/ late startS?
Currently out of commission re climbing for the rest of the winter (left knee acl partial tear). Musing...and taking the time to mull over observed behaviour and comments left in logs.
A lot of people seem to start really late for big days. I mean Beinn Eighe days and the likes leaving the carpark at 7.30/8.00, almost systematically they all finish really late (surprise!).
Is that due to tale of legends of UK climbing being hard at pubs and having late starts- that is cultural?
Or is there any other reason?
My partners and I do not mind being in the hills at night. We even sometime set off to climb at night! But I'd rather walk in the dark and nav while I am fresh than when I am fried after a day of potentially hard climbing. Beinn Eighe start, latest 6am for me!
You'd rarely see late start on the continent. If it was, it's because access is almost roadside or using lifts.
I'm genuinely puzzled. Those guys do as they will and no harm done as they seem to cope with it fine. But I'd rather be home not too late, eat and have a shower than stumble into bed at silly o'clock and not be able to do anything the next day.
To precise strategy, I drive the previous night and kip in car/van (rather comfortably) to achieve an early start without leaving home at stupid a'clock.
What is your preferred approach? Do you have late start? Why?
As soon as I saw that post I knew it was you!
I guess one reason is that not everyone is an hour and a half from Beinn Eighe? If you've driven through the night a couple of hours kip and a later start might seem like a good idea.
And there's not the time pressure of transforming snow there is in the Alps.
Can't really provide reasons, but when we were younger, with all that that entails, we would often have ridiculously late starts in the hills, even when on their doorstep. I can remember staying at the cic and it was a luxury sleeping in while everyone else rushes around, kicking around the hut with noone there. Setting off around midday and getting back around midnight. Of course this approach would be very silly indeed in the Alps, but in the UK were time of day makes very little difference it was just another way of doing it, and provided a bit of peace and quiet at times. I have also done the whole ridiculously early start thing, and as I get older am more inclined towards the early part of the day. When I was young though, it didn't seem to matter to us when we set off.
Depends. Some time you absolutely want to be first on a route or area to avoid being held up. Other times it's nice to start behind the main wave and not break trail through 50cm of fresh snow, energy conservation.
I always preferred very early starts, with the aim to be gearing up at first light. Didn't always happen mind. One time I persuaded two mates to leave Aberdeen at about 4am to drive to Coire Cas so we could walk into Loch Avon (I can't for the life of me remember what we were aiming to do). They'd had a late finish on Douglas Gibson (followed by several pints) the day before, and on the walk in both announced they were too sleepy and were bailing so the three of us lay down on the path and went to sleep for an hour. We were woken by two women, one of whom turned out to be Alison Hargreaves, checking we were oK. My mates then went back to the car and I soloed a few of the easier lines in Coire an t'Scheachda (sorry for spelling). So it doesn't always work. Anyway, the thought of scrabbling away committed on a route as darkness falls and trying to get off the hill when exhausted gives me the willies so early starts every time for me. You beat the queues too.
It's because of two tried and tested pieces of wisdom.
One is 'an early start seldom pays off' and the other is 'you've got to give the hill a chance' (i.e. to show itself in it's best light rather than grey clag).
We have had widely differing experiences then. An early start has almost always paid itself off for me.
Even managed to change venue when not finding something in and get something done!
So you started late somewhere else?
Start as early as I can in winter but that’s rarely that early as Scotland is a long way away! Not too bothered about climbing by head torch. Did Central Buttress on Beinn Eighe last weekend - got to the car park just after midnight, left at 7.20am, back 15 hours later. Did the top pitches by head torch - we did get held up by another party for an hour and a bit as daylight faded but even without that we’d have been doing the last hard pitch in the dark. Wasn’t an issue.
The previous outing just before Xmas was Neanderthal. Again drive up late and staying in Roy Bridge so 45 min drive back on ourselves in the morning. Walking in at 8, took 4 hours due to breaking trail in deep snow. We knew it would be a head torch finish! Led the top (crux) pitch in the dark, fine.
The Alps are a different matter of course.
In the Alps I've had a guide scowl at me and say "vous êtes en retard" when I was approaching the summit. At 9am, so I wasn't. In Scotland I once set off up Lochnagar at 7pm. It was just a summer evening dander. I was back at the car by sunset.
Maybe the long Scottish summer evenings do have something to do with it, actually? That and the absence of horror-show glacier-travel and avalanche and stonefall risk in the afternoon. Which are mainly caused by a strong southern sun, come to think of it.
So, I'm beginning to think the difference of latitude might be a factor.
> ...we did get held up by another party for an hour
This is one of my pet hates - you see it in logbooks all the time. What you actually mean is that you didn't start early enough, or you picked an incredibly popular route to do on a weekend.
> So you started late somewhere else?
I suppose you are right. I should rephrase the whole post: Why don't all people start late.
On a more serious note. let's say you finish work at 5pm on a Friday (or earlier if it can be arranged). You have prepared your car on Thursday evening so you can leave from work without going home. It's a 5 hours drive without traffic so say rush hour loses you another hour- incidentally, you could eat then near/at work- you could reasonably be parked at final destination by 11pm. Ready to sleep by midnight and catch at least 5 hours sleep.
> Ready to sleep by midnight and catch at least 5 hours sleep.
I don't know many people who can function well on 5 hours sleep, let alone follow that by 2-3 hours of potentially strenuous activity and then expect to make good decisions in risky terrain. It's a wonder there aren't more accidents.
> > Ready to sleep by midnight and catch at least 5 hours sleep.
> I don't know many people who can function well on 5 hours sleep.
I would consider more than 5 hours sleep before going winter climbing a bit of a luxury. To me it makes total sense to be at the start of a route at first light - maximizes use of daylight for climbing and minimizes chance of not being first on route.
Of course all this is part of why I'm toying with the idea of giving up winter climbing.........
... not a proper Scottish winter day unless you are making your way off the hill after dark by the light of your headtorch.
That's two very good routes from a long way away!
That is such a shame about your knee. I will feel less hard done by at having had to work on the good days this last week.
I always try to get at least 7. If that means there are some destinations I can't make in a weekend then so be it, I'd rather not spend the day feeling like crap.
Good question. I tried to get my team to start at midnight without success. Thinking was - with a long day, finish the route and get to the pub at 6pm rather than finishing in the dark and getting back at 2am!
From Aberdeen, Lochnagar is ideal for a midnight start.
minimum 7h sleep is a luxury for me. I probably get this on an average night because of my young children.
I still maintain I sleep better in my mate's van than at home!!!
I'm with you Erick. Always start early. Walk in during the dark hours, walk out in the sunshine. My kids are getting older but when they were wee I wanted to get home early. I also scored many more climbing days without peeing off my wife. We climbed on Braeriach (Vulcan) with a 5 am start (left the house at 3am) and I was home for Saturday lunchtime. Rest of weekend spent doing stuff with the kids. Back out again following weekend. Once climbed Pot of Gold including walking up from the snow gates(shut) and made it back to Dundee(Tannadice) with my wee boy at 3pm to see our football team come out the tunnel- perfect timing- though many would question the wisdom of that one!
The team referred to above on Central Buttress(Beinn Eighe) were in the same hut as us at the weekend just gone and couldn't get their heads around how we'd done the same route the previous year and had made it back to Aviemore for our club dinner at 7pm- We got up EARLY!
Sleep's over rated!
<< let's say you finish work at 5pm on a Friday (or earlier if it can be arranged). You have prepared your car on Thursday evening so you can leave from work without going home. It's a 5 hours drive without traffic so say rush hour loses you another hour- incidentally, you could eat then near/at work- you could reasonably be parked at final destination by 11pm. Ready to sleep by midnight and catch at least 5 hours sleep. >>
From SE London, you can make that an 11hr drive, maybe an hour less if you floor it, maybe two hours more if it's snowing north of Watford. Which, even if you leave work at 4pm (haha!) then that's arriving at the Aveimore car park somewhere around 4am. The best I've managed is 3am arrival, which meant walking out from the carpark at 07:30 after 3.5 hrs sh1te sleep in a car - and that was only because we sacked off breakfast due to the stove not working.
It's not hard to function perfectly well on 5 hours sleep as long as you aren't trying to do it night after night.
If you struggle to do it as a one off then I suspect that there may be a wider problem with your sleep patterns.
Late starts after a marathon car journey from down south, followed by a late night finish, are what Scottish winter climbing is all about.
Anyone springing gazelle like out of their pits in the early hours in order to enjoy a dawn start and an organised relaxed mid afternoon finish, clearly hasn't grasped the crucial essence, character and masochistic nature of Scottish winter climbing
> > ...we did get held up by another party for an hour
> This is one of my pet hates - you see it in logbooks all the time. What you actually mean is that you didn't start early enough, or you picked an incredibly popular route to do on a weekend.
Or maybe they genuinely got stuck behind another party, it can happen regardless of how early you started out.
This thread is making me feel smug about living in Inverness. Torridon <1.5hrs, Cairngorm <1hr.
> Or maybe they genuinely got stuck behind another party, it can happen regardless of how early you started out.
Indeed, but it's the way it's put: "Held up by", like it's their fault for having the temerity to be on the route first.
The other party started walking in 2 hours earlier but we caught them up. We were well aware that there was one other party on the route and that we might have to wait a bit. Not a big deal. When I say 'held up by', it's just a statement of fact but you're right that can't really complain as could have got up earlier..
I'd be reluctant to follow another party up a narrow ice route though.
Yes, if it's a 5 hour drive with only an hour lost to traffic. Manchester to Glen Coe for example. For many people the drive take a lot longer even if you leave mid afternoon. Birmingham to Torridon was 10.5 hours with less than an hour for breaks / food and less than an hours lost in traffic. Leaving around 2pm and getting in around half past midnight.
More than 6 hours' sleep is usually a luxury. Never get that much on a Friday night but if the planets align and Saturday isn't a long day, even 8 hours is a possible with still getting an early start on Sunday - doesn't happen very often though! I prefer to get at least 5 hours. One of the issues is it can be hard to go to sleep after a couple of coffees on the drive up. Once had a long day on Great Overhanging Gully on Beinn Bhan - up at 5am in Roy Bridge, 2 hours to drive over, long day out, back in Applecross at midnight, half an hour up to Torridon, best part of an hour trying to find the way to the Ling hut in the dark (the good footpath didn't seem to be on the map!), dinner, about 3 hours' sleep, up again to do Poacher's on Liathach, drive back to Birmingham - wasn't actually that bad somehow, being back at the car at 4pm helped, as did sharing the driving.
Oh the joys! Got to love it... Being soft this weekend though and not heading up (partner had to bail a couple of days ago, which was a convenient excuse for not heading up!).
Scottish winter from London is a whole extra world of pain...
> Oh the joys! Got to love it... Being soft this weekend though and not heading up (partner had to bail a couple of days ago, which was a convenient excuse for not heading up!).
I can't do the NW on a weekend, I struggle to stay alert on the 7 hour drive to Aviemore as it is. Benefits of a van you can sleep in, I guess. Would have gone up at the weekend but combination of awaiting a boot repair and uninspiring weather means I'm staying local.
I've done the leave from south of London at 8pm, arrive at 4am, have a cup of tea (and pour one of them into the boot of the car) start walking at 5am and still be second in line for Point 5 and spending ages and agers hanging round waiting for party the first. Was fit for nothing the following day, having got back to the car at 8pm. Not to be repeated.
Conversely, setting off up Slav Route as Plan D after Plans A, B and C proved to be occupied was a delight as the setting sun turned the top pitch pink and it went dark as we were bundling everything into the sacks on the top. To be followed by a pleasant walk down in the dark.
I had a friend who resigned himself to benightment in Glen Coe, without headtorches. He refused to look at his watch, and spent the coldest night of his life on a ledge. When he was certain that dawn must be imminent, he checked his watch to find that it was only 10:30pm. Later on, they found a headtorch at the bottom of one of the sacks, but by that time they were too cold to do anything useful with it. When dawn arrived, they found that they were 20 feet from the top........
> I had a friend who resigned himself to benightment in Glen Coe, without headtorches. He refused to look at his watch, and spent the coldest night of his life on a ledge. When he was certain that dawn must be imminent, he checked his watch to find that it was only 10:30pm. Later on, they found a headtorch at the bottom of one of the sacks, but by that time they were too cold to do anything useful with it. When dawn arrived, they found that they were 20 feet from the top........
That's a corker.
Let the early risers break trail. Climb in the warmest part of the day. Walk back in the dark when the hills are once more deserted. What is not to like?
to every cloud its silver lining hey!!
Haha! Liked your headtorch story. The last time I did needed a headtorch overnight in Winter was back in the days of those big massive 1kg square Petzl Zoom hings, when ropes were thick, leashless was of the future and you could hardly lift the bag at the start of the walk in.
I'm not dissing those who finish late btw. Logistics make it hard as Dave Kerr said. However, your 5am carpark start was the same time we left the CIC to do Orion Face. As long as you make it down without a MRT callout you're doing great.
I'm now early in to my 4th winter since moving back to the UK. Work and family have unfortunately stopped me from getting from Sheffield up to Scotland for climbing but I'm am perfecting Simon Richardson-style one day a weekend winter climbing in either England and Wales when conditions allow. This winter I've managed 3 'proper' routes plus a scramble up an icy clough on Kinder, not too bad for early January. We did finish walking off Helvellyn by headtorch just after Christmas, but otherwise I've made it down in daylight. Sheffield seems to be surprisingly equidistant between Snowdonia and the Lakes, so it's normally up around 0420, out the house 0430. With a coffee and loo stop at some point, we've been starting to walk before 8, not super early but walk-ins tend to be a bit shorter down here and it means I can be with the family on Friday or Saturday night.
My one big problem is not going to bed at zero-dark-thirty when I need to get up 4 hours later! I'm invariably filling thermos flasks at midnight and fussing over what clothes I'm going to wear or whether I've packed the right gloves. Anyone got tips on falling asleep much earlier than you normally do?
Start previous night, write what you put on a mini-whiteboard as you pack! I've always wanted to do this but somehow not got round to doing it!
> Indeed, but it's the way it's put: "Held up by", like it's their fault for having the temerity to be on the route first.
I don't think that saying that you were held up implies that it was the other parties fault, it is merely a simple statement of fact.
> This thread is making me feel smug... Torridon <1.5hrs, Cairngorm <1hr.
Aye, and it's making some of us feel jealous ;)
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