Tuesday 15 March 2011

Trench warfare and intelligence gathering

Ben recce from Alan Halewood on Vimeo.

I'm working the next couple of days and today I felt I really needed to get a handle on exactly how things 'felt' on the hill since all this snow has fallen. How much has it settled? Where exactly has the freezing level been? Where is the snow sitting? Is there any ice visible? Are there any trails broken.
So today I cycled to Torlundy and began the walk up to the CIC hut. God news there is a trench all the way. This well stepped trail does meander a bit but means you don't have to wade at all until above the hut. It was drizzling low down and this translated to snow from just below the CIC. It was also at this level that I first felt a moderate wind- enough that the tracks of those who had gone before me to the Douglas Boulder had begun to drift over. I followed the trail that remained to see who was on what. First up a team starting up Gutless (I've had this route recommended to me by a few people now), then a little round the corner and I can see Mike Pescod on the second pitch of Jacknife (which he looked to have accessed from the right- from the the of the SW Ridge). Then there was a team at the very toe of the SW Ridge- doing what many have done before them- bailing off. The regular start to the ridge actually begins 20-30m up the West Gully where a ramp leaves a bay to emerge on a flattening of the ridge. The direct start is substantially harder but this is indicated in the guidebook. Across the West Gully and a team were on Fawlty Towers. As I passed beneath them a slough came down the icey groove to its right and another down 1934 Route. At the right hand side of the bay a team were on Vanishing Gully- I was surprised at how much ice there was on it despite the damage from the last thaw- far from fat but there were screws in it. I had a chat with the belayer and then sheltered behind him as another monster wave of spindrift came down. As I scuttled away I turned back to watch several more pelt the poor chap. The bay that all of these routes come out of is full of soft slab that appears to be adhering to whatever is beneath it in the present temperatures but everyone has- wisely- been really hugging the edges of it. The 'Vanishing belayer' (he did indeed Vanish beneath those waves of spindrift) told me that 2 teams tried to get up Observatory Gully today to get to Orion Direct and Point 5- both turned back. It may have been them who were on the Curtain. Surprisingly the white on it must have been at least partially ice as I watched 4 people ascend it. I wasn't alone in wondering if the swift ascent of the leaders was due in part to the lack of sufficient ice for screws? :-)
I could have soloed F Towers but didn't want to annoy the team of 3 on it and there will be plenty of climbing in the next 2 days. So I headed back down the trench to Torlundy and my bike via a chat with Tom and Dave who were off to do something on the Boulder and a Tollymore team at the hut.


Simon Davidson said...

yep ice is thin on the slab of the Curtain Alan so a fast approach needed, altho p 2+3 is excellent, cheers Simon_d

Alan said...

Well done on that- top pitches looked good from across the Coire! Al