Wild day in the washing machine! 24th March


Northend 24th marchDeceptively fine looking weather!

Plans to tackle Pinnacle Ridge on Sgurr nan Gillean had to be rapidly changed yesterday as the wind picked up in strength far earlier than predicted; huge plumes of snow shot into the sky from the cols between each pinnacle.

2nd 3rd gullyLine of 2/3 gully shown

The logical theory was to stay in the lee of the hill which did work for us but not without other “added interest”. Our plan was to ascend 2nd/3rd Gully and then abseil off rather than get hit by the wind. Not many action photos of the climbing because taking the cameras out would have killed them pretty fast!

Approaching the foot of the gully I found myself stood on the “bank” of a river of spindrift and graupel (see blog from January 2012).  Handily it gave a clear view of the hard snow beneath which made the climbing far easier, to a point! The first steepening provided a 4 metre cold shower experience until I was able to get  my head above the surface once more.

1st showerAbseiling the first cold shower!

Belaying from a snow bollard I brought Dave & Cat up and mooted a retreat; this got the silence treatment so off I headed for my next shower. This one really was bracing and the power was turned up from an invisible source  way above.

Cat props up bollardPropping up the snow bollard

The hard snow was in excellent condition though and the climbing finished up a short vertical step to reach the shelter of a huge chockstone. A snow cone from an internal snow shower had to be negotiated before finally droping into the deep dry, windless cave beyond.

inside1Inside the washing machine

Cat and Dave joined me for a relaxed lunch here before setting up our escape abseils which went nicely to plan.

CaveLooking back into the cave


The gusts on the wlk out were some of the fiercest I’ve known; very glad not to be on anything narrow but even 20m to the gorge felt too close.

WildwindsWild winds

One final note is to repeat that 2nd 3rd Gully is not grade II as suggested by the guidebook. Even when banked out very well like it is now there is some pretty demnding looking climbing above the cave!