Monday, 19 January 2009

Rebekah's 1st winter climb

RB has asked for ages if I could take her out for a winter climb. No, no,no says I, too dangerous, you're too young, it will be too tiring for you, you won't manage it. Well, a couple of years later and I've decided to see how she gets on with a day spent in Coire an t-Sneachda. If the weather is fine and she's going well then we can try a grade I gully, if the weather isn't too good then we can just walk in for a play on the slopes and if the weather is awful then the whole idea will get sacked. Andy was on hand to help teach her to walk in crampons and how to arrest a fall with her ice axe and to lead her up the gully.
The forecast wasn't looking too fantastic, with storm force winds forecast for later in the evening but with a lull in the wind during the day.
We decided to risk it, and would keep an eye on the wind and weather, turning back if things were getting too rough. There were a few showers in the morning which soon cleared and the weather wasn't too bad once we arrived at the corrie. Andy had managed to hire her a pair of B2 Salomon boots and a pair of crampons and she was managing just fine in the boots, to kick herself wee steps up the approach slopes and to dig in her heels when descending. Next, Andy showed her how to ice axe arrest in various different positions. Falling on her bum/back head facing up; falling on her front with head facing up the slope; falling on her front with head facing down the slope and falling on her back with head facing up the slope. She managed to do them all well and Andy had her do a somersault down the slope and then break, which was fun too watch and even more fun for her to do! I was practising my axe breaking too and after finding the head first on my back twisted my neck and back too much, I gave the somersault a miss!
Next, it was time for the gully! I was really nervous by this point, half wanting RB to experience it and half wanting her to go back to the car and not bother, mother's nerves!! She did fantastically well though!
We went up Central Gully. Andy had her on a rope so she couldn't fall and I was soloing up behind them, taking photos. The gully started off easily, and then there was a steepening where the snow firmed up. It eased off a little and then got steeper again. By this point the wind had changed direction,started picking up and was funnelling spindrift straight down the gully. By the time we got to the top it was very hard to see where to go, the spindrift and wind almost blinding! I had overtaken at the top to take photos of them coming up and was having to stop every now and again to wait for a lull in the wind to see the best point to escape the cornice forming at the top. Andy went first to find the best way, I clipped into the rope and RB and I moved together over the top. The spindrift had made things deceptive and there was no cornice, but just a steeping, escapable on the left and it was easy enough.
It was blowing about 40, gusting 50 on the top so we didn't want to hang about and just shoved the rope into my sack and got a move on, keeping harnesses etc on. A while into the walk out, we noticed that RB's crampon was starting to fall off! These crampons had a funny wee hook on them, so they could be adjusted to fit small feet. Only this one seemed to be a bit defective! Andy had a good try to sort it, but in the end it didn't work too well and it was really the tightness of the straps holding the crampon on. We had to go slowly because of this and there was no chance of getting low fast by downclimbing the Goat Track, so we had to walk across to point 1141 and descend via the Fiacail Coire Cas. Once at the huge cairn which marks point 1141, the wind had really picked up, probably about 60mph. Poor RB was been battered by the wind, so much so that she had to hold on to me so she could walk forward and not be pushed to the side. This wasn't working though as both of us were then being dragged through boulders, which were awkward with crampons on. Andy clipped a sling into RB's harness and I grabbed her rucksack, so she was sandwiched between us both and that stopped her being blown down.
Once out the gusts, we stopped for some soup and more sarnie and chocolate before carrying on. We didn't take off our crampons until quite low down and then it was just another half an hour back to the car. RB still had wee bits of ice in her hair and Andy's beard was all iced up as per usual, which RB found quite funny. Well, she had experienced a proper winter's day with strong wind and spindrift and did brilliantly! She wasn't too keen on the wind and 60mph is too strong for her really, but she will be fine with calmer days on the hill. As for the grade I gully, she enjoyed it but commented that the walking was harder than the climbing!
Sunday was much more chilled and after waking up to a carpet of white, we played out in the snow, having snowball fights and making the Snowman of Garten.

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