I’ve just walked off the hill from another disappointing weekend of 70mph winds and a lack of activity it’s made me think – I’ve had difficult winter. I started with the intent to bag lots of winter days towards my winter ML log book and it started well, with a trip with to Glencoe with a friend also working towards her winter ML. (She passed this week). Almost right away it went downhill.
I felt demoralised as I wasn’t as confident as her and lacked belief in myself. I compared myself to her, seeing that I couldn’t keep up with her and she was much quicker at making navigational decisions.
Since then I’ve had 4 other trips to Scotland which have only established this feeling of not being good enough.
I’ve been left to do my own thing by my climbing friends in the Cairngorms and not having the opportunity and confidence to join them, and then two big days in Braemar which I was definitely on it with the navigation but lacked confidence in leading.
And then I went to the Ben, and didn’t manage to finish the CMD Arête circular, only making it to Carn Mor Dearg summit due to really strong winds.
I feel like I’ve had lots of failures and not just that one. There was failing to try Dorsal Arête out of fear and failing to try the Devil’s Ridge on a windy day.
So at the end of winter with one trip north left I’m thinking of not bothering and giving up and letting the spring seep in.
I can navigate really well. I know this. But I worry about being in whiteouts. I have all the skills but on steep terrain I still freak out, especially climbing rocky ridges in the ice.
I’ve suffered from spending the winter with climbers who are technically more skilled than me and have generally left me behind for doing their own adventures. You think this would work in my favour as I’d get to solo some peaks, but I’ve always had someone in tow who either wasn’t as skilled and lacked enthusiasm for effort or occasionally a climber who wished they were climbing and were demoralised they were walking instead.
In honesty, I’ve had some good days too. Snowshoeing in Glen Feshie was the highlight of the winter, gorgeous weather and conditions and I felt success being on my own in the clag in the summit.
I did enjoy the navigational challenges around Braemar too, gaining confidence in my abilities to navigate in poor visibility.
But on the whole winter doesn’t feel like a success to me. There’s been more disappointment.
How do you learn to winter climb?
I joined a mountaineering club to get out more in winter and while that’s happened, after three winters with them I’ve not yet climbed any winter routes.
Winter is so short and the conditions in Scotland so unreliable that climbers in winter lack the patient to teach others in the same way that you find at the summer crag.
How do you learnt to climb in winter without paying for an instructor?
I had a great club trip to Rjukan in 2017 which was aimed at giving people the chance to learn as well as progress. That’s the only time I’ve ever had that opportunity to try and learn.
I’m not against paying for instruction but with winter climbing how does that really build skills to get outside again without a support system?
Or is it my learning style?
Maybe I struggle to learn from the people around me because I lack the confidence to just have a go.
I met a guy this winter at the CIC hut who was in his first winter season climbing and had already lead a IV pitch. His attitude was to just get on something and try, to learn quick and have a go.
Maybe my cautious attitude is what holds me back. Maybe my fears and my reluctance to push myself and find myself scared somewhere exposed, is what stops me just getting on and seconding behind an experience leader.
I had hoped to climb a few routes this winter with friends and the only opportunity I had on Dorsal Arête I bottled it. Since then there’s not been any opportunities, so I’ve failed in that objective for the season.
I’d also hoped to have more log book days completed, but I’ve done 12 this winter.
It feels like poor progress.
I’m heading into spring being grateful for the chance to whinge on the rocks with the more friendly and helpful trad climbing community.
I’m trying to be less critically reflective of myself and be more open to opportunities.
I’ll try this summer to not let fear prevent me getting on routes so that perhaps next winter I’ll get to try something.
I might still squeeze in one last trip this winter to Scotland but as for the future of my winter ML?
I think I need to be honest that I don’t know if it’s really for me. I don’t know if I’m really a leader in the winter environment, maybe I bit off more than I can chew with that particular challenge.