It was a tad cold up on the Lakeland Fells today...five layers and still shivering!
Joined up with Dean Dalton again today to make a quick hit up on a route which has eluded me for a long time and for no reason really. The winter is definitely holding on at the moment, especially up on the high fells and with the past few days being really wintry I expected the conditions of the routes to be good.
Arriving at the foot of Two Grooves the route looked good and definitely wintry but it wasn't long after Dean headed up the first pitch that we realised conditions were not good. The snow which has been blasting the crags on the cold easterly winds was totally unconsolidated and was covering every potential hook and pick placement making progress difficult.
Although Dean has been winter climbing a few years now he would readily agree that this is his first real winter season. Only three weeks ago he climbed his first Scottish routes up on Ben Nevis's North Face and along with all the training, dry tooling and Rjukan ice climbing trip he has been preparing well and is always full of confidence. So when he came flying down off the first real difficult section I dont know who was more surprised him or me. On our way down he tried to deny the fall as he had managed to catch hold of a sling on the way past and didn't actually weight my belay. I explained a fall is fall :-). The youngster certainly learnt a lesson today and instead of knocking his confidence it spurred him on. Meanwhile, while I was seconding the route, Dean belaying above was blissfully unaware of the battle I was having with the same section of the route, expecting at any point to be gaining my wings.
At the belay I headed up the 'easy wall' above towards the Second groove not entirely convinced I wanted to go any further. The wall was covered in the same sketchy unconsolidated snow we found on the first pitch and my head said no and before I knew it I was handing over the reins to the Youngster. Today was the first ever time I have backed off a winter route...slightly wounded but still cheering on the emerging star I settled into belaying duties.
Dean, now focused with what had happened earlier made steady progress up the difficult grove above. Only after I had seconded the route did I realise the difficulty of the pitch and the magnificent effort and performance Dean had just executed. I was impressed not only in Deans climbing ability today but also in his climbing maturity...I'm sure he wants this winter to last and will be looking forward to next winter with what I'm sure will be an extensive tick list.