Sunday, 20 December 2015

A 10 Star-Point weekend

Rob and Euan on Central Grooves. Did I ever mention how jealous I am?!!?

Being very poor and as weak as a kitten after so long away, I'm spending the next wee while in the UK. I say weak, my legs are still massive after carrying stupidly heavy bags and dragging sledges up to 4500m. Though this extra weight does make my arms feel even more matchstick-like. Back working at Rock Over Climbing in Manchester should hopefully remedy both of these problems! Saying that... I did manage to pop something in my wrist on my first coaching session back in November. 5 weeks of rest and rehab have sadly replaced my training plan! Important life lesson there: don't show off to teenagers when you're not warmed up!!

Busy day around Crest Route and Intruder.
After some gentle testing on day 24 of the 28 day rest period, I realised that I could probably manage to hold an ice axe, just not crank off it completely. No one arm lock offs yet but time to head north!! It was on the same day in fact that Rob messaged me to see if I was up to climbing Central Grooves with him. This is an amazing looking mixed route in Glen Coe and is very near the top of my wishlist! Sadly I decided not to give into temptation so turned him down for the route but joined him for the jaunt.
Last time Rob and I bivvied together, the mountain we wanted to climb fell down near us... This time the greatest danger that we faced was being locked in as the car froze solid, on the inside too!
Dave Brigham and I already had a day planned in the Lakes, and did the delightful scramble - Jack's Rake in the gopping wet. Didn't really feel like winter yet in England! Although there were patches of frozen turf in exposed areas I was very sceptical about winter climbing conditions up north. Fortunately I was totally wrong, there was loads of snow on Rannoch Moor and it was bloody freezing in Glen Coe! Just about had enough clothes to be comfortable...

Dave's photo of me enjoying the exposure on Jack's Rake.
Stob Coire nan Lochan... WINTER!!!
NC gully's cave...
After a delightful evening in the Clachaig (the night of their Christmas party no less) I followed my strict Alpine regime and woke up in the car at 11am... You don't 'have' to get an early start to go soloing! Even though there wasn't a track in it, I had a go at NC gully. The steep step out of the cave was a bit necky for my first route of the season and made me think that it wasn't quite in Grade II condition. I downclimbed it, shouted some abuse at Rob and Euan on Central Grooves and fired up Dorsal Arete instead, topping out just in time to see the sunset across Mull. Realising that the slabby path out of Stob Coire nan Lochan would be horrific as soon as the ice formed after dark, I legged it down without having to use my headtorch for too long.

Dorsal Arete... Why haven't I done it before? Worth the stars!

I've often questioned my decision to move to Chamonix, I'm significantly weaker at both bouldering and steep mixed climbing than when I left the UK and often feel like i'm just flailing about trying to climb. Last Saturday I realised how much I've grown to become a more rounded mountaineer throughout my time in Cham. I'm so much happier and braver on snow slopes and have more of an instinctive feel for their stability. My resting heart-rate is also a whopping half of what it was in my partying days, winning!

Sneaky peak of the north face of Ben Nevis
A quick jaunt up my favourite route on the Ben (Ledge Route), cups of tea in the CIC hut and pints in Glasgow completed an amazing weekend! I collected at least 10 star points for all the routes I completed, even though they weren't difficult they were all excellent and has just left me itching for more.

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