Wednesday, 11 February 2009
Ben Nevis looking chilly. I should have been bouldering instead of taking pictures, but it was baltic!
I have been in the north west with Blair. I was keen on a look at the uber hard lines on Ben Bhan. In a scene rather typical of our most frustrating climbing discipline, we waded through the deep snow in the dark to arrive at the giants wall to find all the snow had been neatly blown off the wall by the northerlies. Damn it! That it would be too cold, too warm, too wet, too dry, too windy, not the right kind of wind, not the right kind of snow or other such reasons is nothing new to anyone who tries to do hard Scottish winter climbing. The harder grade you want to climb, the harder it is to catch the climb in good condition.
Sunrise on Ben Bhan
Blair eyes up Giants Wall, Coire am Fhamair
We went for a nice jaunt on an easy route instead (the Fowler classic Great Overhanging Gully VI,7). The aerobics of swinging tools and pulling in ropes all day was good therapy for my creaky elbow, compared to pulling on a Font 8c project in minus 4 conditions the day before. The scenery of the highands has been quite amazing of late though, especially at night with clear skies, full moon illuminating the snow buried mountains in strange light and all the lochs frozen over with temperatures down to minus 18.
Blair ventures up Great Overhanging Gully, VI
Next day we headed for Sgurr a Chaorachain, hoping to find some ice. And some ice we found. A lovely hanging fang, unclimbed. I grunted my way up overhanging rock towards this and found a nice body wedge behind the fang for some claustrophobic respite. I forgot my ice screws so a sling around the middle of the fang was the only protection to pull round onto the front face of the fang. Leaning back and eying this up from a seemingly secure placement in the ice, I was relaxed and looking forward to blasting up the ice above. All of a sudden the chunk of ice around my axe decided to part company with the rest of the icicle and I went flying. It was all over before I could blink but my sling held and I suffered only a bash on the arm from the bottom few feet of the fang which broke and hit me as I swung in.
Next time there were no such antics and I blasted up the headwall of ice to bag a nice new grade VII. Every time I go to the north west I see so much more to do. It’s quite amazing how few routes have been done on the cliffs there. The question is, will I be good enough to climb them?