Despite having climbed two fairly significant routes (for me), the knowledge that Blair and Guy having climbed the ‘Sheild Direct’ on The Ben sounded one or two FOMO alarms. Not many, but enough to be heard in the distance as I walked out from Beinn Bhan. (Jesus! I seriously have problems!).
The freezing level reaching the summits, Will and Andy having a wet day on Beinn Eighe and Blair and Iain experiencing a thaw on Skye. This was not the most inspiring news to hear just before my day off. Bugger!
A windless walk under the light from the full moon, I was not expecting this! The fear kicked in. Everyone knows about The Shield. FFS! I just want to do it. With it being one of the most iconic winter routes around, I have to climb it! Lots of tracks, but eerily quiet, Iain and I skirt the base of Carn Dearg. It gave me a bit of warmth as I cast my mind back a few months previously, revelling in our summer successes here. Although peering up at pitch 4 of ‘The Wicked’ my scars itched.
|Myself attempting pitch 4 of 'The Wicked'. Iain did it.|
I walked on. Being rudely greeted by John Orr, broke my summer thoughts. The Shield was looking a bit thinner than Blair’s ascent Iain commented. Needless to say, he was nominated to deal with the thin drippy ice.
|John on 'Gemini'|
|Iain on the crucial first pitch of the 'Shield Direct'|
|Me on the next pitch (Photo; Iain Small)|
|Iain following pitch 2|
|John Orr on Gemini'|
|Me on the traverse/ramps. (Photo; Iain Small)|
Basking in the sun on ledge route, it was the first I had felt any warmth from it this year. It was one of those ‘Ben’ days we all dream about. Calm, blue sky, fun, stress free climbing.
|Roll on summer...|
Over the next week I had the pleasure of climbing a few other icy gems. Bawildabeast with Andy; The Curtain and Mega Route X with Donnie and Beads.
|Andy on pitch 1 of 'Bawildabeast'|
|Me on pitch 2 (Photo; Andy Inglis)|
|Andy on the top pitch.|
Climbing with the ‘Old School’ was superb. Mega Route X was a total joy. We were lucky enough to get it before it was hammered by the masses. Without fail, I was put in my place by Donnie… Of course he had done this back in the day with kit I would have struggled to carry from the car. The previous evening he handed me a bunch of stainless steel screw gates. Maybe half a dozen… They weighed more than my entire rack of fancy Grivel quick draws. The most impressive part of the day for me was stopping off in the pub at Fort Augustus. I nursed 2 cups of tea…they nailed 5 pints of cider each. That would have killed me…
|Beads and Donnie on 'The Curtain'|
|Donnie following pitch 2|
|Beads, relieved to see the abseil point...|