Friday 8 January 2010

Finding your own voice

Ian Parnell on Against All Odds VII,8 Glen Coe

It’s been an interesting time over the past couple of weeks for me. I’ve been mainly ill and unable to climb, which is weird during our little arctic blast here in the highlands. I’ve managed to get out and do a few easier routes as these have been in the best condition and I’ve wanted to do that anyway to get into the flow of climbing smoothly on mixed terrain again. 

I did have one nice day out in Glen Coe with Ian Parnell. We did Against All Odds (a grade VII). It was one of those days where there is only snow on ledges but not plastered everywhere. It was interesting to do a route in that nick again. I had in my my mind a massive discussion I has at the foot of Sassenach on Ben Nevis with Tim Emmett and Will Gadd a couple of years ago. It looked acceptably snowy from the approach and everything else on the mountain was too dangerous to get to. But standing at the foot of it and looking up there wasn’t much whiteness to be seen. Will thought we (Scots) were completely mad for passing up a good route for the sake of a couple of bits of white fluff stuck to it, that we scrape off again anyway. Tim was not far behind (in the end the turf wasn’t frozen anyway so they didn’t do it). I had maintained that it was indeed important that the routes were at least reasonably wintery because that helped to make it a richer battle. It’s the whole experience that makes Scottish winter climbing ‘something else’. So this time we strolled up Against All Odds with no problems, and sure enough, it was nice but not memorable for the climbing really. 

Anyway, after that and another few days of trying to get healthy again and doing some messy jobs at home involving septic tanks, I’ve been preparing to get back out on mountains. 

I’ve had a nearly constant battle in my mind to devote my time to climbing whatever seems a good idea at that moment, or the big project. It’s so true that you have to sing in your own voice to experience the strongest rewards, but at different times I love both approaches to climbing. I spent the summer doing easier routes quickly like Present Tense and Durorband. But as the project guru Nick Dixon always said, the ‘need’ comes around for the big project. And so after one more day tomorrow of doing easier things and just swinging tools into ice, I’m declaring it time to apply tunnel vision for the project and start venturing up the Ben Nevis path again for the season.

The Aonach Eagach Ridge in sunset

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