Out with Sally and Steve again today. Day 2 of the 'winterisation' of Steve's climbing was to involve some ice and some leading for him. With a forecast for high winds later I was keen to stay fairly low so we went to the west face of Aonach Dubh after seeing pics on Alex's Blog last night with thoughts of No. 3 Gully.
On the walk in the Screen was hugely obvious above us.... so much so that after a little discussion we agreed that I'd lead the guys up this so that Steve could get a feel for some steep ice and we could ab off of a v thread. 10 ft up and I'm wishing I'd sharpended my tools and brought more screws..... belay at the bottom..... belay at the top..... that leaves 5 screws (just enough) for a steep lengthy pitch of ice that varied from; very brittle, to wet, to hollow, to thin enough that I was straight through to rock. It was excellent climbing and felt like a nice pitch of V to me, steep and sustained and mostly (but not always) on quite good ice. We rigged our thread and down we went.
A short traverse to the bottom of No.3 Gully and there are Gaz and Adele who have had the same idea- they are working together with 2 clients for Jagged Globe . The first pitch was a little steep to hit Steve with as his first ice lead so I nipped up first. After that Steve went on the sharp end happily dispatching pitch after pitch of icey steps, snow and the odd thinly ice bit of rock. Both team moved very quickly and when we reached the Rake decided to head left into a nice little mixed pitch that took us out onto the face in an exposed position above the basin of No.2 Gully. Some easy but airy snowy ramps took us to a final mixed step which I led.
All day long 'snow devils' little tornados of snow had been whipping round the crags and blasting us. We decided to go for a careful look at the top of No.2 Gully (scoured out on 1 side, soft deep slab on the other). Without much snow above us we quickly made our way down through the short narrows where you are exposed to an avalanche (we were on firm snow on a rib on one side) until we were out on Dinnertime Buttress which we descended to the cars
A good long exploratory day with a good long pitch of tech 5 ice, a 300m II/III lead for Steve, another couple of mixed pitches and some Grade I soloing above that and a careful descent of some steep ground.... phew- I need a glass of wine! Well done to Steve, tech 5 mixed and ice followed and a long lead pushing III at speed too!!