Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Winter 2018/19

that Slovenian feel (photo: David Debeljak)
Winter 2018/19 was the first time I deliberately set out in our mountains with the intent of doing some climbing. I got myself a pair of winter boots, crampons and borrowed a pair of ice tools, and so it was on for the world above the clouds... Luckily I have great climbing partners who were willing to menthor me along the baby steps.
I was a bit reluctant before first setting out, I wasn't sure if I'd like the cold. There must be something genetically involved with my extremities often being cold, and I easily get Raynaud's phenomenon in certain settings (cold+caffeine). Some of my fingers turn pale and persist this way for some time even after getting back to warmer atmosphere. Anyway I learnt there's few things that cannot be mitigated with proper choice of clothing (that said, I imagine winter in our mountains is only a fraction of what one gets at higher altitudes!). On the other hand, there's few people who don't get incredible hot aches after hanging off their ice tools for a full pitch.
I discovered I quite enjoy mountaineering in winter. There are unique experiences to be had... like the feeling of planting your ice axe in styrofoam-like nevé snow (and the sound it makes). The bittersweetness of a nauseating hot ache when you're reaching the belay, happy because you know it's going to be over in minutes, but unable to really think of anything but your hands. Reaching the summit of a north face and stepping into the sunlight and warmth, feeling relieved. Finishing a delicate pitch and feeling extremely warm despite not wearing your down jacket and despite the air actually being very cold. The cold sweat down your back when you're carefully smashing that thin ice drip. The interesting taste of a semi-frozen Snickers bar, still delicious, but presenting a challenge for your molars. Doing the belay dance for warmth, 10 squats, 10 jumping jacks, repeat...
And the climbing of course, it's so weird using crampons on rock the first time you do it. But then you get used to it, and it's super delicate, there's almost no feedback or sensation of what your foot's going to do, so you tense up like a robot and obviously it's super pumpy. The 4AM alpine starts, and the yawns on belays in the early afternoon. Coming back feeling totally worked, since just getting to the base of the wall involved more effort than an average day climbing rock. The 4AM alpine start, the summit before noon and being back on time for beer...

The choice of routes was somewhere in the easy to moderate range, and most days were pure joy, which really is great when you're starting out. I grew some confidence in use of ice tools and crampons and learnt some new skills. I did a few frozen waterfalls but prefered longer alpine routes, I didn't get past the point where ice climbing would turn from overwhelming to enjoyable. At this point, I'm looking forward to the next time winter climbing, though it may well be I'm packing away the winter gear for some time, rock faces are already dry and I'm psyched to get back to that!
cruising through the Slovenian route on Triglav with David 
Prevčev izstop (Slovenska) photo by David

"is this a cave?"
from the new James Bond shoot on Mala Mojstrovka (Kaminska smer) (photo: Klemen Gerbec)

dawn at the foot of Nad Šitom Glava (photo: Bor Levičnik)
Luka Stražar climbing in Nad Šitom Glava (Tandara Mandara)
clouds rolling across Vršič pass (photo Luka Stražar)

just another day at the office for this guy
the north face of Planjava was a popular goal this winter
Matevž Štular enjoying prime conditions on Palouz-Tschada route (we exited through Šaleški izstop) (photo Bor Levičnik)

steep tree climbing (photo Matevž Štular)
route finding on Planjava (photo Bor Levičnik)
that time when we tried to climb grade IV slabs in mountain boots and bivy gear on our backs, lol (we didn't get far)
an attempt on north face of Kanjavec with Klemen and Marija
one step forwards, two steps backwards...
improvised shades! it blocks sun ok... but i took it off for the climbing part. Well, maybe I overestimated the danger of snow blindness :)
great news for my climbing partners, I finally have a set of half ropes! Petzl sorted me out with a pair of Rumbas. I decided to go with a thicker half rope (Rumba is 8.0mm as opposed to the Paso Guide which is 7.7mm) since I want them durable and I will mostly be doing rock climbing.
me on the ice drips in the lower section of Kemprle - Murovec (Dolgi hrbet) (photo Klemen Gerbec)

actually this would be much nicer in climbing shoes. I have a nice pair of thin gloves with some extra sticky rubber on them that makes it way too tempting to just climb with hands, I think I should have a few sessions drytooling.

on the summit ridge of Dolgi hrbet (photo Klemen Gerbec)
we climbed Kemprle-Murovec route and then rappelled the equipped abseil line just left of it
west face of Planjava, we climbed the obvious drip (Pripravniška smer) (photo Krištof Fortuna)

delicate ice while setting off (photo Krištof Fortuna)
yum steepness, yum conditions, it's cool to go fast (higher up on west face of Planjava)
descending from Planjava (photo Krištof Fortuna)
till next winter...

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