On Tuesday this week I was struggling in the office whilst there were amazing forecasts for the Scottish Highlands. Tough gig! So like many others I tweeted about my first world problems:
Wishing I’d sacked off the office and headed to the field today #scotwinter
— Michael Spencer (@MikeRSpencer) December 11, 2012
Not long afterwards I got a reply from Chris Sleight, who runs the Scottish Winter twitter feed, seconding the thought. After he’d taken a quick look at my blog I got another message from Chris asking if I’d like to appear on the BBC Radio Scotland Out of Doors show he produces. Out of Doors have (had, depending on when you read this!) a winter special on the 22nd December. Chris and I had a quick discussion and he explained how they record much of the show outside for authenticity and if we could meet up at Crianlarich the next day we could combine the interview with a climb. Why would anyone say no?!
I was out the door at a 0645 Wednesday morning driving through a dark and freezing Scotland on the way to our meeting point in Crianlarich. There were areas of inversion, particularly Callander and Crianlarich, with partially frozen lochs and heavy frost along the roadside. Magic.
We met at 0845 and geared up for the day. Chris kindly lent me a pair of climbing axes rightly thinking they’d be more suitable for the day than my single walking axe. After a dicy few kilometres of walk in along a heavily frozen track and a bit of bog we arrived at the foot of the route – Y Gully, a grade 1 winter route with a left and right hand variant (Figure 1).
We grabbed a quick butty and popped our crampons on, ready for the steep section ahead. Chris chose this moment to get out Hairy Mike and check the sound levels whilst he dug a quick snow pit (Figure 2), reminding me that I was there to do some work… As my first official grade 1 route – it was cracking! There was a steep, 3-4 m, section of ice early on and after that was a smooth joyful cruise up the remaining 150 m of firm snow with stunning views beyond Crianlarich behind.
Arriving at the summit we had great views all around (Figures 3 and 4) and a well deserved second lunch whilst Chris announced it was time to do some work. Having lost myself enjoying the climb it was a slight shock that I’d need to sing for my supper! Chris had prepared well on the ascent getting good ideas for interview questions so the process was easy and painless. We recorded approximately 15 minutes of material, discussing my research and the snow cover we could see from the summit. Will be interesting to see how much makes the final cut!
I absolutely enjoyed myself and would certainly be open to another day like that!
The Out of Doors winter special will be broadcast at 0630 on 22nd December on Radio Scotland and will be available on the BBC site for a week afterwards.