Saturday, 13 April 2013

A Big Bubbly Easter

Just like in those cheesy American High-School film, we all watched the clock tick its final tick. Swinging the hands, aligning them properly, letting 2 weeks holiday start! Racing out of the door, past the droves of kids. I got on the road quick enough and headed north.

Meeting Bubbles at Warrington, we would continue onwards hitting the Lakes late that night. The journey was a pretty mundane affair of traffic jam games with other trapped road users, and what with the snow a zombie-like-apocalypse occurred on the A6, with cars up turned and strewn across the snow covered lanes (the drifts the next morning were higher than the car windows....) But we made it through unscathed...I'm just that good at driving.

What with the snow, our initial plans to profiteer from punters on Lakeland fells got binned and instead we tried to get our winter climbing heads on. We should have got our skiing brains on, they would have had a much better time! Unfortunately the quick freeze had meant the icefalls had formed quickly and so were as brittle as our nerve, at least at this early stage of the week (later in the week, some freeze-thaw meant good ice was in the lakes).

Thwack. I had tried to go up but my balls had done a runner. Bubbles also had a crack but when he pulled of a big chunk of probably quite key ice, we decided to run away and call it a day.

Bubbles running up the gully to escape the aptly named Innaccessible Gully

With our tails firmly between our wintry legs we spent the best part of the next 4 days hiding in the Eden Valley. This place was a really good solution with easy access, some semblance of warmth, nice setting by the river, and to top it off not bad climbing. Spending the first few days at Armathwaite we managed to tick off the vast majority of the starred routes at the crag. 

The Thursday came and it felt about time to get on something hard after soloing a few of the E3s the day before. Getting to the crag a gang of trainee squaddie's were camped in the sand pit that the Exorcist rises out of. So not wanting to perform to an audience we carried on walking, ticking a few more of the crags good routes and generally warming up for the main event. After an hour or two and with little chance of them going any time soon, I sacked up and got the ropes uncoiled under the route. Going up and down a couple of times to put in the clip for the peg and a small wire a little higher I was trying to psyce myself up, to little avail. Eventually I had climbed up past the point of return and so just had to plough on. The climbing although never desperate but reasonably sustained meant the ledge before the final bulge- and the lie down it provided- was very welcome! The dirty as shit top out (there was some shit- only bird shit mind you) added a final bit of spice to a good 4 days of cragging on the Lakes esoterica. 

Pre-final dirty bulge on the Exorcsit (E4 5c)
What with the gang of squaddies thinking we were already a bit loopy for doing this big steep route, I thought I'd give them a better idea of just how many screws were loose. Stripping off, and soloing the VD on the river side of the overhanging wall was a straight forward ascent. The jump off into the icy water less so. With the crowd counting down, iphones out and recording there could be no backing down. So off I jumped. It might have been 10 metres high, but that wasn't the problem, the cold was. Clawing my way out of the river bollock naked infront of 15 blokes wasnt ideal, especially as the gentleman vegetables had been evacuated to warmer climes further north. 'Your fucking nuts mate'. The feeling was mutual, at least I wasn't contractually obliged to be shot at by the Taliban. (There are pictures of this on Bubbles' blog)

The Easter weekend when winter conditions were prime, I was occupied profiteering so unfortunately did nothing productive aside make a bit of money and make a few walkers smile.

With Scotland holding every ephemeral ice line in condition we felt spoilt for choice, Bubbles was eager to drive up on the Monday night but after over 1000 miles already driven I couldn't handle it and postponed him until the following day. Waking up feeling excited by the prospects of spending 2 full days on the Ben crushing. I was a little sad to find Bubbles fully wired on coffee and rambling on about doing the Cuillin.... in a winter. Bollocks. So after a brew and being shown hundreds of pictures of the amazing ridge (it really does look amazing!) we started the drive north.

Ill cut out the vast majority of the story as its pretty dull and a little embarrasing. But ultimately we didn't do it. We got lost on the walk in at 3am and took a rising traverse to early onto the ridge proper, ending up at the TD gap at about 7am. Deciding to try and keep going I led up the TD gap, but dropped my axe in the process (it was tied to a sling over my shoulder and came untangled falling down the wrong side of the ridge). With axe rescue and abseiling extraordinarie Bubbles deployed, the axe was shortly retrieved but too much time had been wasted so we headed down.
Bubbles after TD-gate

On the walk down to the car I was once again convinced (see a pattern emerging...Im a sucker for peer pressure and Toms mad-cap schemes - although they do provide some good fun) that driving quickly back to Fort William, buying some rock shoes (we forgot ours) and then going cragging in Glen Nevis was the best shout. Then doing a route on the Ben the next day. Driving home and 'working' hard to recoup all costs. That was the master plan. And it sort of worked. We got a 4* HVS done in Glen Nevis...maybe not worth the price of a pair of rock shoes but they went into the budget, and then Point 5 the next day was immaculate. With hooked out ice and little spindrift we raced up the route in 2.5hours. Being back down at the CIC by 11. Not bad really.

Tom leaving the belay on P2 of Point 5

La Sommet. Top of the Ben

A Big Colourful Bubbly Bear

The long drive back to the lakes then commenced. At this point the spaz wagon was taking a fair beating, with the drivers door hanging off the hinges- forcing all entries to be made through the passenger door or windows- added another angle to the adventure. 
All the chauffeur driven miles finally got to Tom

We then went profiteering and had a final evening at Reecastle (brilliant crimpy crag- the route we did was pretty wet, which didn't help the tiny crimps get anymore useful but still good climbing)

Ei Ho, Ei ho Its off to 'work' we go.

And that was the end of my Easter break. Driving south with Bubbles so he could go to a wedding in Devon and I could put the shirt and tie back on for work the next day was all a bit sad. I had thoroughly enjoyed my Easter funsies. I think looking back we should have done the 2 days on the Ben, it would have provided more climbing and less driving but I wouldn't have learnt anything about Skye (Its gorgeous!) so swings and roundabouts! I also found out that when Tom and I get back from our travels later in the year we are going to be well and truly unhinged. Not  mad at each other, just completely off our tits nuts. It should provide a wealth of entertaining stories.

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