Wednesday 23 March 2011

Green Gully in the gloom

Nick and I went out for his first outdoor climb today. It was grey, gloomy, mild and breezey this morning as we walked in at a fast pace. we met a team coming out from Observatory Gully "It's sh@*!e" was the verdict. After seeing Gary's pictures from yesterday I was interested to go into Coire na Ciste to take a look at Green Gully as it didn't seem to be threatened by cornicing unlike many of the routes in the coire. Walking up past the Lochain we followed old footprints but these didn't stop my foot punching through knee to thigh deep in the uniform layer of soggy snow. By the time we had reached the base of Green Gully we had passed several large pieces of cornice and some evidence of wet snow slides but heard no evidence of things on the move (unlike yesterday) except a few small pieces of ice- so we decided to go for it.
The route is fairly broad but there is water running out of it and spouting out of it in places- plenty of ice left but it's pretty wet. Also, and more worryingly, there is a huge amount of loose rock around. One of the belays (base of the 4th pitch) has finally lost a loose block that has often been used as it formed one side of a crack worn by repeated nut placements when frozen. There were plenty of loose blocks perched on rock ledges, evidence of fresh frost shattering with rocks teetering or sometimes held in place by thin slivers of ice. I found 3 head sized blocks sitting above the 3rd ice pitch on the lip of the steepening and moved them one at a time to a rock ledge higher up.
I was happy when we had reached the 5th pitch and could see no cornice above and a clear run at the plateau. Well done Nick who made things look easy!
We heard little falling in the coire today other than water but it would take more than a freeze to make things much safer (snowfall and a freeze thaw might do it) on many routes. Even with cold weather at the weekend I'd think hard about following someone up one of the few routes left in condition lest I get showered in loose rock. Take care.
I did see that North, Central RH, Glovers and No. 3 Gully Buttress all looked to be holding ice.

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