Tuesday, 25 March 2008

A Good Job Well Done

I don't know how you could be jobless if you weren't involved in something as time and thought consuming as climbing. If we're talking about finances, the last few months have been nothing but a dead loss, but in terms of an obsessed climber, I'm in profit. Take the last week:

Monday: climbed Hadrian's Wall Direct, Ben Nevis, with Blair.
Tuesday: Bouldered at the Heather Hat.
Wednesday: No climbing - shadowing Gary on a woodland survey in Glen Loy.
Thursday: Circuits at the wall in Fort William.
Friday: Bouldering session at the Ice Factor.
Saturday: Climbed Rubberface on After Crag, Glen Nevis, with Jones.
Sunday: Climbed The Skraeling with Jones on Beinn an Dothaidh.
Monday: Climbed Minus Two Gully, Ben Nevis, with Sam.

You see? Without climbing that would be a very empty week.

It was good to get a dry spell and to get on the Heather Hat roof again. For such a small expanse of rock there is so much to do on it. I was trying a problem called Killer Instinct and it isn't coming quietly, but of course, that's the beauty. Blair pretty much did his new problem, but wasn't content with the start so stuck some more moves in, making it even more heinous.

Working Killer Instinct

The dry weather hung around, except for the odd snow flurry on the bitter northerlies we're getting, so when Jones rocked up she kindly offered a belay while I gingerly headed for my first Glen Nevis E1. I plumped for a route called Rubberface, which takes a bulge then a delicate and bold slab (yay) on After Crag. When the sun came out and filtered through the birch twigs it was actually quite comfortable, but when a scudding cloud got in the way it was pretty baltic. Fortunely, the crux is in the first few metres, so my fingers still had some feeling in them at that point. I found the climbing pretty easy really. As is often my problem, the crux was making the decision to start climbing in the first place.

Shivering up Rubberface (E1 5b)

The next day, Jones and I headed south to the turfy mixed climbing Mecca of Beinn an Dothaidh. Any fears of soggy turf were cast aside as we crunched across the bog to the coire. After a week's worth of northerly winds, the crag was quite scoured, and I wasn't sure of the ethical purity of scratching about on the schist. However, on closer acquaintance all the ledges were very snowy, the turf was bomber and the rock was well iced up. Game on! We climbed a great, IV,5 called The Skraeling, and at 250 metres it kept us on our toes the whole time. As is often the case, gear was hard to come by in the icy rock, but the turf was well frozen, so I just kept a positive mind and bashed on. With the weather coming from the north, we could only helplessly watch as the snow flurries and misery marched across Rannoch Moor toward us, blotting out the morning's friendly sunshine.

Jones is all smiles on The Skraeling (IV,5)

Incoming: more snow racing toward us.

The main cruxes are two steep corners, about halfway up the route, combining bridging with the odd tenuous hook. After these, pleasant turfy grooves and steps lead to the final snow slope and the top. Sadly my camera battery wasn't enjoying the cold so I only got a few photos.

The next day, Easter Monday, for the faithful among you, I teamed up with Mr Motivator Sam Loveday. He had travelled all the way from a wet and drunken weekend in North Wales, and despite delays, missed trains and snowy roads, he rolled into the north face car park at 7:00. I was feeling slightly creaky after the previous day's efforts, and Sam was tired from only a few hours sleep over a couple of days, so we took the walk in to the Ben quite gently. I tossed over the different routes we could do: Slav Route? Never Never Land? Route 2 Direct? But as we got up to the CIC Hut, Sam pointed out that the Minus Gully's looked like they were in. I had dismissed them as historic routes that don't really come into condition any more, but what did I know? Minus Two Gully was definately touching down, and Minus One looked like it was getting there, so we scuttled up to them, and after a poke about decided to climb Minus Two.

Icy Minus and Orion Faces, Ben Nevis.

Sam starting pitch two of Minus Two Gully (V,5)

In stark contrast to the turfy mixed climbing style of the day before, and the cruddy ice of Hadrians Wall last week, this ice was a pleasure to climb and (generally) protectable with screws. It provided steep steps and runnels, interspersed with easier angled neve, including some funky, continental-style ice-fangs and chandeliers to weave through. We were both climbing well and efficiently and got up the 250 metres in about four and a half hours, then traversed across North East Buttress and down snow slopes on the Little Brenva Face. Neither of us could be bothered with pushing on up North East Buttress in the freezing winds, having both done it before.

Me on pitch three.

So, back to the car and back up to the Crucible in the Crescent, only to hear that it's looking like I'm about to start a job. An actual, real, live job. Surveying Black Grouse leks (mating displays). Oh well, unemployment was fun while it lasted, but I really need to earn some money!

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