Today I have had a guide called Jono lead me around the Remarkables. The aim is to not be a complete beginner when I hit the Alps this summer. It's not a specific brief, and I might just as well have said take me out and teach me stuff. Because learning is what happened, cool, huh?
We started today at 08:30, without even a coffee under my belt (I was prioritising finding a shop to sell me chapstick which I seem to have misplaced). We talked about what I've done, what I aim to do and what he could offer and put together an ace plan. Then bags were packed; mine found itself carrying two ice axes, crampons, gaiters, an alpine harness and a world of other stuff of wintery nature. Good job too because up there in the mountain tops where snow still lies thickly, it did actually snow on us. Winter wonderland and all that.
I learned three (I think) different ways of ascending, depending on the steepness of the slope, on whether the snow is hard or soft. Zigzagging cutting steps, using 2 point, 10 point and a torturous method associated with the French. I learned ways of descending, some which felt like hands and knees, another with heavy heels. I learned how to use the axe for self arrest if I'm falling downhill on my front facefirst, if I've landed on my arse and my head is uphill, and if I've landed on my back head uphill. I learned how to travel between snowy patches covering rock on crampons, both climbing and downclimbing.
I blush to say the instructor has praised my footwork, said I must be a pretty good climber and told me he's showed me some techniques he doesn't normally show clients. I am, apparently kind of co-ordinated and able to grasp the techniques relatively quickly. We've travelled together with a rope between us as though we were glacier walking, and had a lot of talk about what's involved in that. Yes, it's going well and it's value for money. She says, rocking back to the accommodation near to 7pm at night.
There will be some long days and indeed a 6am start is likely on Friday, and maybe Via Ferrata on Saturday, something I've been yearning to do for years. And now there is homework. Knots to be learned … hmm.
P-p-p-parking lot on repeat around my head today.