Feb 13 03
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By Friday I was already shattered after a really busy week . But somehow, I was still really looking forward to getting out climbing on Saturday.

The avalanche forecast ruled most of the venues, which were reachable from our base at Newtonmore out. So we decided to head to Coire An T-Sneachda again. Koon and I were feeling really psyched, so we decided we would try for Fingers Ridge or The Seam depending on the queues and conditions when we got there.

We just about managed to drag ourselves out of bed for an early but not too early start. We headed for the ski centre car park. I was surprised that when we got out of the car, it actually looked like it was going to be a nice day.

So we followed the now very familiar path up towards the Coire and were delighted to discover when we got there that Finger’s Ridge was looking great.

Heading towards Fingers Ridge

Heading towards Fingers Ridge

Despite our not particularly early start, we had managed to arrive first, on a mega classic route, on a Saturday, right in the middle of peak climbing season on a nice day! If that didn’t bode well for the climb ahead I don’t know what would!

We had attempted Fingers Ridge once before. That time after Koon lead an extremely sketchy and thin first pitch, we’d had to bail off after waiting hours on the first belay for teams ahead of us. This time the first pitch looked to have a lot more consolidated snow on it, which would make it much easier. So we built an axe belay and Koon lead off. She made short work of the first pitch and did extremely well to stay cool climbing the final few tricky moves to the belay, given that she didn’t manage to place any protection for the whole pitch!

So now my turn! So feeling a little bit nervous and at the same time kind of excited I stepped around the corner and headed up the rib above. The rock was totally plastered in snow and hoar frost, which made the climbing tricky because I couldn’t see what I was hooking with my axes or standing on, and I had to dig every time I wanted to place protection. Two other teams had headed up behind us and now joined Koon on the first belay. I think they were all really appreciating the localised heavy snow showers I was sending in their direction. After a very slow start I managed to relax and enjoyed the rest of the pitch.

Belaying at the top of the second pitch

Belaying at the top of the second pitch

Koon then lead a technical flake and chimney and the climbing became very sociable with all three teams now trying to climb parallel up the route. One of the teams that passed us was Rosie Goolden, a female mountain guide, guiding two pupils from Glasgow Academy- they were a very efficient team, we were impressed with their climbing and with Rosie’s friendly encouragement that she gave to us as she came past.

Koon leading the flake

Koon leading the flake

My second lead was a dramatically exposed ridge, with lots of great climbing on it. There was one short but difficult step where I had to pull up by torquing my axe whilst balancing my feet on a small ledge, but once I’d managed to place a good piece of gear I summoned up the courage and just went for it.

The exposed ridge on the fourth pitch

The exposed ridge on the fourth pitch

The final pitch is probably one of the most photographed sections of climbing in Scotland! You have to traverse between the two fingers and across the side of the second finger with a big drop below. I was glad it was Koon’s turn to lead again. On second it was very enjoyable, with some quite unusual climbing moves.

The much photographed fingers

The much photographed fingers

Koon and I arrived on the plateau feeling totally elated. It was Koon’s first ever grade IV lead, though given how easy she made it look, I am sure she will soon be climbing harder!!! And I haven’t ventured out on anything technical for a while, because I’ve been having a bit of a climbing crisis of confidence, so I was really pleased to have succeeded on it.

A really awesome day out. I loved the sheer enjoyment of the climbing, and the sense of satisfaction in having succeeded on something which we knew would really challenge us!

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