Diary of a skimo racer May 2013

Calum Muskett was visiting Chamonix for a month recently and we hooked up for some skiing together. Aged 19 at the moment he has done more climbing in 6 years than most of us will do in a lifetime. And with on-sighting F8a and E7 he will already be amongst the best on-sight climbers in the UK.

Calum with the Quarryman groove behind, which he climbed last year

But all that climbing doesn’t make you a skier so with a Mountain Guides application planned for the year he turns 21, he thought he would turn his prodigious athletic talents to skiing. Not satisfied just with a rapid learning curve he was psyched and completed the British Ski Mountaineering Championships on Easter Sunday- a very brave move on uberlight kit that punishes poor technique.

Skinning into NE Couloir of le Genepi

He is picking up the sport fast and will soon be a very good skier (he was already good after 10 days- sickening..). I had mixed feelings about taking up him up the Aiguille de Genepi and skiing its 40-45 degree NE couloir from the summit but it was clearly well within him, even after so little skiing. Is this the kind of go for it attitude you need? I reckon so- leading his first E7 aged 15 clearly takes a very unusual degree of composure.

Skiing down the NE couloir of le Genepi

I first came across Calum on the Rainbow Slab on the Slate. I was at the top of Poetry Pink and he was at the top of Cystitis by Proxy, both E5, though Cystitis is much harder. We got chatting and he told me how he had done his first couple of E6s in the past few days, one of which was the Cad at North Stack Wall, Gogarth. I was inspired and, having put off leading it for about as long as Calum had been on the planet, sorted it out and led it the following weekend.

Soloing California Arete E1 4c

Fast forward 4 years- E6 is now just a modus operandi for Calum- he has done 11 of them on-sight in a 7 day period recently - we find ourselves on North Stack Wall again, for my first days trad climbing of the year, having been in Cham all winter skiing. Warm up on an E1 perhaps- apparently not- I was pointed up Blue Peter, E4 5c, which after initial loose rock interest (read large hold pulling off with me attached) went otherwise smoothly. Good job that peg was OK..

Abbing into North Stack Wall

Calums lead- he swiftly despatched the direct on Blue Peter called Art Groupie, E6 6a. “Shall I leave the runners in so you can lead it?” Er, er, mmm, ah well I guess I have just tested the peg... “Just take this skyhook (what am I doing on day 1??) and you’ll be fine”. The skyhook lifted off during the crux move (never placed one before- see why some people tape them on..) but luckily I didn’t fluff it..

The tide was against us -good job as his agenda was Hollow Man onsight (E7/8) which I didn’t really fancy. So he lead another E6 called Birth Trauma which I struggled to second (well I didn’t second- yarded on the gear)- “more like E7 I reckon”, said Calum. “Can we eat ice cream now please”, I said.

Bizarre Slate Mining Relics in “California”

Next day was slate- a mega 2 pitch route called Central Sadness- glad I got the top pitch as it had loads of gear. Pitch 1 looked a bit ankle breaking but barely flicked on the radar of difficulty for Calum. Then a quick visit to Twll Mawr for the relatively new 4 pitch route called Supermassive Black Hole- “it’s a soft touch for 7a” I was confidently informed. Fun route but I was happy to stop at that as Pembroke was beckoning the following day and I fancied saving what I had left in the way of arms for Bank Holiday escapades by the sea. Early finish not acceptable- a run up Carnedd Dafydd from Bethesda was prescribed- at least I could keep up, just..

Calum at the belay half way up Central Sadness, E5 6a

3 days later we crossed paths over a cream tea in Bosherston- Calum had hooked up with Dan McManus, also very talented but looking a little tired after climbing with Calum for a few days on multiple E6s. “Do you want to join us tomorrow?”, Calum said to me. The boot was on the other foot now- I had taught him to ski, he had taught me to climb, but the difference was I was broken after no E6s and mixed success on E5s and heading home. (The Blucher- decent lob, got it second go. Get Some In- flashed. Barbarella- unceremoniously spat off..). Calum had lapped it all up and was gunning for more. Dan looked wistful..

Pembrokeshire Bank Holiday- sun, sea and sore skin