Friday 31 January 2014

Year of the Horse

 Iain Small on the pulls off an impressive lead crux first pitch of Year of the Horse while I shiver. 

After about two hours I am starting to loose the feeling in my toes.It is a cold day, it feels like one of the coldest days of the winter, and I have been standing around belaying for a long time now. I feel like I am beginning to lose the love for climbing. I have been working for 21 days straight, and it's my first day off. On my previous day off I had tried to go climbing, and that had turned out to be a disaster of wallowing around in deep snow. I should be on a nice grade VI, moving quickly and getting back into the way of climbing, or perhaps I should be skiing, there is loads of snow about at the moment, surely conditions are better for that than climbing.

However, I am not. I am standing belaying Iain on something that to me looks utterly desperate. He has asked me if I would mind if he tried the route. I had been dubious, but he had driven much further to be here today, and seemed quite confident, so I said I would give him a belay.
Myself seconding the first pitch, the hotaches are over, but I still don't feel very well. 

He keeps on inching upwards through ever steep terrain, and I keep on belaying and shivering. How is he not ridiculously pumped up there? Eventually he pulls through the roof, and is up the wall above onto a ledge. I pull on the small rucsac and start to second feeling pretty chilly. The climbing is hard and technical, and I am getting pumped, one section seems to be devoid of any foot holds. I torque in a crack, and pull as hard as I can. I reach for some turf, and am just about there when something pops and I find myself spinning in space. I get it second go, and inch on up to the roof. I pull over to find two cams rammed deeply into a crack which I will need both hands to remove. I will need to hang on the rope, but as my body relaxed the hot aches come on. I hang there in agony, my eyes closed trying not to pass out with my wails echoing round the coire. I feel sick. Eventually they fade, and I managed to get the cams out. I second the wall above feeling weak and drained.
Leading the 2nd pitch, I am actually beginning to enjoy myself now. 

The next pitch does not look as bad, but still looks tricky. I waver, after that previous pitch I feel weak and crap. However, I feel obliged to give it a go. I start creeping upwards, it is not as bad as I thought, a steep wall goes more easily than expected, my confidence rises, and I actually start to enjoy myself. All to soon my pitch is over.

Iain on the final pitch. I am back to being pretty chilly and it is about to get dark but at least the end is in sight.

I bring Iain up. I have cooled down again, and the wind is getting up and the light is beginning to fade. Plumes of spindrift blow around as Iain head upwards, soon disappearing round an arete. Darkness falls. The ropes come tight, I second. My world is reduced to the small area illuminated by my head torch. The wind is howling up the crag, snow and ice blow about, icing up my eyebrows, my eye lashes. I don't climb the pitch well, it is dark and I am tired and cold, but I do enjoy it. I am glad now that I did not go skiing.  I pull over the top, to which Iain simply states "It's less windy over there". I wander over, and start sorting out the ropes. I am also warm now, the wind is not quite so strong here, the night is clear and the stars are out. It is the Chinese new year, a new year is born, the year of the horse and with it a new route up the cliffs of Coire nan Lochan.

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