Sunday, 22 January 2012

A mixed bag indeed

Apologies for the random order of previous posts. I'm all caught up with recent events and will try to keep up to date from here on.

This weekend we were back at Glenmore Lodge for an avalanche course courtesy of MCofS. A smaller bunch of people this time, I was happy to book the YHA again for another weekend trip. Driving Perth-Dundee-Aviemore-Dundee-Perth is really tiring so it is nice to be able to rest Saturday evening.

Windy as buggery would be my description of Saturday. A morning of avalanche theory with Roger of MCofS and Tom of Craig Meagaidh SAIS then into the ferocious winds.

Tom lead us straight to the only deep snow in the coire on the east wall, and deep it was. Here we practised hand block tests, assessing layers, shovel tests and rutschblock tests.

I love the sense of misery in this photo
 After an hour or two getting caked in wet snow and digging about I think we were all happy to about face and head back to the car. All, that was, until I realised i'd left my goggles in the boot. Trying to walk with your eyes closed doesn't work. Another lesson learnt. Oh, and that path gets icy, as my arse knows all too well! Crags were being stripped all day and Sundays climbing plans looked dire, as was evidenced by the hoards leaving as we were walking in.

A nice evening chillaxing in the hostel with more Spag Bol than should humanly be consumed, we deliberated on our options for the next day. We were convinced a drop in temperature with the moisture in the air could bring the crags into condition over night. So we opted for an early walk-in to inspect and judge from there. We also had a very nice discussion in the evening with Adam Hughes who was out and about with some clients. 

The early start proved a good idea! Lots of teams had a similar plan, so racing ahead we got to the foot of Mess of Pottage which looked as good as any. First port of call: get gear on! I wasn't making that mistake again. After a bit of mincing about myself and Calum initially headed for Hybrid, a IV,4 which mixes pitches of The Message and The Melting Pot. Problems finding a belay led me to backtrack towards either Haston Line or Hidden Chimney Direct. Being busy with Nik and Steve on HC Direct IV,5 I retraced to Hybrid. A call of "OWEN" made me look around to see Ruiry and James who'd also turned up for the day and went to do Hidden Chimney aswell (5 teams on the route apparently!)

Desperate to get started I solo'd to a decent belay which was the crux of the day for me. Shortly after we were joined in the area by Steve and Sam from Manchester who were excellent company on the shared belays. We both climbed the first pitch of the Message before they moved of left to Mariella VI, 7

Steve making short work of P1 the Message
Partner in crime
Calum was doing great seconding the route. His photography skills are a little left to be desired, but I can't complain to much :)

A date with Mariella for those boys (steeper than it looks!!)

Me heading left around of the Tech 6 pitch of the Message
Each pitch revealed a few nasty surprises, mostly little footholds with powder on ledges for the axes. This was nicely supported by some frozen turf and good hooks on rock were you needed them. Plenty of gear so it felt safe as houses. I offered Calum a pitch but he was right to back off as a minor fall on second spooked him a little.

Nice climbing all round until below the last pitch of the Message, at Calum's request I traversed right onto "easier ground". My God, I hate traversing! Using some interested torquing manoeuvres in a waist-level horizontal crack I managed to get across without penduluming to my death (it was pretty exposed!). I managed to protect it for Calum with a slung block and a sinker bulldog (which I nearly left at home that day).

At some point along our travels, I saw Sam seconding Mariella and after a playful 'hello, hows it going' about 30 seconds later I heard a shout of "f**king take, f**king TAKE". Sounds like they were having fun :)

Topping out was lovely and very well timed. We could see Steve and Nik having just finished HC Direct! Also, just before I could get the camera out the RAF yellow bird came whomping up the coire and flew straight over my head within 30 metres or so and went to pick up someone on Fiaciall a' Choire Chais. Awesome sound!

Fantastic day out in decent conditions, especially considering the prognosis on Saturday. Really fun route with just enough spice and was testing to lead all four pitches, all with technical climbing. Interesting, UKC gives this IV,5 and i'd be inclined to agree, especially under the powder seen today. Either way, well done Calum for seconding at a pretty decent rate. Shame about the frozen screwgate, eh? ;)


  1. you and your bulldog :) I am seriously jealous. roo liked Hidden chimney, no waiting this time. did calum climb tech six in his walking crampons?!

  2. haha, it was definitely warranted in this instance being the only thing protecting a 5m pendulum for Calum. There weren't any tech 6 sections, that is on the Message proper. He's upgraded to G12s now! :)