Friday, 5 April 2013

Smith's Revisited

I posted my previous entry about the epic on Smith's on UKClimbing, out of interest in seeing the reaction and also as a cautionary tale. The response was (perhaps surprisingly?) overwhelmingly positive and constructive, which is great. I thank everyone who read it and those who gave advice - I learned a lot from the experience, and some of the suggestions from UKCers will definitely be taken on board in future. I hope the lessons learned are useful to others - as the saying goes, "A smart man learns from his mistakes, but a truly wise man learns from the mistakes of others."

Here's what I would do differently in future:

  • Not attach my axes to a sling around my shoulders (common sense really)
  • Pay more attention to cornices, before starting up a route.
  • In Winter, try and keep open the option of retreat. Don't climb into a position you can't get back down from
  • Carry a deadman on the Ben (or anywhere there's likely to be cornices). This could have allowed us to build a belay in the snow
  • Practice the art of cornice tunneling
  • Carry 2 ropes rather than 1
  • Handwarmers in first aid kit
  • Get more practice on steepish ice
  • More malt loaf
I'm sure I'll come back and update this list in future.

Below are photos taken from Tower Ridge of myself and Stuart on the route, taken by Cédric Moreau. You can see me hanging from a screw well below my axes, and the monster cornice well above. There looks to be a way through the cornice on the left, but we were not able to get anywhere near there thanks to the vertical snow in the way.
photo: Cédric Moreau, 16.3.13
Taken not long before the blizzard. I'm visible in the centre, below(!) my axes. Stuart is belaying from the ice cave. Daft cornice visible above - didn't see it properly from below!

photo: Cédric Moreau, 16.3.13
close up of my flailing below my axes after falling off

Meanwhile, winter conditions have continued well past Easter, but I've lost the head for it (for now). Probably for the best. I've been getting a bit of trad done, though - including a taste of Central Belt Dolerite and an entertaining week in the Peak District that involved getting snowed in in a pub car park, a lot of digging, not being able to climb on gritstone because of cornices (irony), setting up an ersatz 'refugee camp' campsite in the trailer of an articulated lorry on a farm in Barlow and getting my revenge on a hand-jamming crack I failed miserably on a few years ago. 
A remarkably fun experience, in all.

Off to Dunkeld tomorrow. Then back to Belfast next Friday...

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