Sunday, 25 January 2009

Snow and nutella sandwiches

We have just got back from a week on the mainland visiting family in England and spent Friday night in the back of the van on the quayside in Ardrossan. We had to blow away the cobwebs and it was a beautiful snowy day so got straight out on the hill as soon as we docked.
There are a few things that I get really excited about, and these include snow, and nutella, and with a couple of well laden butties the day was looking very promising.... (sorry about the stupid photo, but you get the idea...)

We went over the ridge between North Goatfell and Goatfell called Stacach. It is an easy scramble in summer conditions and in winter a major mountaineering expedition needing axe and crampons. When we got to the ridge, the wind was very strong, so we decided to pick out a cunning traverse that avoids the narrowest part of the ridge. Again, in summer, this is a narrow but simple path to the East, but in winter crosses avalanche prone snowfields above big drops. Avalanches are not regularly recorded on Arran but that doesn't mean they don't happen. Care required! The overhanging cliffs were smeared with icicles. At the top the rocky crest was encrusted with rime ice that had grown weird formations in the damp but icy winter blast of wind that was hammering across the top.
This all added to the fun and we stopped along the way to do Stacach Gully- a grade I/II mountaineering route, with a short ice pitch half way up. Unfortunately we forgot the drive-ins for protecting turf so we top roped it. Wally set up a belay on a sheltered ledge and we took turns to lower each other into the snow filled gully. The gully was fairly open on the right, but the left wall was flanked by blank rock and ice smears, and the ice pitch up the middle was fragile, but bits were banked out enough with snow that it was straightforward on a top rope. I went second, which was a good thing, as I kicked out the bottom a bit and left very little for anyone else. Again, sorry, but it was the kind of sugary ice full of bubbles that didn't like being kicked. Fortunately we are due for a good freeze thaw this week and it should reform. Hopefully a bit better.
After all this fun, we headed for the summit of Goatfell, and enjoyed a chat with a fellow walker on the way. (Hi Tim). The half light of the sun shining through the clouds and on to the icy rocks was absolutely stunning and although it was very windy and cold, we hung around for a bit to enjoy the atmosphere (there was plenty of that!).

1 comment:

Minnesotastan said...

You have a beautifully designed and executed blog. Keep up the excellent work.

I was able to find my way from the sidebar to your primary website; I love hiking, so it's sad that Scotland is so far from Minnesota...