Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Day 5: Lillaz Gulley, feeling old and the best hot chocolate in the world

Woke up today after another mega 8 hours sleep feeling stiff and sore; especially my back; and a little groggy. I'm not sure 8 hours sleep is a good thing for me, especially when I'm so used to living on 4, maybe I have to get used to it so more early nights perhaps? I can hear a few people laughing as they read that. I met Ben and Andy for breakfast and we decided that today we would head to Andy's favourite, typically Scottish, route; Lillaz gully; for a mega 5 pitch route with an uphill snowy slope to start and a downhill walk off the top. No problem I thought.

We got to the car park and upon seeing the walk in I thought holy crap, that's going to be tougher than I thought but I was sure that it would be fine once I got started. So we got our heavy packs on and got going. By the time we got to the steep part, my back was actually beginning to feel okay, thank goodness because what came next would have killed it otherwise. We got about a quarter of the way up the slope and then had to stop and get our crampons on as it was a little slippy. We then slogged our way up the rest of the way to the bottom of the 1st pitch. What a tough start and that's before we even got on the ice.

Pitch 1 was a perfect way to start, a short pitch on a relatively low angle with some mixed climbing at the top. Fairly simple and really fun. Then top out to another slog uphill on another snowy slope.

Pitch 2 was a little more challenging but by then I was starting to feel like I had my ice legs back. I decided to use this pitch as some technique practise. By the end of the pitch, I felt like my footwork was improving as I had to kick a lot less to feel secure... Trust those feet I always say in rock climbing, now it was my turn to do exactly that. Another snowy slope to finish, quite easy to get through those parts though, nothing too technical in that.

Pitch 3 was about getting the axe placement precision that I wanted, less swinging, more confidence in the pretty sharp tools I held in my hands. By halfway through this pitch, I was feeling confident and like I was beginning to master some of the technique I'd be practising until a really high foot move had me catch my crampons in my trousers... Grrrr. Still, I managed the pitch clean again and the trousers will repair easily I'm sure. At least it wasn't my calf muscle I pierced.

Pitch 4 was a slightly more tricky number, more mixed climbing and more snowy slopes to finish... It's becoming a regular feature now. Just as well the adrenaline is keeping me going really. Lots of hooking my axes behind rocks and bridging my feet on the rock. Crampons on rock do make a funny noise, nothing pleasant in that scratchy sound. It's more like a fearful sound especially trying to get out of a typical Siobhann wide bridge position, if it was rock climbing I'd had broken a few of my knee rules on this pitch. A very pleasant pitch but I do think its the most scared I've been on ice yet. I'm sure forgetting to unclip and then having to down climb, hang off a really high axe placement with a totally pumped arm whilst I fight with an Ice screw didn't help. I managed to get it all sorted just in time to get a rest on my other arm which saved me from burning out and falling. I've not fallen yet and that's the way I want to keep it... Onsight all the way, even through yet another snowy slope finish up to the last pitch of the day.

The last pitch was definitely difficult. The weeks adventures still fresh on our muscles, tiredness was beginning to kick in and there was so much more mixed climbing to be done this pitch. I'm sure gracefulness went right out the window during my climb but I made it with a giant smile on my face to the difficult part, I had to rock climb with crampons on and gloves that gave me no advantage, Still it was amazing. I then got some good tree hooking action on with my axes... What a great buzz that was. I made it to the top alive.

Last thing to do was to get off the mountain. So we made our way down, steady pace at first, on a high from our achievement and then when the steps got really high and the days climbing took its toll, the pace slowed. The calves, the thighs and the back began to hurt and every step started to become a chore. Thankfully, we made it to the bottom without incident and then we had a lovely flat walk to the van. Never a more pleasant feeling than that.

Off to the hotel we went and after a very hot shower, a massive dinner and a few cups of tea, I felt alive and ready to tackle another day... After some of the best hot chocolate in the world, sleep and tiger balm of course.

S xx

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