Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Number 2 Gully Buttress

Steve sets off
 Pitch 2 for me
 Steve under a cloud of spindrift
...and on the move again
Proper winter!
Last bit
 Moody clouds coming
 A view of the top
More wintery than it looks from here!
Steve gave men a call yesterday to offer an opportunity to burn off a little Christmas cheer. We walked in to Ben Nevis catching Iain and James on the way and psyche was not particularly high as we crossed the Allt a Mhuillin and sweated our way up through the rain showers into the murk of Coire na Ciste. Another pair was headed straight up the coire and we were pleased to note the Comb had some rime on it. Gearing up near the bottom of Comb Gully we'd found some firm snow and spotted a little debris sliding out of both it and No.2 Gully so we quickly headed further left to access the basin below a lean Cascade. Traversing right most things weren't well formed and finally we were beneath No.2 Gully Buttress which was at least icey and white looking so we were happy to repeat it. There was some fine hero ice in the back of the groove of the first pitch and this continued higher up as we climbed 4 pitches to a very windy, wintery plateau. We packed and stowed and descended along with the usual crowd of completely ill equipped folk suckered in by the appearance of the mountain from below. As we swung our packs on though we were treated to a brief window of blue sky and paused above the clouds for a moment before heading down to do battle with further Turkey in my case!
Lots of evidence of the freeze thaw process in the form of ice smears everywhere lower down (The Curtain and Garadh Gully both have big smears on them) but higher up it needs a little more of the same to generate more ice. We couldn't see what the big mixed lines were like but going by our route they would be rimey and icey. It was cold above 1100m for us today.

Monday, 19 December 2016


...has been busy!
I've been coached by Dave Macleod, attended the Glenmore Load Adventure Sports Coaching Conference, run a 2 day CWA Training at Glasgow Climbing Centre and a couple of days avalanche awareness training for School of Adventure Studies students. Then it was a Mountaineering Scotland FUNdamentals 1 followed by a Foundation Coach Training at The Ice Factor followed by 4 days of Staff Training at Glenmore Lodge where we were also joined by team Plas Y Brenin for the first 2 days. Tomorrow is the second day of another 2 days winter awareness training for West Highland College and we might actually see some snow... and then need a holiday!
Here are just a few pics a fuller set at: https://www.facebook.com/climbwhenyoureready.mountaineering/media_set?set=a.1264498853593229.100000993792059&type=3&uploaded=47

Friday, 2 December 2016

Doing penance on Ben Nevis

Dear Lord thank you for... 
The sweaty hike and bike from Torlundy to the top car park
The time lost helping 'Angie' find 'Max' the black lab
The new boots overtightened at the stile
The greasy boulders on the way into Coire na Ciste
The snow that needed 4 steps to kick into for a step
The snow that I plunged through to my crotch (usually one step after that referred to above)
The unconsolidated scree heading up to the left of the Comb
The 10m sheet of ice that split horizontally from my upper axe
The gully that looked complete from below
The snow overhang with the water behind it
The thin moss with the centimetre of bobbly water ice above it
The gently overhung chockstone with no footholds 
The rotten snow at the narrows
The end of the old snow and ice and the beginning of the frozen choss at the top of the gully
The collection of wedged chockstones to be bridged around before safety was reached
The long walk down in the new stiff (but at least now well slackened) boots
I know you aren't supposed to be big on bargains but if this penance could be considered when deciding whether I can enter some future winter climbing heaven I'd be most grateful. 

I've been working almost exclusively in climbing walls for a couple of weeks and whilst my bouldering is coming nicely my legs aren't getting any stronger for winter. Today was the only day I had free to get out for myself in the next 2 weeks and with a heavy thaw forecast for midweek I thought I'd go an exert myself. I pushed the bike from Torlundy to the top car park and after some dog hunting antics sweated my way to near the Hut. A fine cosmetic dusting has come down and sits at a level above the Basin/Little Tower/Traverse on No.3 Gully Buttress. There are various smears of ice around one of which I climbed below Raeburns Easy Route. I then let myself be sucked in by No.2 Gully little realising that the big 'flume' at the base is where all the snow from the upper half has avalanched down. I climbed on ever thinner ice with a couple of big pulls on tools and some sketchy bridging. Type 3 fun... glad I'm down but wouldn't recommend it... be smarter than me and wait for a return to winter!
The push uphill
 Nice light over Fort William
 Looks a tad lean
 Looks only marginally better
 Is No.2 complete?

 This snow patch was 50% brick hard and 50% bottomless!
 Ice smears abound but very small- I climbed the one level with the base of the Comb
 Here it is
 The 'flume' where No.2 has avalanched
 Looking up at Raeburns Easy and the Cascade-very patchy
 Hmmm- so far so good
 Ah-a little different up there
 Yes... that was 'interesting...'
 Not quite done either
 Pleased to plateau
 Inversion over Loch Eil
Home is under that lot- best get moving