Friday, 23 November 2012

Passing time until the next freeze

Plenty of snow and wind but no frozen ground yet....

A walk up into the Mamores today revealed yet more of the quasi-winter conditions which have been a regular feature in the mountains since October. A fair amount of snow blowing around and to a fairly low level….as has been the case fairly frequently now for the last few weeks. But still no frozen turf or ice in evidence, and the winter climbing community becomes more expectant by the day.

In these same few weeks every year I can never help my eagerness getting the better of me. Time seems to drag as I wait for a "proper" cold snap to freeze the turf and bring the cliffs into winter condition, and I find myself feeling like a coiled spring with too much energy looking for an outlet.

Ironic really. I've learnt through experience that patience is one of the greatest virtues of a winter climber. But it is a virtue that I'm well aware I do not have. I try to adhere to Scotland's strict climbing ethics and I won't climb routes that are unfrozen or not in condition…but it doesn't stop me getting feet that are itchy as hell.

I'd hoped this year that my relatively new-found love of hill-running would quench my thirst for all things winter and provide an outlet for my energy, but it hasn't quite worked like that. If anything it has increased my enthusiasm…my fitness has improved in leaps and bounds, and I'm on my best ever form by a large margin. When else can it be tested so rigorously as during a winter climbing season?

I tried something new with my running a few days ago. I ran up to my usual stopping point for shortish runs in Coire nan Lochan, but then set my stop-watch, and ran for another two minutes up-hill. It felt blissfully easy. And it made me think. Though my fitness is now at a level I was only dreaming of two years ago, I can still set my sights so much higher. But it's already clear how much benefit this will have on my winter fitness - during 3000ft of walking ascent I hardly noticed any increase in usual heart-rate, I forgot to drink anything because I didn't get thirsty and I feel a world different on the hill to a few months back. I go hard, during my training runs...but oh boy does it yield results.

If the forecasts are right then on sunday the freezing level starts to drop and the turf should start to freeze. Only a few days to go. Whether this winter turns out to be a good'un or not I will be posting and updating far more frequently than I have recently. Fingers crossed its a long and fruitful season!


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