A MEGA LOADED WEEK
A few weeks ago, before going on a big day out with Tom, I discovered Asda's Loaded Mega Chocolate Cookies. They were exactly what was needed for the 20 hour adventure, we had on the Dubh Loch the next day. When the weather's rubbish, the routes getting hard, it's taking longer than I had hoped and its all becoming a bit too much. Well, if I eat one of these and all of a sudden you will feel better about everything and keep pushing up. A few weeks later, I knew the coming week was going to be a big one, so I went into Asda and bought a very large supply of them. Here is a day by day account of the week... the highlight being the last day on the Skye ridge.
The loaded mega cookies in all their glory.
Saturday 6th of Febuary - Lochnagar -Where Eagles Dare VII,8. Ben Silvestre Pete Graham and I headed for Lochnagar, - dreams were big with ideas of Trail of Tears or The Dirdre of The Sorrows. However, as is almost always the case with Lochnagar conditions where far from ideal so instead of a route on the Tough Brown Face we soloed 150 metres up Eagle Buttress, where we roped up and climbed Where Eagles Dare. Even though it just has one hard pitch we all felt it was good quality. A cool way of doing this route would be as a finish Eagle Ridge - an easy traverse to the main headwall pitch, instead of finishing up the last easy pitches of Eagle Ridge.
Me battling up through the increasing amounts of spindrift on W,E,D. ©Pete Graham
Monday 8th The Shelterstone, The Needle IX,8 Pete, Ben and I spent 3 hours to get to the base of the crag. At half past seven I suggested that I would lead the first 60m easier pitch to the terrace, thinking that this would mean one of them would get the crux 5b pitch. They quickly agreed but ruined my plan by stating that we should lead it in blocks to save swapping ropes all the time. “HMMM! well that plan didn’t work out!” I thought to myself as I lead off up the first pitch. A long 60 meters pitch to the terrace, and a teetering traverse on the 2nd pitch. Left me with just the summer 5b crux pitch, as the last of my block of leads. This also had a traverse, which was even more balancy than the last, followed by some steep grade 8 moves to finish. After this it was really nice as I could just sit back, put my big belay jacket on, and enjoy seconding the rest of the route. Time flew by as Pete and Ben made a good job of leading the next 4 pitches. I really enjoyed myself. I wasn’t too cold and having someone to chat to whilst belaying made time pass faster. At 1:30 am we got back to the car park, 21 hours after leaving. No prizes for speed but we definitely had a big fun day!
Ben eating a lump of cheese with some tattie scones on either side!?!? ©Pete Graham
About to embark on the traverse on the 5b pitch. ©Pete Graham
Ben Seconding the steep final moves of the 5b pitch. ©Pete Graham
Wednesday 10th Church Door Buttress, Hoargasm VII,8 FWA
Greg Boswell and I tried a new line first. It was hard. And Impossible with all the cracks chocked in ice. So we bailed. But we saved the day by doing a new pitch up the toe of the buttress that joins knights Templar and flake route. The route has really good hooks, lots of gear and is nice and steep - just pure fun climbing. We finished up west chimney as it was getting dark and stormy, although there are lots of harder routes to finish up, to make it more sustained.
Greg about to launch up the steep section of Hoargasm
Friday 12th Clach Glas- Blabheinn Traverse
This was a surprisingly good day. After doing lots of hard climbing and long belays earlier in the week, it felt very pleasant to just be moving along all the time in the sun. Peter Herd and I had perfect weather with stunning views of the main Cuillin ridge. It was exactly what I needed - just a day out in the hills where we were able to really enjoy the sunshine. It got me thinking about the main ridge, and how good it looked to do in winter.
Peter on the top of Blabhienn with a perfect view of the main Cullin Ridge
Saturday 13/02/16 – Church Door Buttress
Dougie and I walked up to the crag, got blown over a lot, and walked back out. We went and watched the rugby instead so all in all it was a good day.
Sunday 14th – Church Door Buttress, Crypt Route V,6
Dougie, Stuart and I did Crypt Route. There were some tense moments when we weren’t sure we were going to fit through some of the tight holes. We did just manage to fit through them, after helmets and gear were removed.
Whilst descending the other two got a bit too close ( it was valentine’s day after all) and left me out of their rapid decent back to the bags.
I was soon driving to Skye, thinking that tomorrow would be the perfect day to do a winter traverse of the Cuillin Ridge. I heard it had been done lots over the weekend, and was hoping this would mean that there would be a really good track all the way along. I was fairly disappointed when I got to the car park to find it snowing heavily all the way down to sea level.
Monday 15th – Winter Traverse of the Cullin Ridge VI,4
I had traversed the ridge once in summer 3 years ago. It was raining all the way north of the Inaccessible Pinnacle and I honestly couldn’t remember much about it apart from being very wet and scared on slippery slabs. I knew the section from Garbh Bheinn to the Inaccessible Pinnacle better having done it twice since my first full traverse. In winter however, you do it the other way around in that you start at the north end and finish on Garbh Bheinn on the south end. I hadn’t done any sections of the ridge in winter and had no idea what it would be like. My main worry however, was I had RUN OUT of Asda's cookies and had to settle with the Co-op's sub standard regular cookies!
Not a bad place to be on a Monday morning.
I was feeling quite nervous on the walk in. I didn’t really know the way. It was dark, resulting in me getting lost,meaning I ended up with a harder section of soloing to get to the top of the first summit Sgurr Nan Gillean. I gave myself a good talking to for not reading the guide properly and started off on what would turn out to be one of my best ever days in the hills.
The track from the days before had almost totally gone, which left me with lots of route finding and trail breaking to do. The weather was perfect - basically no wind and I was just in a base layer with my feet overheating an alarming amount in my big B3 boots. I got totally involved in the moment for the first half of the ridge. I just kept moving all the time. You can’t think of anything else other than where your next footstep is going.
4 and half hours later I was looking up at my next challenge - soloing the Inaccessible Pinnacle, whilst stuffing some rubbish dry cookies into my mouth. They don't even come close to the ASDA's mega ones, they have about half the calories and are twice as dry. I was seriously disappointed!
On the west ridge of the Inn Pin. ©Will Davis
I had wasted about half an hour making decisions and reading the guide but hadn’t made any major errors. I was surprised how much more challenging I found making these decision on my own, being so used to climbing with a partner. I was feeling more relaxed now as it was only half past 12 and I knew the way better from here, and was fairly sure that I wouldn’t finish the ridge in the dark. I quickly climbed up the Inn Pin and took a few moments on top, to just to enjoy the view and the warmth of the sun.
After this it became harder to motivate myself to keep going - I think because the excitement of the unknown had been taken away. It took some real motivation to make myself go to the summit of Sgurr Dubh Mor, which can be easily skipped.
At 4:05 pm 8 hours and 5 mins after leaving the summit of Gillean, I was sitting on top of Garbh Bheinn at the very southern end of the ridge. I was beginning to feel quite tired and very dehydrated. I sat eating some malt loaf and taking in the view right out to sea. It was a very odd feeling having just finished a very alpine route, which could easily be in the middle of the Alps, with the sea only 800m below. After what felt like a very long walk back to Glen Brittle I managed to convince two very nice people staying at the Glen Brittle hut, to give me a lift back to my van at the Sligachan hotel. My erratic driving managed to keep me awake, on a quick 45 minute drive back to Glenelg.
View from the summit of Garbh Bheinn, I was too tired to take a good photo.
I got told over the next few days that my time was probably the fastest solo traverse in winter, which was a bit of a surprise. As I had been just trying to make sure I didn't finish in the dark, I had stopped and chatted to folk and even tried to appreciate the view.
It was a really special day for me in the hills - definitely equals or beats my best days in the Alps or Canada, and whether you do it in one, two or three days I can't recommend it enough!
Just go to Asda and get your Loaded Mega Chocolate Cookies before you do!!!