Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Sea Kayaking - 28th Aug

It was D's birthday on Tuesday and I'd booked him (and RB and I) onto a beginners kayaking course on Seil Island with Sea Kayaking Scotland.  D had mentioned that he'd always thought of trying it but never had as he's not a strong swimmer.  I'd been curious about kayaking but I'm very nervous of the sea and the thought of tipping the boat and panicking and getting stuck always put me off.  There was no putting things off any longer though!
We drove to Oban on Friday evening and camped at the Divers campsite just to the South, then drove to Seil Island for 9am.  We arrived far too early and were treated to a cup of tea while we waited for D to turn up in his van and for our instructor for the day.  We didn't have too long to wait and before long were being kitted out in ridiculous looking dry suits.  RB's and D's weren't too bad but mine was massive and I felt like an astronaut!  Then we were shown how to make sure our kayaks fitted, messed about with the pedals in the boat and set off to where we were going to start.
We were shown how to get into the boats without tipping them over which was easy enough and then launched into the water straight away.  I was finding paddling hard to start with, just wasn't sure how to turn at all, but quickly realised that paddling right would turn you left.  I found it a bit frustrating that the boats turned in such a wide arc, but managed to figure a way of turning part way, doing a back stroke with the paddle, then turning again and that seemed to turn me in less of an arc.  Not sure if that's correct, but I liked doing it that way.
It wasn't long before we all sussed things and then we set of for Balvicar Island, a small island down the Sound of Seil. We paddled right round this and stopped for a bite to eat, then paddled back to where we started.  We then carried on underneath Clachan Bridge and down the Sound of Clachan, into the Atlantic.  Even though we were barely away from the mainland and mostly hugging the islands, you could tell the difference between this water and the water in the Sounds.  There were more waves and if you stopped paddling you could feel the swell of the sea bob you about.
It was amazing.  It reminded me of being on a really exposed route out in the mountains.  There is a sense of space all around you and feel so small and vulnerable.  I never once felt scared or intimidated though, just a sense of awe and it felt so peaceful when you were bobbing around.
We had to stick together in a group out here as there were wee fronts passing through, but they missed us and headed inland further North.  I'd been paddling ahead of everyone most of the day, getting into a real rythm and just enjoying the motion of it.
It was pure pleasure though, to see RB's joy when we came across a group of seals on an island.  As we approached, some of them slid into the water which was funny to see.  RB managed to get quite close to them and they did look really cute with their heads bobbing out of the sea.   Such curious creatures, but their shyness overcomes their curiosity in the end and they dip back under the surface if you get too close.
We also saw Shags and Herons, anenomes, crabs, shoals of fish and RB saw a load of jelly fish.  Thankfully they were white ones with no pink in them she exclaimed as we'd been told the white ones don't sting.
After passing the island with the seals, we threaded between 2 islands and back to the Sound of Clachan.  We had to get out the boats and pull them for a bit as the tide was out and the water was too low to paddle.  It's amazing how heavy the boats are on land but how light they are in the water.
Back at the bay where we started, RB managed to persuade me that we should capsize our boats and learn how to get out of them.  I was really nervous as this was the bit I was scared of!  Mitch, our instructor, reassured me that it was easy to get out when you tipped, so I went for it.  Unfortunately, I gave out a squeel as I hit the water and got a mouthful.  Salty sea water is disgusting!  It was stinging my nose and my eyes and it took me a minute to get myself together.
Trying to get back into the kayak was hard!  You have to mantle onto the boat, shuffle your bum along until you are straddling the seat, wedge your bum in, then get one leg in at a time.  Well it took me 5 attempts as I kept losing my balance as I shuffled and I'd splash into the water again.  RB did it in 3 goes.  Then we both tried to stand on our kayaks which was absolutely impossible!  D looked on bemused and quickly paddled to the shore, lest we manage to tip him too!
Poor RB though, her dry suit was too big around the sleeves and let loads of water in, she was drenched!  I was a bit damp but not too bad.  And it's amazing how warm the suits keep you.  All our stuff in the dry bags was completely dry too.
Brilliant day and I could easily get into this kayaking malarky.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

LIMEKILNS - 22nd August

Mel and I had planned to go to Limekilns on Friday but got rained off so we went along today as the forecast was better, at last!  This is the 1st time I've rock climbed since I went to Kirrie with Mel so was really looking forward to it, if not a bit nervous.
I wanted to lead Red Flag first as it's a VS I've done before, then Humbug as I'd seconded it before.  Then I wanted to do Two Ringer at VS too and as an onsight.  I was determined to get back to leading VS.  Unfortunately it would seem that both Red Flag and Humbug have been downgraded to HS and I didn't end up having time to lead Two Ringer.
Red Flag was steeper than I remember it and I couldn't for the life of me remember how I started it.  I had memories of jamming a foot in somewhere and a hand and it being quite strenuous.  Mel recommended a different way and that seemed loads easier!  It didn't take long to get past the crux and then cruise the rest of the route.  Hurrah, my 1st trad lead in AGES!
Mel had wanted to onsight her 1st E1 here, Dead Ringer.  It looked desperate to me!  And climbed desperately too!  But I knew Mel could do it having climbed with her several times before and seen how strong she is and how calmly she climbs.  It took her a wee minute to commit to moving off a ledge and getting on to the meat of the route, but once she went for it there was no stopping her.  I could tell it was strenuous and thought needed, but she made it, without resorting to holding onto either of the big metal rings sticking out the wall (where the route name comes for)  Nice!
I was nervous about making an utter twat of myself on this route.  Having not climbed for 7 weeks I'm not sure that I was up to getting up a 5b.  It was a struggle!  As soon as you get onto the face, it's very sustained with no proper rests at all.  The holds are mostly good though, but I had to get Mel to point a fair few of them out.  And there was one section where the hold was TINY and I remember thinking, 'how the hell am I gonna hold that!?'  I came off here, slumped onto the rope, pumped beyond belief and annoyed as I was only 2moves from the top!
After shaking out, I remembered that Mel had gone more rightwards and sure enough, looking right there was a better hold and up I went again to be met with a nice jug at the top.  This turned out to be loose!  But it held okay thankfully and I was up, after much grunting!  Phew!
I was gearing up to climb Two Ringer when an accident occured and help was needed and ambulance called.  All this took up the rest of the afternoon really.  I wasn't really sure I wanted to climb after that, but decided my head needed to get back on the horse as it were.
Someone was toproping Two Ringer so I went and led Humbug.  This route looked loads slabbier compared to the other VS's and looked loads easier than I remember it!  When I seconded it years ago, I remember tiny holds and crimps, but other than one wee thin section, the holds are huge!  I can see why it's been downgraded.  But I still found it quite tiring on my arms. 
That was it for the day.  Time was swiftly getting on, I was happy with my 2 'VS's' and Mel with her E1, so we called it a day.  I was really happy with how my neck and arms coped today.  My neck got a bit sore belaying Mel, but I was so intent on what she was doing that I was more focused on that.  My legs were very tight and a wee bit crampy but nothing that I couldn't climb through. 
Good day, great to be out again.  No photos though.

Monday, 16 August 2010


Forecast was looking good for the weekend and I had a sudden impulse to go and do Tower Ridge with RB. I'd wanted to do Tower Ridge for years but never had the oppurtunity as all my climbing partners had done it before or wern't interested or able. We drove up to Lochaber and camped at Roybridge on Saturday eve, meeting D at the N.Face carpark at 8am on Sunday morning. D had always wanted to do Tower Ridge too but was never sure he'd be able to solo Tower Gap so never had the oppurtunity to go up, not being a lover of ropes.
I thought we'd probably manage to solo all of it, just roping up for Tower Gap, but I took some bits of gear just incase RB or D (or me!) decided it looked too iffy to solo in places.
The walk in didn't seem to take long at all and even RB didn't seem to mind it once we were out of the forest and onto flatter ground and she could gaze at the cliffs, never having seen them before. Within a couple of hours we were passing the CIC hut and bypassing round the Douglas Boulder.
Seemed like there were already 2 parties on the Douglas Boulder and there were 2 teams above us heading up to do Tower Ridge. We had some difficulty finding the start of the ridge as the guide says to look for a grassy bay. I saw a grassy bay with what looked like a path heading up from it and a chimney at the top near to Douglas Gap and I was sure we should be going that way. But the 2 teams ahead of us were both heading further up Observatory Gully. So we ignored that first grassy bay and headed up the gully too. I was convinced that we were going far too high up the gully as I could see another large gap in the ridge (top of the Great Chimney) and we seemed far past the Douglas Boulder. The first party had gone far too high up and were coming back down and the 2nd party headed onto the ridge from a 2nd grassy bay. There seemed to be a well worn path here so we reckoned we'd just go up that way too. Looking at the topo now that I'm home, I reckon the first grassy bay was the correct way to go as we missed out the 20m polished chimney which climbs out of the Douglas Gap and came onto the crest just past the Gap.
No problem, we were on the ridge and the going was very easy at first, scrambling over blocks and boulders. The ridge then came to a short steepening and we were catching up with the 2 parties ahead which made me nervous that it must be hard as they were moving slowly.
Getting closer though and it didn't look too bad. I asked RB is she was happy to solo and she'd be committed once she started, which she was happy with. This bit was graded moderate and went easily enough and wasn't very long. Then followed some more easy and blocky scrambling followed by the ridge narrowing which RB really enjoyed. We then came to another steepening, the Little Tower. Both parties ahead were roping up for this but RB was happy to solo and D was happy to solo if we were. Again, seeing the folk ahead roping up made me think it might be tricky but the start was a doddle. We had to wait for a while for both parties to move upwards. I didn't want to be climbing directly under folk seen as we were soloing and we were making good time so didn't have a problem with waiting. After the first section there was a bit where we moved left and there was a steep step to overcome. This section was pretty hard for Diff and was quite off balance. But the holds were good and we were shortly all up and past it. We again caught up with the 2nd roped party, who seemed to be going the wrong way. No problem, it gave us space to overtake them.
I really enjoyed this next section. We moved right, back onto the crest of the ridge and took it direct. The climbing was lovely and easy with a nice bit of exposure thrown in. It was over all too quickly though and then we arrived at a more blocky section again. We stopped for a wee breather here and let one of the parties, who'd been finishing the Douglas Boulder as we arrived on the ridge, past us as they were moving faster. A section of easy scrambling led to the Eastern Traverse. The guys ahead were nosying at a more difficult variation up a wall above the traverse, deciding against it as they couldn't be bothered roping up again. One of the guys was stood in the middle of the traverse and I was nervous about squeezing past, so he shifted over a bit. But there was nothing to worry about as the traverse is a big wide path in summer that you could happily have a picnic on.
The through route was great fun, real classic climbing! I thought you might have to back and foot it, but there were big massive holds in the chimney, on the left wall, both for hands and feet. But it was reassuring to squeeze in far enough so that the right wall gave a little support. I think the next section was really the technical crux of the route. It was damn steep for Diff climbing, but again with massive holds. The rock really bulged outwards here and there was one section were you had to squeeze into a groove so as not to be thrown outwards. There was one wee hidden thread type hold that I could hook my hand through and yard up on. This was followed by another steep groove and then we were up onto a nice and flat level section, with the ridge narrowing considerably up to the Tower Gap beyond.
The first roped up party were having some lunch here and the soloing party were approaching the Gap very cautiously and spent considerable time deciding how to pass it.
We decided to stop for some lunch too, which in retropsect maybe wasn't the best idea as it gave me more time to get nervous about the gap until I was making myself feel sick about it. A guided party arrived and we let them past to give us time to contemplate and for D to go over and have a nosey to see if he was happy soloing it or not, which he was. I decided that RB and I should rope across though as I wasn't sure what to expect. We let the first roped party go ahead first as I thought I might be quite slow and didn't want to hold anyone up.
I had a bit of a faff with the rope, I've hardly done any climbing this summer and it's amazing how your rope skills need a good thinking about when you've not used it for ages! I ended up going first as I wasn't sure RB would know how to protect me coming across as a second. I felt bad as it's easier for the person going first on the rope, but alteast I'd be able to give her some protection. I flung the rope around a big block and got her to sit on one side and I went down the other side. I also clipped a quickdraw into a heap of slings around a lower block that you use to downclimb on so I could protect RB on her way down.
The step down was really awkward to figure and felt weird. Most people hold onto the big block that the slings are round and step down onto a smaller ledge below before stepping down onto a bigger block further down. Well I couldn't reach the smaller ledge below by holding onto the big block, so I had to grasp the big block with one hand, clasp my hand round the back of a lower block beneath the big block, then drop my foot into space and flap it about to find the lower ledge which you were unable to see as you were facing in. Finally found it and felt more balanced and then had to get my hand round the side of the massive block where there is a small edge that you can use as a side pull to hold yourself in balance while you step across the lower block.
It's awkward to figure if you're small but once you've sussed it the move is actually really easy. Then once on the lower block it's just a matter of stepping across the gap and climbing out the other side which is a doddle. I messed things up here though. I should have climbed right down and protected RB from down the bottom, but I decided to protect her from the other side. This resulted in awful rope drag and I had to get RB to fling the rope off the big block, but I was happy enough now being unprotected. A sling that I'd flung round the lower block to protect her had also lifted off because I'd gone upwards. Now there was no drag I was able to finish going upwards and fling a sling round a block to belay her from. It wasn't ideal, but it would protected that first awkward step down which is the hardest bit really.
She managed it fine though, doing it almost the same way as me and also found the rest a doddle. Once across, we shoved the rope back into the bag and carried on up past the easy scrambling and onto the top of the ridge.
That was it, Tower Ridge done. What a buzz! I felt so happy and was grinning from ear to ear. 'Finally done it!' I exclaimed and gave everyone a big hug, woohoo!
RB thought it was superb and really enjoyed herself.
'That was so much more fun that hillwalking,' she said happily.  I was really impressed that she'd managed to solo it all, and the gap was more intimidating by it's reputation, rather than being hard.  She showed no fear whatsover in soloing the route and even went ahead on up the ridge by herself, doing the routefinding at times (which did make Mum a bit nervous!)
We decided to head on past the summit and find a quiet spot to have something to eat and enjoy the sunshine and views, the top being totally clear of cloud.  I wished I'd ditched my gear into the sack straight away though as I felt a bit of a pleb passing the summit with my harness still on!  We had a bite to eat near the top of NE Buttress and then began the slog down to the Carn Mor Dearg Arete.  The walk down to the arete is horrible in summer!  I'm so used to it being a steep snow slope in winter but in summer it's a steep boulder field, yuck!  RB didn't enjoy it either and we all contemplated heading down the Coire Leis headwall rather than going the arete as RB was pretty knackered.  It looked steep and bouldery that way too so we decided it was probably just as quick heading round.
RB picked up again once we were on the arete and seemed to be enjoying it, though it did seem a bit of an anti-climax after Tower Ridge.  Imagine that I used to worry that she'd find going to the summit of the Ben via the CMD too tiring, and now here she was scampering around it after doing the Ben via Tower Ridge.  She scampered ahead of D and me, zooming off to the summit of Carn Mor Dearg itself, leaving D and I behind in a smoke of dust.  We stopped again for a while and then began the slog down.  There is a path down but where it crosses a stream I didn't notice it, and carried on down a different path which was pretty steep and minging.  RB coped really well though, and even though her knees and legs were aching, she kept up a fast a pace as I was doing once back down and then even ran down through most of the woods back to the carpark.
We're all having a rest day from climbing today though, as legs are achy!  What a route though and a thoroughly enjoyable day by all, superb!

Saturday, 7 August 2010

HONEYMOON TRIP TO THE ALPS - 11th July to 1st Aug

At this point in time I am sat in some service area in France, near (ish) to Djon.  It's been a quick but tiring journey so far.  12hrs down to Dover if you include a stop into Tesco for D's shopping and a stop into Halfords for an emergency triangle, followed by a few stops on the way.
We arrived in Dover around midnight, so managed 4hrs fitful kip in a carpark before heading for the ferry at 6am.  The ferry trip was a blur of pain and tiredness and now, 8hrs later, everything is still a bit of a blur of motorway after motorway, lorry after lorry, rain and more rain, and a diet of maltesers, peardrops, proplus and codeine!  I'm going to be sick of autoroutes, tolls and lorries before this trip is over.
 Both D and I are tired (though D would never admit it) and grumpy but we're going to push onto Switzerland this evening and drive down to Zermat.  Have a good sleep and a walk up to a decent level tomorrow and then back to the campsite.
More tomorrow.............
Day 2 of driving.  We were too tired last night to continue into Switzerland so parked up at the Aire de Jura on some autoroute in France between Dijon and Geneva.  What a mental place!  We decided to go for an evening stroll through this tunnel where the shop was.  This took us to a big pond beside a building made out of 2 discs.  This was beside a dark wood and I was starting to feel like I was in a horror film, with the watchers thinking, 'arrrrrrg, don't go  near the woods!' knowing that i was the one about to be blugeoned with an axe!  Anywaaaaaaaaaaaay..........there were odd noises coming from the pond, sounding like alien ducks.  D wanted to investigate but I wanted to go back to the van.  How he laughed at me, hairy ice climber scared of the dark!  There were splashes interspersed with the odd noises and I caught something fly through the air out of the corner of my eye!  A frog!  Weird!  Never in all my life have I heard frogs making a noise like that!  Excitement over we went back to the van.
Today we drove round lake Geneva on our way to the Matertal valley where we are now camped at a campsite near Ronda.  Tomorrow we're going to have an easy day by taking a walk up The Wisshorn at just under 3000m.   Weather has been gorgeous today, no more rain or storms.

Wed 14th - had a really crap sleep last night, drank gallons of water and tea before bedtime and then needed to get up several times through the night and had an incident of lost bogroll!  Woke up at the 5.30am alarm feeling tired and groggy but keen for our first outing.  The bus came at 7am to take us to Zermatt and I had to close my eyes and grip onto my seat several times due to crazy, maniac local driving, it was terrifying!  Zermatt itself is a bit of a dump, well it's a dump full stop really!  There is so much building work going on and the town is all abustle with trains, cranes, ski tours and tourists.  It took us a wee mo to find the start of our path but we were soon off.  I really struggled from the word go though.  We weren't sure how much snow would be up on top so we packed our crampons and I couldn't be bothered walking in big boots so I put on my trail shoes and shoved my boots in my bag, which made it twice as heavy as need be.  In the end there was no snow whatsoever, but all good training eh?!  Well I huffed and puffed my way up that hill, having to stop all the time as my back was killing me.  I'm sure I started to feel the effects of the altitude much lower than I should have.  About 3/4 of the way up D pointed out that if I would just slow down then I probably wouldn't need to stop as much.  I didn't think I could slow down, it seemed I was going so slow anyway.  But I did slow and he was right, it was much better, though still hard!  The sun beat down constantly and we'd only taken D's factor 26 suncream, not enough for my easy burning skin, so i was having to constantly slap it on and I still got a bit burnt on my shoulders.
Nearing the top of the hill I think I was taking around 20-30 steps then having to stop for a breather.  I was breathing so heavily on the way up that I needed to drink gallons as my throat and mouth were getting really dry.  Made it eventually, up to the top at 2936 metres, my highest hill yet, or atleast until the day after tomorrow!
The views were fab over to the Matterhorn, the Weisshorn, the Zinalrothorn and the Obergaborhorn on one side and the Breithorn, Castor and Pollux and Lyskamm, the Monte Rosa massive, the Rimpfischhorn, the Alphubel, the Taschhorn and The Dom on the other side.  Of all these I hope to be able to do the Dom and Castor and Pollux.  Tomorrow is another low day though to continue our acclimitisation.  We're going to take a walk up to the Bordier Hut and then the following day we'll do the Gross Bigerhorn by the WSW ridge at PD and then continue on to the Balfrin at 3783 metres.  We'll ask the hut guardian about the state of the glacier and if it's dry enough then we might do the SW ridge of the Balfrin at PD and then go down the Gross Bigerhorn.  But we're not taking a rope so i don't fancy crossing heavy crevassed glaciers if there is a lot of snow.  Report back more at a later date...........

15th/16th/17th -  Well I’ve had my first ever (and hopefully last) Alpine epic!  It’s something I never, EVER want to repeat!

As planned, on the 15th we walked up to the Bordier hut from Gasenried.  The walk in started off with me losing my camera (a regular holiday occurrence now!)  I’d done my usual and stopped for a pee, put my camera down and not picked it back up.  D went back down for it for me, what a gent!  Big brownie points for that one, and he told me I wasn’t allowed to strop at him as a reward.
The walk in takes you through a spot called Alpya which is an old alpine meadow.  We had walked up through woodland, alongside a raging glacier river, which we then crossed (via a bridge) and the walk opened out into a green meadow, complete with alpine flowers, sheep, chamois and an old shepherds hut.  The meadow was surrounded by steep granite cliffs, with roofs everywhere which reminded me of a large Pass of Ballater.
So far so good!  Passing Alpya, I began labouring more, getting out of breathe very easily no matter how slowly I went and I could feel my head begin to ache a little.  The walk in then took us up to a glacier which we had to cross.  It was a dry glacier though so very easy to cross and there are poles and markers which show you the path through to take.  Only 100 or so metres to the hut now and there is ladder bolted to the rock face to allow access.  Outside the hut, the hut guardian has always left food out for the local Ibex and we can see them really close up.  The hut is nice but I do inwardly groan when the guardian recommends a 3am start for our chosen peaks of the Gross Bigerhorn and the Balfrin.
Neither of us sleep very well.  We head off to bed at around 9.30ish but I have to get up for the loo through the night and it’s too hot to sleep well and someone keeps farting and snoring loudly!  I’m wishing that I’d brought some earplugs!  Speaking of going to the loo, I should mention the toilets!  Every time I go I nearly gag with the stench.  The toilet consists of an outdoor hut with a hole in a shelf with a toilet seat on top.  Below the hole is a pile of shit, pee and toilet roll with water running through it.  The floor of the hut has floorboards with gaps so you can see below and the stench rises upwards!  I have to take a deep breath everytime I go in!
So, at 3am we start.  It’s pitch black but the rocks have reflectors on them every 50m or so to guide the way.  I am quite bemused by this, but it is helpful.  We come across a sign which says Kleim and Gross Bigerhorn and head off that way.  We are following small cairns upwards but they soon run out and we are now following our noses.  We don’t feel like we are quite in the right place but a brief look at the map and guide and we see that we will come out near the col between the Kleim and the Gross Bigerhorns which is fine.  A quick descent down to the col and a small ascent and then we are at the start of our chosen route, the WSW ridge of the Bigerhorn at PD.  By this point I’m quite fed up of boulders and the ridge seems to be mostly a big pile of boulders heaped on top of each other!  No matter though, as the sky begins to lighten and we can see around us and the rising sun causes the mountains to go on fire, I am not caring about the crappy ridge, just enjoying the views.  And luckily the ridge is a bit nicer near the top.  I stick to the crest as much as I can and the rock here is more stable and enjoyable.  Before long we are at the top and it’s fully light.  It’s cold on top but if I face southwards the sun warms my back.
Before long the sun is higher and it gets warmer, fleece is off and it’s just my baselayer and vest.  I’ve plastered myself in suncream and got a hat on so hoping I won’t suffer too much.  The ridge between the Bigerhorn and the Balfrin is supposed to be graded F or easy, but it’s much more like PD with a fair bit of exposure and loose rock and plenty bits where you have to use your hands!  Before long we are at below the Balfrin and so far so good.  There is one snowy section which is soft enough to cross in our boots, a rocky section and then a steep snow slope.  Cramponing up the steep slope is hard work!  And the snow/ice at the top if weird!  It’s hard like water ice, but very crystalline in nature and it’s very hard to get a bit with your crampons and axe and feels quite precarious!  Not sure if I’m going to enjoy coming down that way!  As we get onto the crest however, we cross over onto the sunny side and the snow is much softer.  Too soft as I sink up to my knees on occasion!  We meet up with a couple of French guys from the hut who believe they are on the Bigerhorn and don’t seem to believe me when I tell them they are on the lower top of the Balfrin.  After consulting their map they see that I am correct.  Shortly after we head up to the summit of the Balfrin at 3795m.  We are about half way between the summits when the cloud that has been closing in begins to billow around the Balfrin summit.  Slightly SE ish the cloud looked dark and menacing and even though we were close to the summit, I had started to labour quite a bit and we knew it would be an hour minimum before we were back to the lower top.  We made the decision to turn back.  I wasn’t too disappointed as getting stuck in a thunderstorm wasn’t on my agenda!
However, this is where things started to go a bit pearshaped!  All of a sudden, out of the middle of nowhere, my head started to ache.  And as I laboured back the way we came, my headache got worse and worse until if felt like the pain of a full blown migraine.  I had to keep pushing on though.  As we got to the steep snow slope below the Balfrin I was very hesitant about descending this way.  Lured by the thought of soft snow we continued, but it wasn’t to be.  I ended up traversing the horrible icy stuff, having to make sure that my front points were sticking and my axe holding, ever aware of the perilous slide I would take should they fail!  Every 10 steps or the pounding in my head would stop me in my tracks and by the time I got onto the rock, away from the snowy face, my head was a mess of pain.  I’ve never experienced a headache like this before, even my worst migraines pale in comparison!  And all I could see ahead of me was the loose and exposed ridge between the Balfrin and Bigerhorn and I was scared as to how I would cope in this state.  I recall traversing it in a daze of pain.  I’d have to stop every so often as the pain floored me!  On top of the pain in my head I was starting to feel pretty nauseous and weak.  The traverse seemed so easy this time and we got to a point where we had to climb up a small chimney and then upwardly traverse a slab.  There were 2 parties ahead of us pitching this bit.  I couldn’t believe it!  The climbing was a doddle!  You’d have to jump to fall off it!  I just shouted out, ‘I’m sick, let me past, and barged my way through,’ I couldn’t wait! 
The summit of the Bigerhorn at last, but there is still the descent.  The pain is literally stopping me in my tracks now!  I remember at several points collapsing in pain and howling and crying, I thought my head would explode!  But I pick myself up and carry on.  The intervals between collapsing in pain and moving again are getting shorter.  And with each bout, I feel myself getting weaker and weaker.  It feels akin to having a full blown bout of the flu.  I feel weak and delirious!  At one point I feel like I’m going to have diarrhoea, I feel so sick and I wonder what it would be like to shit in my trousers as I just don’t have the will or energy to go find a spot to go.  Thankfully for my dignity that moment passes!  At one point as I collapse in pain, my hands around my head, crying in agony, the French team we had overtaken asked if I needed help, but we declined saying we would manage.  D took my rucksack and carried it on his front, I took his sunhat and he soaked it in water for me to keep me cool.  He said my skin felt all cold and clammy.  I don’t know if it was the heat that I was suffering from giving me heat stroke, or if it was altitude sickness or a bit of both.  But each time I exert myself in the heat and go high up, I have been getting a headache.  I managed a long bout of travel, down to the col between the Kleim and Gross Bigerhorn.  After this, I was so weak that I regularly had to stop, and in my delirium I would rock backwards and forwards, muttering to myself.  It was utter torture.  A part of myself kept telling me to get up and keep moving, I had a daughter at home who needed me, I was a wife, a daughter, a sister and I couldn’t just give up.  I was frightened, the pain scared me, and my weak and delirious state scared me.  What was wrong with me?  Was it the altitude?  In which case I had to get down as soon as I could.  Or was it heat stroke?  In which case, I shouldn’t keep drinking water, I desperately needed salts and I desperately needed to get out of the sun, but was it the right thing to keep going, or should I rest.  On several occasions I told D that I needed help, that I couldn’t continue, that I couldn’t cope.  But something inside me made me keep getting up off the ground, and carry on.  If it wern’t for D carrying my sack and urging me onwards, I don’t know how I would have managed.  I remember him telling me that I was doing so well and I cried out in tears, ‘I just keep trying and trying and trying!’ 
‘I know,’ he said, ‘just one more push and we will be at the reflectors’
I collapsed again, I can’t do it, I can’t carry on!  But I have to, I’m so close now.  The reflectors are there, I think I stop a few more times, rocking and groaning and there is the hut.  There is safety, there is water and there is rest.  I get a bed and I lie down, take some painkillers, have some nuts and something to drink and I sleep for a couple of hours.  I feel really drained and groggy and my headache lingers on in the background, but I feel like I can hold a conversation now.  We stay another night at the hut to allow me to recover.  My head still hurts some in the morning, but I take some painkillers and get off the blasted hill.  My head hurts less and less on the way down and by the time we hit Alpya I’m back to my normal self of ploughing on full steam ahead. 
We are now camped at Saas-Grund, my headache came back and I took some more painkillers.  That was around 8hrs ago and I’ve been okay since.  I’m hoping a rest day will see me right again and I will be fit enough to go up into the hills again.  Our plan is to go up to try and do the Laginhorn.  We will go to the Weismeiss hut and see how I get on going up there.  If all goes well, we’ll dump our stuff in the hut and walk up higher and see how I cope.  I’ve bought a proper sunhat (as opposed to a buff), will keep myself fully covered and drink and rest well.  At the slightest and first signs of a headache though I’m going down, I really can’t cope with going through that ordeal again.

19th - nothing much to report. Had a couple of days rest as I came down with a bit of a head cold and been pretty bleurg and snuffly. But feeling much more human now and so we're off to try the SW of the Lagginhorn from the Weissmiess hut tomorrow. Report back on Wed or Thurs.
20th/21st July - At last! I have made it up to 4000m and bagged my first 4000er. Yesterday D and I took the ski uplift as far as Kreuzboden which is around 300m below the Weissmis hut. We figured that if we took the lift up and I didn’t have so far to walk in the heat then it might stop me from getting a headache due to the sun. But hopefully walking up that 300m in the heat would be enough to tell whether a headache would come or not.
The lift was scary! D was teasing me by rocking it about, atleast he was until I scolded him for it! It was probably about 2x as high as the lift at Aonach Mor back home and loads longer! The walk up to the hut didn’t take too long, just under an hour and with no headache in sight, we were keen to go for a reccy at the start of our route. After a bit of a breather, some lunch and getting checked into the hut, we were off to figure the start of the WSW ridge of the Lagginhorn at PD. Well our reccy ended up taking us around 1/3 of the way up the ridge! I remember thinking that the top looked so close by and wouldn’t it be fun to just go for an ascent right there and then. But the distance was deceptive as that meant it would have taken 3hrs to go up the ridge as our reccy 400m up the ridge took 1hr. Whereas when we did the ridge today it took us 5hrs to summit.
By the time we were back at the hut I was famished and it was a long half hour to wait for double helpings of soup, beef stew and mashed tatties with some sort of vinegary cabbage stuff, followed by a delicious chocolatey custard stuff for pudding. We had a short read after tea and then headed up to bed to try and sleep. D nodded off quite quickly but it took me ages to drift off to sleep. The dorm room windows were open and all I could hear were the loud and braying voices of some English folk. They sounded like they were having fun, but it was pissing me off big time! Surely people at huts must realise that there are those who need to be up early and they should try and keep their voices at a level tone, not a loud one! And speaking of discourteous folk, why do some folk feel the need to drag in their rucksacks into the dorm and all their stuff when folk are trying to sleep. There are cubby holes outside the dorms for stuff, so sort yourself there and enter the dorm quietly! Next time I come to the Alps, must try and camp/bivi more or buy a pair of earplugs!
Breakfast was at 3.30am but I was awake at 3am, then someone’s alarm went of at 3.15am so I decided just to get up. Bleary eyed, I stuffed myself with bread and jam (no muesli at this hut!) and the biggest mug of tea ever, and then we set off. We were 5minutes faster to the start of the route and off we went. Route finding wasn’t problematic and before long the sky was beginning to light up. We did go off route at one point, going round to the left of the crest when we should have gone right to take us on to it. Going the wrong way was horrible! The rock was even looser here and I think it had rained through the night as the rock was quite wet anyway. Because we were off route, there was lichen all over the rock and the wet was making it really slippy. At one point I had to back off a section when I pulled of a block the size of a car battery and it looked too steep and scary. We managed to find our way through the choss thankfully and back onto the crest.
Not long after, the ridge steepens and one is forced to scramble up big blocks. We were catching up on 2 teams ahead of us who were roped up. It makes me nervous seeing folk roped up on this sort of ground and I get convinced that the going must be hard. But it isn’t. In fact, the crux of the route goes up a slab about 15m high. I was nervous about this, hating slabs as I do, but it was a doddle with ledges and holds and cracks everywhere. The next section was quite tricky as it was getting colder and colder and we were reaching the snow line. The rocks were verglassed in places and hoared up in other places, but not enough that we wanted to put our crampons on, just enough to require a bit of caution. After another scrambly step we reached the snowline proper and decided to put our crampons on. Since we’ve arrived in Switzerland we keep bumping into these 2 French guys in different huts and campsites and they had been up the Lagginhorn the day previously, stating that you could stick to the rock and not need crampons. I think that it must have snowed up there through the night (when it rained at the hut) and they day these guys had gone up it had been beautifully sunny. But today was clouded over and much colder. So crampons were donned and we tried to stick the snow as much as possible. The snow was really good in places, but quite crusty and icy in others. Things weren’t properly frozen so the going was really slow and pretty precarious. We were below the roped parties still and one group was sending huge chunks of snow flying down and big rocks too, so we opted to keep out of their direct line of fire!
Before long we were on the summit slopes and I was puffing away like mad. We eventually got onto the last rocky bluff before the summit and that was fun! It reminded me of our day out on Bruach na Frithe in Skye when we did that grade II ridge. Lovely mixed scrambling! That was it, my 1st 4000 er in the bag. The summit was pretty mobbed though, with the English men from the night before I think, with their guides. We had a bit of a banter with them and they all gave a big cheer when I mentioned we were on our honeymoon.
I didn’t want to hang around for long. Being perched on such a small summit was making me nervous and I wanted to get down. I should have waited though as we ended up being caught up with all the roped parties and sheesh I was utterly bursting to go to the toilet as my guts were playing up a little. We eventually got down to a flattish area and stopped to eat and let the roped parties go past so I could get some privacy. Then we decided to head off the ridge a different way and come down what was left of the old glacier. I was a bit nervous of this as I was worried about crevasses but as it was the glacier was pretty dry and there was a trail through it and we only came across one proper crevasse which was very easy to spot and to avoid, but all the still I felt a little naked without a rope on.
Before long we were back at the hut where it was sheer and utter joy to sit for a while and take my boots off. We hung around for just short while and then went down for the lift. Unfortunately, my old knee problem has flared up and it feels all swollen and very painful. I’ve taken some painkillers and rubbed in some anti-inflammatory gel and we are having a rest day tomorrow so I’m praying it will settle back down again as we want to go up the Allilinhorn next. Forecast for the hills is bad tomorrow anyway and Friday looks pretty dire too! If it’s good on Saturday, then we can get a lift up to the Britania hut on Friday, so it won’t matter if the weather is bad and hopefully that will rest my knee some more.

update - knee is mostly better so we're off to the Britannia hut tomorrow and then to go up the Allalinhorn. Report back later.
Sat 24th-Mon 26th - I’ve been finding the last few days very stressful. Our plans of heading up to the Britannia hut and doing the Allalinhorn, and then doing a traverse of the Weissmies ending up at the Almageller hut fell through. There had been a large storm through the night on Thurs and we woke on Friday to more grim weather. It was cold and dank and the thought of going up to do the Allalinhorn after all the fresh snow and having to cross a glacier after such conditions when neither of us really knew what we were doing, wasn’t all that appealing. Come Saturday I was utterly fed up and suffering from raging cabin fever! Even the summit snow of the Weissmies seemed like it could be dodgy after I’d been chatting to a girl in the toilets and she’d mentioned that the cornices had seemed really unstable, add on all the noise of avalanche activity we’d heard when we’d gone up the Lagginhorn and suddenly we were really indecisive about what to do. We could go up to the Almageller and do the South Ridge, avoiding the glacier but still having to go up the final snow arĂȘte, we could back off and head down if conditions were duff. I couldn’t be bothered going all that way and have to turn back and though in Scotland it’s always worth having a look, it seemed like such a waste to head up that way with the risk of getting nothing done.
We checked the forecasts for Aosta in Italy and it didn’t seem any better than Valais. The forecast for the Chamonix area seemed somewhat better but D wasn’t keen at all to head that way. We decided to head to Italy. I’d always wanted to go to the Val D’Aosta and at least if the weather was crap there it would still be a change of scenery.
So we drove down on Saturday, D drove most of the way and I drove the last little bit as he was too tired. We messed things up however. We arrived in Aosta only to find that the banks wouldn’t accept our card to withdraw money. We had no Euros whatsoever and a Travel Agency we found couldn’t swap our Swiss Francs for Euros regardless of what some random dude serving in a garage told D. I finally texted my Dad back home and got him to google the phone number for customer services for our bank and I was then able to phone our bank and get them to authorise transactions in Italy. All this took a couple of hours of faffing about and we were then able to at least buy a map to find out where the hell to go! I was sure that the Val D’Orco had been recommended as a nice place to go, but it seemed that the Val’Savarenche seemed a better option for an ascent of Italy’s highest mountain, Gran Paradiso. So I set off down that way.
We ended up in the grimmest campsite ever known to man! By this point I was even more tired and stressed. I was sick of it all. I was totally homesick and just wanted to pack up and head home. The small and cramped confines of living in a van for the past couple of weeks was really getting to me. Everything was seriously irritating me! The van was annoying me, I keep on bashing my head off the door frame and tripping over the stupid door mat by the door which doesn’t fit the space properly. D was getting on my nerves by leaving stuff everywhere. All his stuff is at the back of the van and it was constantly growing and taking over my one bag and pissing me off. Everytime he gets something from a cupboard to use, he leaves it out on a table and doesn’t bother putting it back, which is annoying as there is so little space as it is. The final straw came when I was trying to sort out my sack and put things away and I stabbed myself with my iceaxe. I was raging! I was so pissed off it was unbelievable! And the stupid Italian campsite was getting on my nerves. D had said the electricity supply didn’t work (though I discovered in the morning that there was a switch to turn it on, doh!) The toilets didn’t have any toilet roll and nor did they have any hot water for a shower. The whole area seemed a bit grim and it didn’t look like there was much to do there at all.
Sunday was a little better thankfully. We walked up to the main village and found a Information point. The bloke who worked there spoke a little English and informed us that Pont up the road would have a guidebook we could buy. This surprised us as according to our map Pont was just a couple of houses at the end of the road. This brings me to the Italian maps we had got. They are rubbish! There are campsites on the map which don’t exist and many paths are marked in the wrong place altogether. But we finally headed down there and to our relief found a much better campsite and the start of the path to the refuge Emmanuelle. This campsite seemed much brighter than the last one. But the showers and toilets are still awful! There is supposedly no hot water after 9pm, but in reality there is no hot water whatsoever! The toilets consist of those awful holes in the floor, that no matter how you try you can’t avoid getting piss onto the floor. Yuck, they are so minging! Again, you have to provide your own toilet roll and the campsite weather forecast hasn’t been renewed since we arrived here. Thankfully we found an information point at the start of the path to the refuge and that has a decent and up to date forecast up on the wall.
So, it’s now Monday and at the start of the day I was still feeling a bit grim. I’d slept really badly the night before. I’d forgotten to take my painkillers at bedtime and I just can’t seem to get a good sleep without them these days. My legs grew more and more restless and achy and my back more achy and it didn’t help that D had his legs bent and his knees kept digging into my legs. I had to get up around 2ish and go to the loo and I stupidly didn’t take any painkillers then either thinking I’d get some sleep. No joy! It was the back of 4 before I finally got up and relented and then managed some fitful sleep once they’d kicked in, and I’d kicked D’s legs so I could get some room.
As the day went on though, things improved. We’d decided the night before to head out for a walk up to a spiky ridge that sat behind the campsite. The map didn’t show a path going up the ridge, but traversing around it. But I reckoned that we might be able to scramble up it and if not then alteast we’d have good views of the next days objective. We set off around 10.30am and the path ambled up the side of a gorge easily enough and then opened out into a really flat Alp, that was almost reminiscent of Scotland. It then crossed a river and zigzagged up the hillside to traverse under the spiky ridge. Viewing the ridge from here I could see that a traverse of it was a no go, it was too steep. Sometimes though, I do wish that D had an interest in climbing. Often when we are out together I will spot an amazing looking route, or a funky looking rock tower, sculpture or feature and express my appreciation of it. I’ll usually get a ‘hmmm’ or a grunt back in reply if I’m lucky, he just doesn’t get it. Once we’d traversed round to the other side of the ridge, the path opened out into another Alp and it was just gorgeous up there. The ridge looked fine! I’m sure there must be a route that traverses it (can’t remember name of it but Meyes is in there somewhere)
Instead we ambled through the Alp, spotting a Marmot on the way. It truly was a stunning place. There were wild flowers in abundance, Adenosytes, Betony, Arnica, Houseleeks to name but a few. The place was rife was butterflies swarming around and crickets a churping and when the sun came out and shone, one couldn’t help but feel chilled and happy. I think we both needed the fresh air and exercise today to chill out and get rid of the cobwebs. The path down was lovely. We stumbled upon an old settlement and had a wee explore round the byres and the living quarters, which still had a table and bench in place. Further down we found an old shrine. And then most bizzarely we came across a tunnel in the mountainside. We went in for a nosey. It was definitely manmade but the further we went in, the darker it got until I realised that I had my headtorch with me. We managed to negotiate the darker middle section and could see light ahead, but the tunnel exit took us out above a loose and steep hillside, so we went back the way we came. We decided that as the tunnel was next to an old road, it was probably something to do with the war.
Back at the campsite, we booked a stay in the hut for tomorrow evening, so we can go up Gran Paradiso. We’re just going to take the ‘normal’ way up which seems to be a bit of a snow plod but we have no guide whatsoever and it doesn’t seem to be too snowy low down so should hopefully be free of crevasses or atleast if there is a glacier it should be relatively dry and easy.
27/28th - Well we’re not long down from Paradiso, happy and knackered. It was a lovely hill and even though the normal route has a reputation for being a snow plod, I really enjoyed it. The views and the scenery of the mountain itself were gorgeous which more than made up for the torture of slogging up continuous snow.
The walk up to the hut started pleasantly enough, ambling gently through woodland nice and shaded. But the easy gradient and the zigzagging nature of the path up to the hut soon grew monotonous and I was eager to arrive. The hut itself seems huge in comparison with the Swiss ones we’d been to and the rooms were much nicer, with only 5 sharing. People here seemed much more civilised and the noise was minimal come 10pm. In fact the noise was so minimal that I managed to get a decent nights sleep! Well, other than the noise from the snorer in our room, but that didn’t last long after I rapped aggressively on the side of his bed!
I’d been looking forward to our meal in the hut and wasn’t disappointed, with Spaghetti and parmesan for a starter, some sort of meat chops with green beans and a chocolate mouse for pudding, yum! I did feel sorry for D though, being a vegetarian he suffers somewhat at our stays in the huts.
Breakfast was at 4am and was the usual boring bread and jam! But the huge mug of tea went down well. We set off at around 4.45am and the start was easy in the dark as I’d been for a reccy on my own the afternoon before. I quite enjoyed wandering off on my own and D probably enjoyed the peace too for a wee snooze. The path took me past a small grassy area where I came across a really large herd of Ibex, complete with babies. Needless to say the camera was whipped out! The next section takes you through a moraine and then scrambles up boulders and slabs to the start of the snow line. I’d been moving really fast until this point, overtaking loads of folk. But once we donned crampons and hit the snow, I slowed down. We’d packed harnesses and the rope in case we had to cross a glacier or crevassed section but the beginning was free of crevasses. There were quite a few higher up but the previous trails of those who’d gone before us stayed right away.
Slogging uphill at a gradient of never more than 35 degrees isn’t technical but I find it very tiring on my lower back and I get niggles of sciatica in my thigh. I wasn’t helped along by my boots which kept scraping against my heels causing burning and I was really surprised that I didn’t end up with huge blisters!
The final slog is the steepest bit and I was dreading it, but I just took things real slow and the gradient soon eased again. We passed the top of the glacier and saw some pretty funky looking seracs and crevasses, from a safe enough distance thankfully!
The top of the Paradiso itself is a bit of a circus and I can’t say that I enjoyed it. We took off our crampons as the top is rocky. There is snow, but it’s possible to keep of it and stick to the rock. The thing i didn’t like was all the people! Gran Paradiso is a very popular 4000er and is Italy’s national mountain so the normal route is akin to the Pony Track on Ben Nevis. The summit is quite narrow and there is one very exposed move on it. I didn’t like it one little bit and all the people moving up and down and ropes everywhere just made it too jittery for my liking! I decided not to bother going up to the point where there is a Madonna. I’d heard that point wasn’t even the true summit anyway. I was very close to where everyone was faffing and bumbling about and that was good enough for me! I was quite happy to find a hidden nook and perch myself there and nibble away and wait for D to come back as he’d been keen to go up. Even D ended up snapping at someone and telling them to get out his way when they tried to barge past, which is not like him as he’s usually so laid back! I was grumbling about everyone! Why is it that so many people don’t acknowledge you or thankyou when you’ve stepped aside for them to let them past? Are such courtesies a purely British thing I wonder?
We didn’t hang about for too long. It was cold on top and windy. The snow had softened somewhat since the early hours and the way down for easy and pleasant in most places. We decided to go off the track a bit onto a rocky bluff for our lunch though and I gave myself the heebyjeebies when my pole kept sinking into the snow and not reaching bottom. And I utterly crapped myself when I sank into the snow up to my knees, don’t think I’ve moved so fast in all my life! D pointed out that it was probably just deep, soft snow as we weren’t really near where the glacier or crevasses were, but it gave me a fright nonetheless and it felt totally different to sinking in knee deep in Scotland in that I didn’t have any sense of reaching the bottom of the snow before bolting out squealing!
We were joined for lunch by some Alpine Choughs (or what we thought were Choughs) I love these birds, they are so intelligent looking! I threw some nuts out for them and one of them kept giving me the most cute puppy dog eyes (I’ve never experienced that from a bird before!) But I swear the eyes and the expression on its cocked head seem to say, ‘c’mon get more munchies out, what you waiting for?!’
We were down out of the snow line not long after, crampons off and it seemed to take ages to find our way down out of the slabby section, certainly harder than it was going up in the near dark in the morning! But before long we were trudging back to the hut where I treated myself to some cola and some chocolate and pear cake.
I felt quite sad to come down off the mountain, knowing it was the last big peak we’d do. I’m not sure what we’re doing for the last couple of days of the trip, but possibly driving to Chamonix. I’d love to see what it’s like and D would like to see if his misgivings about the place are justified or not. I suspect they will be! But I’m sort of looking forward to spending a day there. We won’t be able to climb any peaks as we’ll only have a day there but it will be nice to have a nosey nonetheless.
I’m in two minds about heading home. On one hand I’m absolutely dying to see RB again, I’ve missed her so much it’s unbelievable and I’ve had a few moments where I’ve had bad dreams cos I’ve worried too much. I’m looking forward to a proper shower, a comfy bed and good home comforts, space being one of them! But at the same time, despite my grumblings about lack of space, days of not feeling well and days of feeling a bit homesick, I’ve really enjoyed being away. It’s going to be weird being back in Scotland after weeks of dealing with Swiss, French and Italians and as much as I’ve missed climbing, I do wonder if I’ll miss these mountains more when I’m home. But the grass is always greener!

29th-30th - We woke up on Thurs to a dank day and both of us felt pretty smug that we'd managed to sneak in an ascent of Paradiso. Now it was time to drive across to Chamonix. Unfortunately the weather was even worse there! It didn't take us too long to drive there from Aosta valley and nor to find a campsite in Les Plaz de Chamonix. We are camped at the Mere du Glace campsite and it's a so, so campsite. I find it a bit squeezed and hemmed in and the showers are utterly crap! What is it with French and Italian campsites? Why don't they seem to ever have hot water and why are their toilets utterly minging?! Back in Pont we had a meal at the hotel near the campsite and the lady's toilet was so disgusting it's unbelievable! It was one of those ones with a hole in the ground surrounded by a small dip. Of course everyone ends up pishing everywhere, so there is wee all over the floor and all over the door for feck's sake! So in this one toilet, some woman had obviousely been menstruating but had bled all over the floor and not bothered to wipe it up. Yuck! In the corner of the cubicle was a small bin which was overflowing onto the floor. Needless to say I went into the disabled toilets! Thankfully there was a normal toilet there, toilet paper, shame the light didn't work though.

Anyway, back to Chamonix. We arrived early enough for a spot of shopping where I got some nice pressies for folk and then we woke up in the morning to fairer weather, which was lucky as it had rained pretty much all night! We took a lift up to the Aguille Rouges (can't remember name of lift) but it's like a big box that can hold 55 people. And boy do they squeeze you in! I felt like a sardine! Found it really uncomfy standing there, it seems to really hurt my back and legs to stand still for any length of time these days and it all felt a bit clausterphobic, esp when folk kept shoving and pushing to get on. The 2nd lift up to L'index was more pleasant, a proper chair lift and after a wee wibbly moment when it started with a shudder, I relaxed into it (after exclaiming, 'how could I relax, it was sickening!' It's like asking someone who has a hangover and feels sick to enjoy it!

Once we were off there was pretty much no view to speak of which was a damn shame! i could see towers and spires and walls of rock peeking out of the mist and even spotted a few climbers. They all seemed to be climbing the same route!!! Funny that it was an easyish looking route, about 15mins from the top station. Climbers everywhere, no imagination eh?

We took the wrong path and ended up on what must have been an approach to some of the routes. It took us down a steep and loose, dirty gully, very reminiscant of Scotland. After a while of scrambling down this gully and along a loose and narrow path I spotted the path to the Col that we had meant to go on. We scrambled down another loose gully and got onto the path proper. It didn't take long to get to the Col and I was amused by a section of what would have been nice scrambling along a wee ledge, but instead had been bolted with bannisters and even peddles sticking out of the rock that you could use for foot holds.

The Col took you to a seperation of paths and we took up the path up to the Lake Noirs and some summit at 2600m (or thereabouts) Just as we were nearing the lake it started hailstoning and it got heavier and heavier. Not long after it had calmed down, the clouds cleared enough so we had little peeps of views over to Mont Blanc. It was pretty surreal looking and it looked like a whole other world across there to me. Like the Gods in their snowy kingdom towering above us. The Gods would maybe be unsettled today after their raging of yesterday. I wondered if anyone was up there, trying for an ascent. There must of been a heck of a lot of snow fallen yesterday, so I assume that folk would wait for conditions to settle a little first.

We milled around for wee while and I would have quite liked to have headed up to a snowy summit we could see but time was getting on and we had to make the shop back in Les Plaz so we could some stuff for the journey home.

The ride down was uneventful, save for my legs going all wonky again. Makes me worry about the coming winter season, how will they cope, when they suffered so last winter. But I must try not to ponder on that! D and I were discussing how lazy it felt to take lifts up and down (but nice lazy) and I reckoned RB would love the climbing here. She could do big mountain routes and no walk in, superb!
I took loads of photos of the spires and towers and must check the guide to see what routes are there.

We're back down in the campsite now, off to take the bus into Chamonix and have a meal out on our last day of the holiday. I am going to miss these mountains, but I'll go back. And I'm so looking forward to being back home and getting out of the van and into some proper space and comfort.

See everyone soon :o)