Sunday, 6 January 2008

A Stormy Start

Not a good omen for routes being in great nick.

White. Wet powder. Not crunching underfoot but sinking to the ankles, the knees, the waist. The duck tape that conseal the rips all over my trousers start to soak off and the rips start to fill. Here we go again.

I arrived back in the Fort on friday night after a drive slowed by heavy snow. A new year in the highlands. It seemed fitting that when I left for home before christmas everything was frosted and wintery and my return was heralded with lieing snow and white hillsides.

On Saturday Danny and I headed east for a look in the Northern Corries. We couldn't see much though. Very strong winds and heavy snow made for a generally miserable day out but we were both keen to have a poke about on the Mess of Pottage. It turns out that it was pretty much the most sheltered place to be. In the end we just climbed a couple of short pitches up grooves left of the bottom of Jacobs Ladder which gave some nice moves and felt like a friendly introduction to a season I have high hopes for. Not a proper route or owt but enough fun to make it worthwhile. We made sure that topping out into the maelstrom was never an option and shuffled off down The Slant.

A couple of pics of Danny on our wee jaunt in Schneachda

Chris rocked up from Edinburgh in the evening ready for action so Sunday morning saw us in a gondola heading up Aonoch Mor. Word was that the buttresses were looking good, but in the end fresh snowfall on a westerly wind, allied with a pea-souper of a day, meant that the prospect of heading down an avalanche-ready Easy Gully to the routes was not a pleasant one. We bailed and headed back down to the house for coffee and stilton sandwhiches.

A team hunting for the top of Easy Gully on Aonoch Mor.

At the moment the highlands are experiencing pretty wild unsettled weather and lots of snow is building up all over the shop. With a bit of freeze thaw and a spot of high pressure there'll be some stonking nick in the hills, but as it stands climbing is going to be slow and arduous. Patience my dear Watson. There are a huge number of climbers based in Britain nowadays, so when accessable crags like Coire an't Schneachda and Aonoch Mor are deserted you know its a wild one.

Making the decision to bail is always a tricky one. After all the effort of an early start and slogging through the ming, maybe even climbing a pitch or two, it seems like a big waste to jack it in for the comfort of car heaters and the promise of coffee. Where's the gung-ho 'lets 'ave it' attitude that sees hardcore routes getting done? Well, sometimes that's just not a wise choice. Live to fight another day and all that. And I can assure you all the gnarly climbers that have ever been pushing the limits have all had their share of dissapointing days where they simply walked in and walk out again. You just don't hear about it because it's not interesting reading. Chief of sufferance and misery, Andy Kirkpatrick, wrote about it in point (d) here. Fair enough.

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