Monday, 14 April 2008

Scotland, Ben Nevis & Polldubh

A 4 day trip to Scotland, which was going to be Franco and I's first winter trip ended up being pretty eventful and a good experience.
We drove up in IanJacksons car, with all the problems that can create, such as getting lost (temporarily in Glasgow) then having to follow a Gritter (and a line of 4 or 5 cars that were unwilling to overtake), until it was safe to overtake being some of the things we will look back on!
We arrived at the North Face Car Park and set up a bivvy. Franco and Ian were sleeping in the Car and I was outside. Before this however, the beginning of what was to later going to be a topic of 'serious' debate - Food... Ian had opted for the full works, stove, pans and warm food. Me and Fran had got 1 stove a kettle (for brews) and cold food. This didn't fit with Ian's Philosophy on Food and kept referring to 'not being able to suvive in Chamonix if we couldn't cook!' as his way of justifing warm food.

The first night was eventful, as i got very warm and had to cool off which was very annoying as the superheating of my sleeping bag had woken me up, this however was not a major issue the next time i woke up was far worse. I woke up numb. About an inch of snow had collected on my sleeping bag and face and i was extremely cold indeed, so i brushed off the snow and curled up and went back to sleep.

'CHUGGER CHUGGER CHUGGER....COUGH COUGH COUGH GASP... Fuckin' 'ell! The time was 6am and Ian had turned the car engine on to 'hotbox' the car, however at the time my head had been facing the Exhaust so i got a good face full of CO and god knows what else...

We wandered up the track to the North Face, it wasn't as impressive as people had made out, but it was still a good looking piece of rock. We made for the CIC and then up towards Green Gully (IV 4***) a fine route to have as your first winter line and i thoughly looked forward to the experience. On the way however, Franco managed to trigger a Windslab slip, which sent us all back down the slope, pretty darn quickly! I however, managed to get a decent arrest in and ended up quite a way above Ian and Franco. Franco, had unfortunately lost his axes in the slide so he set off discruntled and disappointed back to the Car, leaving me and Ian to climb Green Gully.The climb itself was pretty straight forward, Ian leading the first 3 pitches, however we ran it out so quite often we were moving together which was pretty quick paced and made the climbing more enjoyable as there were very few cold belays. I led the last pitch over the Cornice, using a 'rockover' technique to conquer my first Winter route.


After the successes of the first day, the next was a bit of a disappointment as heavy snow made us decide to give the Ben a miss. This was a good idea as it let Ian have a rest day which allowed him to take Franco up Point 5 gully the day after which was the Tuesday.



Wednesday came and it was our day for returning to North Yorkshire, but myself and Ian wanted to get another route done, so we raced up to Smith's route and set out up the route to the left - Kellet's Route (VI 6***), which was tough but Ian climbed it well and seconding up i was fully aware of his abilities. We then managed to switch position in the Belay Cave and Ian Led off up Smith's Route (V 5***) which he dispatched with Ease.

I then set off up after him, the ice was somewhat poor going out of the cave and i had an awkward few moments as i took out an Ice screw and an Ice thread. Then i set off up the impressive bulging Ice face toward the next screw. I reached this and tentitavely removed the Ice screw, aware i didn't have very good Ice Axe placements. I then smashed on, until i decided one of my placements wasn't very good, but it was awkward to get back out and when i finally did i was much more tired and eventually much to my annoyance, i fell off...

I did more than just rest on the rope though, as after the inital safety of the rope was felt i then began to plummit, everything had happened so fast that i wasn't aware of why what was happening was happening, all i did know what that the two climbers in red which at one point were below me, were now about level with me and the two blue coated climbed below were fast becoming much more focused. I hit the face several times, and the snow below was fast approaching, but i wasn't hurt... Everything hadn't gone black. THUD. BOUNCE. Scrape.... i hit the snow below and shot off down towards the CIC. The rope then came tight...I knew at this point that Ian wasn't 'following me down' as i had feared.

I loitered around unhurt at the base of the climb talking to the second of the other party who explaned a few of the minor details of the fall such as; How far i had fallen, to which he responded 40+ metres, which was about right as i fell to the end of the 60m rope. He also told me that mainly my Rucksack (stuffed with a spare rope and a SIGG took most of the impact from the wall and this was certainly true when i found my HEAVILY dented SIGG!!! - A momento to the event.
At this point i was totally unaware of Ian's Injury. I was curious to how i had ended up down at the base of the cliff but just couldn't think of a reason. Anyway, about an hour passed and i learned like Ian had broken my fall and in the process had broken 2 fingers.

We were helped out by 4 climbers on the Ben that day, unfortuately the only names i can remember are Philip (the second) and Duncan (Just climbed Point 5) These chaps certainly made things alot easier and we were quickly down to the CIC and then back to Fort William.

The Epic was by no means over.

Ian spent the night in the Belford so me and Franco searched for cheap accomodation. We found many of the 'hostels' on the maps were actually just shabby B&B's that charged high prices, so we decided we may as well make for Glen Nevis Youth Hostel, which was extortionate as well. We returned to the car, tired at 1 am.

The next day Ian showed us a hostel he knew of and it was cheaper (not by much) so he stayed in there, but me and Franco opted to the car, using the washing facilities availible to us in Fort William and Glen Nevis... Food was bought at the local Lidl and left a lot to be desired, bread being a luxury.

On the friday, keen to do something with our fast running out holiday and for me to see if i had 'lost my head' we ventured to Polldubh to do some climbing. I hadn't brought my guide and luckily Franco had brought his Anasazi's so i set about laying to rest the ghost of 'Clapham Junction' (HVS 5a) which i had backed off on a previous visit thinking it was 'only' VS and not worth the effort! (Lazy)

Did some other good routes, including 'Above Us Only Sky' (E3 6b?) but i dogged it, falling trying to make the crux move. A good day though and the fall (something i haven't done a lot of in my climbing year, but it felt pretty megre in comparison!)
We returned to Fort William and slept in the Car again, until the arrival of Ian's Parents allowed us to spend 1 night in the hostel. Luckily, that night in the bar 'Jeff' was playing which didn't seem very special, however, it was like i had plugged my Ipod into a speaker as he was playing a tremendous array of very cool songs which kept me going all the way back to Yorkshire.
We climbing the morning after we arrived home and it was good to be back! Albeit it rained to it was only a brief bit of climbing.

Lucky trip, but i certainly enjoyed it!

5 comments:

Franco Cookson said...

LOOOOOL. Greay story, brilliantly told.

Alex Roddie said...

Wow, your Sigg now looks almost exactly like mine!

Dave Warburton said...

It's my 'mascot' now, it will be there by my side to remind me.

Sam1991 said...

Sounds pretty scary mate! Lucky too by the looks of the Sigg!! Great story though! nice one!

Dave Warburton said...

Scary? The adrenaline took care of that! :-)
Lucky? Oh yeah! You can say that again...
Great Story... Well it'll stay with me until Altzheimers prevents me from recalling it.