Unable to decide what is more important, winter climbing or rock climbing, the simplest thing I can is just mix it up. And no, I don’t mean winter mixed climbing.
I received a text message from Iain suggesting that we went to Glencoe for a winter day out. When I say ‘suggesting’, it was more like, ‘don’t argue, that’s where we’re going’. I read this message and thought ‘fair enough’. 5 minutes of walking, I was blowing out my ass trying to keep up with Iain. We noted a few familiar vans in the car park which worried my poor friend. Iain had been up to Church Door Buttress the previous day, putting a track in and checking a potential new plum line out. So I could feel a sense of urgency as it was clearly an obvious target for any other team ahead. I was hopeful for a mellow day out as I had been suffering from a minor sniffle so beasting it up to the top of Bidean was not first on my agenda. Anyway, the snowline was reached and the gap between us grew. On arrival into the corrie, Greg and Uisdean were met. After some discussion, we ended flaking our ropes out below the obvious Ice fall. Anyway, a wee bit of shitty ice would be two easy for those two weapons ;-).
|Diamond Buttress and Church Door Buttress|
So I was sent up the first pitch which was pretty straightforward. A tricky little pull to get off the ground and another tricky few pulls to get onto the belay ledge.
|The Line of 'Gates of Paradise'|
|Me on Pitch 1 (Photo: Iain Small)|
After some ‘uping’ and ‘downing’, Iain asked me if I could maybe shift my belay off to the side a bit. ‘For fuck sake’ sprang to mind. Part of the belay was out of reach so you know the script. Tied off figure of 8’s, ropes flaked over me, lanyards, big thick belay gloves… To be fair, he wasn’t too keen on pulling out some pretty hard moves directly above me. Neither was I too keen, but still, what an inconvenience. So for the next two hours, I had a shitty hanging stance on a slope foot hold and well not much for the other. But I won’t dwell on it.
|Iain following pitch 1|
Iain put in a superb lead. After leaving the belay he managed to step left onto a little ledge on the arête. Conveniently Ice had formed down the left side, so he quested off up, muttering something about having never climbed Ice on an arête before. ‘Rather you than me pal’ was what I thought. ‘Just remember to keep that rope nice and tight when I follow I shouted up’. ‘What?’ was his reply….my request was lost in the rising wind. There isn’t much more to say really. Iain got up to the roof, got a good cluster of kit, and eventually committed to a strenuous sequence of moves to gain the ice. And off he went. Cleary I was in a rage seconding. The weather was pish, lanyards, all over the place and blunt picks. But really good climbing. Hard winter only ground at its best! Oh yes, and before I forget, Iain named it 'Gates of Paradise' VIII,8. Iain gave Simon Richarson his account which is a lot more proper. It can be read on Scottish Winter.
|Iain committed on pitch 2|
|Iain pulling through the roof and gaining the ice.|
Guy Steven was gagging to get out climbing but was unable to leave early. Iain was on route to a wedding, so was looking for a casual day out. I was in the middle trying to cater for all. Easy, a 3 pitch mixed route on Beinn Eighe would suite. So a relaxed start. It was by far the best walk in ever. Snowline half way up with fairly consolidated snow, plus the sun was shining. Bliss. However, on top was a different story. Pretty strong easterly made mobility pretty tough.
|Needles in the face. (Photo: Iain Small)|
It was a relief to get into the shelter of corrie but that had its own issues. Setting off a few little slides of windslab kept me alert. Eastern Ramparts looked more acceptable than Far East Wall. So we settled for ‘Pale Rider VIII,9’. Its a summer E1 climbed by Martin Moran and Robin Thomas a few years ago. You can read Martin’s account here. (Look for Feb 5th 2010).
|2 clueless school boys beneath Eastern Ramparts (Iain Small)|
|Iain on pitch 1|
Now, we all know that Iain Small is the best Scottish winter climber in the world. Its just a fact. His foot work is immaculate. But I just had to add this photo of Guys. It just highlights that even the best grovel on their knees ;-)
|Iain's feet, my face. (Photo: Guy Steven)|
With an easterly forecast, that usually means the west is bone dry. The BBC app on my phone showed full suns for the west coast villages so Am Fasgadh seemed like an obvious choice. So Mhairi, Andrew and myself quested over enjoying the stunning winter scenery. Yes, I have done these routes numerous times before, but it’s a great place just to exercise the fingers and arms. The air temperature was just perfect. I find it quite satisfying to have a winter day out one day and tick Black Sox 7C+ the next. I don’t know why, but it just is. Andrew decided to start trying a new link up of routes. I was not going to bother but was pushed into trying. 3 red points later I was struggling to get off the ground, elbows touching the skye. A good day.
|Andrew (Photo: Mhairi Stewart)|
|Me on Black Sox (Photo: Mhairi Stewart)|
|Mhairi working the 'Warm Up'|
On the drive home, the ache of a winter days out followed by a day of raw power on crimps crept in. The idea of some mellow bouldering at Torridon the next day seemed a fitting finale to the weekend. Richie Betts was there acting as the local guide. For each failed attempt on Malcs for Duncan and myself, Rich would just through another lap, Dick!
|Mhairi on Squelch|
|Its was not always sunny and perfect. There was some shit moments. (Photo: Richie Betts)|
|Me opening an account with Phoenix Nights. Get Stronger was the learning point of that day. (Photo: Richie Betts)|
Today, the weather is shit. I have turned to Ella Woordwards cook book.
|Peanut Butter Flapjacks, Gold!|