Cranking in the Cairngorms

A relatively late start to the season (relative to the last two years...) and early forecasts predicting hurricane force winds, massive dumps of snow and lightning (?), meant an uncertain few days for me James and our friend Aiden Babu, the finest Sherpa this side of Winnat's Pass.

With reports of the west coast getting it in the neck we decided to head to the northern corries of the Cairngorms. North of Perth the A9 was down to one very snowy lane, occasionally blocked by the odd jackknifed lorry, and the roads leading to the ski centre were totally covered. However the thought of waiting for the snowplough to clear the roads in the morning was somewhat worse than the thought of writing off my parents brand new T5 camper, so we skidded and slid our way up to the car park, and at about half one in the morning collapsed into our bags.

Five hours later we made our way into Coire an t-Sneachda and, despite initial concerns about the conditions, arrived at a very icey, very much in condition Mess of Pottage. We climbed The Message (IV,6) with Babu taking the crux pitch, and James dealing with the rest. I then led the direct start to Hidden Chimney (IV, 5) and we finished up the original route. With plenty of daylight remaining I wandered back down to the van to get the brews on whilst James and Babu (literally) ran up an adjacent grade I gully.

That night we refuelled on fish and chips and spent the rest of the evening in the Winking Owl fighting off the advances of Aviemore's answer to the Desperate Housewives.... We just about survived, and the next morning marched into a very windy, very cold, and very threatening Coire An Lochain.

We opted to have a go at the Hoarmaster (VI, 6) and James pulled off a great lead on the tricky first pitch, despite the verglassed cracks spitting out cams at will. Babu then in his usually ruthlessly efficient style despatched the top pitch, and sometime later we were all sat at the top feeling pretty pleased with ourselves. With a long drive ahead I opted to solo an icy grade I gully to finish the day, whilst the other two blasted up Central Cracks (IV,5), rounding off a successful couple of days.

Unusually for us, it looks like we timed this trip pretty well, with the week before being a bit wet and warm, and the week afterwards seeing winds in Scotland reach 168mph: result! First winter hit in the bag, psyche levels well and truly primed: bring on Back Tor....

Adam works at Outside Hathersage

Team Photo


Snowdonia Session

In search of winter climbing conditions Mike Pickwell (Boreal) and I went to Snowdonia for the day to see if anything was 'in'. Getting there it was clear to see that it wasn’t but that didn’t stop us from having a great winter mountain day out. We parked at Llyn Ogwyn and headed up Tryfan's North Ridge, there was a covering of snow and the rocks were covered in a very thin layer of ice making them very slippy but no need for crampons and axes.

Once at the top we descended down the south side to Bwlch Tryfan and started up Bristly Ridge. After an awkward icy and snowy chimney section at the bottom the terrain became very similar to that of Tryfans North Ridge taking us up to the top of Glyder Fach, stopping of at the cantilever for a photo opportunity! We then walked around to Y Gribin and scrambled our way down to Llyn Bochlwyd and back down to the car.

No ice climbing this time but still a great December day in the mountains.

Rob is Outside Hathersage branch manager

By Rob Turnbull
Managing Director

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Rob Turnbull
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OMM 2011

The 43rd Original Mountain Marathon (OMM 2011), and my first, took the competitors to Perthshire, Central Scotland over the 29th & 30th October. The OMM is a two day event which tests teamwork, self-reliance, endurance, outdoor and navigational skills. Entries are in teams and I paired up with former Outside employee Chris Edwards, a relative OMM veteran compared to myself.  He suggested we enter the A Class and what with his previous experience and being a mate I (naively) trusted his judgement. It turned out to be around 45miles over the 2 days.

I met Chris in Edinburgh on the Friday, where he now lives, to sort out our kit and take in large quantities of pasta before driving to the WWII Prisoner of War camp Cultybraggan outside Comrie. This was the site of the OMM HQ and the grounds provided the campsite before the start of the event on the Saturday. As we drove up it started to drizzle (the start of the testing weather that was forecast for the weekend). We made it just in time for registration on the Friday night, which meant that with an early start time on Saturday we didn’t have to get up even earlier and could make the most of the warm, dry van. I was very impressed with the facilities on offer; there was a bar for those that needed some last minute hydration; a gear shop for those who needed last minute kit and in the morning a decent breakfast before hydrated meals and energy bars became the staple for the next 36hrs.

Saturday morning saw us up early for our 8:10am start and those with similar start times across the categories were ferried to the start line. Nearing the start line the clouds thickened and the rain started to fall. I was nervous, not knowing what to expect over the 2 days but excited to be participating in such an event. 8:07am and we made final adjustments; shoe laces tightened; packs sorted; bladders emptied and then we were called to the start. Each team is given a map as they are about to start and a series of checkpoints are labelled on it. These have to be passed in succession but any route in between can be taken, the choice as they say is yours! The thing that has to be remembered here is that you can’t just follow the team in front as they may be in a different category going for a completely different checkpoint...not that we would have anyway!

We were on our way, and setting off in the opposite direction to the majority of other teams. The rain and the mist continued throughout the day and the winds at times were so strong that we were struggling to run in a straight line! The key to quick times between checkpoints seemed to be to not lose too much height so sometimes longer routes were taken in order to avoid big ascents/descent which could slow you down. With visibility low and obscuring mountain tops our navigation was tested continuously.

We ticked off the first few checkpoints in good time and on a long stretch of running along a bearing to checkpoint 4 I suddenly found myself low on energy...damn I thought, I should have had two bowls of free porridge at breakfast! The cold and wet conditions sapped energy quickly and I was feeling chilly but energy bars, jelly babies and peanuts came to the rescue. Soon I was feeling good again and moving a bit quicker I soon warmed up. We only made one major error during the first day and with the mist low we struggled to find checkpoint 8 with little point of reference. It turned out that we had navigated to within a hundred metres of it but hadn’t dropped down the hillside far enough. With an hour spent contouring the hillside and time pressing we were glad to eventually find it and carry on to the overnight camp.

We arrived at the camp just as darkness was creeping over and relieved that we wouldn’t have to navigate in the dark. Tent up, water collected, food on the go, we warmed up in the tent and tried as best we could to dry our clothes for the next day. Apart from re-fuelling, the joy of eating all day and then the evening meals was in the knowledge that our bags would be lighter for the 2nd day.

For anyone entering the OMM in the future, it is worth checking how you did at the end of the first day as if you were in the top 20 of your category your start time is changed and you are put into the chasing start. This generally means getting up earlier. We finished the day in 29th with 61 teams starting the day.

Woken up by a man playing bagpipes at 6am, we had more boil-in-the-bag food, packed up camp and headed for the start. A much drier day saw the sun breaking through the clouds as we started with a steep uphill to the first checkpoint. However, the sun’s warmth was short lived as the winds picked up and the clouds covered the tops. Navigation throughout the day felt much easier as visibility was considerably better and with it not raining, our bodies didn’t get quite as cold. The scenery opened up and we saw several deer throughout the day. With only a few checkpoints left, the sun came out and we found ourselves speeding towards the finish line, ignoring sore limbs and tired bodies to finish 27th.

Phil is a Sales Supervisor at Outside Hathersage

By Phil Applegate

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Phil Applegate
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