A Grand Day Out 35:The ups and downs of a great day outby Wry Spudding Mar/2009
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The clear, starry sky matches the forecast as we squelch our way up by the Allt a'Mhuilinn, the bleary half-light contrasting with hopeful anticipation. Eventually, we pause at the CIC hut to gear up while downing food.
Likeminded souls chat amiably while donning gear "... good day for Tower Ridge". Its going to be busy and I'm anxious to be off ahead of them but my urgency is countered by my partner's hesitation as the other parties move off towards the Douglas Boulder.
Tower Ridge looms large in our minds. After an epic I had a few years earlier, borne out of inexperience, I really want to do this and well. But, probably mindful of the epic, she isn't so sure. I half-heartedly offer an easy gully which she full-heartedly accepts. Inside, my mood sinks and fittingly we plod towards the Gardyloo; but it's hard to be grumpy for long in this place. She looks rightwards and I hear "that looks a nice route, that's not Tower Ridge is it?"
Wahey! Oh Yes! Thats my girl! Mood goes up and so do we, taking our places, at the back of the line onto the ridge - several parties ahead and moving slowly, but we never get past any of them - mild irritation gives way to acceptance and enjoyment of the pleasurable climbing. What a contrast with last time! Fantastic snow, feeling confident and sure now, where before I had felt exposed and anxious in poor conditions. What a fun place to be! Enjoy the view, chew the fat "hey look at that one soloing Smith's".
The Eastern Traverse goes easily and soon we're up on the Great Tower. Behind the others it's a long chilling wait as they cross the bottleneck of Tower Gap, taking the daylight with them. I back-rope the last chap across the Gap and he says "how will the lass at the back get over without a backrope?" and turns the lights off as he turns his back. We watch him recede as she recounts with deja vu, a previous cold and lonely belay in Glover's Chimney below us.
At last they're clear and we can move again. Now it feels more serious. I didn't want to be here in the dark. Headtorches on, I dip into and across the gap, go left and up the slab scratched by the skittering crampons of those before. Savour the feeling, this feels good, I skip up and take a sturdy belay a cheval while Sue confidently closes the gap and comes up.
Soon we're on top. Compasses come out as the weather gap closes and we count our way off. Below the cloud we pack away the gear, smile and slide down by the halfway lochan. Then, sucked back to earth, we squelch again by the Allt a'Mhuilinn. The midnight sky clears, as we change in the car park, before heading off for a well-earned sleep.
A grand day out!
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