Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Fine February Fun

Surely even the cynics must be wondering about what we are doing to our planet. Winter has been far, far away and for nine days in a row it didn't rain in Lochaber. Nine days, in February! In fact, the sun shone, the birds sang and the rock dried. It couldn't last though, and it's looking like today will be the last in this spell of settled weather.

Since returning from Orkney I've been out every day one way or another. On Friday I met Blair for a boulder at the Heather Hat and I've found myself a new project - Killer Instinct. It's shorter than Midnight... so in theory shouldn't take too long to see off. All the moves are down, so I just need to link them.

On Saturday Jones had her first outing on the Ben. We joined the hordes in the Cascade area and climbed a version of Raeburn's Easy Route, with a slightly harder start and finish. It was great to see Jones keen to get on the lead and she made light work of the last pitch. For the most part it was a nice day - blue skies and scudding clouds, just a shame about the three hundred thousand other people we had to share it with.

Jones preparing to bust through the cornice on her first winter lead

Sunday saw Jones and I keen for some cragging action so we headed down the Glen and climbed a great route on Pandora's Buttress. Phantom Slab (VS 4c***) climbs the first two pitches of Pandora (Severe) before an exposed traverse leads across to the base of a beautiful rippled hanging slab. As the guidebook says, it's well worth seeking out.

Jones on the exposed traverse to the belay on Phantom Slab

And so here I am on tuesday night, feeling bruised, broken and sore. The last two days up at Tunnel Wall with Blair have taken their toll. Blair has been trying Admission (F7C+), the last of the set at that grade left for him, while I've been dangling on Uncertain Emotions (F7b) again. Damn, it's still a total beast. We had two days of great weather, and although it was pretty chilly we were able to get enough done to feel totally boxed. Blair's pretty close to the redpoint. I most certainly am not, but I'm sure that trying it is doing wonders to my strength and stamina, and anyway, it's February, anything is a bonus.

Tunnel Wall is deceptively steep: that rope is vertical.

It's also quite big: The sport routes are on the pinkish rock, but Blair looks very small.

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