Jack and I had hoped to have drive to the Lakes last night to do some scrambling in the Langdales. As the forecast for the Lakes was pants, we changed the plan and headed for the Peak where the weather was supposed to be a bit better.
We stayed at Edale YHA last night and drove around to Castleton this morning for a start just after 9am. We walked up past the Treak Cliff and Blue John caverns before making the final ascent to the summit of Mam Tor. Along the ridge over Back Tor to Lose Hill we encountered what seemed like dozens of different D of E groups on practice expeditions, all of whom were from Stockport Grammar School. Good effort on the part of the teachers. Must have been a logistical nightmare.
Anyway, the rain stayed off for the entire walk with the exception on a few spots here and there. Jack and I were back at the car in just over three hours ready to head back to watch the footie and the Grand Prix on the tele.
Had a quick morning in Edale with Jack yesterday. Great weather, if a little hazy, we spent a bit of time looking at contour lines, map orientation and a few other basic navigational skills. We were back down to the car in just over three hours.
The first photo is from the summit of Grindslow Knoll. The second is looking back towards Edale from the path along the edge of the Kinder plateau.
I’m aware that I’ve not posted in absolutely ages. I’ll try to be more conscientious in future.
I’ve not climbed with Carl Miller since the winter of 2010 so was really looking forward to this weekend. As it happens though, we almost didn’t get here due to heavy snow. We finally made it to our accommodation at Inchree at 2am in the morning so treated ourselves to a bit of a lie-in until 9am.
The weather was forecast to be wild with a considerable avalanche risk but we decided to have a walk up to Aonach Dubh in Glencoe to see if Number 6 Gully (IV, 4) would be viable. An hour’s walk-in brought us the base of the crag where we were surprised and pleased to find a fairly easy approach to the start of the climb. Avoidable pockets of localised slab were present but these didn’t cause too much concern. The main hazard was the wind, which was gusting up the gully and making the use of snow goggles an absolute necessity for me. Carl is made of stronger stuff than me though, and managed to get through the whole day without using his!
We soloed up the first 150m of the route which was helped to speed things along as this is a long route and we’d had a late start. This was really enjoyable climbing on excellent sections of grade II/III ice interspersed with easier sections of snow. Carl led the first roped pitch, a steeply iced corner before finding a good belay below the crux section of the route. This is a long grade IV icefall, steep in places, which I led in two pitches on fantastic ice. Heavy spindrift avalanches added to the excitement during this lead and I would say that we can definitely claim to have climbed the route in full Scottish conditions! Carl completed the route via a nice, rightwards trending exit groove to bring us onto easier ground.
Due to the severity of the weather, we decided against continuing on to the summit of Aonach Dubh. Even so, the descent required care due to several areas of windslab which needed to be navigated around before we hit the main descent path. We arrived back at the car at around 5.30pm, thoroughly pleased with our day and ready to eat a proverbial horse.
All good things must come to an end so, alas, this was the last day of the trip for Jeremy and I. We were looking for a quick-ish day so decided to have a look at Beinn Udlaidh which is accessed from Glen Orchy. This crag has a reputation for holding ice at a comparatively low elevation, and has the advantage of a 45 minute walk-in. Additionally, I had never been there before and was keen to check the place out.
After negotiating a field inhabited by two friendly pigs, we commenced the short but steep approach to the coire. We found ice to be present all around the coire, albeit thin in places. The place could really have done with a bit more snow but we were confident we’d be able to get something done.
We had initially thought Quartzvein Scoop might be a suitable objective but, as another party had just started it, we decided on West Gully (III) which looked largely complete. We soloed up the first section and then set up a belay in the cave below the steep section midway up the route. As I’d lucked out on the best pitch the day before, Jeremy led this section. It was a terrific lead too, as there wasn’t much ice on the steep moves – probably a technical grade of 5 would be about right. I seconded this section and led the last couple of easy pitches to the top of the climb. A quick stomp back down and that was the end of our adventure. A top quality week enjoyed by all.
Jeremy and I got up a bit earlier as we had planned for a day of climbing on Ben Nevis. We set out from the North Face car park at around 6am and reached the CIC hut in just about guidebook time (90 minutes). It’s been three years since I’ve been on the Ben and I must say that the improvements made to the path between the top car park and the hut are superb. We were the first party to arrive at the hut and, consequently, would have first pick of the routes providing we could maintain a reasonable speed up to the base of our chosen route.
We opted for Comb Gully (IV, 4) as this is a route both of us had wanted to do for several years. A bit of gearing up followed by another hour of ascent saw us first at the base of the route. We soloed the initial easier section before finding a belay from where Jeremy led quickly up the first short steep section. I led the next pitch (crux) which is a fairly long section of steep ice. This was in such good condition that first time axe placements were the order of the day for most of the moves. A fantastic pitch of steep ice although I can imagine it would have been much more difficult in less favourable conditions. At several points I looked back down to Jeremy who had, by this point, been joined by two other parties. I don’t have an issue with that of course, other than the fact that belays had been set up in some rather strange positions meaning that all of the ropes were now like spaghetti junction! Clearly, the two parties had been climbing simultaneously on the first pitch, which I find staggering considering the potential for being hit by falling ice from above. Will Gadd talks about this very issue in his latest blog http://willgadd.com/ice-breaks-dont-be-in-the-way-of-it-as-it-falls/. It’s interesting how he singles out British climbers in particular for this practice. One more pitch led by Jeremy brought us onto a beautiful, sunny summit plateau.
We descended via Number 4 Gully but were keen to do another quick route before going all the way down. After a quick look at the guidebook we decided to solo North Gully. This is a nice little Grade II route with a good steep section at the base of the climb before easier slopes leading back onto the plateau. Completed in about 10 minutes and a great way to round off a great day of climbing before commencing the descent back to the CIC Hut and then down to the car park.
Coire na Ciste, Ben Nevis from the CIC Hut.
Jeremy at the first belay on Comb Gully (IV, 4).
Leading the steep pitch on Comb Gully (IV, 4).
View showing me soloing the lower section of North Gully (II).
View looking across the plateau towards the Ben Nevis summit.
Jeremy and I planned for an easy day today so opted for Aonach Mor but were appalled to find the chairlift wasn’t in operation due to high winds. So, like the hardened mountaineers we are, we skulked off to the Ice Factor. In fact, this was probably good use of time and energy because we got some really good quality steep ice technique practice in, and saved ourselves for a big day on the Ben tomorrow.
Jeremy and I wanted to have a day in Glen Coe so elected to have a walk to Stob Coire nan Lochan. We left the car park just before 8am and commenced the 90 minute walk-in. Although it’s not excessively long, this approach always seemed to feel a bit steep and brutal whenever I’ve done it in the past. Today was no different but we must have been removing reasonably well, as we passed about four other parties and were the first into the corie. As with yesterday, the weather and conditions was sensational, with beautiful sunshine and rock hard nevé underfoot.
Twisting Gully (III,4) was to be our objective, but first we had to negotiate a minor crisis with Jeremy’s crampons before heading up. A couple of quick adjustments and we were on our way, although we were now in a bit of a race with another party who had reached the corie after us. We didn’t know their intentions but we were keen to get to the start of the route as quickly as possible to stake our claim. This was achieved, albeit with the shedding of a little extra sweat.
I led the first pitch which consisted of straightforward snow which was stepped out nicely to save my calf muscles. Jeremy led the crux second pitch which has a great left traverse followed by an icy groove. Whilst seconding it, I thought it was well worth it’s technical grade of 4 but Jeremy led it really smoothly to a good stance. The ice was excellent, with first time axe placements and was thick enough to take a couple of ice screws. The third pitch had one short but reasonably steep ice step which I led before Jeremy finished the route up the easy but exposed headwall. Lunch was taken at the top of the route where the views were extensive in the super clear visibility. We descended down Broad Gully (I) then back into the corie before heading back to the car. Another ace day.
Lunch at the top of Twisting Gully with extensive views of the winter Highlands.
Climber approaching the top of SC Gully (III).