Blog > Winter Climbs

South Buttress Gully, soggy but satisfying. 12th March.

13/03/14

Yesterday I was hopeful that South Buttress Gully (guidebook grade II but consensus is now III) would still be a good climbing option despite the current thaw. Once we could see into the line I was happy to go for it because the technical steps looked almost completely banked out.

P1000661 (800x600) Looking up the line the toughest move was the final wee dark section.

The snow slopes were fine but sadly the “ice” was only good enough for a single placement. Luckily the right wall has just enough hand & foot holds to get up without ice so we were able to snatch a good winter climb against the odds.

P1000669 (600x800)Luca taking to the right wall past the crux.

P1000674 (800x600)And a nervy “will it collapse?” moment pulling back into the snow.

P1000676 (800x600)Will taking a well-earned dram of Talisker on the way out.

It’s no White Wedding today, 4th March

04/03/14

White Wedding must be one of the best lines of climbing in the Cuillin but it has proved elusive to any second ascent ever since the legendary winter of 1986 (Mick Fowler and Vic Saunders popped up it the day after doing Waterpipe, South Gully & Icicle Factory!) I’ve been to the foot twice before but each time found there to be nothing but a thin glaze of ice in the lowest section. Studying the photo from this Sunday (below) I realised that there was actually a bulging line continuously to the start.

P1000346 (800x600)White Wedding is the prominent vertical line.

With a reasonable forecast Ally, Beads and I headed up into the mist early this morning with as much hope as optimisim. Wet snow lay low down and running water wasn’t what we had ordered. The situation improved markedly in the final approach however and a familiar mixture of excitement and fear crept over me as we kitted up.

Deep approachLast few deep steps on approaching the climb.

Things started reasonably with firm snow but the limitations of this soon became apparent on the first small bulge as axes ripped through under any pressure. The next 15m was laid back and led to a very encouraging long blade peg before approaching what looked like the steepest step on the whole long first pitch. Sweeping ice and snow off the rocks with bare hands wasn’t a great sign but more cracks for gear was a good consolation for now having totally soaked gloves (thank goodness for the Dachsteins!).

ww1In the thick of it! The black sections at my feet are where I’d desperately scratched around for hooks for the axes; I eventually reached an anchor below the prominent black triangle way above.

Tenuous best describes the next 15m; single placements gave me just enough to delicately step up further (than I should) and one even held me as both feet collapsed. Backing off was definitely not an option and patience was finally rewarded with 5m of good placements in some well iced snow and a fairly good spike anchor.

Looking downLooking down from my high point

My firm snow ran out immediately above and a further 30m of nerve-wracking porridge climbing lay ahead; the decision to back off was a no brainer. Such a shame; a hard frost would set this lot like concrete and possibly even be as easy as the grade IV that it is recorded as.

North-West Face of Ghreadaidh 4th Feb 2014 The north-west face of Sgurr a Ghreadaidh as we departed

The guys were in excellent spirits despite getting cold on the belay; apparently something to do with relief! Plenty of laughter on the way down but a real determination to return if we can (please!) get a proper blast of Arctic air before this all snow melts away.

Beads holding court Great company and craic; what its all about

Creag an Dubh Loch; a climb at last! 28th Feb.

03/03/14

Dubh Loch - CopyThe Dubh Loch with the crag and avalanche debris visible behind.

Desperate times make for desperate measures; with no serious climbing having been done since new year’s day a photo of fat ice at the Dubh Loch was enough to entice me into the huge drive to Ballater, 5am start, cycle and deep soft snow approach. It is a very beautiful part of the Highlands and the rewards soon started as the sun rose.

The Lips of Dawn

Sadly the lower half of the crag had lost a lot of ice in the past week but Robin came up with a plan.

A scary snowy approach over steep vegetation took us to the foot of The Last Oasis.

Last Oasis&New&SwordDamocles1Our line

I took the first pitch with instructions to break right to block belays below the thinly iced rib.

Last Oasis&New&SwordDamoclesLooking up from the foot of the pitched climbing after the scary approach.

Robin then took the helm, had a few words with himself on the initial thin steep slabs and finally sounded happier once the 3rd screw was placed without going down to rock. Classically I found the climbing far steeper than it had looked from below!

Steep thin startThin starting moves on the new pitch; Sword of Damocles icicle behind!

A drippy ice grotto after 35m gave a good screw belay but an intimidating step round the corner to reach the start of the Sword of Damocles final pitch.

PanclothPanorama experiment to show the drop below!

The excitement continued with a cornice to finish-

COrnice finish

 and then a huge great avalanche down the face 100m to the right of where we’d been climbing; gulp. This was the final straw in deciding not to stash our kit for a return battle next day but, in a winter where any climbing has been hard to come by the day was a great result. A waist deep battle through soggy drifts confirmed we’d made the right decision & we were both completely ****ered by the time we reached the bikes.

Cycling out

If anyone is particularly taken by the colour and design of Robin’s climbing sack he would love to hear from you; I’ve certainly never seen such a magnificent hue of blue……. 😉

Great Gully, Blaven. 9th Feb

09/02/14

Another challenging day of weather was rewarded by a great stomp up great Gully on Blaven, amazing snow formations on top and yet more bum-sliding.P1130367 (800x600)

Uphill surfing with Clach Glas behind

P1130359 (800x600)On the ascent the snow was deep enough that we didn’t need crampons or axes but only awkward in the bottom few hundred feet.

Cuillin Ridge crest in full winter garb

03/02/14

The weather finally settled down a wee bit in the middle of last week, enough for Ally and I to get out and see what all this wild weather has produced. Very impressive indeed!

plasteredAlly abseiling down from Bealach Thormaid

We opted for a broad open gully line that finishes near the sumit of Sgurr na Banachdaich. The line traverses out almost horizontally for 100m from just below the Bealach Thormaid on the Coruisk side. A short, 30m, steeper section leads up into a broad finishing bowl and the summit above. It was short and sweet giving 4 pitches and grade II for the steep section in the conditions we found.

False Gully IIHigh above Coruisk after the steep section.

I scrambled up the same line a couple of years ago in snow-free conditions. In summer it is often taken by mistake by climbers heading north along the Ridge so we’ve called it False Gully. Hopefully, in time, this will raise awareness of its presence as a false trail for future parties.

Sun rays over Rum

3rd Pinnacle of Gillean, 25 January

26/01/14

Conditions on Pinnacle Ridge yesterday were absolutely excellent but very serious at the same time. We put crampons on at the foot of 1st/2nd Gully and had great neve from then onwards.

IMG_4945 (800x600)Topping out of 1st / 2nd Gully

Sadly squeezing any routes in between the storms this month is a frantic business. Our attempt on Pinnacle Ridge was cut short but climbing the 3rd Pinnacle on its own felt like a a very full-on adventure.

A broad streak of thick snow ran straight to the top of the 3rd Pinnacle and we reached it in 2 50m pitches.

P1130080 (600x800)2 long pitches took us up the continuos line of snow from left to the very top.

 

The abseil from the top nearly reached the col below but not quite so a hanging belay had to be excavated.

P1130086 (600x800)Hanging belay on 3rd Pinnacle

The traverse out onto Knight’s Peak is always exposed and knarly with a swing into the void for both leaders and seconds a distinct possiblity.

Spacewalking (800x600)Spacewalking out onto the 4th Pinnacle

With time against us and softer snow on the changed aspect we decided to run away with an abseil down to the east. A particularly black cloud engulfed us soon after, lashed us with hail that created a beautiful waterfall effect as they slooshed down the steep faces above.

Waterfalls of hailstones2 (600x800)Waterfalls of hailstones

As it was we finished in the dark so twas a sound decision. Hopefully back for the full ascent tomorrow if these winds calm down!

 

 

Winter Climbing Meet 2014 photos and links.

26/01/14

16 of us met in the Glen Brittle Memorial Hut last weekend for the annual Skye winter meet. The weather gods were gathering payback from us for such stonking conditions in 2013 but enthusiasm got everyone out still to build up an appetite for food and beers.P1020625 (600x800)Romain gives instructions on how to fondue and raclette- Over 5kg of cheese was consumed!

Friday was excellent and all 7  of the early arrivers headed to the snowy north end. Dave and John climbed North-west Face Route (II) on Gillean, Romain and Steve the NW Ridge of Bruach na Frithe

P1120970 (600x800)

while Ian, Dave and I found some ice on Running on Numpty (II) on the flank of Sgurr a’ Bhasteir.

P1120935 (800x600)

Dave and Ian after climbing Running on Numpty

Dave went back to Bruach na Frithe with Nicola the next day and won again, the only team to brave the showers and they won with a 360 panorama from the top. Link to dave Bowdlers shots- https://plus.google.com/photos/103884480644177632031/albums/5970627149310564129

Other activities included walks out to Macleod’s Maidens &  Glamaig. Some great dry-tooling was found just along from the beach and further out towards Ruabh Dunain and Lucy Janni and I climbed onto the Cioch for a sword fight.P1020641 (800x600)Lucy leading Slab Corner up to the Cioch

Romain’s videos- http://youtu.be/WbhbMYzGu7I

Romain’s photos- https://skydrive.live.com/?cid=7CD9146C44E3A670&id=7CD9146C44E3A670%212328&v=3&authkey=%21AAKu0MCarsqnP9U

Thanks to everyone for showing their support, fine effort all around.

Great conditions for Eag Dubh and the Ridge crest

14/01/14

Temperatures dropped overnight and left us a good thicknes of snow from about 650m today. I did worry about avalanches but snow pits showed a very old layer with 2 or 3 fresher layers resonably well bonded above.

Lined Eag Dubh AnDorus

The clouds clung thinly to the Ridge almsot all day but parted frequently enough to let us appreciate the grandeur of our surroundings.

do you want to see my puppies

Hard graft  Romp to the top Rooftop finale

New year and a new route. 1st Jan 2014

03/01/14

See post on 8 Jan for update on this.

New year’s day was the only one with easterly winds forecast so Jim and I decided to head for a section of the Ridge and hopefully a view of the Pinn.

GGully (594x800)

Avoiding the wind in Coire na Banachdaich a nice wee gully leading directly up winked at me. I convinced myself (and Jim) it would be a brief bit of added excitement and our limited kit would suffice with a bit of improvisation. I was right but only just-

Whillans would have been proud of my pebble-wedging that made prussic loops into runners before the final vertical wall of powder. Our 480cm sling was used and recycled for all 3 belays and Jim only had to do one of the cruxes just on gloves & feet to reach the axes dangling above ;-).

Bridged at the crux (597x800)Jim bridged wide on the crux

Ignoring all the improvisation the climbing was excellent with a mix of hooks, bridging and ice placements. The final 10m section will always be steep and a bit bold. Overall I’d say 100m of one star grade IV,5 with no name yet.

Above we found superb neve running right to the top of Sgurr Dearg. The Pinn looked fearsome and the views were magnificent throughout all 360 degrees.

Iced Pinn (597x800)The top of the West Ridge gave a final 20 mins of concentrated footwork then a gentle stroll back down before nightfall. It is really amazing to already have over an extra hour of evening light to play with already compared to pre-xmas outings.

Gillean (800x592)2 Climbers on Sgurr nan Gillean way to the north of us.

 

 

Hogmanay fun; 31st December

03/01/14

Jim & I were on the verge of aborting today because of the rain and winds. Returning to base the red Cuillin peaks all around were suddenly clear and highly attractive with a warm cuppa in hand!

2 minutes back down the road we set off past the waterfall with the long snowfields on the North Face of Garbh-bheinn. These turned out to be very fine with crampons needed pretty much from the first patches of snow at 500m. 1000ft and an hour later we’d explored some exciting buttress terrain as well as the easy gully features to reach the summit.

Descending with N face below JimLooking down on the north face of Garbh-bheinn as we descended

Windows soon appeared through the mist as we descended. Golden light reflected off the sea at Camasunary. Gradually views into the main Cuillin appeared with mists being turned pink by the setting sun behind.

Bruach na Frithe Blizzards, 19th December

19/12/13

Ben has been dealt more than his fair share of weather for his course but enthusiasm and attitude has given us a couple of excellent days.

Braes to Raasay

Yesterday we avoided the wind down on the beach at the Braes with a refresher session on gear placements and retrieving abseil ropes. We finished with a great bit of fun dry-tooling up a greasy steep corner.Dry tooling braes With nearly zero friction for the feet it was a fight to the top but great lesson (for both of us!) in trusting thin placements.

This morning winds dropped to gale force instead of storm force so we headed past the Fairy Pools toward the Spur of Sgurr an Fheadian. It looked very dry and unlikely we would need crampons so we gambled instead on heading higher, hoping that the wind gods would be kind.

A tail-wind up the Tairnilear stone shoot was most welcome.

Reaching TairnilearA good coating of ice covered almost every rock for the final 100m of ascent and crampons were a definite good move.

The view

 

Peace from the wind over the crest of the Ridge was made even better by the subtle colours out towards Blaven and beyond.

Snow started falling as we set off and everything turned white very soon after but the wind was steady more than gusting and we made good progress, reaching the top in about 2 hours.Maelstrom

Midst of the heavy snow shower

The descent down Fionn Choire was another matter as we were battered from every direction, slapped by walls of spindrift and pelted by hail that felt more like lead shot; strangely no pics;-)

Our routeOur route went from the V-notch leftward to Bruach na Frithe.

Enjoy the gallery-

First Ice. Friday 6th December

07/12/13

Ally and I headed up into Coire Lagan today with some mixed climbing in mind but found the crag on thearlaich far too dry. We headed back to the iceflows beside the path on the outflow from the lochan.

 

P1120261 (600x800) P1120263 (800x600) P1120270 (800x600) P1120271 (800x600) P1120273 (600x800) P1120276 (600x800) P1120280 (800x600) P1120284 (600x800) P1120286 (600x800)

Ice is always a worrying medium to climb, particularly at the start of the season, so it was good to “break the duck”. Faith in the theory saw axes not ripping and crampons not slipping but forearms far too pumped; must relax more when climbing but, more importantly, start some pull-ups!

Full winter ridge. 29th April

02/05/13

Alan had thought about doing a winter course with us this year and accidentaly got a quality winter day at the end of April!

After an hour being blown up into Coire lagan by a blizzard we cramponed up at the first narrows in the Great Stone Shoot, climbed Bomb Alley to Bealach MhicCoinnich then climbed Thearlaich by the Coruisk side.

 

A 20m abseil took us into the head of the Stone Shoot from where we climbed Alasdair. Tantalising glimpses appeared of our roof-top route as the mists finally began to clear.

The snow was treacherous in the top 100m of the Stone Shoot but  the pressure eased soon after and even allowed for a wee bumslide before a sunny walkout.

Amazing Ice- The Smear 12th April 2013

14/04/13

We managed a perfect finish to a brilliant long winter on Friday by climbing The Smear, the longest steep icicle in the Cuillin and probably only the 2nd ascent ever.

The ice was utterly perfect from bottom to top but still needed a fantastic explosion of effort from Andy to lead the very steep start.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The climb was originally given grade V when V was the highest Scottish grade but we both agreed that it warranted grade VI by modern standards.

Two 45m pitches seemed to pass almost too quickly but the grins said it all for the rest of the day.Smiles of success

Things weren’t all glorious; a load of fresh overnight snow was sloofing off regularly from left right & centre. The “walk off” down the Upper Rake involved descending dangerous quantities of deep fresh snow lying on a very steeply banked terrace and probably more complex rope-work than the climb itself!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I first went to the foot of The Smear in 1994 but I’ve never seen it anywhere near climbable until this last week. Andy is sailing back to Australia this summer so such a notable bit of Scottish ice is a great Swansong. Looking forward to borrowing his tools & screws for the next few winters:)

The Smear was first climbed by Jim Duff & Doug Scott back in 1979.

Doug Scott below The Smear in 1979

To my knowledge the route hasn’t received a second ascent since; zooming in on Ginger Cain’s photo it looks like Doug Scott had been on the Red Bull to get up the first 10m as the icicle fringe doesn’t even appear to be touching down.

Icicle Factory (on the left) looked close but not complete in the lower sections

 

Peaks n Rock n Ice

16/03/13

Louis & Hannah gave us an open brief to improve their mountain skills & experience; mission accomplished.

On Wednesday Guy Steven gave them a revision of crampon and axe skills before climbing Great Gully on Blaven. Amazing weather & views all day-

On Thursday I headed into Coir’ a’ Bhasteir to give them their first taste of ice climbing.

Today we opted for some sunny rock climbing down at Elgol which culminated in Louis leading his first route in over 5 years.

Fox’s Rake; 23 February

24/02/13

I’ve been spoilt with quality days recently but yesterday was right up there with the very best. Hard to say why but good company, a fresh covering of snow, an easy ice climb turning out to be serious, top out in the sun, knife-edge snow arete, blood-red snows and a moonlit descent all played their part.

The Amphitheatre held a huge dump of avalanche debris from last weeks washout.

I walked down Foxes Rake from half-height in January but yesterday even the snow slopes were hard and serious from the start.

 

As the mists cleared the ice pitches began to look pretty challenging.

4 sketchy pitches followed with just enough ice and protection to justify not reversing 200m of steep snow slope. The top-out was a relief combined with all the aesthetics of incredible views, sunshine and clear skies.

We opted to continue over the summit via the final 100m of the north ridge. This was the highlight as the snow arete dropped away on both sides and a combination of au cheval (leg either side bum shuffle), crawling and tightrope walking led to even more stunning vistas from the summit.

Descent from An Dorus still required concentration and effort but finally we were able to remove crampons and enjoy the darkening descent. Just as clarity was fading the moon provided an enormous burst of light rose from behind the Ridge; I genuinely thought that one of the guys had put a head-torch on!

We got down at 7-30 and are still buzzing from one of the best days ever.

Enjoy the gallery-

 

ABC; Alpine Blaven Climbing

20/02/13

Yesterday was probably the best day of the year so far with not a cloud in the sky or a breath of wind. Having a break at the boulder in Coire Uiginish and lazing around in the sun, discussing rock climbing options, it was certainly tempting not to head for the shady confines of South Buttress Gully but we knew the rewards would be worthwhile.

We cramponed up beneath the Colditz routes that had been completely washed away. We were forced into the dog-leg entry to SBG but the snow pack was superb as soon as we were in the shade

I led the first mixed step and then passed the lead to Mark for the upper icy corner (he had missed out when we climbed it in December). Logistics for climbing as a team of 5 were interesting but the scenery and conditions gave plenty to admire while awaiting turns.

Still not a cloud in the sky across the whole of Scotland  as we summited the south top.

The Main Cuillin Ridge looked dramatic but was almost overshadowed by the vast array of views and light effects in every other direction.

Flight of the Colditz Cock. 12th February

14/02/13

A groove & slab of thin ice right of Sailaway has enticed me for years. As well as waiting for enough ice I’ve been intimidated because I know the whole buttress is very compact and unlikely to yeild much protection; and so it proved. The climbing wasn’t too hard but all a bit thin & run out.

The first pitch eventually yeilded a good wire at 15m and a bomber belay at 25m. A detour for a good nut left a bit of good but delicate hooking to regain the ice groove. A column of stacked blocks was frozen together enough to justify a sling and the ice above finally began to thicken up nicely. The final steep ice was even well protected by 2 bomb-proof screws.

A bit of a steep learning curve but Simon took up the challenge well and also enjoyed the (nearly as hard) challenge of naming the route. Something related to Escape from Colditz and Birthday Breakout made sense and I’d heard about the escape glider they built but never got to use. We had to look up the name on-line but, 19 years after I first saw this line, it felt like the Colditz Cock had finally taken off!

 

Escape From Colditz 11th February

11/02/13

Back on Blaven today but time for some ice at last; it’s been close for weeks but not quite got there. Guy Steven was guiding Julian & George on the very high quality South Buttress Gully (II) and we were passed by Harvey the scottie dog and his owners while we kitted up. He proceeded to make what must be the first winter ascent of Great Gully by a dawg:)

Escape from Colditz (III) wasn’t as thick with ice as I would have chosen but I knew that the key lower section doesn’t need much to make it climbable. Backing and footing for 10m leads to a massive chockstone and then escape onto the wonderful ice ramps above.

I belayed below the steepest section of ice so that I could keep in touch with Simon as he fought his way up the tunnel.

The climbing in the top pitch was superb with an added bonus of topping out into the sun.

Here are a few more shots-

More surprises on the Ridge. 2nd February

04/02/13

The sublime conditions I predicted nearly happened yesterday but not quite; a heap of fresh powder overnight settled into a beautiful but scary crest on top of the narrowest section of ridges.

Chris and I headed up the West ridge of Dearg with an aim to do a round of Coire Lagan. The path was as icy as the road from the start and we donned crampons below 700m. The next hour was a sublime sunlit wander over solid snowpatches that soon merged into an icy blanket.

Encountering powder surprised me but the covering was only thin and easily avoided as far as Sron Dearg. Beyond I didn’t fancy the normal easy bypasses which were banked out with hard snow and a layer of powder so we roped up to tackle the narrow crest instead. Things were feeling quite intense by the time we reached the Pinn 20 minutes later.

Perfectly timed Cameron MacIvar was just appraoching the crux move on the Pinn in a bright orange jacket. There are some other excellent pics on his facebook page in the link above.

After taking a few shots Chris & I headed down surprisingly deep powder all the way to the head of the An Stac Screes before having a spot of lunch.

Traversing Mhicchoinnich was now looking seriously in doubt: would we be able to find the anchor to abseil from at the top of King’s Chimney? Intensity built up again as we gained height but we hit a section of perfect neve once more  just 200m from the summit and I felt a wave of confidence. A few steps further and my optimism was dashed as the beautiful looking crest turned out to be what Chris described as a “Patagonian-style” wave-top of deep powder.

Back-tracking still required concentration but finally reaching the safety of Loch Lagan was quite a relief. The atmosphere relaxed completely as we were greeted by Angus from the Old Inn who was up with his snow-boarding mates and the Great Stone Shoot in mind. Conditions weren’t suitable but it was great to see a variation on local interest in the Cuillin.

Back to more wild storms in the next few days; this seems to be turning into one of the biggest winters I’ve known in the Cuillin.

Arrochar adventures. 25-27th January

28/01/13

John’s party from Essex learnt alpine skills and put them into action in the alps last summer. The brief this year was to introduce some higher grade winter climbing whilst based in the Village Inn in Arrochar.

The fine weather was coming to an end but temperatures were still cold so it was time to buckle down for some “real” Scottish climbing.

Eas Anie, IV. Friday 25th.

On Friday heavy snow and high winds didn’t encourage me to go high and I fancied the low-lying classic icefall of Eas Anie which must have been building for nearly a fornight. A superbly timed post on UKC confirmed that a team had climbed it the night before.

Heavy snow on the roads meant parking at the Green Welly & cutting through the forset before picking up the vehicle tracks right to the mine. The guys there took pity & let us kit up inside, surrounded by ingots (not).

A huge wall of ice could be glimsped between the squalls deep in the chasm above. An epic powder swim nearly ended in a proper swim when a pool suddenly appeared in front as the snow collapsed!

We roped up across heavily laden slopes to the foot of the fall where the maelstrom continued to challenge the concentration.

 

 

Steve and Spud headed back down while John, Tom & I got stuck into the beautiful ice. The boys  learnt  to deal with the steepness very fast and joined me on the hanging belay.

 

Tom only whimpered quietly as he suffered 5 minutes of excruciating pain from the “hot-aches” in his hands as the circulation came back; yowser.

Some more great steep steps suddenly led to the top and the first bit of shelter we’d had since the mine. Great route.

 

The blizzard was tempered once we re-entered the forest and Tyndrum that evening would have looked completely at home in the alps.

The Cobbler, Arrochar Alps 26th January

Saturday dawned beautiful and the Cobbler opposite the hotel looked magnificent.

Most bizarre for me was the sheer number of folk all aiming for the same objective with most making us feel totally over equipped, most notably the shorts clad fel-runner (competent) and the trainers & shellsuit clad bloke (statistic material).

Trails had been blazed which was a total pleasure until I realised we had overshot the intended route. Fortunately there was a party breaking trail up the broad north face of the North Peak from where an easy traverse rejoined the best line to the summit.

The true summit is a stack of rock which is gained by “threading the eye of the needle”. It was utterly plasterd in hoar frost and, in its virgin state and having carried the rope, it was an obvious challenge.

We used some traditional methods to safeguard John to the top followed by Spud & I while Tom took pics. The weather drew in around us as Tom had his go and then we had a familiar blizzard to contend with on descent.

Beinn Udlaidh. 27th January

More high winds and heavy showers weren’t putting John & Tom off another chance to swing their axes. We headed to Beinn Udlaidh with its easliy formed ice and very fierce but short approach. A nameless 80m icefall on the right at the start of the corrie looked both suitable and attractively close given the blizzard was just kicking in again. A wall led right to the foot of the ice.

Closer examination showed a worrying amount of water pouring down the direct drops so I dodged these by right-hand variations on both pitches.

A vertical tier at the very top gave a fitting finish to three very succesful days on the road.

 

 

Day 4 Monday 21st January.

24/01/13

The ship was sinking (in alcohol?) and the rats abondoning fast but Andy & Iain went off to enjoy one final Cuillin winter romp up the Spur of Sgurr an Fheadain while Spike & I decided it was time to tackle the daunting North face of Mhadaidh.

James & Ben had been planning to retrun after their success on Saturday so we wondered what virgin territory would be left but we found a virgin Vixen Groove.

I backed out of the steep starting groove and left it it crud ice expert Spike to lead a demanding and absorbing 30m pitch.

Above a broader ice-line led up and left. Placements were good and gear appeared for 50m up to another bay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The final pitch narrowed and steepened to a small roof. Once he’d removeed excess snow Spike shot over the roof leaving a wonderful clean path for me to enjoy.

Descent off Foxes Rake was thought provoking but the deep snow now seems well bonded and we enjoyed a romp back below the impresive sight of the Smear. This grade V still hasn’t seen a second ascent since it was first climbed in 1979!

Image Gallery Below-

Day 3 of the Winter Meet. Sunday 20th January

24/01/13

 

Sunday dawned beautiful once more but many had to head south and many heads needed soothing after the Saturday evening celebrations.

 

Considerably fewer pics as the carefully organised photo collecting of the first 2 days faltered somewhat. Hopefully shots will emerge of-

Spike, Nathan & Kim headed into Coir’ a’ Ghreadaidh to practice some skills; Spike practising for his MIC assessment and the others getting yet another instructors opinions!

Paul & Brendan headed to Window Buttress and climbed Curtain Call-

New route on the West Face of Window Buttress.


Curtain Call III * 380m FA Brendan Croft and Paul Cunningham 20/01/2013
Start at the foot of the descent gully on the left hand side of the West Face as approached from the Glen Brittle Hut. Follow easy ground for 100m sticking to the right hand
side of the gully to an open area with a choice of exits. Climb the steep groove on the left (crux) for 35m before escaping right. Follow easy-angled grooves for 200m before joining the final pitches of Deep Cut Gully.
Iain & Andy made me jealous by climbing on the huge cliff of An Dalliad. We thought their ascent of Branching Gully was a first winter ascent but transpires Neil Urquhart and James Sutton’s dad Kevin climbed it (at grade II) when it was banked out in the winter of 1991.
Iain & Andy enjoyed thinner conditions with multiple steps of 4 in their 500m route. A great choice.
Icky and I opted for Banachdaich Gully working on the theory of it having flowing water and being in the “magic zone” between 1500 and 2500 ft.

Sadly we also discovered where a lot of the snow had ended up too. The attractive icefall was glazed snow and the snow banks got steeper as we gained height.

The final swim up vertical powder led to a wonderful but insurmountable cave. The correct line would appear to take the left hand corner instead but, with darkness very much approaching we opted for a couple of abseils back to safety.Enjoy the gallery-

 

Magic first day of winter meet.

19/01/13

8 of us headed out to see what the wind and weather had done to the huge amounts of snow. I’ve never seen the likes with crampons needed from the earliest snow patches right up to the summits. Serious but fantastic.

Blue ice up the Stone Shoot

Romain, Steve, Antoni and I headed up the North Face of Sgumain. andy and Iain climbed Gully E on Thearlaich and paul & Dave took the plaudits for a new line on the southern face of Sgurr Dearg’s West Ridge. “Away from the (drunken) crowd” gave a superb 100m of grade IV in the middle of a very long line in the sun!

Approaching Bealach Sgumain pinnacles from the North face

 

 

Cascade des Ignes. 9th January

09/01/13

I used snow shoes for the first time today to approach the magnificent Cascade des Ignes above Arolla. A couple of hours of this certainly did my fitness the world of good!

Ice plays games with the head in terms of steepness and Graham assured me it wasn’t as steep as yesterdays routes but close acquaintance didn’t appear to back this up.

Having taken fashion advice from his Cioch Direct clad guru Graham today wore a bright blue Montane jacket set off nicely by a bold orange Black Diamond helmet. (Sponsors please apply direct 🙂 

 

The ice was mostly excellent but powder snow poured down the climb almost constantly to create a very Scottish feel.

Some filing of my new axe picks helped get them both in and out far more easily today and I felt a whole lot more at home leading the 2nd pitch.

Beyond the 3rd pitch the gully opened out and G did a fine job of breaking trail up 150m of knee-deep snow to reach the plateau above. 

The views rewarded our efforts hansomely.