A Grand Day Out 30: Jakvan to Glencoeby Declan leemerrion. user:eggs in any form Mar/2009
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Seven of us pile into the van on a cold December evening in the South Wast. The Jakvan is essentially a flying be; a mattress taking up the entire back section, a mass of bodies through smoke, mad laughter, drinking and shouting slowly northward. Over the hours and miles the party simmers down until snoring cocoons roll through the corners. Night passes in a drowsy swim of shift changes and half-asleep piss stops, small crises of navigation drift backwards and the sleepers listen with half an unconcerned ear and wriggle further into down nests.
A vague awareness of the road becoming twistier and unwelcome light seeping through my tightened bag until we are rubbing our eyes and stretching cramped limbs beneath the mountains of Glencoe.
There is only way to really experience Glencoe; spend eleven hours in claustrophobic sensory deprivation then tumble suddenly into the vicious cold and look up, that panorama in the stark dawn blows away hangover and fatigue, complaints from the journey washed away by immediate excitement, ambition and desire to walk in those wild places.
Three of us drag our kit out of the tangled mess in the back of the van and get our gear on, looking up at the approach and route laid out in dizzy perspective. There's that sense of familiar foreboding and self doubt and I have to give myself a mental kicking to get started.
“Didn't get much sleep last night, will I keep up with these two? ...Fucks sake, get up it, you've done this before. Stop whingeing.”
So we stick our sacks on and start to wind into the mountain. Twisting up a steep valley it's a fast pace and the first ten minutes are murder, screaming legs and wheezing chest, in my mind I'm shouting at myself for not getting fit. But then, suddenly I'm through it, cruising along. Bit of banter starts flowing and I'm feeling great, getting high. It's not long until we hit the snowline and it's on with the poons and crunch crunch crunch upwards on beautiful frozen snow. Soon we are looking into our chosen gully and then steaming up it, the three of us moving together in perfect sync. A small rock pitch quickly dispatched and once again crunching up lovely low angled neve. Its easy enough ground, but it feels good to be moving so quickly and efficiently, bodes well for the future I think, my mind already jumping to tomorrows route, and the next, and the next.
And then we are out of the gully and ambling up to the summit, laughing for photos and eating Christmas cake in the sun. It's the first day of the season, new partners and new plans, new ambitions and motivation. It looks like its going to be a good winter.
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Andy Kirkpatrick has spent over 200 nights on El Capitan and has soloed big-wall routes which most people would find daunting... Read more