Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Calm Before the Storm.......

 Above: The comb and No3 Gully in Coire na Ciste on Ben Nevis

I had a meeting in Oban on Tuesday so Wally and I snuck off to the mainland on Sunday night and headed up to Fort William.  A favourable weather forecast meant that the lure of Ben Nevis was hard to resist.  I haven't climbed on there yet this winter and it always takes a bit of psyching up as the place is just so incredibly huge.

Above:both ends of Tower Ridge- not possible to put in to one shot!

We walked in planning to do No2 Gully Buttress but on the way up were diverted by a line up Central Gully on Trident Buttress, which has an optional finish on the ridge of the buttress.  We had recently read about this on UKC courtesy of Mike Pescod so thought we would give it a go. Another party had had the same idea and were on the first pitch when we arrived.

Below: Central Gully with Trident Buttress finish on the left skyline. 

We took up a stance at the bottom but the sun on the ice and rocks above plus the activity of this party (of 3) meant that we were subjected to a hail of blocks of ice, stones and spindrift.  After a coule of sizeable blows it became too much and we legged it further up in to Coire na Ciste- the huge coire between Tower Ridge and Number 5 Gully. Traversing under The Comb we soon arrived at the start of No 2 gully Buttress (III).  Took a belay at the bottom of the gully in a rock cave under an amazing ice sculpture.

Below: Amazing umbrella of ice at the bottom of No2 Gully with No2 Gully Buttress flanking the left hand side of the gully.

Unfortunately I took no photos on the route (I forgot- concentrating....) but it was great fun. I've not led III before so was happy to let Wally take the sharp end and even more happy when it emerged that there was no gear to be found.  The ice was very poor (full of pockets and air), and the rock was buried.  He got 8 runners on 5 pitches (and 4 of these were on one pitch). Nails.
We got to the top after a fantastic day that was everything that a day on the Ben should be: challenging, tough, fun and long!
Woke up the next day to blizzards and gales- we were lucky to get the day out that we did.  Ended up stuck on the mainland for an extra night as no ferries were running and the roads were pretty dodgy in all the snow.  Kipped at Hazels (thanks for great hospitality as always H) near Lochgilpead and finally made it home this afternoon. Phew. By the sounds of things we were lucky as others traveling in the wild weather have had some epic journeys.

Monday, 22 March 2010

The Three Beinns

Saturday was a fantastic day and we were lucky enough to be out in the hills on Arran. We did the Three Beinns walk, which is one of my favourites and probably the most popular with clients.  I never get tired of the incredible granite rock formations (including the Old Man of Tarsuinn below) and massive cliffs, not to mention the wonderful views of the Goatfell Range and out to sea.
The walk takes in Beinn Nuis, Beinn Tarsuinn and Beinn a Chliabhain. I usually do it Beinn Nuis first, but on this occasion we reversed the route and started up Beinn a Chliabhain, the smallest of the three.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Winter Marches On

A couple of days worth of pics here- the first lot are from Wednesday when we headed up Beinn a Chliabhain and then descended in to Coire a Bhradain to see if any of the climbs on Nuis and Tarsuinn were in condition.

Sadly the sun had melted too much of the easier gullies already and not enough ice had formed in the harder lines on Nuis to all that was left to do was build a snowman and bask in the sunshine.

Next day after a days admin work we headed out for a late trip over the saddle between Glen Sannox and Glen Rosa. We made the saddle before sunset and walked out of Glen Rosa in the dark. Very atmospheric!

Crossing the saddle at the moment requires full winter skills. We went around the Whinstone Dyke as it is choked with unconsolidated snow and headed up left of the main difficulties on open slope. Not too bad but needed the ice axe and glad of the crampons. Consequences of a slip up here don't bear thinking about.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Properly Wild on Goatfell

After the snowstorms of last week the weather for Sunday looked like it would be calm and sunny so Wally and I planned a stomp up Goatfell to have a look at Stacach Gully (I/II) a little winter route close to the summit of the mountain that often holds an ice pitch. A mate soloed it last week so we were confident that we would find it in condition. The red arrow indicates the top of the gully. We climbed this last year (on a TR *blushes*) and the report is here:

Things didn't turn out as planned (of course) as the promised settled weather quickly deteriorated in to strong winds and a blizzard of graupel (hail stone like rimed up snowflakes- ow!). Getting up on to the shoulder of the mountain we cold see that the ice pitch was well banked out with deep snow and the fresh windslab prompted nervous thoughts about the snow stability. The mainland has been suffering atrocious avalanche conditions this weekend due to a deeply buried layer of surface hoar. I don't think we have this problem on Arran as it has not been as cold, but the depth and angle of the windslab made us think twice about traversing on to the slope.
Heading up to the summit the wind became too strong to stand up and we stopped short of the top and retraced out route. Yet again the climbing gear got taken for a nice walk on Arran! Will we climb anything here this winter at all?