Climbing in the cold

So it’s fair to say it’s been a long time since I last put up a post. It’s not that I’ve not been doing nothing, it’s that I’ve done less and then not documented it. My bad! Maybe on the downtime afforded by the social lockdown, I will have time to post a few updates.

I didn’t even plan this trip, it was down to out friend Sam and Jess. I literally did nothing, but turn up. I have been on the fence of doing any exercise due to a hernia that flares up whenever it fancies. So bring caught on a climb, a dive or on a cave isn’t so appealing. But sometimes you need to give something a go, to see if it’s still possible.

Our cosy wigwam

We flew to Inverness and drove to Aviemore to Baguish, and our little wigwam that would be home for a few nights. The next morning we were up early and made our way up to the mountain car park.

The first thing I did after stepping off the car park was slip on some ice in classic ‘banana skin’ cartoon style. Great start! The walk in felt completely natural, and I drifted away as I have on many walk ins.

The walk in…

Our research the night before had centered on the route hidden chimney, it had been climbed regularly the week before and at grade 3 should be well within out abilities. Plus the wind was building all day and this was the shortest face in the Coire.

Sam was our designated lead climber, as I won’t lead with my hernia and this was Jess’s first Scottish winter climb. The conditions were great, although the wind was picking up throughout the day. We eventually scrambled up the snow slope that made up the approach to mess of pottage and set up a belay on the edge of a gully.

The first pitch followed a traverse that consisted of one thin part, as I was following Jess I was lucky I could use her steps and this made life easier for me.

Jess on her way up
Keeping warm at the belay

At the belay, we watched Sam tackle the chimney, until he disappeared out if sight. Eventually he ran out of rope so we took him off belay and climbed up a couple of metres to give him slack to build a belay. To be fair it was getting cold and the wind was gusting, making life uncomfortable. The moment Sam started taking in I was climbing.

I started to warm up, but my hand never quite got full feeling back. This pitch was much more involving and had a couple of classic chimney sections, which had me spread uncomfortably! I also slipped at one point and as I fell I manage to scramble enough for purchase on something and stayed on. From that moment I just work horsed it to the top, however with this I also took any skill out of the equation and just battered my way to the top. Not my finest moment, but as I created the top I was blowing… Not as much as the wind though.

Jess on the final pitch
Sam enjoying the light breeze

I had to sit down and take a minute. One to shelter from the wind, two, hot aches came back with a vengeance and three to just catch my breath, after a few months out and I’ve lost a fair bit of fitness!

Jess followed and when she got to the top it was a case of getting ready to go as quick as possible. The winds were forecast at 50mph but these were a bit more. All in a days winter climbing. We took our time on the walk off. With the wind to our backs most the way, but still unsettling our step.

A coffee break on the way back

That night we had a hearty meal and an early night.

The next day we decided that a day on the slopes would be a good idea, and as the high slopes were closed it was a chance for me and Jess to learn to snowboard.

We managed to get a last minute lesson with freeski, and for two hours our instructor Mark helped us move through the steps at a pretty quick pace, so much so that at the end of the lesson we went up the lift and made our way down with many falls practicing the various turns.

Where I spent a lot of my day

Wierdly enough, after the lesson it was the getting up to the top that proved to be the hardest task. I just couldn’t get use to the lift and never once made it to the top. Although I nearly had a full run down one slope without a fall.

I left the slopes a little earlier than everyone else, as I was feeling a little beat. That evening I came down with a cold and that was unfortunately me for the rest of the trip. Everyone else including our friend nick who came up to climb with us, went out the next day while I stayed in the hut. Jess kept me company the next day and we sat by a loch for lunch, whilst Sam and nick took advantage of the best conditions yet to grab another climb.

Not a bad spot for lunch

This week started well, but ended slow. However it was a good test, to show that I could climb, hike and suffer in the mountains still. No flare ups means that as soon as isolation is over I will be trying to take advantage of the great outdoors again.

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