Was the weather going to move in? I felt the others pondered the same question. Should it turn now,
we would all surly be doomed. Mind you, even if a dubious looking cloud were spotted, we had come too far to turn back now.
The one and a half hours spent in the car were not to be spent for nothing and that was for sure. |
Fortunately, as it stood,
the sky was a perfect blue, fluffy white clouds floating gently and well spaced as if in a plea to make conditions look
friendly and harmless. Perhaps to lull a false sense of security, I suspected in my usual paranoid manner.
Perhaps we were all to die a horrifically cold death stretched out over days and nights, starving as well and being
forced to draw straws to find who was to be eaten in a last desperate scrape at the chance we might just pull through.
And we would, only to be put on trail for murder, found guilty and put away for decades until we were too old to remember
what the real world was like and it would all seem really big and scary and people would talk funny about strange things.
We continued, pushing further along the unmarked trail, one foot leading tenuously, and then the other following in
consequence. Progress felt slow. The surface of the snow was frozen, the thin layer of ice relentlessly bombarding at our
shins like really cheap glass. We Breathed air that resembled an oral hosing of boiling water and the sun pierced our eyes
like the sharp end of a pink cocktail umbrella. Hell had a name and this name was, walk in.
Before long the summit was in sight, and we walked past it. On to the rear where we hoped we could rest and prepare for
the final onslaught of this snow ridden rigmarole. Spirits low, we dropped our packs and sat down surrounded by things
that resembled archetypal Christmas puddings as much as boulders. By this point, most hopes of laying hand to rock had
been demolished due to the excessive icy encapsulation of our other wise revered, naturally hewn hybrids.
In a hope to find routs, Smith-Gobat made a solo traverse of the lower terrace, only to confirm the awful truth.
Everything was wet and getting wetter. With the rising of the sun the snow and ice was begging to melt.
First came wet streaking then flowing streams of water dowsing every hold, every crack, every pore of the rocks surface.
As Smith-Gobat returned with this bad news, moral dropped to a new low, one even lower than the last one.
It seamed as if all our efforts were to be in vein. Even Thatcher's idea to brush the snow from problems in time for the
sun to dry them out seemed a little far fetched as my own efforts had merely revealed an under hugging of ice.
If it were not for the sun against our faces I felt sure this would have been the last straw.
We would have slowly melted to the ground along with the snow, left there for the rest of the day to consume very cold
banana sandwiches and peanut butter.
Suddenly as if struck by a bolt of adrenaline, the challenge was on to ascend anything we could get our reddened numb
hands upon, whether it bore snow or not. Everything bore snow. We thrashed up the hill side and began by kicking
steps into the Jim Morrison slab, toping out via a snowy leap of faith from scoop to scoop with an icy mantle maneuver
to finish. While still in full fizz we moved onto a larger challenge. The gully that goes all the way to the top on
the Indecision boulder in the center of the field. Climbing, squirming and thrutching in true alpine style, we managed to
gain the upper section of the gully, leaving only the top out to complete. A committing bridge in the worst conditions
imaginable and it was all over. An awesome victory, we agreed and a highlight of the day. After summating, we began the
ominous ridge walk over leviathan and monkey back down to ground level.
Next was a traverse out over a boulder with no name in the apparent safety presented by the presence of snow, and then
onto a desperate struggle up a V0 slab, leaving us most excited due to the un-apparent safety presented by the presence
of snow. Our mantling muscles now warmed up we moved onto more serious ground. Chipping holds into the ice with our
finger tips and feet, as with previous maneuvers, we aided each other over snakeoid, a comical ascent which assured mirth
and merriment all around. With this under our belt and a few more small traverses, we moved onto higher, more committing
ground again. The right arete of the horse shoe boulder was to present a most gripping challenge, especially as the sun,
having baked the landscape for a few hours now, was making terrain consistency more slushy than frosted. Holds dissolving
beneath foot and hand, we were left thrutching magnificently in the face of a possible wintry demise. We both topped to the
exhilarating presence of an ice ridden traverse over the bridge and back down to ground level.
The wind now biting at exposed skin like gremlins on an old lady, we had not long left before our health would demand a
retreat from this headstrong, height hoarding heinousness. It was not that we were adverse to these kinds of conditions,
quite the contrary. The oil at the Sandwich residence rarely ran dry during the months of winter and it was not rare to
hear a ping just before seeing someone making a dart for his or her glass of wine. The present conditions however were
taking not cold to the next level and perhaps even the next one after that. Right bloody cold. On realization of this fact,
we decided to bag some more snow bearing beauties before it was too late. The two slabs on the front of the horse shoe
boulder fell to our adventurous ambition, along with a most technical and bold line traversing the rear, then toping out
via some mostly un-matched alpine mantling skills.
There would have been icicles forming on our beards and eyebrows should it have been cold enough and Thatcher's belly made
a noise that would have made me think thunder was moving in if it had been louder. The time had come to begin the arduous
trudge back to base camp. |
Only five minutes into out treck we bumped into Mr. Stefan Hadfield, a most esteemed college of ours. He was taking part in
the most tranquil activity of launching from one boulder to the next, a past time most find too mentally testing due to the
extraordinarily high risk factor involved, especially in the snow. We commented on his skill and bravery and invited him
down to base camp for a bite to eat. He thanked us for the offer and said after a few more forcefully foreboding physical
experiments he would join us. Splendid.
After a slight sun accompanied sandwich or two we were straight back into finding some. The majority of the group found
theirs on a route which had, by titan, Stayed dry. Mine was situated in an offwidth of all places and up a large tunnel
in the Rambandit boulder, both highly recommended. I did however pull more muscles climbing off width than I ever have
climbing any thing ever.
So there you have it, with all this activity plus the obligatory session of mat and tarp treachery down a few inviting
iced up inclinations, you would have expected it to have been a regular, every day visit to the Hill. That's if it hadn't
have been for the conditions. The ever present renditions of the all too familiar and ever so sinister, chill.