I got spanked by yet another VS!
Andy and I had decided to climb the winter line The Ace, on Beinn Eighe and I was really looking forward to the technical climbing that Beinn Eighe has to offer on small, flat holds (though I wasn't much looking forward to the slog up it's Southern flank!)
The forecast was for light showers in the morning to clear up around 10/11ish and then sunshine and 20degrees (valley level) Hah!
The roads were wet driving up, cloud looming and threatening and it wasn't long after leaving the car that it started raining. Just a passing shower right? Well, it rained all the way to the top of the hill though Andy was insistent that the rock would dry if it stopped, me not so convinced.
The rain stopped as we approached the top of the Western Buttress area and by the time we were gearing up at the top of Fuselage Gully, there were even little bits of blue sky trying to peep through. It was still cold though and I kept my over trousers on, if not to keep me dry from any more showers, at least to keep me warm.
Walking down the top of Fuselage Gully, I felt uneasy on my feet. I started feeling a bit off and nervous. I didn't like all the plane wreckage about and kept imagining that plane crashing into the gully and all the violence that would entail. It made me feel a bit spooked which didn't help the nerves. I was glad of those over trousers though as the gully was wet and minging as only gullies can be! I didn't like the creaking noises that the wreckage made as you ab off the propeller jammed into the gully bed. That propeller has been stuck there since 1951 http://www.torridonmountains.com/Lancaster.htm so more than likely is properly wedged in, but the creaking and groaning of the bits of metal surrounding it was very disconcerting!
Standing below the face of Fuselage Wall gives you the total WOW factor! What a wall! Steep, steep, steep and capped with massive roofs and overhangs, are we really going up there?!
The first pitch was easy enough and enjoyable and took us to a ledge below a very steep, and blank for feet crack which we went to the left of. Up a very awkward ramp come groove which involved getting hands wet in a crack, laying right out on that wet crack and getting my feet higher than my hips to get them onto a small horizontal crack in an otherwise blank block. This is where I started struggling. I was cold and my hands were now numb from having to use that wet crack and I started to feel more and more vocal about how hard I was finding things. Approaching the roofs found you in an utterly amazing position, pushed out by the overhangs you had to mantle onto a large block. Only problem was this block was as high as my chest and with the rope being behind me it had to stay loose enough so as not to pull me away from the block, but I became scared of swinging off into nothing if I didn't manage the mantle. I kept screaming up to Andy that I wanted a tight rope, so he'd take me tight, then I'd get pulled the wrong way so would scream up for slack, and then get totally gripped! I really struggled with the mantle, grunting and cursing and ended up on my knees eventually, a miserable wreck with poor Andy above frustrated at the torrent of abuse coming from my mouth!
And there was no let up either! Because of cold and nerves, I got a case of tunnel vision, unable to see holds unless they were directly in front of me. The next move involved a long step leftwards to take you right onto the steep wall below the roofs. Every time I tried to step left, I couldn't reach without letting go of a nice hold I had and boy I didn't want to let go! After some more cursing and back warding and forwarding I eventually remembered to look for a different way of doing the move that would give me more reach and found a massive side pull that made the move easy!
A move upward found you jammed into the bottom of a chimney with a massive capping roof, with no obvious way of freeing yourself. I can't for the life of me remember how I managed to move out of that hemmed in position but it did involve more cursing and a tight rope, with squeals of frustration as the rope and roof kept threatening to decapitate me!
That was it, I just gave up and surrendered to the tight rope and hauling up the last couple of moves. I struggle with back and footing at the best of times! But when I'm cold, stiff and a raging mess of nerves and frustration, unable to trust the friction on the rock (which had been far too wet in places for my liking!) then it just 'aint happening!
I got to the top of the pitch, sat down and needed 5 to compose myself, after muttering that I was never climbing a wet route again, I hated new routing on rock, it was wet and minging and I was giving up rock climbing for good as I was utterly hopeless and crap! I then ran out the rope up to the top of the cliff, which was just scrambling, untied and scrambled up to our sacks, brooding and feeling embarrassed by my display of utter patheticness and inability to climb. I hate the sheer indignity of having to be hauled when finding something too difficult and yet I make it worse on myself by losing my temper. I wish I could stay calm and collected and in control, and I need to find a way of tempering my volatile nature so it doesn't affect my head when climbing. It's a damn shame as in retrospect, if it had been dry, then I could appreciate what an amazing route it was, I mean the rock scenery and positions were so spectacular.
Whilst I'd been shouting and screaming my head off, a couple had been scrambling up to the top, from Sail Mhor and I was mortified to meet them on the descent down the scree from the top and apologised profusely for all the noise they must have had to listen too. They had walked in to climb, but found it too wet for their liking, which did make me feel a little better that I'd struggled cos we had been attempting a steep and sustained VS in those conditions. The descent didn't seem to be so bad this time round and we flew down in no time at all.
The next day was forecast for high winds and rain and so climbing was out the question. I'd taken my running stuff up to Andy's to get some exercise and when Andy mentioned walking up another Graham to do some mapping for the SMC Graham's book, I decided that I'd do a hill run.
Carn na h-Easgainn sits at just over 600m and near a large windfarm. Andy dislikes windfarms but I think they look alright, all futuristic looking, though I wouldn't like to see them scattered about everywhere. There has been a new track built up there recently and it was to map this track that we were going up for.
After walking for 5 mins or so to warm up, I started my run. It involved run/walk/run/walk right to the top. The top was closer than I realised (we'd managed to drive a fair bit of the way up) and I got there by running for 1 minute, walking for I minute, running for 1 minute, walk for a minute, run for 30 secs, walk 30secs, run for 25 secs up an excruciatingly steep bit, walk for 25, my body not wanting to run yet, but forcing myself to run another 30, walk 30, then run the final stretch to the top. I was running against the wind the whole way and at 40mph it was knocking my breath away and blowing spit out my mouth in my exertion! I waited for Andy to get to the top, he wasn't far behind and he went off left whilst I ran the longer track right to see if it joined up with a track lower down which was already on the map.
This section was gently undulating but still into the wind, and running along listening to Patti Smith was most enjoyable! I've missed running out in the hills! Took a slow leg back up to the summit and told Andy I'd see him back at the car, before setting off at a slow run which got faster and faster as the ground descended more steeply. I'd forgotten just how mental it is to release your brakes when running downhill steeply. I was flying! My strides long and free, the wind gushing behind me, pushing me all the faster! Thoughts that if I fell by placing an awkward step on the rough ground, I'd more than likely break my leg, were off little consequence! Exhilarating!
I had time to have a big drink, mull around deciding whether to change or not, deciding not to as I wanted to do my core strengthening exercises back at the house so no point getting into clean clothes. Then do all my leg stretches and boy were my quads tight! They've not worked like that for a while!