It’s no White Wedding today, 4th March


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