Let me tell you a story. Getting geared up and trying to get into the right frame of mind, something did not feel quite right. Not everything clicked into place as it needed to. I did not feel the calm commitment that I had felt before. So, instead of soloing Mega Route X, I went home to try to work out what was wrong.
This was many years ago when I was young and bold. My friend Jonny and I had done many solo ascents of classic ice climbs. Most of the classic grade V climbs were already done and we were talking about what would be next. Mega Route X seemed to be the obvious choice but a competitive element crept into our discussions. It became a bit of a race to see which of us would be the first to solo the climb.
Standing at the foot of the route, it did not feel quite right because of this competitive element. Instead of choosing to do the climb because it felt good and right on the day, it felt like I was doing it partly to get one up on Jonny. So I'm glad I went home that day.
A couple of weeks later, having worked through all this and having lost the competitive edge with Jonny I went back and climbed it. My wife Louise was waiting in the coire and we went to climb Curtain Rail afterwards. It felt really good that day.
So today was the second time I've climbed Mega Route X and it made a brilliant end to three excellent days of climbing with Abib. The first few metres are a little thin and steep but this is not unusual. After this it is fat and steep with good ice. You need all your steep ice climbing techniques to manage the climb. Straight arm hangs, pelvis in and arch your back to get the weight onto your feet and keep your feet wide and your axes central. We climbed it in two pitches and abseiled all the way down in one go which is the common way to tackle it now. It is given V,6 but it feels a big step up from Vanishing Gully which is given V,5.
It is an intimidating climb. From the coire it looks very steep indeed and it is only when you get a bit closer that it looks a bit more amenable. Even then, my poor forearms were giving up by the time I got to the top of the steep bit. The thought of soloing this climb now fills me with dread even if I had wrist leashes as I used back then.
It does make the point that we should be very careful with our route choices and make sure the reasons for taking on a climb are good reasons. We do like to challenge ourselves but we should do a careful risk assessment before we go climbing. Are you good enough and strong enough? Is the climb in good condition? Is the weather good enough? We should not feel pressured into climbing anything because we want to show others how good we are, because it is so rarely possible or even because we are guiding and our clients want to do it.
Today felt like fun. Hard work and scary but fun as well! Mega Route X is a brilliant climb and it always lives up to its name!
Self reliance is a fundamental principle of mountaineering. By participating we accept this and take responsibility for the decisions we make. These blog posts and conditions reports are intended to help you make good decisions. They do not remove the need for you to make your own judgements when out in the hills.