Sunday, 4 January 2015

The Gathering

After what has felt like a good while away from winter climbing I finally managed to get back out today with Murdoch.  Sickness, skiing and gluttony had dammed my flow.  East coast again had a slightly more reliable forecast so the blurry eyed drive across started at 5.30am.  We booted and suited and quested off with the shimmer of light from our torches with a cold crisp underfoot.  We acquired a 4 legged canine on the walk in, this energetic spaniel was clearly in the belief that we were its owners, fortunately we managed to loose it before we started climbing.

We walked into Coire an Lochain to find that The Pillar was looking super white where other sections of the coire were quite marginal.  The decision was made that we, or Murdoch, would do the Gathering and I would do what I can to get up this grade VIII,9.  I was running through my head what I could improvise as a rope ascender...prussik....check....ropeman....check.  Right lets have it!

Murdoch dispatched the first crux pitch well, as he always does.  However this time was different.  As I sat shivering on the belay, I noticed he was shaking out quite alot.  "OH NO!" I thought.  This is going to be nails!  After a close call, Murdoch pulled onto the belay ledge and clipped himself in and I'm sure he swore and smiled at the same time.  Happy boy!

My turn was up, cold hands, negative thoughts running through my head, ropeman handy, I set off, putting bets with myself at how far I would get.  Perfect, Iain Small is on a belay behind me watching every move as I struggle up this pitch.  I tried extra hard, inching further and further up the wall, the belay seemed so far away yet the climbing was so absorbing.  Hooks and foothold kept appearing as the steepness increased.  Murdoch delivered some useful information and encouragement about upcoming placement which were vital.  I couldn't hold on much longer, I fought but unfortunately not enough.  I was off.  Hanging on the rope like a wreaking ball on a chain.  Only a couple of moves from the belay.  I glanced to Murdoch who was clearly suppressing a smile, he loves to watch me struggle.  After a wee breather, I pulled up and ungracefully shuffled over onto the belay ledge.  The stance was small but I didn't mind as the anchors were so good.  I could fall asleep.

Murdoch led the second pitch which was no pushover.  I'm glad I offered it to him as if I hadn't I would still be there right now.  I was to drained.  Brilliant climbing, great day, great company and maybe next year I will learn not to eat and drink so much over the festive period (and then get really ill).

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