Mike Simpson

Cold Bothy and Crampons Day 3

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Spending a night in a bothy would be such a pleasant experience if people didn't snore. Last night there were 3 at it. So with only a couple of hours sleep in the last 2 days it was time to pack up again and start the last day of the trip. Our first target was to climb Devil's Point. We left our packs at the bothy as this was an out and back climb. We were soon on all fours as the gradient ramped up. Each step I'd kick in to the snow and pull myself up with the help of the ice axe. 20 minutes or so of this passed and I'd hadn't realised how steep it had got, I make the mistake of looking back and was shocked to see the drop behind me. In truth I was halfway up something that was outside of my skill and experience. At this stage it was too late to go back as descending would be harder than carrying on, I just had to press on. Nervous now I carried on, but the snow was getting harder to kick in to and was now icy, I was regretting not putting crampons on this morning. I had practised yesterday using the axe to stop me if I slid down but I suddenly panicked, this axe didn't have a lanyard attached to it and I was imagining myself slipping and letting go of the axe. I tensed up and tightened my grip on it. Finally the gradient eased and I could stand up and walk to the summit.

Relieved but still high up, I'd now lost all my confidence. Damon pointed to the way down along the ridge, mentioning the cornices and shear drops to the left. Moments later mist covered the view and visiblity was minimal. Walking off the surface was very icy and I again cursed not having my crampons. Keeping to the right of where the edge was we started to descend. Nice and gradual gradient, I was hoping it would be this easy to the bottom. Damon walked over to an edge to find a gap in the cornices. The wind was very strong, as he started to step over the edge. He was only 2 or 3 metres away from me but the wind was so loud I had to shout at the top of my voice. ''Isn't there another way down?''. He shock his head. I was now pretty scared. It seemed madness descending down this slope, but I trusted Damon's judgement, so I stepped over the edge. The next 15 minutes was far too scary for my liking, as I descended down backwards on all fours, kicking in with my boots and holding that axe for dear life. The snow was too soft for the axe to get a decent grip so for each step I rammed the full length of the handle in. Damon guiding me down and eventually the gradiant eased off and I could turn around and walk down. Well at least I'd found my limit. I love hiking and climbing mountains but serious mountaineering is not for me.

Back at the bothy the two chaps who had amused us the night before were still there and were just about to fry up some bacon, I guess they didn't want to be without their luxuries. We get our packs back and head off. We were walking out of the valley the same way they had walking in yesterday. They said it had taken them 7 hours, I had a plane to catch so we cracked on (we took only 3 hours to get back, their extra food certainly was weighing them down). Soon we were back in the forests we had come past on Friday, and when we made it to the flat footpaths we could walk normally and quickly without having to trudge and battle with the snow. It had been a weekend to remember. Winter in the Scottish mountains is very special.

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