Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Spitting Distance

My car is crap.

Maybe that's not fair.

Maybe what I mean is that my confidence in my car is crap.

I can just about cope with the daily routine of the commute to work, but much further than this and I'm convinced that something is going to blow up. It's had enough trips on the back of recovery lorries for me to think that every bump in the road, every whirr of the engine, every twitch of the steering wheel is a crucial part of the under-carriage dropping off or snapping or burning or breaking. Often I'm sure I can hear a hideous noise emenating from beneath the bonnet, only to find that it's the music on the radio. I reach my destination a nervous wreck, terrified I'll never make it home again.

Obviously, this is mildly irritating. However, looking on the bright side it does mean that I have to look for fun on my doorstep (or rely on other people with cars that work). If I lived in a city centre or in the flatlands of South East England I think I'd have shot myself long, long ago, but luckily I don't. Fortunately for me, within spitting distance of my front door (if you can spit about 15 miles) is one of the finest playgrounds known to man. I may have mentioned it once or twice. It's called the Cairngorms.

Wearing my tree-hugging hat (it's hand-knitted with a bobble), the Cairngorms are a unique area of high sub-arctic mountain tops and remnant Caledonian pine forests. Rare plants and bugs and birds and mammals abound in some of the only wilderness that we have left in these isles. Just being here is a privelage. Wearing my climbers hat (it's a beanie with the word 'gnarl' emblazened across the front), it's a haven of granite peaks and cliffs, slabs and cracks, turfy corners and icy gullies. A higher concentration and diversity of world class routes is hard to come by in the rest of Britain. Wearing my runners hat (it's probably made of lycra and makes me look like a dick) it's a vast array of forest paths and rocky singletrack, high mountain passes and endless rolling hills.

If you combine these factors, sprinkle in a smattering of blue skies and rub in a big serving of energy and effort, you might just find paradise.

Firestone Sessions
Friday: A run over the back confirmed that the snow is still steadily creeping away from the bottom and top of the slab. The melt-water from the upper snow patch is dribbling down the initial 12m section (the crux), but this should stop once the snow has all gone (not too long now). The top 12m is dry.
Saturday: Returned to the Loch Avon Basin and climbed a route on Hell's Lum with Colorado David. The 25 degree heat was doing wanders for the snow melt on the Lower Slab. More crag-swag: a sling and wiregate Krab on pitch 1 of The Devils Alternative and a nice new wire from the top pitch of The Magic Crack in Coire an t'Schneachda.
Sunday: Back to Firestone on my lonesome. Walk- in tunes on the ipod: Mumford and Sons - Love Your Ground EP and The Cave and the Open Sea EP; The Octopus Project - Hello, Avalanche; Lisa Hannigan - I Don't Know.
More digging from the top and bottom snow patches. I found a better anchor than previous and set up a top rope. Abbed the route and found a small cam slot protecting the top section, trouble is, you've done the hardest climbing by then. Worked the dry top section on the shunt. Pretty easy. Worked the dry line next to the wet lower section (it's not the route, but looks like a section of similar climbing: delicate, balancy friction). Delecatable. Took a while to learn how to trust non-holds but eventually managed to link the whole thing into the top of Firestone. Still a few metres of snow to go from the bottom which will add quite a lot of height to the crux. Awesome. I Imagine that working the route from the safety of a top-rope is going to feel 'fairly' easy, but doing it solo will be quite a different prospect. Soloed Hell Gates before dropping the shovel down the rundkluft (gap between snow patch and slab). It's going to remain there until the snow recedes. Arse.
Walk-out tunes: Kissy Sell Out - Are People Real Mix; Doug Stanhope - Deadbeat Hero.
Bring on the melt.


alpinedreamer said...

Sorry, I laughed to read you'd dropped your shovel down a hole! It's nice to see that Dave Mac started a trend for snow shovelling, but maybe this is a sign that we should let nature take it's course....in the same way as we don't bolt mountain crags, maybe we shouldn't shovel snow on mountain crags. Isn't shovelling snow a bit of an urban thing to do anyway?! Still, it's good to see someone keen enough to put in some effort. I hope it pays off for you! :-)

Gaz Marshall said...

Yeah, it's a bit of a pain in the arse to drop the shovel! Last summer I was living in the Fort and remember chatting to Dave and thinking he was crazy to bother shovelling snow, now look at me. Thing is, if it's a shit summer I'm only going to get minimal time on the project, so the sooner it's climbable the better. The clouds and rain are back in the hills. Boo hiss.