Monday, 25 October 2010

Pygmy Ridge - Sun 24th Oct

It's Saturday and I'm debating whether it's a good idea to try and get out winter climbing.  Forecast isn't great, snow showers and winds of 40mph with gusts to 55-60mph.  I'm exhausted, not sleeping enough and have so much Uni work to do and half of me just can't be bothered going out in crappy weather.
Start packing my sack though and the enthusiasm builds until the lack of motivation goes and I'm feeling really excited!  Winter, snow, spindrift, woohoo, yay!
Drove up to Andy's on Saturday night, we reckoned nowhere much would be snowy other than the Cairngorms, but also that Sneachda might be busy with folk after the dry tooling competition at Glenmore Lodge.  Decided on a late start nonetheless and were up at 7.30am which seemed quite blissful after my 6.15am Uni starts at 5.45am starts for a pre Uni run!
Seemed a bit mildish at first but it's cold in the carpark, some snow low down, clag down though so can't see much.  We walk in pretty quickly and easily and at the boulder field, hear a
It's Mel and Fiona, they were doing the comp yesterday and are quite sore, but keen!  There are some footprints meandering off in the direction of Mess of Pottage area but no sign of anyone else in the corrie that we can make out.  The weather isn't as bad as forecast so all those who wimped out are missing out on cliffs thick with rime and snow, proper winter!
Andy and I are first at Pygmy so we gear up for that and Fiona and Mel gear up for Saturation Point, the harder route to the right.  It looks hard!  Andy is up the first pitch of Pygmy fairly quickly and I can tell he's done it before as he seems to know where all the axe placements are!  I find the first pitch pretty hard.  The chimney has a good flake and chockstone but I can't reach up to either of them!  I have to torque my axe behind a lower flake, edge my feet up and totally wedge myself into the chimney to stop myself falling out and keep in balance while I finally reach up.  Hook that chockstone, then it's thuggy, awkward and strenuous, but just a few moves.  The top bit isn't a push over either!  We had to clear every placement of snow and I was finding things a bit reachy or balancy.
I led the 2nd pitch up a steep chimney/corner.  Better holds in this one but I looked down in dismay to see my sling lift off a flake, followed by a nut which I had been sure was bomber!  Rats!  Hesitate now!  Next move feels even more committing without any gear!  There's a nice ledge to soften my landing if I fall.  Don't think about falling stupid cow!  Get some more gear in!  Scrape about, unburry another flake, a better one, fling another sling round, only one left now!  Try to figure the move.  There is a huge detached flake on the right wall but I can't reach my foot or my knee up to it.  I need a foot in the chimney on a dubious sloping hold to move up.  It goes okay though.  Scrape round for another hold and I'm up onto a terrace.  Mel is there, belaying Fiona, as their route joined ours on the 2nd pitch. 
I'm not sure what to do!  I've already led the meat of my pitch but I wanted to reach the pinnacles and carry on a full ropes length, but feel it would be a bit rude to climb through Mel and Fiona.  Deliberate for a second or two and decide to belay Andy from there and by the time he has come up, Mel has started off, seconding Fiona up the next pitch.  It's blowing a hoolie by this point and the spindrift is blinding!  At one point, a lump of ice flies into my mouth and down my throat and has me chocking!  Above us, Fiona's ropes have blown off route and poor Mel has to climb up an awkward way, but Andy is impatient enough to get out the cold, climb around her and pull the ropes through.  He goes off a different way though, so as not to climb through them and belays me a short way from the top, out of the wind.
I led up a final groove and over some really easy ground, round Mel and Fiona who are packing their sacks away from the plateau and gave Andy a quick body belay up.  We threw everything into our sacks higgeldy piggeldy, then stopped at a sheltered hollow to sort our stuff and take crampons etc off as the snow was still quite soft on top.  Then trudged up to point 1141 and stopped again for food and coffee.  It was fast going down, then with a brief stop at the start of the road to take off some layers, we were soon down.
What an ace day!  Superb getting out and very surprised there wasn't more folk out.  Andy reckons we are in for another good winter and I hope he's right.
For all you snowboarders though ;o)  too many rocks were poking through the snow I'm afraid.
Looks like all the snow will probably melt in this weeks SW's too.

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