Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Broken Eggs in Snowdonia

Happy scrambling
Before I start - mum, the title of this blog is meant as an amusing and witty alternative to the previous post's title and I really am not broken.. much.

Refreshed after a whiskey and exhaustion-induced slumber, I stepped outside with my coffee and gleefully admired the starry Snowdonian atmosphere knowing a clear blue sky and some outstanding views awaited us.

Stuffed full of porridge we headed for the Glyders; a range just north of Snowdon. Our first peak would be the 915m of Tryfan. You can't get up Tryfan without using your hands, it's all about the scrambling and climbing. Perfect for me then, I've never really mastered the whole 'balancing on feet' thing (as you'll be very aware of if you've known me for a while) and am a much sturdier unit if I can get my hands on the rock.

There's not really a walk-in to Tryfan, you get out of the car and you start climbing straight away, but as you get higher the route gradually gets tougher to negotiate. As we were on the North ridge, the sun hadn't melted away the ice and there was a lot of slippery rock about. Despite Liz's constant mantra of "Push through your feet, Egg. Your foot won't slip if all your weight is through it", I managed to mostly stay on all fours and ignore her completely. Whilst I knew her advice was sound and very sensible, I also knew I just wouldn't stay upright.

Push through your feet Liz!
Much to Liz's amusement, I was happier when we hit the proper climbing bits and had to pick our way up an exposed crack (I do love an exposed crack) or tricky chimney. Then we'd get to a rocky plateau that you just have to walk across and I'd be concentrating so hard you'd think I was on tightrope.

Just before she did
the "Radford Straddle"
At one point I tottered carefully across a flat bit, stepping tentatively on every dry rock I could find. I breathed a huge sigh of relief as I stood on a nice big flat rock and as Liz turned around to say something my feet just skidded out from underneath me - it really is amazing how hard I have to try to stay upright.

We meandered upwards, trying to find areas that were free from ice, even if that meant going up and over more technical ground.

At 811m something bad happened. I was stood on a little platform, having a think about how I would get up this next bit of rock. It was a steep slant of rock with a few bits to grab hold of at the top. As if tempting fate, just before I stepped off the ground Liz said "What's the worse that can happen, you'll just slide off and end up back where you are".. So I scrabbled upwards and lurched for my last hand hold. Unfortunately it was icier than it looked and my hand slipped. Sure enough I did slide back down onto the platform (stop reading mum), but I landed unevenly and fell off sideways. Luckily I fell onto another platform just a metre or two below, but as I had reached out when falling, I had landed badly on my hand. I remember seeing my fingers contort and twist as I landed and I thought I must have broken them.

As I sat up, the pain was intense and a rush of light-headedness coursed through me. After checking I hadn't hit my head (which, I think is a first!) Liz sprang into action and got me sat on the rucksack and layered up. I couldn't really tell what it was that hurt but after a few minutes I could just about move my fingers. At some point I told Liz that "I probably haven't broken anything as I have very strong bones" but the point was, I couldn't move my arm and this wasn't a mountain we could walk off.

After a bit of time debating (mainly Liz debating with herself, as I was just rocking back and forth saying "I'm OK, it just really, really hurts" a lot), there was only one thing for it, we had to call in mountain rescue.

They were going to send a helicopter, there was no other way to get off. Liz kept me happy while we waited with the only sensible option, tea and food. When it turned up, I was amazed at the efficiency of the rescue team. My rescuer, Dave, came down on a cable and said those magic words "I think we'll get you some entenox".

They were going to winch Liz in first and fly her back, as it's more fuel-efficient to keep the helicopter flying about rather than hovering, and that would give Dave a chance to assess and secure me for the flight. Liz's 'harness' was effectively a padded loop that went under her arms. Dave said she should keep her arms by her side as she got winched up. I have never witnessed anybody go more stiff, I thought rigor mortis had set in as she got lifted into the helicopter!

I don't know what exactly happened next because I was high on entenox, but Dave thought I may have broken an arm or dislocated my elbow. So he immobilised it and got me into a lovely comfortable sitting chair harness for getting winched up.

I would have loved to appreciate the view of the mountains that we flew through but my head was pulsing with the marvellous feeling of gas, so much so in fact, that I nearly fell over when we stepped off the helicopter.

So we never made it up Tryfan, and it's now at the top of my tick list, but I think I'll try it again when all the ice has melted!

X-rays revealed no breaks luckily, but it's going to take a while for the tissue damage to heal from the impact and I have one finger that it's growing exponentially outwards. As Nicky said yesterday "You really will do anything to get out of swimming won't you?" She's not wrong!

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