I knew they'd all be sniggering: The Laughing Boys, Yoda, Xobbie, Nicktor. In fact they'd be talking about it now, the phones buzzing with all manner of snide wit, nudges and winks. You see, I'd decided to team up with The Manbeast and the forecast wasn't good. Now most of my mates will tell you I'm keen, in fact I'm a born again winter climber complete with all the evangelical fervour of the fanatic zealot, but the Manbeast cranks it up to the next level – look deeply, you can see he drinks from the jug-o-gnarl.
The journey goes smoothly enough; pick up at Penrith, cruise up the A9. He's recently bought a van so I try to look interested as he chunters on about T5's, epoxy resin, car body filler and plywood; eventually I doze off. We arrive at the hut just in time to pack for the next day, down a glass of wine and then get some shut eye. Oh, I forgot to tell you-the Manbeast's on a mission, he's always on a mission; no time for chit chat, gotta sleep, gotta be on the route first. My plan had been for a steady weekend, pop into Sneachda, couple of grade IV's go home – The Manbeast wants to do The Chancer – the forecast is for 100mph winds in the afternoon – I pull rank and tell him he can f**k that plan out of his head. We settle on Hoarmaster, '...it'll be a grand day out.'
I'm blinking, the alarm's beeping, it's 5.00am, my head aches, '...this is stupid, we're only going into Lochain – they'll be no-one else there'. The Manbeast doesn't work like that, nothing must get in the way of the mission. So it's quick coffee and breakfast and out before anyone else in the hut is up. There's one other team in the Ski Centre car park, they bail after 5 minutes. 'I'll nip out for quick look.' He returns: 'It's gonna laser through, let's go.' I dig around my sack looking for my goggles. I'm on a post credit crunch thrift funk and have sellotaped them up after my lad had stepped on them – it's like someone's poked me in the eye with a stick. I put my head down and try and follow the torchlight. Finally I shout out 'Chris I'm gonna fire up the GPS, this doesn't feel right.' Fired up, I ping us, the map looks fine, we're at the left side of a valley with a burn below us. The machine says we're at 950m – we should see the lochan soon, we keep going. Eventually we stop, looking down into the Lairig Ghru. The Manbeast turns to look at me – I can see the burning rage through his goggles, he's going to rip my head off. 'F***king GPS sh*t,' he shouts and storms off over the ridge.
We're below the slope, I point out a zigzag line to what I know is a large bowl below No.4 Buttress. I suggest a change of plan: '...let's do Savage, two short pitches and we can ab off, no topping out'. I look up into the corrie, it's a maelstrom of spindrift, you can't see Hoarmaster. 'This way' and off he goes straight up towards the corrie. After 20 minutes I take pity on him and offer to take over the trail break, I push on for 10 minutes before letting him impatiently carry on. I hack out a ledge and teeter around trying to get my harness on over my crampons, looking down at the 500ft runout to the jumble of boulders just before the lochan. Manbeast digs out a belay and looks up at the route, sorts his gear and hands me the ropes. The climbing looks gnarly, unconsolidated powder, he scratches up slowly. I dig out my rucksack to find my belay jacket, spindrift flying around like icing sugar, filling every hole it can find, I start to shiver. Suddenly the Manbeast is airborne. Jesus he's so huge he's going to rip the buttress off the corrie face. Some gear rips and he stops just short of my head. 'Gear's good I'll give it another go', he checks himself over for blood and starts again. His axe rips again but he controls himself, it becomes plain that we're going to run out of time at this rate, the winds already whipping the icing sugar into iron filings, he reluctantly admits defeat. 'I'll just nip up this gully here,' he shouts and begins to swim up the river of spindrift. I lose the plot 'F***king hell Chris, let's get the f**k out of here.' We retreat to some low level ice and solo around before heading back to the car. Back at the car park we're just in time to see a whole group of Japanese tourists, kitted out to go skiing, they can hardly stand in the wind – we look at each other and crease up, it hurts.
I'm blinking, the alarm's beeping, it's 5.00am, my head aches. I look out the window as the Manbeast is finishing off his packing, it's snowing heavily. We arrive at the Ski Centre road to find it closed – he chats with the guy and we go on. I give it another mile or so before I look over, my puppy like eyes pleading. 'I think we'll give it a miss it looks gnarly.' I try to look disappointed and turn the car round – I smile inside relieved to be spared another grand day out and head for home.
The list of entries so far is below (closing date for entries is Midnight on Monday 9th March):
Click to read individual articles in this series:
A Grand Day Out is another creative competition and a chance to express yourself and share your adventures.
FULL DETAILS HERE: LYON EQUIPMENT COMPETITION: A Grand Day Out
Chris Witter comments on how austerity is impacting land access for climbers and hillwalkers, in the context of recent land sales... Read more