I’m not really known for being into my winter climbing although I have the build for it. Before this Christmas I had only been out twice and hated it each time. I seemed to go out once each year to make sure it was still shit. The first time I went out with a very enthusiastic but perhaps slightly over ambitious punter who after shouting at me for wanting a rope on to down climb the ‘steep’ bit of easy gully at Aonoch Mor proceeded to fall down it after me. I think he was just a little shaken but apparently the VII we were going to do was out of condition so we did an icy IV instead... well sort of; we got rescued off the top pitch.
The next year I decided to just pair up with another beginner. Me and ginger Jason went up to the norries just after new year. Unfortunately we left Edinburgh very late by mountaineering standards, took a wrong turn driving and were then slowed down by my lack of fitness. We probably made it to the base of goat track gully by about midday. After flapping around on the first pitch (probably normally soloed/walked) and watching all my gear fall out behind me I let Jason lead the crux pitch. When I reached the belay ledge we realised it was getting dark and we didn’t have head torches so we decided to abseil off a conveniently placed boulder to get down. Of course the rope jammed but we were saved by the legend that is Andy Nisbet who soloed up the gully in about 10seconds freeing our rope as he went. We walked back to the car star-struck and deflated.
So perhaps it’s not suprising I didn’t make it out at all last year and just went rock climbing instead. But for some reason I decided to try and get out again this year... although it’s not been easy. First day out had probably the worst driving conditions imaginable. Most of the journey up we travelled about 20mph. We finally made it to the caingorms 5 hours after setting off, walked around getting lost in a blizzard for a couple of hours before retreating to the car for an epic 12 hour drive home due to the A9 getting shut while we were on it. It was horrible. Then a couple of weeks ago I headed out again. This time we made it just passed dunkeld before the car broke. Agghh. Perhaps I’m just not meant to go winter climbing.
I decided to ignore my intuitions and head out again last Wednesday. Tony Stone was psyched to try for the second ascent of a IX called Pick’n’Mix in Coire an Lochain. Given my track record I was an obvious partner. Tony led the first pitch comfortably but it was clear to me that I wouldn’t second it comfortably which made me so nervous I completely forgot how prussiks work. Luckily I didn’t need them and I made it most of the way up the pitch before needing a rest and wasting everyone’s time. Consequently Tony never really got to try the crux second pitch but I’m sure he’ll be back. I had an amazing day and I’m super psyched to get back out. One day I hope to top out a winter route.