Monday, 18 January 2010

Torridon - 17th Jan '10

When the alarm went off at 5am I burried under the duvet, still half asleep, thinking,
'Why, oh why, oh why..........?'
I'd slept really badly, tossing and turning, tense with worry and anticipation, finally falling asleep only to be awoken by nightmarish dreams.
I'd discovered a possible new route but it looked like it might be a bit too nails for me and we weren't sure it would be formed properly under the present thawing conditions anyway.  Checking out some photos, we found a different route, not ice and one that looked absolutely amazing!   There was grade I looking ground below the route and a very steep slope above the cliff, facing in the direction that could be dodgy for avalanche if the snow was dodgy with slab.   Hence the worry!  I was having nightmares of doing the route, getting to the top and coming face to face with slab, ready to sweep us off the cliff face.  Then started dozing and having thoughts of RB climbing, and wishing that she'd never started.  What if she ever wants to take up winter climbing?  It's far too dangerous, she could get hurt!  My mind was imagining all the possibilities that could go wrong, for me tomorrow and for RB later in life if she chooses to keep climbing.
So, come the morning I was a mess!  The drive up to Torridon didn't help.  Black ice everywhere and with the tires on my car not being the best, I was forced to drive at a slow and steady 30mph.  Other cars on the road were taking it slowly too, so atleast I knew it wasn't just me being over cautious.  Anytime I tried to speed up, the car would start skidding, so 30 it was, pretty much all the way.  It was a tiring journey!
Driving west, we could begin to see the extent of the thaw.  There were only patches of wet snow left down in valley level and there was no way in hell that any of our South face cliffs that we know of were going to be in any sort of condition.
Walking in should have been easy, the snow all melted on approach, apart from small slushy patches.  But I was tired and grumpy, not helped by my knee being really sore too.   I stopped at one point to take photos as the sky went this amazing grey lighted colour and the sun was throwing shadows of the cliff face into the sky, something I've never, ever seen before.  It quickly faded though, to be replaced by a massive rainbow extending from one cliff face to the other.  The light was amazing but I had a feeling it was going to start pissing it down any moment!  Which is duly did!  Shower only lasted 5minutes or so though.
It soon became aparent that our line wasn't in nick at all.    God, it looked amazing though!  If I can get this route in nick, it will surely be the best of my routes yet.  Such a simple, understated and yet obvious line and I hope the climbing will be as good as the route looks!
There were still ice smears about however and Andy, with his keen eye, found himself something to play on.  I wasn't as keen.   Looked a bit steep for me!  That sort of ice just doesn't appeal to me whatsoever.  I don't really get the whole ice climbing business.  I've never really given it much of a chance though.  I've done Sunshine Gully on Udlaidh and hated every minute of it, but on that occasion I didn't have a clue where to hit my axes, or about technique for ice, and really struggled.   Indicator Wall on the Ben was amazing however and I really, really enjoyed that, but that to me seemed like a different kind of ice route.  A cliff face, coated in ice, whereas these icefalls form quite distinct pillars and chandeliers and I just don't like the fickle nature of them. 
So the mental torture began!  Do I climb this damn route or not?  The ice sections are quite short, but they look brutally steep to me.  Tech 5 and I've only ever climbed tech4 ice before.  There are actual vertical steps on this ice and it looks scary!   I don't like the look of it and ask myself why the hell should I force myself to do something I don't like, just for the sake of it?   I then ask myself why not?  I might enjoy it?  Just get on with it!  It really just doesn't look appealing though and holds no attraction for me whatsover, thwack, thwack, step, step, thwack, thwack, step, step    Where is the turf?  Where are the cracks?   Where are the nubbins of rock to hook and smear on?   What sort of climbing *is* this?  It reinforces my thoughts that mixed climbing is far, far, far more fun that ice climbing.
Andy is happy to solo the route and meet me at the top, me going up some grade I gully.  But the snow is soft from the thaw and although not dodgy, I decide against it.  All that worrying about avalanches for nothing!  What a joke!  The approach to the icefall had seen me continuously breaking through the snow and wrenching my knee and I decided that trudging up a grade I would have me close to tears of pain and decided instead to head down the way we came and meet Andy back at the car.
Heading down was probably just as painful though!   The ground was treachorously steep and my knee became so painful that I was scared of it seizing or locking up completely and me being unable to weight it and having to crawl off the god damn hill.  Very concious of the fact that I was on my own if my knee should go completely.   As it was, I gritted my teeth and grinned and beared the pain, and once down off the steeper ground it did ease off a bit.

The N.facing cliffs in Torridon that we could see have been stripped of snow, only the bigger ledges on easier stuff have some snow on them.  The turf is still well frozen however.   There is still ice about, but thawing rapidly and nothing we saw was complete.

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