- August 2009 (1 post)
- July 2009 (1 post)
- June 2009 (1 post)
- May 2009 (1 post)