The Angry Corrie 15: Oct-Nov 1993

WALKING TYPES No. 8: The Spotty Youths

It's your first time out in the snow this winter, and after a thousand feet of kick-step-kick-step-place-axe, the fronts of your thighs want to go home for a nice warm bath. The left crampon has been feeling a bit loose for a while, and you are acutely aware of the big boulders down at the base of the hill. If you come unstuck you'll have, oh, at least ten seconds in which to remember what to do with the ice-axe before you're down there doing an impression of the ball in a pin-ball machine.

Time to sit down and fiddle with the straps. You look down at the snow, then glance up the slope, and a pair of twelve-point crampons are suddenly approaching your face very fast indeed. You jump backwards, lose your footing, and remember what to do with the ice-axe remarkably quickly. The owner of the crampons whooshes past you shouting " Oops! ", and stops about fifty feet further down the slope. You find that you are suddenly very, very angry. This is aggravated by a chorus of oafish laughter from further uphill. You're buggered if you'll traipse downhill to shout at your recent attacker, so you march uphill to shout at his mates instead.

They're all somewhere between fourteen and sixteen, clad in a bizarre selection of new birthday-present gear and Dad's old kit. Two pairs of crampons and three ice-axes between four. They're laughing with that complete abandon you just don't get after your twentieth birthday - weeping and choking and falling over in the snow. It's impossible to shout at them effectively, so you don't bother.

They've come here to practise self-arresting with their axes: a thousand feet up steep, icy snow with a run-off into a boulder field.

Had they considered somewhere, ah, safer, at all?

Safer? They're not sure what you mean.

Their idiot friend rejoins them. He has no ice axe. Oh, no, that wasn't self-arresting, that was a Falling Angel. You lie on your back on the snow with your rucksack on back-to-front and your arms out to the sides. Brake with your elbows and heels. It's fim.

There's nothing to say, really. Just pray, wait for them to get older, and keep out of their fall line until then.


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