Another Weekend in the Norries

So our plans of heading up to the ben for a few days this weekend didnt work out. The weather on saturday looked horrific so we decided to ditch winter climbing and head to the TCA glasgow boulder comp instead (which I can tell Keith was secretly more psyched for as it meant he got a long lie in bed). The comp in general was really good, as was their last one, but it was kind of irritating watching all the wall rats merely touch a hold as they fell off, turn around to their mates and say ‘does that count?’ mates reply ‘yes that counts’. FYI the rules are to hold the hold and move off it. not slap for a touch as you’re falling to the ground. So in that respect the entire thing was a total farse. It was just a good training session for us really as we have only been bouldering once since before christmas due to my horrid snowboarding injury. I came 5th and Keith came somewhere in the middle in the male seniors. Several people scoring higher than him did so in a very unhonest manor, as we actually watched them fall off things both Keith and I had onsighted. but hey ho, thats indoor climbing for you!

Anyway, today (Sunday) we opted to head up to the norries. Not very exciting to be honest, but the weather was drastically better on the east, so wasnt much of an option. The corries were absolutely heaving! I have never seen the place so busy (and it is always busy). There must have been about 300+ people!

We headed up to Mess of Pottage, and the only free route was Yukon Jack (IV 5 *). Upon reading the guidebook afterwards, this route is graded for ice. There was no ice. Keith was leading the first pitch, there was absolutely NO gear. 2 rubbish nuts, a hex, and dodgy bulldog in 20metres. Doesnt really sound like a grade IV – and that was after the epic powder clearing. After 1.5 hours of me freeeezing at the belay Keith managed to climb up an overhanging face (off route) to get some gear to bail from! The guy I was speaking to at the base of the crag was having a good laugh telling me he has several mates who’ve attempted the route and thought it was at least a V 6 under powder. Keith found it much harder than The Message which is tech 6. hmmm.

Keith on pitch 1 of Yukon Jack

Once that epic was over and done with, we headed over to join the last people in the queue for Hidden Chimney Direct (IV 5 **) – an actual IV 5. After hanging about having a wee snack, I set off to lead the crux pitch. Was quite tricky, but not as hard as Central Crack route (another IV 5) that we did a few weeks ago. I got scared on the easy snow slope near the top of the pitch after all the hard climbing was done, for some reason there was a lot of ‘watch me Keithy’ and actual screams at this bit haha. We then decided to ab off the insitu tat so that we could both lead the crux pitch instead of queue to climb the grade 3 bit above. It also avoided the walk back down the hill, a definate bonus. 

Janey on P1 of Hidden Chimney Direct

We walked off the hill and back to the car before dark, then decided to head back to Edinburgh instead of camp and climb tomorrow as we’re knackered and I do have an exam on tuesday I really should be revising for.

posing for a photo on the walk out

Janey and Keith

White Shark – Aonach Mor

After a lot of indecisiveness last night, me, Keith and Neil decided to head up to Aonach Mor today in search of some bumbly ice. The early start was as unpleasant as ever, and I felt physically sick with tiredness the whole car journey up to Fort William (Keith’s driving probably wasn’t helping matters). Anyway, we finally arrived at the Nevis Range car park in time for the first gondola of the day (this is what winter climbing is all about). We then proceeded to get the chair lift up as far as we could, which was super duper cold with lots of wind and snow to the face.

Although the walk in was only about 45minutes from the top of the chairlift I was dying today. Have had a cold the past couple of days so feeling sorry for myself, and since I couldn’t stomach my sandwiches there was no fuel to be burned. boo.

We geared up and headed over to Easy Gully to descend to the base of the crag. We had a choice of abseiling off a snow bollard *puke* or downclimbing. Neil opted for the downclimb, and me and Keith went for the abseil. Felt very very sick sitting back over the edge on that, but it was fine! sadly no photo as there was a crowd of other climbers waiting to get down, and getting rather impatient with us since Neil coiled the ropes horribly and then buggered off down the gully leaving us to sort out the tangles! wooo.

We opted for White Shark (IV 4 ***). The climbing happened pretty quickly, Keith led the first pitch, Neil the second, and I negotiated the scary cornice.

Keith on P1 in the less than perfect weather

Crux was short lived. Both Neil and I had no gear on our pitches, it was all a bit rubbish, shitey ice screws that Neil didn’t fancy and just nothing on my pitch really. Kinda scary climbing over the cornice (especially in the strong wind and spindrift) knowing a fall would probably end up in instant death or at least paralysation, but it was fairly straight forward :) I also got to make my first T axe belay.

We then walked back down to discover the chairlift had stopped running so it was a bit more of a walk down to the gondola station, which luckily was still up and running, although it looked like they were about to close it soon after we arrived back. The ski slopes were deserted. The ride back down in the gondola was pretty scary due to the wind, and wasn’t helped by being told about the wee cabins having fallen off resulting in numerous deaths in the past (Thanks Neil).

Here are some photos from the day:

Janey seconding pitch 1

Pitch 2
winter belays are cold!
Enroute to battle with the cornice
topping out…hahaha
walking off, the weather much nicer now
Keith pleased at the swift descent.

Lovely relaxing day, followed by a meal at mcdonalds. nom nom.

The Message – What an epic day!

So yesterday – 23rd January 2012 – we woke up bright and early to head up to the norries for a days climbing. I was meant to be at uni but since Keith was off  we decided that winter climbing was a much better option – I was wrong.

We set off pretty early, around 5.15am hopeing to get up there sharp and get two routes done on Mess of Pottage. However, about 20miles from aviemore there was a massive traffic jam on the A9, fire trucks, ambulances and police cars heading further up the road with flashing lights. It had been snowing as we were driving, so must have been some sort of accident, I don’t know. After sitting in the car at a stand hill for a good twenty minutes, my trusty blackberry (this things survived being thrown in a river!) showed us an alternate route. Luckily we had come to a stop 50 metres or so before a U-turn. So we turned around, drove 5 miles back towards Edinburgh, and did a massive 30minute detour through Newtonmore. Very annoying but oh well! Finally made it to Cairngorm car park at 8.30am, yes thats over 3 hours to get to aviemore!

After a lot of faff we finally began the walk in around 9, in the snow!

Keith walking in to the coire base

After having a look at what lines were free we opted for The Message (IV 6 ***). It was very busy for a Monday, we had forgotten about the international meet. After a bit of queueing due to the first pitch being shared with a few other routes, we began climbing.

I (Janey) led the first pitch which began with about 20 metres of easy ground (and no gear), followed by 10 metres of harder climbing, probably around a hard tech 4 in the current conditions. Quite reachy, as most things are for me. Upon reaching the belay it was climbing gloves off, and mittens (with hotties hand warmers inside) on. My new awesome method for hot ache avoidance.

Janey on pitch 1

Then Keith set off on the crux pitch.

I first attempted the left hand branch after the belay but decided against due to lack of gear so repositioned and attacked the right hand groove. This consisted of dodgy torques and magic to stay on as there was no neve under the powder blanket covering the ledge above, then it was on and upwards to the crux section.  Securing a thread on a mahoosive block at the bottom of the corner crack I felt quite at ease, until I was a few metres further up where I would have much prefered some euro style bolts, but no, I had to make do with a shit looking nut in an iced up crack, yummy. The climbing was all straight forward being good hooks in snow and ice covered rock and rests available by wedging myself into the corner. But it felt a little reachy for me so I knew I’d be shouted at soon enough. After a good hex (provided I didn’t pull it up and out of its seating) and a piece of negligible in-situ sling connected to a miniscule battered nut which was probably the same age as a fine red wine I pulled round the next mantle and into the belay bay and it was Janey’s turn to second.

Keith starting the crux pitch

I stripped the belay and began to second Keith up the ‘easy’ variation. This was not the case, it turns out the ‘easy’ variation is only easy if you’re a lanky bastard. I couldnt reach any of the hooks I saw Keith use, and after attempting to pull on a slopey powdered covered ledge, my axes blew and I had ruined the onsight. A lot of angry words were shouted of course. Tears nearly came out too, but I have been very good at controlling them winter climbing recently!

I then decided to climb the side Keith had decided against. This was much easier! It was probably technically harder, but I could reach things, what a bonus! I had to yard on Keiths sling at the top of that section to get back round to the right and downclimb slightly to retrieve the gear from the section he climbed. Oh well. The actual crux wasn’t really the crux for me, I found it super reachy in places, but fairly straight forward. Just a matter of pulling hard. When making it to the next belay it was getting dark and I was in a very bad mood having fallen off, so the headtorches came out and I made Keith lead the top pitch. The top pitch was lovely, we went a bit further right than we were meant to but it was awesome climbing and not too reachy, just a shame it wasnt light for maximum enjoyment.

Keith on the crux

Naving off the plateau was horrid, white out and super windy. We were both so tired by this point, starving, freezing, and just dying to get back to the car. It was a struggle.

Walking down the ski slopes seemed to be never ending and took forever. The ski centre never had their lights on either, so it felt like we were miles away right up until we were 100 metres from the car park!

Getting our boots off and munching on our sandwiches was such a good feeling, and soon we were driving out the car park when we had our near death experience.

The roads were super icy and snowy, having snowed after the ski centre shut, so no plowing or gritting, although really they should have gritted before they left! Ridiculous. Anyway, the next thing we know the car is sliding out of control towards a rocky hilly drop! We started to shit ourselves and after 15metres of sliding, Keith finally got the car to stop literally ONE inch from the edge. So so scary. I was on the phone to Keith’s dads girlfriend at the time informing her that we would be late back to pick up our puppy pal, and she heard all of the commotion. This then led to me being put on the phone to Keith’s dad to be lectured about the roads. The exact words were ‘Tell Keith to get off the gas, if he doesn’t listen to you, whack him in ears…they’re big enough’ hahaha! Keith wasn’t happy when he found out what was said.

All in all the day was a bit of an epic. Kind of wish I had just went to uni, when freezing on the route and naving in the cold the thought of being sat in a warm lecture theatre staring at equations was rather appealing! Keith did very well to onsight his first tech 6 though.

Enjoying some half frozen water on the walk out
Keith unimpressed and wishing he had a teleport.

We hope you can all understand our changing of writer in this post!

Janey and Keith

Central Crack Route, Coire an Lochain

*beep beep beep beep beep beep* goes the sound of the alarm. Its 4am on Saturday 14th January, off to go climbing.

We got ready (Keith actually woke up on time) and headed up to Cairngorm car park and began our walk in to Coire an Lochain for sunrise with a forecast of clear high pressured weather.

moon set

The walk in took us nearly 2 hours (a mixture of the lack of fitness and the super icy paths), but we eventually made it to the bottom of No.2 Buttress.

After gearing up Keith got started on the first pitch of Central Crack Route (IV 5 **), using his awesome thrutching and thugging technique, and lets not forget his amazing footwork. After 1.5 hours of me freeeezing, he finally made it to the first belay.

Keith at the cruxy start

Upon seconding I got stuck in the chinmey bit with my rucksack. Interesting, but managed to thug up it Keithy style! woop. Keith took the direct approach (after looking at the topo we think the route may have veered slightly right onto easier ground but cannot see why), so it was quite sustained. The conditions were lean, so felt quite spicy for the grade (according to Keith as its my first proper tech 5 (The Seam doesn’t count as it’s soft)).

I reached the belay and we swapped over leads, and I went across to lead my super rope draggy zigzaggy pitch. Crux of this pitch was probably the start. Being the midget that I am I had to get a super high foot to be able to pull over the bulge. The rest was generally pretty easy though, probably at most tech 4. The drag had got so bad 6-7metres from topping out and I saw an awesome thread so decided to belay from there as I was literlly being pulled down by my ropes. This also meant Keith could belay me on the last 5 metres and get some awesome photos.

topping out

I topped out around 4pm and got to make my first snow belay (not that there was much snow on the plateau)!

We then descended Fiaciall Ridge as the sun was setting for the second route tick of the day. Seems theres quite a hard wee downclimb on it when fully laden.

Awesome day, awesome weather, awesome conditions, followed by my regular post winter climbing hot chocolate in Cafe Mambo, where we bumped into Mr Boswell after him beasting it up The Gathering:

Janey and Keith