Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Tryfan: A test of mind and body . Will I break?

Well, I made it over to Wales for our first Mountain experience with Mark and Al. Saturday morning came and we decided to see how we worked as a team and try different techniques on how me and Mark would work together.

It was about 10.20am when we got to the car park, it had started to rain so we put our waterproofs on, this i did not like as it makes me feel claustrophobic, but what bugs me more is as soon as the hood goes up the hearing aids start to whistle. Thankfully it was only a short shower and i thought that was it, boy was I wrong.

Off we went opened the gate to the path and WHAM straight into the first boulder field, a long day ahead i thought.

To me this was a nightmare,  with my vision it all looks flat apart from shadows but still don't know if a shadow is shadow or a hole until I get there as I have no depth perception. Add this to being colour blind and straight lines/edges looking broken oh and add in a bit of looking through frosted glass and fog then you have my eyesight. 

It didn't start well, I had gone no more than 20ft and stumbled, great start I thought but I carried on. Soon, I was too hot, so off came the layers.

Me and Mark were using the guide rope/handle he had made and Al was nearby soloing, all was going well. Then the rain came, only this time, it did not stop. We were making steady progress always up(which is good when you are aiming for the summit!) Yes it was slow but it was going well. I knew it wasn't going to be easy but I was determined to do it. We then hit more boulder fields but we kept going. By this point it was raining heavy but spirits were high.

All this time I had either my left or right hand on the guide rope, which I should say is a piece of rope with movable knots on it, this attaches either side of Mark's harness. This is so much easier  than having to put my arm on his rucksack all the time.

Then we had to start doing more vertical ascents, so it was time to try another technique this time it was short roping. Mark would climb up 20ft or so wait and then I would follow. This was when we moved fastest it was great. Then the weather turned even worse as we where doing this as full storm hit us... Rain, snow and hail. This was when the temperature droped to (-1) but with the wind chill it felt a lot colder. So this was my first Diff or so in hiking boots and gloves, I was pleased with that, but this was when it got harder. The wind picked up more which meant that it was very hard to hear anybody next to me let alone Mark when he was 20ft up a crag and out of sight and it hurt to look up because of the hail and all the time i'm thinking will my hearing aids get too wet and fail. We climbed like this for about four pitches.

Every now and then I would ask; "are we near the summit yet" only to be told it was only a false summit/ridge and there was still more to go. Guess I sounded like a small child saying "Are we nearly there yet" this isn't because I can't go on it's because I can't see it.

We were nearing the summit at about 3.40pm and we had to make a decision, was it up or round and up?  In the mist we could hear other people and Mark asked Al to traverse over towards the calls and take a look at the route. Mark thought the others were lost as they were questioning what they were doing. We chose to go with our own decision and he lead two roped pitches that took both of us onto the final ridge. 

I should point out at this point that Mark was wet from having to bring me up on the first roped section further down just as the storm hit before he could get his waterproof shell on. 

He seemed very cold and wanted to go faster but all I could think was, can we slow down a bit, that was not an option... Mark said we had 4 hrs before dark and wanted off the summit and onto the lower path below the rock fields (which I suppose he knew as well as me was the most difficult terrain for us both).

Once we were all up, we continued roped together with Al behind.

We summited about 1h20mins later, moving across ridges was much slower than steeper wall climbing. There was no time for photos, we were all wet and cold, now it was time to get down and fast.

We began our descent from the summit, straight into another boulder field only this time it was ankle and leg breaking country just the right place for a blind man!

By now Mark was colder, he didnt seem able to warm up at the speed at which we were moving. It seemed to prevent him from generating enough natural body heat that would have dried him out from the inside. My hands had begun to get cold . Al was also feeling it.

All the time it was raining and we were getting wetter and colder Mark was wanting to move fast but this was not what I could do but I pushed on in the process and with Al still roped to us behind. Going faster meant one thing, more risk and in my case, that means more bruises. A small price to pay but not what i thought at the time.

Then disaster struct, Mark lost the path, this happened because he is sight guiding for me and like me, when you look down, you lose your way. So all we could do at this point was carry on down in the direction that meant something to them. We then located the path again and all was well for a bit.

Then we lost it again, at this point Al was suffering from what she calls cog fog  from her MS and was not quite sure which way to go, so out came the map and compass and between her and Mark they worked out which way to go. 

Then the only problem was, we had hit a rock band with no way left or right, the only way down was to scramble down a 25ft sloping chimney.

One thing I want to make clear is that, as a blind person doing such a thing, you MUST trust the person who is guiding you 150%. if they say duck, you duck, if they say follow me down a chimney, you go, no questions asked. If you doubt them, that is when things go wrong. We all descended the chimney safely  and carried on down.

We re found the path and Al spotted the col so we were over the moon but not quite down yet. Mark was obviously very cold (as I could here it in his voice) so speed was the key. At this point we were all very tired but safe in the knowledge that we were on the defined path leading to easier ground. We were all slowing down and slipping a bit more with Al falling a least twice and me, well I lost count. 

By the end, the rain had stopped, we were down and super pleased with ourselves. The descent took 2h15min, no broken bones or any  injuries, so in all a very successful day proving that if you put your mind to it you can do it.

Yes it was not good weather and we could have had better gear, but it was a brilliant experience and showed us that as a team we will make the Eiger trip a success and that having a disability should not be a barrier.

So the answer to the title question... I WILL NOT BREAK.


Here is a link to the BMC Video of the route (HERE)

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