Showing posts from February, 2011

Zero Gully (V,4), Ben Nevis

Alex picked me up from Aviemore train station at 7.30am. The initial plan had been East Coast but currently the buttresses were black and so we cut our losses and headed West to Aonach Mor. It turned out the lift was shut. Despite the lateness of the morning we changed plans to Ben Nevis. There wasn't a huge amount in condition but we knew Zero Gully had been climbed in recent days. As we approached Orion Face it began to snow. Then waves of spindrift avalanche began to blow down the face and funnel into Zero Gully's first pitch. There looked to be little else in condition on this part of the mountain and, given that it was nearly 1pm, switching to something in Observatory Gully seemed doomed.

I pressed on up the initial gully finding occasional good ice on my right side to place screws, whilst pinning myself to the ice with each successive bout of spindrift. The snow underfoot was a little soft and needed a good freeze to firm up. With heavy spindrift regularly pouring direct…

Tower Ridge: Solo in Winter

My partner for the last couple of days had to head South. I had an extra day to play with and with recent good conditions was keen to climb another route. Tower Ridge seemed the obvious choice. It would be big day out without the technical difficulty requiring a rope. I took my harness and a cordelette in order to back rope myself across Tower gap if needed. I had no car so the walk-in commenced from Fort William town centre.

Lots of fresh snow had fallen in the night but with negligible wind there was little slab to be concerned about. I climbed Douglas Gap West Gully to avoid the crowds and shorten the route to Douglas Gap. I waited for a team to climb the mixed step before it was my turn. The climbing proved to be the technical crux of the route with some delicate mixed moves before neve presented. I took my time with the sequence of moves as spectators in the gap looked on.

The terrain eased in difficulty considerably above the step and assumed an Alpine feel. I was able to cover …

Compression Crack (V,5), Ben Nevis

Rob and me were keen to take advantage of the good conditions and short-walk of the general Carn Dearg / Castle Ridge area. Compression Crack was clearly in condition and so we headed for this. Boomer's Requiem also looked good today.

Compression Crack provided a couple of quality ice pitches. I led the excellent first pitch. Rob continued up the easy ice on the second pitch, before I traversed right to beneath the steep ice corner. Rob had the pleasure to lead this superb pitch. It proved to deceptively steep and unrelenting. It looked from the ground as though there would be an opportunity for rest at half height but this proved not to be the case. The ice was of snowy consistency making axes placements effortless but ice screw protection marginal. Certainly top-end grade V. Only the traverse in the middle of the route stops this from being a three star route in my opinion.

Now above the difficulties we bashed up the easy slopes and then descended down the West flank of Ben Nevi…

Vanishing Gully (V,5) & Faulty Towers (III), Ben Nevis

With good conditions prevalent on the lower heights of Ben Bevis Rob and me went to take a look at Vanishing Gully. It looked in good condition. I led the first pitch up steep soft snow with virtually no protection on offer other than some spaced in-situ tat. The steepness was moderate but the lack of protection meant that the climbing required concentration.

From my belay on the left-hand side of the gully Rob had a tricky step right in order to gain the steep ice flowing down the second pitch. He was soon mounted on the ice and then quickly out of sight. The intermittent ice steps of the second pitch were probably the crux. The third pitch returned to less technically demanding but run-out climbing. The easier grade climbing to Tower Ridge didn't look worthwhile so we abseiled back down the route. It was a good route but a little too short and lacking situation compared to some of the other three star ice routes I have climbed on the Ben.

With time to spare we climbed Faulty To…

Le Pylone (WI4), Le Grave

Stewart and me started our a Grave trip with Le Pylone. I followed the easier left side of the icefall, which was steady enough with no pumpy moments. Temperatures were above freezing today but at least the consequent melt prevented the ice from being hooked-out. The venue was very busy due to a number of guides using the icefall for climbing tuition. French ethics were on full display with leaders clipping my ice screw runners and crossing their ropes over/under mine. Whilst belaying Stewart up the first pitch I was forced to put slack in the rope in order to allow a local guide to wriggle free of my ropes that he had unilaterally chosen to climb beneath. Stewart joined me at the bolted belay and then led up the top pitch. We abseiled back down with plenty of time remaining in the day for another route.
After time waisted trying to find a relatively short route that was unoccupied we eventually settled for the Cascade de la Meije. This proved to be great fun as a succession of pools…