Simon going round the bend
Aaron (a former client of mine) leading up behind
Coiling up in Tower GullyWell what winter there is wont die. Today i was running a 1 day workshop for The Association of Mountaineering Instructors. Simon and Scott, 2 Trainee MICs working towards assessment were down for a day looking at parallel ropework. We discussed where we might go, knowing that the limited number of options available would all be busy, and opted for Gardyloo Gully as a route neither of them had done.
Ben Nevis's dusting of snow was making it look the part on the way in and looking up Observatory Gully we could see teams already hard at play. We kitted up and began the long walk up the Gully. There were teams on Observatory Ridge, Tower Scoop, Smiths Route and Good Friday Climb. No-one was braving the very thin looking Indicator wall...
...but people were definitely missing a trick by not getting onto the fat cascade to the right of Tower Gully.
We slotted into the queue on Gardyloo wanting a good few pitches and soon the guys were into the swing of things. It got a little busy at the chockstone where some parties were taking the thin ice on the right. We opted to worm under the stone and up the tunnel that someone has put a great deal of energy into digging up behind it- a great wee pitch :-) Then Scott popped us out the top of the Gully in one more pitch.
We'd had some short, sharp snow showers that had led to a little sloughing but there had also been the odd glimpse of blue sky through the murk overhead.
We decided to look at some options for getting students down Tower Gully and constructed a snow bollard. Then Scott belayed me and Simon down before abseiling down to join us. Simon took over using another snow anchor to belay Scott and I down another pitch.
As we dropped down the cloud broke and we got a little blue sky and some great views of folk out on Smiths and Tower Scoop.
Again some bizarre ropework going on. What benefit is there to staying roped up to traverse with no gear and 50-60m of rope out across the steep snow from the top of Tower Scoop to Good Friday?? If one slips they pull the other off.... and then even if they recover they'll get pulled off as no. 2 yanks on them and so on until they end in a heap at the bottom of Observatory Gully. And worse they'll cheesewire anyone else below them off very effectively. It takes seconds to untie and take coils / stow the rope in a rucksack and then you'll probably make up the time by not having to manage that great long length of rope between you as you traverse??? I just don't get it? If someone does need the protection of the rope as they can't cope with that snow slope then giving them false confidence like that is not a great option?
Finally as we walked out it was interesting to look up into Coire na Ciste where North Gully (a waterfall yesterday) was a clearly complete line of white today. Ok its probably really soft where the gap was but it looks very different from yesterday.