Tom and Colin and I were at the front of a long queue on Dorsal Arete yesterday as the snow began to fall. It was the first winter lead for the guys and the large amounts of fresh snow certainly made it fell properly wintery! We were heading down in good time but the gullys were filling fast and avalanche activity was apparently seen later in Broad Gully. Off to the Cairngorms for the weekend and early next week and it looks like it will be wild! I've attached a picture the guys took of me enjoying the last pitch of No.3 Gully Butress yesterday too.
Tuesday, 29 January 2008
A stomach bug and a spell in the office coincided with a nasty big thaw. But I was out today and then will be tomorrow and the weekend and Mon/Tues and later next week - the season starts to get really busy now as February comes around. Anyway.... today I went with Tom and Colin to the Ben and we were rewarded with surprisingly good conditions on the reliable No. 3 Gully Butress - plenty of ice low down and frozen snow higher up. It was raining or sleeting most of the early part of the day but this had turned to fresh snow by the time we came down No.4 (dusting down to just below the CIC). There were a few winter mountaineering parties in Coire na Ciste, a party on Green (first pitch thinish looking but present) and we gave Jack and partner a lift down after a slightly soggy ascent of Smiths - good effort. Their quote of he day was 'some of the screws were barely supporting the weight of the quickdraws'. We had a top day out and it was a great route for the lads' first winter climb. If anyone finds a BD Turbo Express at the bottom of Two Step where it fell after we fumbled it - there's a reward!
Sunday, 20 January 2008
I went with Jane and Jamie B to Aonach Mor today for a short day. We took the 9am gondola and joined the queues at the top of Easy Gully. We wandered along the crag until coming to the bottom of Icicle Gully which none of us had ever done before and decided to go for that. As Jamie B led the first pitch increasing numbers of spindrift sloughs came down the gully. As I led the second pitch up the icicle I was finding good ice, rotten sugar and bottomless powder too - what I didnt find much of was gear the walls of the gully being plastered. As I headed for the plateau I was grateful to the guys at the top of Grooved Arete for the use of part of their belay as a runner and whilst I battered at the large fresh powdery cornice one of them used the time waiting to dig us both out a runner just below - cheers guys! We topped out into the teeth of strong winds and blown snow and were glad to scuttle off down to civilisation at the gondola station. Ive put a couple more pics on http://icefactor.blogspot.com/
Saturday, 19 January 2008
Will and John were fairly weary after a day in foul conditions on Dorsal Arete yesterday so we went to get a bit more practise on moderately steep snow slopes today. We started up Great Gully and moved onto the broken ground beneath North Butress, finally descending the lower part of Curved Ridge. There was a frozen crust often several inches thick over a snowpack still saturated from yesterdays thaw. Another day/night or two of cold temperatures will help. There was evidence of a very large wet snow avalanche which had come out of the Crowberry Basin in yesterday's wet and mild conditions.
Wednesday, 16 January 2008
Inspired by a photo on UKC (http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=78797) Jamie B suggested a trip to Ben Starav so he, Will, Henry and I made the long walk n this morning and it was well worth it. We had a stunning clear day and although the route looks pretty alpine compared to Saturday it was great (Jamie B '11 out of 10', Henry 'bestwinter route I've done'). We had plenty of bomber turf and firm snow ice and. Jamie and Will started up a line on the left and traversed in to join us at the top of our first pitch. The route gave a good vareity of climbing with a nice groove with a bulges low down, a nice wall for the crux and the pinnacles were just great fun - every time you reached out an axe it hooked into a perfect crack or over an edge. Highly recommended. We carried on over the top of Ben Starav and made it back to the car without reaching for headtorches.
Saturday, 12 January 2008
I was out with Cilla and Andy today - and Will came along to shadow. We went to Sron na Lairig the superb ridge running from The Lairig Eilde up onto the SE ridge of Stob Coire Sgreamhach. And we werent alone! At least 8 people followed us directly up the crest and more than that traversed on at half height from the left (by which stage I was glad to follow their trail up the last sections of the ridge - I'd had plenty of trailbreaking by them!).
A superb sunny start to the day saw us walking in with snow and ice in the glen. The ridge was covered in a foot or two of crusty snow with the occasional blob of ice shwoing through. It was a very sociable day and we summited on SCS to make it the Cilla and Andy's first munro and first day with axe and crampons - a great effort.
I'd never seen that much snow on the ridge and steps which I've done as ice and turf before were completely buried allowing us to take a very direct line right up the crest at about II - toss in superb views N,E and W (S we could see the approaching manky weather we'll get tomorrow) and it really was a top day out. There was still at least one soloist sitting enjoying the last of the sun as we headed back down the Lairig.
Thursday, 10 January 2008
Sunday, 6 January 2008
Jason and I climbed Curved Ridge today and it was plastered! Low on the ridge the thaw had revealed a lot of chossy water ice, higher up the snow showers and recent change in wind direction meant we were swimming, wading and sometimes crawling through deep pristine snow. Many thanks to the Cambridge Uni Mountaineering Club lads who let us pass them and then took advantage of our trail breaking! They made good photo models though......
Wednesday, 2 January 2008
Dave, Eric and I went for the long option to get high enough to find climbing conditions for our last route of 2007. We walked in to Sgurr nan Clach Geala from the north witnessing a stunning sunrise highlighting An Teallach. The guys had me gasping for breath by the time we were looking down into the coire and we new we would have to go for the summit butresses to have a chance of finding frozen turf and ice. The line of Fusillier (IV,5) is obvious starting up a steep groove which Eric led using elbows knees and a bizarre rucksack-body wedge. Dave's pitch was easier but by now it was obvious that the little ice around was thawing. I led the guidebook's crux pitch pulling up on a nicely wedged chockstone....... which fell out as Dave used it. I also found a home (or perhaps Russian) made titanium peg at the belay? Eric disappeared around the corner and suddenly the rope seemed to be inching out Veeeeery slowly. A bad sign from the frenchman as he'd made the route look very easy so far. Seconding him we soon saw why. The 'icey slabs' were smooth and coated in a cm or two of soft ice and a little powder. Some very tenuous tiptoing saw us developing a great deal of respect for 'Riquet's lead. 2 easier pitches saw some better frozen turf and the summit (a cracking munro) and we were back at the car after a day that lasted just under 10 hours! Next morning the view from above Ullapool showed us that the snow had stripped right back in overnight rain - oh well, it will return!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
Nick and I went to Glencoe on the 29th hoping that the overnight snow fall would give some good climbing. Unfortunately things werent very well frozen together so we decided to go for a route I hadnt tried before but which looked like it had sufficient snow to climb. We climbed Boomerang Arete (III) using elbows, knees and a sort of front crawl through about 4 inches of fresh snow! The route starts on the bottom right hand side of Boomerang gully and the initial wall pitch gives good sport with some variation possible. The second pitch takes you onto the large ledge running round the butress and the third follows a chimney/gully line on the right. At the top of this the climbing becomes easy allowing a quick escape. We descended Broad Gully and just escaped the need for head torches - often essential at this time of year. We could have tried Dorsal Arete or Ordinary Route but it made a nice change to try something new rather than just sticking to the popular routes in the coire.