A Grand Day Out 11: messing about in the northern quarriesby Will Pettet-Smith Mar/2009
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"Put me on belay and I'll come and snuggle up then!"
I lobbed the rope over my rucksacked back and started hauling in the slack as Graham pretty much ran up the second pitch of Aladdin's Couloir. He went back on his promise of snuggling up and led through, barely stopping to pick up the bandolier of half inched kit that we had begged and borrowed, but now seemed to have little need for. As I gave out armfuls of rope, I hummed to myself and looked about the place, trying to record every detail; the distant rainbow-gortexed walkers, the waif of a cloud floating across the cold blue sky and the wind whipped Grampians sloping off into the distance. A
perfect day in the Northern Corries.
It was our first day out on the hills without a fretting instructor, and at the next belay we couldn't help but catch each others eye and giggle at the shear brilliance of it. We were making fresh tracks in the well banked out gully, and although we knew that it was an easy route that folk use as a descent, there was still that thrill of adventure thrumming all around. The sometime ice section was too covered in windslab to present us with any difficulties, so we found a slightly steeper section that led up to Aladdin's Seat, where we munched our sarnies, giggled some more and flirted with the idea of getting to the pinnacle of it.
"I'd solo it with no shoes on if it wasn't covered in ice."
"It'll be fine, we've got two axes between us. Easy."
"If your going up then obviously I'll go up too," I said, and then chewed meditatively. "But who's going to take the picture?"
"A good point well made, my man. Let's get up on the plateaux, eh?"
With that Graham looped the rope back over my shoulders, unclipped from the belay, and scampered off. I would have shouted at him, but I had a mouthful of cheese and pickle]
After topping out and arguing about whether that distant white lump among the other distant white lumps was in fact Ben Nevis, (it was) we strode off towards Coire an Lochain to check out the routes for the next day and find out how spindrift felt on our summer-soft skin.
"It's a bit windy up here, eh?" My words where snatched away from me.
"Eh?" I think Graham replied.
"Nevermind," I said.
"My face hurts." I think Graham said.
"Nevermind," I said.
The spindrift sang around our ankles and misted our vision as it whipped over and around the meringue-like sculpting of the snow. As we descended the ridge, purplish granite and heather started poking out of the white crispness as our outlandish shadows stretched out in front of us, leading the way.
"I could get used to this winter malarkey, you know," I said as we waited for the bus back to Aviemore.
"Me too," said Graham.
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