The fickle scottish winter has played havoc with my emotions the past 3 months. The season threatened to arrive a few times, all the while I bided my time, waiting for the time that an ongoing autumns training could be tested where it counted, in the mountains, not in a man made hole in the ground. Not with shiny bolts for protect, but skill, guile and courage.
Winter arrived, opportunities were missed, bad choices made, days out with an optimistic frame of mind, all the while the test was avoiding me... I knew it was close but each time a locked door barred the way. Some days it was the weather, the circumstances or just unacceptable conditions. Yesterday it arrived.
An unexpected chance to climb presented its self late on saturday, a frantic dash around the houses to find a partner yeilded an unexpected outcome, the chance to climb with Murdoch Jamieson. A cool guy I'd met a number of times who I suspected was almost as keen as I was to get on something interesting. Hell, he'd only done the Needle a few weeks ago! The plan - daddy longlegs. The intention - emulate the Adams/Higgins ascent of the previous day!
8am the next morning standing below No.1 buttress in coire an lochain, we were if not gobsmacked, not far off! It was black, nothing there, like almost everything else. How could this be???? Thoughts were rapidly turning bto fall back options... all that was left was to check if the area around hoarmaster was in. Nope not a lot there.... snow pimp, hmmmm VIII,10..... na, nice easy looking grade VI yeeaaaahhhhh, what about pic n mix hmmmm only tricky VIII rather than guidebook IX apparently.... well...... hmmm.... neither of us had signed up for this and yet 20 minutes later after gearing we both realised 'WHAT ARE WE DOING??????'. Oh well, I've geared up, there's bugger all else in nick, I may as well see if I can start the pitch before jessying out!
Initial foraging provided some gear in the thin crack up the 80 odd degree wall and there were some v small ledges (maybe the wrong word!) for the feet, maybe it could go. I few torques and hooks in frozen mud, a bit more gear, an exciting tin opener move up the crack and suddenly I was bridged in the corner. Ok. A thin traverse right, where was it? Oh yeah this is where Tim Emmet takes a winger on the first attempt in 'Hard XS' the DVD..... oh oh not the image I was looking for! Must be higher.....
More gear, a layback around the corner and I can see the fat crack I'm aiming for...... but where are the footholds, *^%$ there's none! Re-think time, and this time more gear in the crack, a really thin hook up high.... how is it staying put, this can't be the way, %&*£ it. Swing the feet onto the slab, match the tool, what the hell's going on, my pick's on a tooth depth, my feet are smeared on the steep slab, YES, the crack's got a hook! Can't relax yet, NEED gear, a hex leaps into the crack, my axe slips, my heart almost exist my chest, after an eternal 10 seconds the rope is clipped. Relief. Just have to finish the pitch, another 5metres of steep pulls and the belay station sucks me in. Euphoria engulfs me. This is what I've waited months for.
Approaching the belay on P1
Murdoch cruised up to the belay, with a slight hesitation at the thin move with an expression I recognised..... what? How? Na, I'm missing something! All encapuslated in a single grin! A quick change over and the Murdoch machine started up P2, the harder pitch!
Initail smooth progress and gear came to an abrupt halt with a hook popping in the overhanging corner. I don't know who was more surprised at the fall! Straight back on and Murdoch cruised to the top of the pitch. All that was left was for me to follow and strip the gear. I've rapidly come realise I am shit at seconding and 5 minutes off the belay and the flash pump had arrived with avengence in the overhanging, strenous corner, this was nae grade VI ground! Almost at the belay and the arms were burning with lactic acid and the thought of shouting 'take' was so appealing. Exhaustion arrived on the flat top, as well as admiration for an awesome lead from Murdoch. First route together and hopefully not the last!
Its probably only fair to say that VIII,8 felt like the grade rather than guideboook IX,9. This being a guess based on our limited experience of VIII or 8 and the ideal conditions we encountered! The guidebook is probably right about the 3 stars though! Ace short route and great experience! Taking a chance is normally worth it......!