So perhaps this post’s something of a misnomer when it’s not so much about clearing the decks (done last October?) as turning the boat inside out, but it’s a catchy title and surely removing just about everything that moves to facilitate the planned repairs and renovation still counts as clearing the decks for action…
Whatever, Twig came up this morning to get the engine out and then (motivated by that little nudge in the right direction) I set to on the removable head-lining panels and bunk tops, hinged pilot berth sections, heads door, chart table, cooker, engine box, cabin sole and that kind of thing. Meaning that I finished with a great pile of stuff under the boat needing storage elsewhere, but it’s going to be so much easier to get at what’s left. And we’re working for 2012 now, because that little white lie (which I believed at the time) from last May about having Twig ‘lined up to help get her sorted for 2011 (when I’m not going to be training obsessively for running ultras!)’ has been retrospectively awarded joke status with another sub-20 West Highland Way Race attempt driving some further, ahem, obsessive training this year. Speaking of which, I still had time to get out for a hard hour’s trail running when done this afternoon!
To get straight to the point, I’m back from Glenmore Lodge (as I posted on Facebook last night) ‘relieved beyond measure to be home with a WML pass when I thought I’d maybe blown it!’
It was a gruelling five days… physically OK for a fit guy (although Thursday’s post-holing round of Loch Avon, ‘all the zeros’ et al. was tough with just a litre flask of melted snow to drink), but mentally one of the most tortuous and demanding weeks I can remember. No photos because I took no camera when even thoughts of using it would likely have impaired my concentration, but you’d be looking at some stunning scenery from that one stunning day if I had. No Northern Lights seen from our snow-hole site NE of 1082 (above Stac an Fharaidh) either because the brilliant moonlight quickly turned to total clag after we got back there, but at least that let us turn in ready for an early final-day start without feeling we were missing the show. Have to say I made enough mistakes to keep me worrying (doesn’t everyone?), but know I also got some things spot on (my best moment being declining to take my group up a suspect slope to ‘all the zeros’ that the other group had descended maybe half an hour earlier and my assessor agreeing with me!), so believe the happy final outcome reported here to have been in the balance up till the ‘bitter’ (nay, sweet!) end. But that doesn’t matter now, even if I’m feeling something of an impostor staring at a pass certificate stating that ‘the candidate fulfilled the requirements of the syllabus and demonstrated the technical and leadership competence to lead and supervise groups hill walking the mountain areas of the UK in winter conditions.’
Must just sign off by thanking various Lochaber people (notably Mike Pescod, Kenny Grant and Jamie Bankhead) for help along the way and say how nice it is to keep meeting my previous Glenmore Lodge instructors (some of whom I’ve not worked with for years) and finding them not only remembering me (though some might say I’m hard to forget!) but interested to know how I’m doing and wishing me well. It’s a very special place and I’ve made many friends there! :-)
Yesterday I was out with Kenny Grant on breezy, icy Cairngorm ground to go through as much of the WML syllabus as we could. So we headed up by Coire an t-Sneachda and the slope left (north-east) of the Mess of Pottage before continuing over 1176 towards Cairn Lochan to make a tricky descent into Coire an Lochain, dealing with realistic scenarios for rope work, anchors and security on steep ground along the way. And what a contrast to my ‘soft-snow’ training week on much of the same ground, with the unforgiving scoured slopes and vicious wind contributing no end to the technicality of an otherwise bright and pleasant day, and Kenny no doubt glad of his brand new crampons as well as greater experience where I was struggling to flat foot in places with my not exactly blunt older pair! A most worthwhile day, with hiring your very own personal instructor absolutely the way to go when you want to cover your very own personal agenda, and Kenny striking just the right balance between making me think for myself, offering useful feedback and dropping in some great little tips (including a nifty variation of the stomper he got from Alan Kimber). So it might still have been tricky to identify a safe site to practise self-arrest in the conditions, but we managed to find a slope with just about enough length in less than rock-hard snow before Coire an Lochain levelled into self-braking terrain, only for me to promptly start decorating it with a red polka dot pattern by taking a Glasgow kiss from the icy surface when boldly attempting to drop into a slide from an almost standing position (NB don’t try that on assessment)! However, all’s well that ends well and some minutes later (with nose bleed staunched) we were able to continue with a pretty thorough look at my own arresting in conjunction with teaching points for ‘skills’ days.
Spent much of today on my WML home paper before heading out for a late-afternoon run up the Lairig Mor. Which leaves just next weekend for any last-minute practice but, with a ticket for Saturday night at the Fort William Mountain Festival and a planned arrival at Glenmore Lodge on Sunday, I’d be looking at a short day (or days) if I do go out. So maybe time to recognise that I’ve done what I can, am as ready as I’m going to be and (short of looking up books and slowing up a couple of evening trail runs to try yet more pacing) heading up for better or for worse as I am now! :-)