Monday, 31 January 2011

Run Away!

After Thursday's near perfect weather today was a bit of a contrast! I headed for the Ben again with Nick with the intention of doing a nice easy route to introduce Nick to the world of roped winter climbing, sadly the weather had other plans! The walk in was damp, windy and cold, and thing didn't get any better higher up!
Once in the corie its self we headed for No. 2 gully, unfortunately there had been a considerable amount more fresh snow than expected and the snow pack didn't feel too stable. A quick excavation near the base of the gully revealed about an inch of fresh windslab sitting on about 6 inches of firmer crust which didn't appear to be attached to anything at all! In fact the entire slab (about 7 inches thick) fell away before i had even finished digging! Not very confidence inspiring at all!

We had a quick look for Raeburns Easy Route but with very poor visibility, an unstable snowpack, worsening weather conditions and numerous powder avalanches pouring down from above we decided to cut out losses and made a quick retreat!

On the way back we ran into numerous other teams who were all doing exactly the same as ourselves.

So as to not completely waste the day i took Nick back to the same small ice pitch i had played around on on Thursday and we looked at the basics of climbing technique, axe/ foot placements etc. The weather lower down was much more settled and it turned into a pleasant, sociable afternoon when we were joined by Ross and Emma (fresh back from the MCOS Norway ice trip!) who we had discussed conditions with around No.2.

Garadh Gully:

On Thursday we took full advantage of the perfect conditions and i headed for the Ben with Craig and Jamie. The original plan had been to run up Garadh Gully and then do Glovers Chimney but after a false start due to dropped head torch, long approach involving soloing grade II ground with 1 axe and no crampons, and thin conditions on the approach route and another team beating us to it we decided to leave Glovers for another day!

The 'approach'

Garadh Gully its self turned out to be a very enjoyable route in its own right. We moved together for the 1st pitch (avoiding the dodgey looking detached ice step at the very start) then set up a belay for pitch 2. This is supposed to have a simple grade II ice step but unfortunately there was very little ice on it so it turned out to be more of a grade III mixed step on very thinly ices rock, good fun though!

The belay above pitch 2

Craig took the lead for pitch 3 and Jamie finished it all off for us by running it out on pitch 4. Not bad going considering the guidebook has it marked as a 95m route ( we managed to run out near enough 200m of rope on it!)

Team ahead on P2 of Glovers

From here we descended back down the corrie, stopping to play on a few short ice pitches on route before walking out. Another lovely day out!
Jamie having a play!

Sorry about the photo quality! Had the camera on the wrong setting!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

SC Gully and Dorsal Arete:

On Sunday I headed down to Stob Corie nan Lochan in Glen Coe with Graham, Craig and Lee. We had an early start but were still beaten to the carpark by a surprising number of cars. With a good pace up the track however we made it to the crags before they got too busy.
Graham had been hoping to do Ordinary Route but unfortunetly we were beaten to it and as it didn't look in great nick we all headed for SC Gully.
This proved to be rather thin and felt sporting for the grade (especially when accidentaly trying to do the grade IV variation). The bottom Ice pitch was think, cruddy and poorly protected. The steep, right trending ice step that starts pitch 2 was not fully formed and very think so instead we made a short steep mixed step just above the ice to gain the ramp.  From here the snow was good and we quickly finished the route.

While waiting for Craig and Lee to finish Graham and myself descended Broad Gully then soloed Dorsal Arete before dropping drown Broad again to meet the others. I'll definitely have to go back and try SC again in better conditions.

Another long day out but a very enjoyable one.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Swimming Lessons:

Yesterday Craig, Graham and myself went to have a look whats been going on on the Ben. The initial idea was to try Glovers Chimney but with the recent heavy snow fall and high avalanche risk we walked into Corie na Ciste with a very open mind, hoping to find something that would be safe to climb.
A quick look at Glovers showed worryingly large amounts of avalanche debris at the base of it so instead we headed for No. 3 Gully Buttress (III).  The approach was somewhat dubious, crossing large areas of windslab and eventually after literally swimming up the final part of the approach in waist deep powder we reached to bottom of the first pitch.

We climbed the route in 4 long pitches with myself taking the 1st icefall pitch, Craig taking the 2nd traverse pitch, G taking the 3rd traverse pitch with the steep rocky step and myself finishing up the final pitch. I think we may have gone slightly off route on the final pitch. Rather than making an exposed step and finishing up snow ramp we took a steep line directly above this, up a short but steep corned.

On the decent we stopped to have a quick chat with Paddy Cave who had just completed Andy Tunrer's route The Secret IX9. Congratulations to him! Great work

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Wet and Wild on CMD

Last night i got a text from Nick asking if i fancied doing something today. Having already seen the forecast my first thought was 'not a chance mate!' but after a quick bit of thought i decided that i've been far too lucky with my days out this season so i'd better go punish myself a little to appease the weather gods! After the heavy snowfall of the last day or two we decided not to go for a climb today so instead headed for the CMD arete which neither of us had done under winter conditions yet. As predicted the day turned out to be a real belter! Almost constant rain upto the summit of Carn Beag Derag, 50mph winds, snow, hail, spindrift and whiteout for the rest! Add to that the foot or so of fresh, soggy, sticky snow covering everything and it made for a real adventure of a day! GREAT FUN!

New Routing on Aonach Mor West Face?

On Sunday Geoff, Phil and myself went for a look at the West Face of Aonach Mor. We were joined by another Phil and Ann, members of the Polldubh club. Geoff and Phil who had been up a few days previous wanted to go try Gully 3, a III/IV on the left end of the face before the main ridges are reached. Unfortunately the lower ice pitches of Gully 3 hadn't faired very well with the recent thaw so instead we went for the gully directly left of gully 3. This doesn't appear be in the guidebook and may or may not be a new route. Either way it have two lovely grade III 4 ice pitches before turning into a pleasant, if rather long snow gully. The weather was warm but still and fairly clear and we all enjoyed a lovely sociable days climbing.
Me at the top of P1
Phil hot on Phil's heels on P2

Photos courtesy of Geoff Hewit.