Archive for January, 2011

Goretex! Of coarse it’s waterproof!

neil On January - 5 - 2011Comments Off

As I said, our intention was to be in the car park in the Cairngorms for just after 7.00 AM, which we managed “just”. We packed our food into our rotund bags and headed for the mountains. My pack weighed just over 25KG, I’m used to carrying 40KG for my training so I thought “just a walk in the park” yeah a park filled with a consistent slope with half frozen snow that you kept falling through!

We made it up to the first of the rocks and found a spot to pitch the tent. The snow wasn’t great, it was quite mild and the pegs kept popping out, however we got the tent up, albeit it was on a slope. Then we geared up and headed in to the foot of the route we intended to climb. Unfortunately we had messed about for so long getting the tent up that we missed the boat for most of the routes. Our preferred choice was a Scottish grade lV/5 with a tricky 25MTR iced water fall half way up the face, but there were 5 climbing pairs queuing at the base of the water fall so we checked the guide book an came up with two other options, neither were what we wanted to do, the grades were quite low and they both had queues at them. We made our choice and stuck with it.

The problem was the weather, it was way to mild (just as the forecast had said) and the snow and ice was melting, every time you placed an axe it was like sticking a knife through the crust of baked mash potatoes, your axe just ripped clean out. We slowly climbed up the face, waiting our turn patiently for the belay spots, the climbing wasn’t too difficult, only thing was that placement of hardware was nearly non existent, I climbed one pitch about 40 MTRS without placing 1 piece of hardware.

About 3.15PM we ended up stuck in a chimney for about an hour getting soaked with the water running off the ice above us, we topped out at just after 4.20PM, sorted out our packs and headed down the “Goats track”. The wind was quite strong and icy cold, our clothes soon froze up, making each step that bit harder. Wet clothes wouldn’t normally bother me, except we weren’t going down the hill to a nice warm bath, dinner and bed. We were going back to a boil in the bag stew and a tent with broken central heating, “mmmmm lovely”.

The sky cleared as we ate our stew and the temperature plummeted, we sat around Radeks little gas stove looking at the stars and listening to the ice falling down the faces, the Corrie is about a mile across and you can hear a person walking through the snow at the other end, its amazing!

We were in our sleeping bags by 7.00 PM and slept on and off through the night, to be woken by our alarm clock at 7.00AM, We cooked our breakfast, geared up and headed in to the base of our climb, we had a free choice of anything we wanted, only thing was the air had turned very mid during the night, we had expected to wake to frozen sleeping bags and inside of the tent, except everything was soaked.

We now began to wander if the reason that we had a free choice was down to the weather as apposed to our early arrival, cus to be quite honest we weren’t that early! We climbed to the base of the waterfall to carry out an inspection of the ice, it looked very poor, I’m by no means an expert on ice climbing, but when the waters running down the inside as well as the outside I’d say we might be risking it a bit with our ice screws!

Radek made a suggestion that he would climb around the waterfall up the gully and see if he could set a belay above, drop the rope, and I could then have a go on the waterfall with the security of a top rope, 30mins later he arrived back to where I was standing, no belay point above, no placement for hardware and hardly no purchase with the axes.

Radek had to climb back down cus he had left his rucksack to make the climb easier on himself. So we snared up all the hardware, short roped to each other and headed up the gully, right to the top without placing 1 piece of hardware, packed everything into our rucksacks and headed down the “Goats trail” to the tent.

At the tent we had a bite to eat and then packed up the tent and headed down the long track back to the Landover. This trip was by no means an epic like “the Ben” in the summer, but it was time on the mountain and we need lots of that, lets face it spending one night in the Cairngorms is no match for three months in the Himalayas!

We’re going back in January.
Neil