A Grand Day Out 28: Such a perfect day...by Richard Baynes Mar/2009
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It wasn't just the climbing that made it so good - it was the weather, a good plan realised, the aftermath, and the slight unlikeliness of it.
The week before, the first in April, we'd taken a look at Ordinary Route on Stob Coire Lochan, and having wasted time on half a pitch of unfrozen mud, had dashed up the right branch of Y Gully just to get a route in. SC had been looking in surprisingly good nick for April, but was crowded with the star-crossed hordes.
The next Saturday I came back north, this time with my pal Rebecca M. We stayed the night in Onich, then headed for Glencoe early, setting off up the hill at 8am on what promised to be a beautiful, clear crisp spring day.
Unlikely though it seemed after recent winters, SC looked as if it was still in, in the middle of April, and despite 20-odd years of winter climbing around those parts I'd never done it.
We got there well before anyone else, and got stuck in.
Rebecca is a straightforward New Zealander who won't put up with crap from anyone (especially not me) but is diplomatic enough not to shout about it, so when I said I should lead the initial pitch as well as the main one - she'd not done that much leading before - she just stuck her bottom lip out and went "hmmm..."
I'm wise enough in the ways of women to know that means: "Get lost, you're not nicking my lead," so off she went, and, after a bit of a faff placing some gear, climbed confidently up the first short icefall. The gear fell out, I didn't tell her, and she got to the stance before bringing me up.
I started winter climbing in about 1984, and was immediately towed up a Grade IV, and then led the crux of Crowberry Gully. But since those heights - and those who remember what most ice gear and axes were like then will realise that wasn't bad going - it's been mainly soloing IIs and the occasional trip with someone who's up for a few harder things.
I hadn't climbed a III all winter, so I took a deep breath before setting off up the crux pitch.
The placements were solid, and those new-fangled turbo screws bit well. I ran it out, hoping there was a decent belay... and lo and behold there was a wire and a peg sticking out of the gully wall at the point were the rope was threatening to pull tight.
Rebecca shot through and took us up to just below the cornice and a few minutes later we stepped up onto the ridge, with sunshine bathing the whole of Lochaber and the views across Argyllshire making my breath catch in my chest.
Just in that little bowl at the top, the sun was warm and the wind had dropped and we basked in both the warm sun, and a little bit of self satisfaction, before we trotted back down to the car.
"OK," I said to Rebecca as we shaded out eyes from the sunshine... "We can belt straight back to Glasgow... or we can mooch down the coast... have a pint... maybe sit outside on the pier in Oban in this sunshine and have some chips..."
I didn't need to ask twice... there was no way either of us wanted such a good day to end.
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