Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Mixed Feelings in the Dark

I get mixed feelings as the cold continues to grip onto Scotland and starts to squeeze hard. Every man, woman and their dog in Aviemore seems to have donned their luminous baggy clothing and thousands of pounds worth of skiing kit (how do they all afford it?) and joined the queues on the pistes.

Part of me feels like I should too, or at least be out ticking winter climbs. I mean, why live in the Highlands and put up with it's generally crap weather if you're not really fussed about playing in the snow? I'm not sure what it is that puts me off. I guess sharing the same small bit of hill with every Tom, Dick and Chummer isn't exactly my idea of a fun time, regardless of how much you have to pay on kit and up-lift to get there. And as for winter climbing, it still holds an attraction, in the right place, at the right time, but wading through ball-deep avalanche debris to dig around in powder and stare into the same mist-obscured corrie isn't it. Give me a bit of freeze-thaw, some sunshine and a new mountain to explore and I'll probably be a bit keener.

So, I've been skiving off from winter and making use of the cold dry northerly by bouldering at Cummingston. Last weekend poor Chris was up from Edinburgh and heavy snow meant we couldn't get across to Ben Nevis. Naturally we ended up sheltering in the big cave at Cummy, as you do, and it was in good nick. This Saturday I returned with the Betts but a slight thaw meant it was a grease-fest. All except for the secret weapon: The Corridor. As luck would have it we were both armed with lamps to stave off these early December nights, so were able to light up the through-cave between Doubt Wall and the big Fingerlicker cave, and not only was the rock dry, it was beautifully wave-worn and harder than the rest of the crag. Time to make hay.

One problem I found looked fairly innocuous but kept kicking me to the floor. Slapping up an arete, spanning away to a pinch and stubbing blindly for a rounded-toe edge under a bulge. It looked so easy. Eventually Richie showed the way and just as I started to make progress the batteries waned and the shadows grew and we had to bail, blinking into the daylight. Empty-handed.

The future of raining/snowy days? Richie in The Corridor (Photo: Richie Betts)

With charged batteries, rested fingers and the return of colder air I went back on Sunday and saw off the problem. I called it The Enemy Within, and assume it will never be repeated cos it's in the dark, which is a shame really. Afterwards I put the cherry on my already pleased cake by doing Masonic Fingershake, which I've tried on and off for about 2 years so was rather chuffed.

Quick! The batteries are running out! Me trying The Enemy Within on Saturday. (Photo: Richie Betts)


Chad said...

Well I admire your dedication to the bouldering cause but you need to get some skis and go ski touring, was up in the gorms last weekend and did some amazing tours away from the crowds - Meall a Buchaille and Lurcher's Gully both untracked snow and deep powder through the trees, free once you've got the kit!

Ted said...

Hey, it's pretty cool to come across this post since i've walked though that dark cave many times and never thought about there being bouldering in there. Any chance you could share some info (topo or description if you could remember?) on the problems done in that cave as i'd be keen on giving them a shot. Also i realise this is pretty strange asking about it 6 years later.
All the best,