I was itching to get out and wake up my axes from their summery sleep and get out and play in the snow, and my wishes were fullfulled as the settled weather remained and the snow stayed put.
Both myself and Andy had a couple of places we wanted to visit with the view of doing some new routing but in the end Andy had to go get himself a new car and I was driving duty for the Sunday, so we decided to stay fairly local.
Saturday, Andy had hoped to go into Sputan Dearg and he did think later that he could have got his ski's organised, but with me never having skied in my life before, I was highly dubious! In the end we decided to go into Lurcher's Crag as Andy hadn't done one of the gradeIII ridges there and I wanted to do something easy for my 1st route of the season. It was a bit of a slog to get there, the path as far as Lochain was ok, with a trail already broken but from there onwards we were wading through knee deep snow, with me falling into a thigh deep hole at one point, hurrah for winter, I love it!
We arrived at the top of Central Gully and as I peered over and down, it looked just fine as a decent route until Andy suggested we bumslide down. But.........erm.............it's a grade I gully, it will be too fast, it will be too dodgy/scary etc! 'It'll be fine,' says Andy, 'just brake like this if you need to,' he says as he goes zooming off. oooooooooohkay, Sit myself down, give a wee push and off I go. I'm going slowly at first, but as I carry on I'm getting more confident that I'm not gonna break my neck and I go faster, yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeehah! We're down at the bottom in seconds and begin the traverse along to the route we wanted to do. There is a smaller Rib which hasn't been climbed on, on the way to the gradeIII route, and as it's hard work in the deep snow, it doesn't take either of us much persuasion to go for doing a new route instead, even if it is shorter. Turns out it was longer than expected anyway, and we both ran out a ropes length each. We're calling it Skittles, cos at the bottom I had said that it looked short and sweet.
Andy led the 1st pitch up a thuggy groove, over some blocks and up a technical steep step above. Then I led another groove and a couple of snowy ramps above. A lot of digging in the snow was involved for gear and for some axe placements too! It was a braw wee route, with tools being used torqued in cracks quite alot, rather than in turf and I thoroughly enjoyed it and was bouncing about in happiness at the top, hurrah!
Sunday I woke up with a goddamn awful headache and was worried it wouldn't go that day and I wouldn't be able to climb, but thankfully when I took some painkillers and went back to bed it settled back down again. We went in my car down to Lochnagar and we were both feeling quite tired from yesterday so just trundled up the hill on autopilot. When we got to the Col, Andy suggested traversing around, rather than dropping into the Coire and then having to go back up. We had to cross through a big boulder field on a slope and Andy was fine with his sturdy and confident hill legs but I was wibbling and wobbling all over the place and not enjoying it one little bit. I detest boulder fields! I seem to lose all sense of balance and proprioception and am simply not sturdy footed at all! And to make matters worse, my bad arm was beginning to ache like mad, making me even grumpier. Think Andy was feeling the effects of yesterday's long wade and todays walk in (on top of a day in the Cairngorms on Tues, followed by a wall session on Wed, followed by a days new routing up NW, phew!) and was getting grumpy too at the pace of things, but once through the boulders I speeded up, Andy's keen eye spotted a good route and we were both happy again.
We got to the bottom of Triangle Buttress and spotted 2 ramps which either could have been the route Triangle Buttress, which follows a left trending ramp across the main face and onto the crest of the ridge. It said it started from the foot of the Red Spout, but we thought a route further down than that was a much more natural line and followed the ridge/buttress much more directly. We decided to do both routes and that way, one of them would be the correct route in the guide and the other would be a possible new route. The first one we did, followed a ramp directly upwards and then cut across rightwards. It was very reachy but the turf was good enough, so it wasn't too difficult. The step right was a bitty awkward but ok and then it was just steps to the top. I was utterly, utterly boiling though! I had put my Montane on, as per usual in winter, but it was a still, warm winter's day and just far too hot for thermals, fleeces and massive, furry pile and pertex smocks! I had to get Andy to lead it all, as the heat was really getting to me and once I got the top, I stripped of my jkt and hat and we went down the Red Spout to do the other route, me just climbing in my windstopper this time.
The other route, went up a more slabby ramp and there was quite a thin wee step on it, but again the turf was good. Then followed a few more ramps to a belay and I led off easily to the top. Both routes were easy grade II's, the 2nd one being just a tiny wee bitty harder than the 1st I found, but perhaps just more different in style really.
Other than arm pain and achiness during the walk in, my arm really behaved itself. Have been really worried that I wouldn't be able to climb as swinging my axe always seemed to hurt. But swinging it into turf as opposed to thin air seems to make a difference and not affect my arm at all. It did feel quite weak on the 1st route at Lochnagar but I'm not sure if that was more the heat effecting me than anything else. If I have to take painkillers to cope with the climbing, then that's fine, just as long as it doesn't get worse then I'm eagerly looking forward to many more quality days on the hill, oh yes!