When I asked for a month off from work my boss's face was a picture. I work in retail and we're normally not permitted to have more than 2 weeks off at once but chasing a Scottish winter is a never ending circle. A circle of constantly driving, getting up at ungodly hours and keeping motivated when it doesn't work out.
This season has been a case of blink and you miss it. Routes have been getting ticked but nothing compared to a 'normal' winter season. This week's forecast looks fairly positive but lets see what GLOBAL WARMING has in store for us.
I am half way through my time off and have managed do get out on some good routes, the most of them have been solo efforts on some easier graded stuff. One route that we managed to climb was the northern corrie's test piece Invernookie. It defiantly lived upto the hype but we both felt it was a little tougher than 3/4.
It was a long day for me, getting up at 4 (I live in the Scottish borders) picking up Jarek at 6 (Perth) then driving to the Cairngorms. A strong southern wind was making the walk in a slower plod than usual but once you were deep into the corrie it didn't seem to bad. Once we started the first pitch the clouds parted letting the sun shine. Jarek leading the first pitch comfortably with me following. Just as I arrived at the belay that wondrous feeling of blood rushing back through my fingers gave me my first case of screaming barfies!
My lead next, a fantastic 50m pitch with 3 pieces of gear and some long run outs between them. Can't have it to easy now?
I'm not sure what the 'crux' of the route was but if someone wants to enlighten me I'd appreciate it. Some nice snowy turfed ramps led to the next belay. Then one more pitch to freedom. "its ok, you've got the full 60 metres, you'll get to the top" I said to Jarek. After what felt like an eternity waiting for him to finish the climb, the radio crackled "Connor, I am nearly finished but I have saved last 10 metres for you". "BASTARD". I was thrilled. I wasted no time stripping the belay in the fading light and I set off on what I thought was the last pitch. I would have much rather led this pitch than the sparsely geared 2nd pitch. Loads of confident hooks and you could lace the cracks with gear to the top. One little traverse and a short chimney to freedom, topping out with a sunset over the west coast was well received the 50mph gusts felt like a real kick in the balls. But it was a well earned sunset. Descending Fiaciall ridge with a headtorch in 50mph winds was tough after a big day out but you have to take the rough with the smooth.
We stumbled back to the car at 7:30pm, Jarek was slightly late for his 8pm shift. But my fantastic efforts behind the wheel got him back to Perth at a decent time. Then pulling up outside at my house at 11:30pm. A 20 hour day that turned me into a ghost the next day at work.
Lets be honest though. You'd much rather be standing on a mountain ridge in the dark with the wind and rain than working???
|Sunset. Photo C Grady|
|Lunch on a frozen ledge. Photo Jarek Hora|
|Starting P2. Photo Jarek Hora|
|Sunshine on belay. Photo Jarek Hora|