Sunday, 13 December 2009

Sophisticats - 12th Dec '09

Andy and I had planned to climb in Sputan yesterday but as he'd been out 2 days on the trot, with an 11hr day yesterday, he was feeling it in the legs a bit.  So when Andy suggested perhaps going up to Glen Shiel instead, I was well up for it!  I've gone to climb in Shiel a couple of times in the past, but always been met with badly thawing conditions.  I was hoping this would be the exception!
Andy's mate Sandy   came along with us, and we drove up in his car at 7am.
We arrived in Glen Shiel to an utterly gorgeous morning, clear blue skies and the ground and trees crips with white frost just like a Xmas card.

We weren't long in setting off up the verglassed path, then up a wee bit of a heather slog and finally to the point at around 800m, where you can leave sacks and gear up, before descending slightly and traversing around to the West face of Druim Shionnach.
As we were gearing up Sandy noted that Andy had a bulldog and commented that Andy had his wee hooker with him, then burst out laughing.  Andy and I were slow to catch on, before realising that Sandy was suggesting that *I* was the hooker!  Ooooh, just watch yerself standing at the edge of that cliff mate, I joked!
The traverse around was easy but steep, with Sandy and Andy (they sound like a couple of TV presenters or something!) zooming off ahead to check out the line of the route I'd spied.
The route starts in a bay to the right of Capped Gully, crosses over it and then finishes up a groove to the left of it.
Conditions weren't brilliant and the turf was only just frozen enough to be bearable (weight bearable and mentally bearable!)  There was snow on the ledges and in the grooves which was a bit crusty in places but again would just take your weight.  The cliff faces themselves were bare though.  They are so steep that they don't hold snow and I was in awe of the harder stuff here, even the grade V to the left of us looked nails!

The first pitch of our route went up a series of turfy steps up the left edge of Boxer's Buttress, then the 2nd pitch crossed Capped Gully.  I deliberated on leading the 2nd pitch but was put off by the fact that I knew it was steep and the turf wasn't as helpful as I'd have liked.   My knee was giving me real grief as well!  It's really worrying me now.  Every time I tried to kick in the vibration was causing jolts of wincing pain in my knee and I could forget rocking over onto it!
Back to the route...........the 2nd pitch was utterly fantastic, I really, really enjoyed it!  It went up a really steep turfy wall, with a few perfect, bommer placements for the axes.  The turf was a bit hairy in places though and it felt just a bit precarious for the feet!  This took you to stand on a big spike, with another few pulls up to the top of the steep wall.  Then came a long and easy snowy groove which took you to this mental arete and overhang.
Andy had led this pitch and Sandy was climbing up infront of me.  Unfortunately he'd climbed the overhang before I got a chance to see how it was done.
'Errrrrrrr guys, how the feck do you do this!?'
Andy recomended climbing the arete and sidestepping the overhang and Sandy recomended taking the overhang direct.   Hmmmmmmm.
In the end I climbed onto the arete, but it felt seriously balancy and I didn't like it so I stepped back down.  The overhang was more like a large undercut chimney with a big flake and wide crack on it's left hand wall. 
I flung my right leg up and over the overlap, amazed that my leg would go that high (probably about shoulder height!)  Then I grabbed hold on the flake with one hand, slotted my hammer head into a wee gap between flake and side wall, praying that it would hold, and stepped up onto a small chockstone in the big gap underneath the overhang.  Then it was a case of heaving with all my might and getting my weight onto that high leg.  Quickly managed to hook my axe over a bigger chockstone above which promptly came pinging out again!  Luckily I was still gripping onto that flake for dear life so I didn't come piging off too!  Got my axe around that chockstone sideways instead, more heaving, get right leg right out wide so it was bridged across the chimney.  I felt quite spreadeagled at that point and burst out laughing, it felt hilarious, very unstylish and undignified!  Winter climbing is so fab!  A few more udges, some grunting and swearing saw me up and over the worst of it with a declaration from Sandy that he'd found it easy, and a declaration from me that he was gonna get a slap for his cheek soon! :oD

That was it, another new route in the bag and I felt quite chuffed that it was a line that I had spotted and that it was actually pretty damn good! It would be a wee belter of a route when completely frozen I reckon.
Sandy had thought about calling it Sophisticats as he originally thought my name was Sophie and I'm not entirely sure if that's another lewd suggestion as it would seem that Sophisticats is the name of a pole dancing club in London!  Anything to admit to there eh Sandy? ;o)
Well, now it's a name associated with ice axe dancing too!  Must be as neither of us felt particularly sophisticated whilst on the route!
Andy and Sandy went back down to the sacks but I went for a tootle up to the summit to bag munro number 108.  It was gorgeous up there with the view across to Knoydart being particularly stunning.   After being up there, I feel even more determined to do a winter traverse of the South Glen Shiel Ridge.  With snow conditions like they were today and the weather as it is, then a full traverse would present no problems at all and would be a total delight!

I hobbled off home yesterday evening, deciding not to climb today and give my knee a rest so it's fit enough for next weekend (finger's crossed!)  It is getting worse and I keep getting this sinking feeling that the meniscus might be torn enough to need surgery to repair it.  But I will keep battling on until the day comes when I simply can't.
Had a bit of an utterly doofus moment just before setting off home from Andy's.  My car had run out of screenwash and I stupidly poured more into the radiator instead of the screenwash reservoir, doh!  What an eejit!  Phoned the RAC and the man I spoke to said no way could I drive it home as it would damage the engine!  Then he phoned back saying the patrols wouldn't drain the radiator at side of road due to health and safety and nor would they relay me home as it was a driver fault and not a mechanical fault.  Boy, was I fuming! I don't pay my money to them for fecking nothing!  Fortunately, after speaking to the head patrol man, the RAC decided that it was safe for me to drive the car home as long as the radiator was drained in the next few days.  I'm not going to bother though, I'll be ditching that car in the New Year at some point and could do without the expense!

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