Step 3: Scottish Winter Climbing – Mick Fowler – From Cancer To The Himalaya

A spot of winter climbing

‘Scans show you are clear’

The message couldn’t have been better really.

Even so, returning to winter climbing in Scotland after the joys of radiotherapy and chemotherapy seemed a big step.

Rekindling my love affair with Scottish winter climbing on the final pitch of Royal Pardon, Aonach Beag.

Aside from more frequent calls of nature the first thing that I noticed was that my hands seemed to be suffering from the cold more than usual. And as we unpacked kit I realised that I had packed axes which hadn’t been sharpened since before climbing Sersank with Victor Saunders back in pre diagnosis days. Not to worry Steve Burns had agreed to lead any tricky bits while I got back into the swing of things.

Three new crags for us in three days was the plan. Luckily there are lots of crags in Scotland to choose from so, despite my long love of the Highlands, there are still plenty I haven’t visited. Beinn an Lochain at Arrochar made for a wonderful start. No-one else about, a summit I had not visited previously and an interestingly varied ascent via Monolith Grooves. A Cold Climbs tick too. All very pleasing.

Aonach Beag near Ben Nevis was another crag and summit that had somehow eluded me. The grapevine told us that Royal Pardon was in good condition and a bit of pure ice climbing appealed. Catching the Nevis Range gondola felt a bit like cheating but the climbing was very fine.

Steve Burns enjoying steep ice on Royal Pardon, Aonach Beag.

Mr Burns flowed gracefully up the crux pitch and we enjoyed a panoramic view in the afternoon sun from another summit that I hadn’t visited previously. Wonderful.

Afternoon sun on the summit of Aonach Beag. Scotland really is a very fine spot.

The waterfall of Eas Anie, close to the gold mine workings on Beinn Chuirn, was our target for day 3. An interestingly basic ‘Viewing Point’ sign adorned the way to yet another crag and mountain that I hadn’t previously visited – and in the crisp and cold conditions the frozen waterfall made a very fine and atmospheric climb.

Enjoying the Viewing Point facilities en route to Eas Anie.

The three new crags in three days target had been achieved. And there are plenty of crags and summits left for future visits. I can feel a new burst of enthusiasm for Scotland coming on.

The pleasant and pleasing ice of Eas Anie on Beinn Chuirn at Tyndrum.

And the body? I have to admit I felt colder and more tired than expected. The former was easily solved with plenty of Berghaus kit, the latter will have to be worked on as Vic and I build up to our second re-union climb in India in October. Overall though improvement continues and my ‘prepare the body for the Himalaya’ programme seems to be coming along satisfactorily. 🙂

Until next time,

Mick Fowler

More from the ‘Cancer to Himalaya’ series:
Mick Fowler’s personal update
Step 1: ‘Gentle’ Exercise
Step 2: Fell Racing