Saturday, 10 January 2015

Cruising, Scared & Tested

Winter has come and gone, come and gone…and come and gone.  I think.  I’ve lost track.  Whatever it has done, I have managed to keep myself busy doing in the great outdoors whether its been winter climbing, bouldering or running.

A firm arrangement with Uisdean saw us cashing in on some fine mixed climbing on Beinn Eighe.  I’m sure folk have read about what we did on Simon Richardson's blog.  If you haven’t, we climbed the Robin Smith E1, Boggle on Eastern Ramparts.  Martin Moran and Robin Thomas gave Boggle its first winter ascent a few weeks ago.  Having read Martin’s blog, this sounded like it could be an exciting and long day out.

I suggested to Uisdean that we gave ‘Boggle’ a look.  It was great feeling to be slogging up the side of Beinn Eighe on Boxing Day, knowing that all those pigs in blankets consumed the previous day were actually been put to good use.  Anyway, we geared up on top, left a bag at the summit and dropped into the Corie.  Typically, I had my focus on Eastern Ramparts as it was more likely to be in condition.  But descending to the col, looking at the rocks around, the thought of Far East Wall popped into my find.  For 5 minutes I was in turmoil.  What if it is ‘in’?  What would be do?  I’m sure I could find something ;-).  It was black.  Well most of it apart from the upper quarter.  Eastern Ramparts was much better than I expected.  With it having a few more ledges and its aspect, it had caught as much snow as it could during the winter storms prior the Christmas. 

Eastern Ramparts.  We can be seen if you looks closely. (Doug Hawthorn)

On the approach to the crag, I did sense a slight bit of intimidation from Uisdean, but maybe that was mine being reflected from the snow.  Maybe we should do something else I thought.  Anyway, after working out where the route went there was just a sense of confidence and psyche from the pair of us.  Not wanting to bore my readers with a move my move account, I will summarise the experience.  I lead pitch one (this shares the same pitch as Pale Deirdre).  There was a tricky bit near the top.  Those of you who have climbed this pitch in summer might recall a small steep smooth right facing corner.  Uisdean arrived at my belay and suggested that I should maybe lead on.  He was keen just to become confident with the steepness.  Pitch 2.  An awkward flake then a steep corner.  This was pretty sustained and strenuous.  Watching Uisdean follow the corner, all I can say is he is he is one to watch in the future!  No issues what so ever.  Good lad!  On that note he despatched pitch 3 quickly and we were on top at just after 3pm.  Fantastic route and definitely one for folk to consider.  A cruising day I thought!

Me leading the upper corner on pitch 2 of Boggle (Doug Hawthorn)

Uisdean following the corner

“Do I want to go and climb on the North Wall of Carn Dearg?” Blair asked.  “Eh no”, was my reply.  It sounds absolutely terrifying were my thoughts.  I personally want to go and join the crowds on the verglassed crags  high in Corie Na Ciste.  The next question was, “do I fancy doing Kellets North Wall?”  Sat in the CIC hut, I read the route description.  “Pitch 3 is hard and serious…” I read out.  Blair’s reply, “just as well I will have a nice tight top rope above my head”.  Fine, and off we went.  This was a new part of the mountain so that was another good reason for me to face my fear.  Only two other teams in the area.  Iain and Tony and a pair of students on Castle Ridge.  It was mellow and peaceful.  Blair did mention Iain’s route, ‘The Cone Gatherers’.  But with its grade being the wrong way round and it being an ‘Iain Small’ route, Kellet’s seemed more of an attractive option!

Pitch 3.  Yes, after gaining the wall from standing on the big flake, I stood for a while scraping about.  Just slabby rock, unconsolidated snow so nothing positive to pull up on.  This wasn’t helped by the fact I would break my body if things ripped.  After shuffling about all over the place I eventually committed to something.  To be honest it wasn’t hard.  Just annoying.  Moving right I glanced up at this groove which the route followed.  Smooth walls and no obvious crack in the back.  This looked fun.  Managing to arrange a pretty decent cluster of kit at the base, it was enough to encourage me up.  I can’t really remember it but it was awkward and strenuous for a while till the easier ground was reached above.  To be fair there was some good kit there.  One just had to work it in.  After pitch 4 we decided to do the right thing and top out rather than rap off.  During the process of moving up the easier ground above, there was some light complaining about the situation.  But reaching the top of Ledge Route, the clouds were breaking up, the moon was shining above the Orian Face, it was actually pretty satisfying.  Was I scared, at points through the day?  Yes!

Pitch 3 of Kellets North Wall (VII,7).  Me gaining the wall

The Moon 

Blair eating some food

A quick short day is what Guy and I needed.  East seemed the better option so we aimed for a day in Corie an Lochan, in the Cairngorms.  Guy had been feeling pretty ill over New Year and was barely recovered.  So we chose ‘The Gathering’ as a suitable route choice.   A short hard modern Lochan test piece.  It was agreed that I might be better doing pitch one as it was meant to be the hard pitch. Blooming hec, was my thoughts as I was huffing and puffing my way up it.  I must admit, I almost lost it at the very end of the pitch but managed to redeem myself.  A well protected, strenuous pitch which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Guy did a superb job following the pitch.  He despatched it in good style.  He had to, he had an audience of Iain and Karen who were on The Hoarmaster.  After a bit of messing about, Guy handed the second pitch over to me.  Great, a nasty wide crack to start with.  It was steady after that.  It would be fair to say, I found the route quite testing.  I was pumped but I think deep down, I have more to give.  I met John Mcune and Jonny Parr when I topped out.  I am now off to Ireland this summer to climb his routes.  They sound amazing!

Me on pitch one of The Gathering VIII,9 (Guy Steven)
Guy following pitch one

Myself on ptich 2 after the wide crack. (Iain Small)

Iain and Karen on 'The Hoarmaster'

I’m just in from work sat here in a power cut with gas stove on brewing up.  I can’t wait to get back on the hill once things settle down.  The winter is young, my psyche is high!  Thanks to Rab, Scarpa and Grivel for some of the sweet kit they have given me.

Crampons, boots and clothing

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