A Grand Day Out 31:The Last Day of Winterby Uriah Mar/2009
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'Axe-axe, boot-boot, axe-axe, boot-boot.' Even my thoughts comply with this rhythm of the mountain. The treble of my picks, the thumping bass of my boots, all underpinned by the snare of my breath. 'Axe-axe, boot-boot, axe-axe, boot-boot'. 'Soon-be, time-for, my-cheese, sand-wich.' The rhythm is everything. Nobody has taught me this; I just know that it's true. If I keep to the rhythm I'll go up, if I don't then things will slide. The rhythm is everything, and the beat goes on.
My first Welsh winter had taken me by surprise, a December meet had provided 'Col Gully' and I'd enjoyed it. Three days later I was on 'Banana Gully' and enjoyed it even more, but then there was rain, and then Christmas and then skiing. Still on my return I'd got in a mid week 'Broad Gully' in great conditions. Today it was Thursday, the last day of winter and I was exactly where I wanted to be.
Matt's foot comes into view. The beat stops.
I look up, grin, and kick out a small ledge. There is a void, a vacuum of movement, and feelings and thoughts rush in. I'm in the upper snows of Central Trinity and it's bloody brilliant. The frustration at being late, at the Co-op van hogging the A5, and at the ticket machine that stole my cash, all that's forgotten. I'm in Central Trinity and it's bloody brilliant.
Below me I can see the Miner's path and I can pick out the icy zigzags above Glaslyn, where I'd worried about slipping with my axe in my sack. I hadn't spoken to Matt much before today's walk-in, and apart from introductory chit chat I suppose I still haven't. He's been in the club for decades, a quiet man, with a dry sense of humour; it'll take time, but I'll enjoy getting to know him.
At the bottom, tooling up, I placed out my crampons carefully, left then right, no 'faffing' today. Then I put on my helmet, it's big and hovers ridiculously above my head. Matt hadn't brought his. Far above us a roped pair were exiting the Spider, but looking up, my stupid helmet pushed my hat over my eyes. 'No worries,' I thought, 'no need to see far,' and putting my head down, I started up the initial slopes. Soon the rhythm took over and other thoughts all but ceased, life again reduced to a square metre of snow and ice.
At the top of the spider we stopped, happy once more with my helmet as frozen snow burst from above. There we waited patiently for the roped pair up in the narrows. Matt set off first this time, a few steep icy steps then up snow to wait again. Our rhythm was broken three times in all and, trouser knees frozen to the ground, I always seemed to restart more awkward, less certain.
But this is the last stop. Matt asks if I want to climb through, but I'm happy to stay and enjoy the position. There's no rush and this is the last day of winter. But too soon it's time to continue. I follow Matt, stiff and slow again until I get that warming rhythm. Then I hear him call out from the top and I look up from below my helmeted hat and grin.
'Won't be long now for that cheese sandwich,' I think, 'Wensleydale perhaps?'
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