Before the winter season started i set myself a goal of 10 routes, and happily I have managed this. With 15 outings this season, which have been a mix of classic Scottish conditions, from amazing blue sky's and fat ice, to horrendous 80mph winds with whiteouts and spin drift up the wazoo!
The one thing I have thought a lot about this season is the mental capacity when leading. Someone asked me at the start of the season what grades I lead in winter, my answer was a mumbled response. " uh grade 2, 3 sometimes...."
Now when you see the likes of Greg Boswell, Guy Robertson. Dave MacLeod etc, leading grade 10's. A grade 2 gully doesn't seem too substantial. But then I thought, get a grip. Your average weekend warrior isn't leading these kind of grades so just get out as much as you can and see how far you can push yourself.
Having spoke to Jarek (the Czech beauty) about climbing hidden chimney in the Northern corries, which is probably the most popular route on the buttress, I have manged to climb the normal route twice before, so still high on my efforts of leading my first 3/4 the week previous we opted to try the direct start, which is given a 4/5 mix grade.
|Starting the Direct Pitch. Picture Jarek Hora|
The hooks on the direct pitch are mostly positive, but the foot work requires some smearing placements, which is kinda hard when you have big spiky things on your feet!!! But I managed to moan and groan up the pitch, there are also some impressive torques to be had at the top of the pitch. From here it was a simple traverse up to the main chimney pitch. Now like i said this is probably the most popular route on the buttress, when sitting on the belay I had 8 people passing me on the slant through to the main chimney. When we arrived at the main chimney section, there was a group half way through the pitch, with 2 guys standing across from us. Now as these guys were first, when this group finished they were free to start climbing, but when we were waiting our turn a guide turned up with 2 clients and blew past us, crossing ropes in the process. Not taking notice of people waiting to ascend, now this is bullshit!!!
I don't care if you're a guide, Chris Bonnington or the pope. Wait your turn, don't be that arsehole that pisses everyone off in the process of trying to rush of the top of a route. There was another guide on the route who also expressed his feelings of the attitude of this 'guide'
Despite the hold up in the chimney myself and Jarek waited our turn and topped out rather happy with how the day had gone. We hope for another route, but by this time we weather had come in and we where chilled to the bone.
|The Men in Red|
A couple of weeks passes and the weather got increasingly mild. Having spoken with friends traveling from England-shire, there plans were to hit the Ben, as was every man and dog over the weekend, either the Ben or Stob Coire an Locahin up in Glen Coe. Scott was keen for an outing and we settled on Coire an Lochain in Cairngorms, hoping to avoid the hoards of people heading up west. Keen to try climb the Vent, we walked up a little over an hour and had the place to ourselves. Now I'm not a superstitious person, but they say it happens in 3's. Well number 1, I fell when gearing up and ripped a hole straight through my climbing pants and took a nice chunk of flesh of my knee. Number 2, for some stupid stupid reason I didn't clip my axes into my leashes when traversing into the bottom of the route, you know were this is going. Never have I seen anything move so fast as my DMM Apex axe vanish down the slopes of Lochain to the bottom next to the wee loch, a lot of profanity came out of my mouth at this point, sliding on my arse for about 200m to retrieve the axe and doing my best Ueli Steck impression racing back to the top. Number 3, was the vent cascading with water as i tried to lead the first pitch, hypothermia was not worth it, every time i lifted my head I was met with pouring water filling my face and jacket.
So down climbing with our tales between our legs we decided to solo the coloiur to escape. We did look at the milky way, but the buttress was black as the solar system.
|Black As Night. Picture Scott Fraser|
|Scott's Face Completes the Day. Picture Connor Grady|
I really can't complain about how the season has turned out. 15 outings and 10 routes. Ticking a route i have been looking at after 2 years was a highlight and leading my first 4/5 route was also great fun.
But the best thing I can think to summaries the season is the people. Jarek, Scott, Liam and Joe
Thanks for the banter fella's.