The couple of days this week, I spent the majority of my time behind a sewing machine. First of all trying to remember how one works (the instruction manual helped here) and then secondly doing my best to sew up a large pile of waterproofs that had various rips, unstitched zips and frayed hems.
However I did put down tools one afternoon when the instructors and Gap Years (Gappies) went for a wee jaunt down the river Tay from Taymouth to Aberfledy. It was exceedingly windy on the loch, but the river was at a good level to cruise down and play with breaking in and out of the main flow.
We soon arrived at Chinese Bridge, the first feature on the river to require a thought process and a need to aim for a certain line to make it down successfully.
After a quick look, from the bridge itself, we pushed off and bobbed down to the bottom of the rapid. With a 100% success rate we were asked to paddle the Gappies’ boats down for them, to save some potential rescue drama, and some carrying faff.
Take 2 and still a 100% success rate. Woohoo, my anxieties about this un-paddled bit of river (un-paddled by me anyway) were washed downstream and I now look forward to my next adventurous voyage in canoes.
The rest of the river was a beautiful bimble in the sun and then it was home for dinner.
On Thursday I had seen that Dave was to be training the Gappies to be seconds on gorge sessions. A second is a member of staff familiar with the structure, risks and emergency procedures of a gorge walk, so that they can assist the leader in all aspects of the session.
I wanted to join in, so asked if I could be Dave’s second, to which Dave said yes. Excellent, off we go. The gorge was at a high level making it great fun to explore.
I stumbled upon an unusual foam cake, which Dave then tried to eat!
We had a great afternoon introducing the Gappies to the gorge finishing with the obligatory jump into the loch.
That evening we had team fellowship, followed by a meal altogether. This wasn’t just any meal, no, this was a four course feast! A culinary delight prepared to welcome the Gappies into the team for the year, and everyone else was there to enjoy it too. The food was delicious and there was the perfect amount to feel content.
Because Dave and I were working at the Killin show on Saturday, we took the Friday as our day off. The weather was grim and our intended plan of a scramble was out of the question, so Dave suggested we payed a visit to the Ice Factor in Kinlochleven. The Ice Factor was an aluminium smelting factory but has now been converted to an indoor climbing wall.
It has a bouldering room and some standard climbing walls, but the main draw is its ice climbing room. This room is quite simply a giant freezer in need of a thorough defrosting. However, instead of trying to fill it full of peas and ice cream, they have fitted it with anchors for ropes and allow people to go climbing in it! If only my freezer at home was bigger.
After a couple of hours of ploughing through rain and following dangerous tourist drivers we arrived and warmed up with some bouldering.
We had the freezer booked for two hours from one o’clock and so stopped for some chips and a coffee to fuel us through our vertical endeavours. We kitted up before our time started so that we could step inside, at one o’clock exactly, to make the most of our time. Once inside we roped up for the first climb, a short and gentle route, to get a feel for the basic movements and to practice axe and foot placements. This was difficult as the ropes were much less supple than their warm and dry counterparts.
Next was a slightly steeper wall, but twice as tall. I really started to feel my arms working and had to pause a couple of times for a breather.
Our third route was in a corner, which meant I could make a bridge with my legs to each wall and use the axes in the corner of the route. It felt amazing and I started to trust my feet more and therefore found this route easier than the previous one. This meant I zoomed up to a ledge three-quarters of the way up the wall and paused for Dave to snap a picture of me.
When I came back down my face was beaming. This was partly due to my successful ascent but also included the fact that it was cold, I was using all my exciting winter kit… And I was overcoming fears in my head. Plus Dave had been giving me encouragement throughout the route. This was ace!
It was Dave’s turn next and after he came back down, we practiced some more by traversing around the bottom of the wall.
This section of the wall was in an ice cave of sorts, walls on three sides, and was great fun to play in. Our final route in the freezer started in the back of this cave, up a small slope, over a prominent bulge, and up a sheer wall to the top.
We combined all our skills to conquer this section of wall and it was a brilliant culmination to our time in the freezer. Some of the ice lower down was fresh, and when you swung an axe into it, you could hear it was a quality placement.
Higher up though I found some older ice and as I hit it I broke off a chunk the size of my hands put together. It landed on my harness and I shouted “ICE” to Dave and let it fall to my right away from where Dave was standing. Due to the curved nature of this section of the wall, my intention of letting it fall away from Dave meant that it ricocheted off of the wall and hit Dave in the arm! Woops.
After I came down and Dave had his attempt, my watch beeped three o’clock and our time was up. We stopped for a quick break before resuming our climbing on the top roped walls.
All Dave wanted to achieve was to stand on top of an artificial ledge. He was super chuffed to have got here.
It wasn’t long till our arms were full of lactic acid and it was time to head home. A cheeky wee stop at the Real Food Cafe for a fish and chip dinner was much needed and the perfect end to the day.
Saturday morning was a gentle start as I finished gathering the stuff we needed to run archery at the Killin show. As we crossed the bridge over the Dochart, Dave had spotted some kayakers on the river, so we rushed out to watch them. They made it down safely and we carried on to the showground.
By time we had set up it was lunch time, so we wandered off to find the food tent. A burger and chips was our nourishment for the day and we amused ourselves with the fact we had also had chips for the last two meals! A steady stream of youngsters and families came to try some free archery and enjoy themselves.
Later on, during a natural lull, Dave and I needed some water so shut up shop to go and find some. We found some but also found this old Porsche tractor! I always knew that Porsche had started by making tractors, but had never seen one in the flesh, so this was rather exciting. At the end of the day, Dave and I packed up and drove home putting an end to our few days together.
I have really enjoyed spending some time with Dave on all sorts of adventures. He responds well to my jokes! He encourages me to push myself and always has stimulating discussion points to hand on almost any subject.
During team fellowship on the Thursday we did some goal setting, a few of mine were to do with some more outside experiences (river trips and mountains) and Dave also wanted to get out more and enjoy being in the moment. So, watch this space: Dave and I may soon be on another adventure together!