Sunday, 31 March 2013

Alpine Wanderings - harnessing the ice

Craig and Mark headed uber (like, really uber) early for another Cold Climb Classic - this time the much sought after No. 6 Gully of Aonach Dubh in Glen Coe.  This had seen a bit of action recently and they wanted to bag it before the winter starts again!!  Lovely cold spring weather just now - keep it going please?

Spot the cloud?
So, Nick Bullock and Craig don't have much in common - he climbs super tough routes...Craig doesn't! - but they are inexorably linked!  Two minutes from the car park, I muttered something unrepeatable and advised Mark I knew what had been niggling my bird brain - I'd forgotten to pack my harness...what a dope!!  However, I undertook to test the improvised sling alternative, by way of self flagellation penance.   Never tried it before and wont again - it was not overly comfortable and a fall would test parts of your body you'd rather not have touched in such a way!   So I put a 'screamer' thing on to the rig, for added protection, and off we with some trepidation!

We were second on route but the pair ahead were soloing it to the crux and were off and running.  We kitted up ahead of a couple of hardy Lake District dudes who had climber Minus 1 on the Ben the day before; a proper sociable pair they were too as we chatted much on route etc etc.  Hope your drive wasn't too bad?

Anyway, I took the first pitch with a nice short ice section, and Mark the second (walk!), third in prep for the crux (which I didn't fancy with my 'new' harness on) and fourth (crux).   It is pretty steady going to the crux which is a mighty long ice pitch of supreme quality.  It starts off nicely and gets increasingly steep near the top.  Nowhere technically difficult but the piton on the left wall at half height was appreciated; the exit from the pitch demands ones attention and, latterly, the pitch was very wet - like bath wet, which was surprising given we left the car at minus 3 - must have been an inversion going on?

Anyway, Mark brought me up and I led out the gully on the right to the top of the route.   A beautiful climb - maybe best of the year?  Close to Green Gully and maybe surpassing.   A worthy inclusion to this year's palmares, and the Cold Climb listing.

We moved round to the corrie of Stob Corrie nam Beith and dug a quick hasty-pit to check avalanche conditions - and found a very weak layer below the hard snow at 9".   It concerned us more than sufficiently to find rocky ground and islands of safety away from the bowl and suspect slopes.

De-kit, soup and sarnies, thence packing bags saw us heading off the mountain in truly alpine conditions - it was an amazing winter/spring day in glorious sunshine and stunning white landscapes...a photographers wonderland!  I enjoyed it too :)

Anyway, with more time, we might have continued our journey but I was on a mission to get home, and help out Bill who was running a mountain bike expedition assessment in and around Aberfoyle; drive to Glen Ogle to move the truck and trailer to Drymen saw us home in time for partying and thoughts of more winter climbing...if it's still here after hols...fingers crossed!


  1. Great post Craig. Just a suggestion.. its OK to use slightly longer slings and tie em off. Looks a bit snug :o). Scotland is amazing.

    1. Snug indeed Stephen. The slings were tied at the back - a bit tight maybe but it actually felt ok, I just didn't fancy a fall on it - on lead or second even!
      It was a fantastic climb and worthy of repeating :)