Tuesday 7 March 2017

Cloudjumper VIII,9 on the Ben

A couple of teetery moves on the second pitch of Cloudjumper VIII,9 on Ben Nevis

Towards the end of February, Scotland kicks off with good conditions for just about everything at the same time. It’s important to be organised to capitalise on it. I have not been this year. My efforts in the Arisaig Cave have been paying off with excellent progress on my project there. I have now got to the start of the crux section and got good overlapping halves, after several hard training sessions and hard sessions on the project. So the climbing part has been going great.

The trouble is that sessions on it do leave me feeling pretty wasted, with a lot of recovery to do. I realise that these sessions necessitate extra sleep to recover from them properly. I go home, eat dinner, it’s 9 or 10pm and I still have a lot of work to do. I try to work until 11pm, but I never get enough done and it runs to midnight or sometimes after. This is okay if you can catch up the next morning (I am a night owl and this pattern suits me well), but it’s not always possible. Later last week I had a bit of a sleep deprivation meltdown the night before going onto the Ben to try a new route. Every muscle in my body ached from the previous five days of bouldering at my limit. I was worried I would not be ready for the effort of trying a hard new route.

But a frantic run around trying to get everything in order was enough to see me walking up the Ben on Sunday morning with Helen, feeling okay. I did welcome a stop for tea in the hut though. We had been thinking of some objectives in Coire na Ciste, but the Ben was looking very spring-like, with the steeper cliffs looking black. So we were forced to explore the upper reaches of Observatory Gully, near my own route Echo Wall.

Our new routes on this part of Tower Ridge. The Great Chimney can be seen on the right side of the shot. Echo Wall is out of sight to the left.

Myself and Helen have done a string of new routes here, partly because it’s a great area and partly because it’s often white when just about everything else isn’t. Right of Echo Wall, Helen and I added an VIII,9 and an IX,9 already, but I was also interested in the complex walls to the left. There was clearly something good to be done, but hard to see exactly where with a myriad of overhangs and grooves and no obvious cracks to lead you.

Helen on the easier groove above the crux overhang,

After one false start, I headed up left along a technical ramp. I passed a curious in-situ peg with a krab on it, and further up came across another, and a wire, both with krabs on them. A previous highpoint from someone else? I spotted another in-situ piece in the next groove to the left, but I wanted to tackle the cracked overhang directly above my head. As usual with winter, my first couple of forays made me think it was not going to go. I could see why the climber before me had opted to go left again. But soon I figured out some hooks to get to the lip of the overhang. Heart in mouth, I reached over, hoping for something good. My pick found a solid hook, but as I weighted it, a block moved. I hung down on the tool below and wondered what to do. 

Which way now? 

It was either bail, or pull the block off and instantly whack it to the side before in hit me square in the face. This worked perfectly (it had to!) and I struggled over and up to a great ledge with options to go left or right. Right looked more possible, and I was tired, so after Helen joined me, I set off on what turned out to be a few teetery moves before gaining the final pitch of our previous route Red Dragon. I topped out on Tower Ridge just in time to catch the sunset and reflect on another great new line on a part of the Ben I am getting to know quite well. We later found out that the route had two previous attempts from the same team, skirting the crux overhang on the left but retreating from higher up. 

On my belay sessions, I resolved to return here in summer as well as winter and climb more of the great things here that wait to be done.

Nice moment to top out.

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