Jun 30 2008

Out damn spot …

Category: homeash @ 8:11 pm

And though you scrub and scrub, it never quite goes away, even though you quite see it.  Other peoples blood on your hands can be a tad worrying at times.

Whilst driving to a job in Skem from Leyland today, I was on the M6 heading south after J27.  In the outside lane, trying to get to the job on time I saw quite a few cars and a lorry or two parked on the hard shoulder.  A second later when I did a double take I saw a car on it’s roof a good way up the embankment, with a load of people round it, and no ambulence in sight.

I realised that this crash had just happened, so managed to get into the nearside lane and pulled over.  I ran back up the hard shoulder, on the inside of the parked cars to find a spontaneous crowd gathering.  I said I was a first aider and did anyone need any help, then was pointed to the car itself, where a lad with blood on his hands and face was about to light a fag.  We pointed out that he was about to blow us all up, and he moved away from the upside down car – looked to be a micra, or a corsa.  That size.  It was on it’s side, with it’s roof leaning on a thin tree downslope of the car, and a guy (Macca) was pinned underneath.  The chap attending to Macca was a dentist & was on the ball with sorting him out, but due to the thin tree holding the weight of the car and stopping it rolling down the slope and into the motorway (about a 10-15′ drop I think), we couldn’t really get into the car or around it to find if any of the rest of his body was trapped.  Macca’s left arm was pinned under the roof, and his head was out the smashed boot, pretty bloody and face up, due to being pinned by the arm.  Whilst I was there he lost conciousness totally (he’d been in and out before), so whilst the dentist and another guy who’d seen it happen tried to work out how to check the rest of his body, I was with macca giving encouraging words, trying to clear his airway from the bubbling blood that was coming from his mouth (a few bust teeth in there) and so on.  I got some movement from him a couple of times, and managed to find a steady pulse eventually, but his neck and bits of face were swelled quite heavily – I think skull fractures were definatly involved. 

Eventually the brigade with cutting kit arrived, followed closely by the paramedics.  We stepped back, gave them the information and let them get to it.  We cleaned ourselves of the worst of the blood, gave our details to the copper and then stodd about for a couple of minuites, registering what was happening.

Turns out that the two lads had been allegedly hammering along the outside lane, doing around a ton.  They’d clipped the side of one car which had thrown their stability, swerved and left the carrigeway heading up the embankment, through a load of trees and then flipped onto its roof and then side.  The driver was walking wounded – we’re pretty sure that the reason Macca was out the boot was due to not wearing a seatbelt, in which case he’s looking at some pretty serious cranial trauma, and will be bloody lucky to stay alive tonight.

Particularly as when after doing the job in Skem and was heading back north on the M6 about an hour later, all appliences including the two ambulences were still there, and they were still working on the vehicle.  If they manage to get him out – and his arm has been pinned by that weight all that time then he’ll be loosing that if he’s lucky.  The whole of the M6 Southbound was shut at 27, and everything was being sent through Standish to wigan/orrell and back on there – causing carnage on the roads.

I’ll be very suprised if he makes it through.  Time for a beer tonight I think.


Jun 19 2008

Skye words

Category: Mountaineering,Scoutingash @ 6:56 pm

What a trip.  In day order …

  1. The Friday.  Left work just after 4, picked up Andy Cumpstey at Glasgow Airport about 7.45, to Glencoe just after 9.  Awesome ride up, really quiet.  Met the rest (Claire C, Ali C, Julie, Bainbo, Nige, Martin)whilst fighting midges then ran to the pub to get plans.
  2. Did 2 climbs from Classic Rock in Glencoe with Ali.  Was able to run them both together which made for a good day.  Still weak and not right after the Belguim illness, so an easy walk in and straightforward day was what I needed.  Did “The Long Crack” with rucsac on etc – good route although wobbled off a bit at the start.  The crack itself was an excellent pitch.  bimbled up and over to the start of the second route – Archers Ridge on the upper Tier of Anoach Dubh.  Dumped sacks and did in glorious weather – fantastic!  Nice interesting move in the middle, then cruised up to the top to put a bit of a flakey belay in, relying on a friend, which I’m never 100% convinced with.  Backed it up with a nut, but that wasn’t much better.  Then Ali got stuck – climbed past a runner so the rope was pulling her down … at full stretch on the crux.  Unable to unclip, unable to climb back down, and only the occasional terrified word making it through to me, about 35m off the deck in an exposed position.  After working out what had happened, I tied the system off, escaped the rope, prussik on and then descended the rope to Ali (after making damn sure the belay wasn’t going to move), fully loaded the rope to put enough slack into the system to reach round her and unclip the runner.  Gently brought her over to a stance, helped to calm her down a bit, then charged back up the rope, re-engaged the belay and brought her to the top, got her safe, then sat down and breathed out.  Got quite drunk that night whilst registering the events of before.  Learning points all round.  Claire and Andy had gone to do the Anoch Egach, but her booties suffered a total boot faliure (see pic). 1163
  3. Sunday. Reasonable forecast but weather looking a bit off.  Still wanted an easyish day, so me, Ali and Andy went and did Buchaille Etive Beag, as I’d not done it and wanted to do something new.  Interesting scramble which involved disturbing every midge in Scotland, then got onto the top, did the ridge, got some shots in down the Etive Valley etc, all very good.  Julie, plus Sam and Dave Docherty (who had arrived on the Saturday) and Bainbo were on The Anoch Egach, and Martin plus Nige were on Ben Nevis.  Great day, all did stuff, Claire headed back through Peebles to bike as her booties had exploded (pity we didn’t know the world mountain bike competition was happening 5 miles north of us), ended up at the Grog and Gruel pub in Fort Bill, to devour a Boar Burger – all 6Oz of it. Mmmmm.  That night, after food we said bye to Martin and Nige and headed over to Kintail to camp for a couple of nights.
  4. Monday came, with iffy weather.  Did a map check then convinced Maria (Who’d arrived that night with Pete Fricker) and Andy to come and have a crack at Ben Alligan in Torridon with me – as none of us had been that way before.  Pete was up for it as well, although his fitness limited what he could do so he did his own route and we fought (literally!) to the top of the Ben, then did the ridgeline behind it – reasonably sustained grade 1 to 2 scrambling for about 3 hours.  Loads of crampon scrapes – looks awesome in winter.  Made mental note to return this coming winter and reverse the route.  Turned out this was Maria’s first munro – so celebrated this in the Lochcarron seaside cafe with a most excellent haggis and cheese toastie.  Sounds rank, tasted out of this world.  And with Cappacino with cinammon on top.  Living in style.  Hit the boozer that night to plan future thoughts, all good, chilled with everyone.
  5. Tuesday, we decided to have another day in the area then head to Skye.  Weather iffy again, so decided to risk a climb, up in the Applecross area.  Dave J had spoken at length about this area a couple of years ago, so figured I’d go see what all the fuss was about.  After a 45 min drive, with some pretty mad scenery to drive through, we got to the foot of the crag (a full 2 mins from the road – this is a mountain crag I hasten to point out!)  We climbed on Sgurr a’ Chaorachain, and did  Swordstick – an excellent 6 pitch HS route with an ‘interesting’ runout at the top.  Pete’s got an excellent shot of us (taken from the far ridge of the valley) at http://flickr.com/photos/24075448@N07/2574136510/sizes/l/ .Back to the Lochcarron cafe to dry out a bit (started raining on the final pitch), then back to base. Dropped kit and moved to Skye, back to the good ol’ Sligachan Bunkhouse.  Beers were had and plots collected.
  6. Wednesday brought the time for Andy to leave us.  He had to get back to Cambridge & so he got the direct bus from the Slig bunkhouse to Glasgow Airport – about £28 single – most useful! Me, Ali and Maria went to have a crack at a really long mod route on the coire behind Sgurr nan Gillian and Am Bhastier.  3 hours walk in past the bloody stone, geared up at the bottom of some imposing slabs, tried several ways in vain to get past the start bit, but as the water was running down the slabs, down my arms and straight to the core I was getting bad vibes.  The clag was down above us, the rock was covered in lichen/moss that was holding the water & the protection was iffy.  Sacrificed a nut and retreated back down, to find shivery and midge-infested Ali and Maria.  We ran away, 3 hours back out.  So, a rained off day with 7 hours gone – least we did something.  No space in the Slig that night so we drove round to Portnalong and got into the Skyewalker.  There’s new owners there who have worked on the hostel quite a bit- hence the price increase to £12.50/night.  Worth it though, really good vibe.
  7. Thursday – I wanted to get up on something after the rain yesterday.  Forecast iffy, so decided to have a crack at Cioch direct and Integrity on the Sron na Ciche wall, and bail on a scramble if it did rain.  Maria was up for it, so we got to Glenbrittle (in an increasingly worryingly noisy car), and kitted up.  Decided on the 2 half rope plan as the rope drag yesterday was collosal on the Skye rock.  Headed up to Coire Lagan, as the skies started to darken.  We assessed our options & checked the guidebooks, and decided that being stuck on a climb in the p1ssing rain was not much fun (been there before!), so decided to head up onto the ridge.  Scrambled up into the Coire proper, then stomped up the Great Stone Shoot (not ideal in ascent unless you like wasting energy), turned left at the top and got to the Belach below Alisdair as the clag lifted a bit and we could see into the valley on the otherside – awesome!  Cracking views down into Lagan too.  We did Harts (or Collies) Ledge – an exposed shelf that traverses a top, with some cracking positions.1181  Got to the ridge on the far side, did the ridge to bag the top, then headed back down.  Bimbled to the bottom, skirted round An Stac, then went round to get the top of An Stac and look with awe at the Inaccessible Pinnacle.  Kitted up, then up onto that, and abseiled off the other end.  1190Dropped up over Sgurr Dearg, then decided to do the next munro as well, as we had the weather!  So, headed round to the top of Sgurr na Banachdich, then dropped to teh flank of Sgurr Gohbar and had an ‘interesting’ descent off.  Wits about you on that one! 1193 On the drive out, I noticed that the knocking noise on the car had got a lot worse.  I pulled over, checked the wheel nuts and had a good root around the wheels themselves but couldn’t find anything.  Realised it’d be silly to try to drive home like this, so decided to write tomorrow off and get booked into a garage.  Drove back to the Skyewalker (picked up a load of carryout bottles from the boozer), and spent the night eating, looking at maps and buzzing from an amazing day!
  8. Er, Friday.  The others had done a route the previous day that involved leaving a car miles away, so whilst they were on a 3 hr epic to retrieve the car, I decided to find a garage.  Spoke to the lass at the hostel & between us we rang just about every garage in NW scotland, but none would commit to being able to fix it in a day – and the next 2 days were the weekend.  Realised that I’d have to drive back home, but this only really sank in when I was on the other side of the island from the others, in great weather.  Pulled over, rang Julie, and decided to go walking instead – leaving Skye in good weather is illegal in my book if you can get out!  So, solo trip.  Walked up into the Gillian Corrie, then bagged Sgurr nan Gillian via a Mod graded chimbley on the ridgeline, then back down (guiding down an elderly feller who had managed to get to the top but was having issues getting off), then Am Bhastier via the bad step, then back to the belach, skirted under Bhastier and the Tooth, round and over to Bruach na Frithe, then back to the Tooth spur and off towards the Slig hotel.  1220Spotted Julie and the others at the 3rd pinnicle on Pinnacle Ridge, rang through to say I was on my way off & headed down the ridge.  When at the bottom, drove over to Glencoe to stick up tent, then back to Fort Bill to meet the others for a curry.  Ate, then to the boozer for one with Martin and the others.
  9. Saturday, climbing.  Headed up to the Buchaille with January Jigsaw in mind, but got to the bottom of the route (1.5 hrs walk in) to find it starting to rain, and bands of rain sweeping over the highlands.  decided to bail & ran away back to the car, then round to the ice factor to meet the others and climb for about 4 hours – excellent session.  That eve we drove over to Ardlui, north of Arrochar.  Top night in the Drovers Arms, finding out how much beer we could drink.
  10. Quite a lot apparantly.  Staggered around for a while, sobered up, then drove to Arrochar.  Realised at the car park that there was no way in hell I was going up a mountain, so announced to Maria and Martin (the only 2 remaining) that we were having an all day breakfast.  Retreated to a very posh caff, ate, drank, and was happy.  Loped home in a car that had now forgotten that it was broken at all.1226


Jun 15 2008

Skye & Kintail 08

Category: Mountaineeringash @ 8:07 pm

A top, top trip.  Very tired, very satisfied, very filthy.

Climbing in Glencoe & Applecross, munro bagging in Torridon, Scrambley adventures on Skye – big grins.  And more midges than you can spray gallons of Skin so Soft or Jungle Formula at.  I will be scrawling a full report at some time, that’s not now.  Bloody awesome time.


Jun 03 2008

Ardennes 08

Category: Scoutingash @ 6:46 pm

A fine, fine trip, with some fine, fine leaders ; fine, fine kids and some shite, shite illness.

The trip out was straightforward, got into Mont Godinne at around 10:30am after a 7pm setoff from the District Shed.  Played swapsies with Dick on the driving & with Hugh in punter driving mode.

The first day I took Maria and Glenn (co-worker of Ian Walls’) out to the crags we use – I was IC climbing for the trip & needed to familiarise both myself and the others with the sites.  Nipped out to Dave – the crag, not the caver, and we did a quick route as a 3-some (Le Bok, S).  3 pitches, good positions, straightforward.  Great weather, and decided that we needed more fun, so went over to Mozet on the other side of the hill to have a shufty at our single-pitch crag.  We were shy on time, so just went for a look around.

The first 2-day phase, there were no climbers, so I was free, with Glenn (Maria on paddling).  Me and Glen went over to Dave, I took Hugh up Le Bok (his first climb in we reckoned about 12 years!), which was cool.  After that, me and Glen went and did a route on the main scary face of Dave – an HVS 5a route that I’ve forgotten the name of.  3 pitch, somewhat cramped on the hanging belay at the end of P1, then a rather ballsy move through a break in the overhang & up a polished gully.  Glen gave it a shot but burned out near the top of P2, utterly pumped.  He descended, we fought with rope for a while, then I gave it a go, using his pro that he’d put already clipped.  Got through the initial move easily enough, then found a layback way up the top bit to find the belay.  Glen topped out the final S pitch – an excellent day.

The following day we went to Freyr – the biggest area in Belgium – damn close to the overnight camp that we use.  Did a 3 or 4 pitch awesome route there – great fun on VS! Glen had decided to try it in big boots.  However, big boots + polished limestone + a while since doing sustained climbing = learning point :-).  Had people watching us from the other side of the Meuse, on boats and everything … starting to feel like a real climber now!

The first climbing phase went well, all the kids came on well, some excellent characters in there.  No issues, everything went well, all safe, all managed to achieve well.  Naff weather on the first day, but we managed to pull it all together with a bit of gear placement practise, abseils etc etc.  The weather came together for us on Day two – intense sunburn that I’m still dealing with (literally 1 week later) on my shoulders!

Around this time we unfortunatly had to say bye to Phil Hawath, who’s father unexpectedly died whilst we were away.  A tragedy for him, and as a consequence a knock on for the trip, as we were also loosing Dick and Hugh, who both needed to go home.  We organised the activities easily enough, but questions were left over the transport issue on the return drive.

Culture day – back to Bruxelles.  Knocked up a quiz a-la Raymondo, but having none of the notes or crib sheets that he’d used in the past.  So, made one up. Seemed to work, the kids enjoyed it that used it. Me, Pierre and Maria bimbled around all day, drinking brews, seeing ‘things’, and taking it easy.  Bimbled back at the end.

Phase 3 – went well again.  Wet, once again on the first day, better on the Second.  Glen had been feeling really rough for a couple of days, and was down for helping with another activity due to Phil being away (I could cover Mozet on my own), but he cleared up right at the start of day 1, but after the paddlers had left, so he came climbing too.  There had been a full-on cold going around a couple of the leaders, but we tried to keep on top of it & only a few were affected.

On this phase, a few people started getting ill.  The odd one, being sick and feeling rough.  We didn’t think too much of it, gave them support, cleaned them up, nursed them better etc.  And then, all of a sudden, when Phase 3 returned to base (for our intensely busy tidy up, pack (we were leaving at 0700 the following day), and host some local Belgian Scouts – thankfully provided by our contact Cedric Dumont) people started dropping like flies.  At the rate of around 1 per 20 mins.  All of a sudden, things started getting very serious.  We decided to isolate the ill people, advise the Belgians that we had something running rife through our team, and got the rest of the team working hard to drop camp, pack down and the like.  And then I got it.  From feeling a bit rough, to throwing up happened in about 45 mins.  I managed to get my head down at about 19:30 for about 2 hours, risked a banana and some milk provided by Nurse Willingham, slept for another hour, then tried to move.  And then legged it to the bog, just in time.  Has been many years since I’ve flowed from both ends at the same time. Flowed being the operative word.

After that, feeling a bit ‘off’ as you may understand, I managed to make it to flag down for the camp, then staggered back to bed, having found some immodium.  But having slept for a few hours, I wasn’t that tired.  From around 23:00 to 05:00 I don’t think I got more than 10 mins kip at any one time, the rest of it tossing and turning in our communal room, feeling rough.

Up at 0500, feeling a lot better.  Got some liquid in, and a yoghurt, but didn’t dare have anything else that may have put extra pressure on my system.  I had a 4 hour drive to Dunquerqueque, then a ferry ride (get travelsick ANYWAY), then a 6 hour drive on the other side (towing a badly-weighted trailer by the way, so limited to 65 mph).  And with our reduced sraff, that was me doing a good chunk of the driving.  Did 2 hours on the paris side, then about 4 hours on the UK side.  HAving nothing really to eat, just bits here and there, and only liquids were coffee or red bull.  By the end of the trip, being massivly, massivly tired (couldn’t sleep on the bus or the ferry, and with no sleep the night before) my stomach was trying to digest itself having being fed nothing for a long time.

Hugh thankfully gave me a lift home so that i could collapse – subsequently made it to dinner at work before body shut down and had to go home sick.

We sussed out the cause of all this – well, two.  Well, ok, three.  At least.  The first was the touchy-feely factor.  Very hands-on group this.  Words were had, but with a group of Explorers, it’s going to happen, so we ensured that nothing serious was going to happen by having Helen (our House mum and experienced midwife at Ormskirk Hospital) give an in-depth, graphic and audible account of childbirth.  Certainly terrified them enough to keep them hands-off until we got home.  The second factor was that one of them had the runs for a few days but didn’t tell anyone, nor keep good hygiene standards.

And the third was the discovery of ants crawling over an empty abandoned meat wrapper near the camping area, moving through some old, hot, uncooked blood.  And then the discovery of the same ants in everyone’s kit at the overnight camp that night.  And good ol’ poor hygiene and physical contact came down to it after that.  Think I got it either from handling the same ropes or from eating a couple of sweets provided by one of my climbers on the Saturday.  Lessons learnt there, from ALL quarters!  Top trip though, pity the end was so bad.  And it did take my mind off the funeral and my Nan’s passing, which helped – having to function properly again.