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Winter Climbing in Scotland. A cautionary tale.

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 Slackboot 09 Jan 2020

Below Lochnagar at night after the long walk in. It is Winter. Snow is in the air. It is cold. Crouching under a sheltering rock we hurriedly try to have a brew before bivvying. We have four matches to light the stove. They are a bit damp. We are thirsty. The first match snaps. Three left. The next match lights. A gust of wind navigates the gaps in sheltering fingers and snuffs it out. Panic begins to set in..... Two matches left. The penultimate match lights. It is carefully transferred to the waiting burner. Hands protect it in every direction. Just at the point of ignition a drip from the protecting rock lands precisely on the match head. The flame disappears with a fizz. One match left.....

I can't go into the invectives, expletives and recriminatory glances that ensue. It is too painful a memory. The final match is struck. It lights. The stove is lit. It purrs happily. We purr happily. All is forgiven. I reach for the pan full of water sitting on the snow ready to be transferred to the stove. I put it on the stove......the snow sticking to the bottom of the pan extinguishes the cooker flame. 

2
 Dave Cundy 09 Jan 2020
In reply to Slackboot:

I've given up on matches.  Fire sticks are the way to go.  Love 'em..

 Cloughy 09 Jan 2020
In reply to Dave Cundy:

+1 for ferro rods, brilliant bits of kit!

 Billhook 09 Jan 2020
In reply to Slackboot:

Matches???  Lighter, preferrably a zippo. or some other storm lighter.  But really?  Winter bivvy when there's a bothy.

1
 Slackboot 09 Jan 2020
In reply to Billhook:

> Matches???  Lighter, preferrably a zippo. or some other storm lighter.  But really?  Winter bivvy when there's a bothy.

As you can tell we were incompetent ☺  It was a lifetime ago. Just starting out. But I have never forgotten it.

 Max factor 09 Jan 2020
In reply to Slackboot:

Look out To build a fire by Jack London. Very reminiscent of the OP's story.

I'd like to know what you did next.

 Basemetal 09 Jan 2020
In reply to Slackboot:

"Experience comes through making mistakes". Bet you couldn't move for lighters and storm matches from that trip on?

 Slackboot 09 Jan 2020
In reply to Max factor:

> Look out To build a fire by Jack London. Very reminiscent of the OP's story.

> I'd like to know what you did next.

I don't think the next day was very successful for us, though I remember others in our party who were more organised doing some good climbs. Its over 40 years ago now. We always seemed to be going up to climb when conditions were poor. Eventually we got the hint and tried to go when there was more build up. And our gear wasn't the best either. I remember my crampons coming off halfway up The Screen (IV 5) in Glencoe because I only had bendy boots. And straight axes!  It's a wonder we got up anything.

 Lankyman 10 Jan 2020
In reply to Slackboot:

Many years ago I was in a remote part of New Zealand staying in one of the old forestry huts with a couple of government-employed goat hunters. They were tough as old nails and their dogs were 'kenneled' under the hut floor outside tearing up dead goat. As we sat around the pot belly, one of them asked me if I knew the fail-safe way to always get a fire going? I was expecting some piece of Maori lore passed down through the ages, perhaps involving tracking down some particularly resinous tree that never failed to ignite even on the wettest night? No. Just carry strips of old tyre inner tubes  in your pack (and keep your matches well wrapped).

 Slackboot 10 Jan 2020
In reply to Lankyman:

Most stuff is common sense in the end. Although I didnt know about the inner tubes.


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