Friday, 2 January 2009
Winter Break 2008
After over indulgence through Christmas and not much activates in the climbing department, i put the the makeshift plan that John Forrester and myself made in to action and packed for a short break in the hills. Current conditions weren't looking too good for mixed climbing, with much of the snow stripped from the buttresses leaving only the gully's in good nick. With this in mind we headed for the Cairngorms to have a closer inspection of brimstone grooves iv/4** on hells lum.
Spending a cold night in the sugar bowl car park we set off hours before dawn, much of the walk-in done in the dark, it brought back memories of the Alps. As we reached the crag it became apparent that brimstone grooves wasn't complete, so we went and had a look at hells lum ii/iv**** hoping it would be in good lean condition to give some interesting climbing.
The lum, a massive gash on the south end of the crag, an impressive gully in a magnificent location, a route i'd wanted to climb for some time. I drew the short piece of grass and thus it's was me who got the first pitch. A short steep snow/ice pitch led up to easy slopes were i made a belay form the icicle of the chancer v/6***.
The next pitch looked interesting, a steep ice corner bounded by rock on one side, a cracking little pitch, though with no good rock protection, which john led in fine style. Above the corner again led to easier slopes were john brought me up to the stance.
With the main difficulties out of the way the gully is now easy ground with a short icy step. With no cornice it contend with, we were both on the plateau sorting out gear in no time. With much time to kill we decided to go and see if aladdins mirror direct iv/4 is on.
A short walk brought us in to the very busy Coire an t-Sneachda. There was a party on aladdins morror, a fine ice pitch on the center of the Coire. After waiting half an hour the route was free for John to tackle and show his ice climbing skill. Climbing a short slope leads to the main pitch and it steepens up for 30m or so of good ice climbing. John led the pitch well, found a good belay were he brought me up. My first time on steep ice, the climbing was alien to me and much different to mixed. Once the first pitch is climbed it's all easy grade one to the top, so we abseiled form the first pitch.
With two good routes under our belts we headed west to see if there was any good ice high on the Ben.
We travelled over to fort bill and camped in the north face car park. With the temperature dropping to around minus 7 not much sleep was to be had and leaving the sleeping bag was a real chore.
The walk-in was done again in the dark, in hope of being first up to the cic hut and then on green gully iv/4***. On arrival at the hut there was a couple of groups waiting for daylight who also informed us that the too were going to go for green gully! This would mean 5 climbers on the route ahead of us, not desirable for gully climbing. So we changed or plan and decided to climb glovers chimney a fine iii/4* that exits on the tower gap of tower ridge.
Some scrambling over broken ground then much walking on steep snow slopes brought us to the foot of glovers chimney. It was my turn to lead and the first pitch consisted of a fine steep ice pitch, possibly grade iv, that didn't let up for 30m. Than a short traverse over a rock rib and in to the gully proper.
The climbing from here to the chimney at the top was easy, about grade one, with a couple of short ice steps here and there to spice things up.
After about 5 pitches John found a good belay at the foot of the chimney, a good looking pitch. It was my lead but since i had the ice pitch at the bottom i only thought it was fair to pass the lead to John.
A fine steep chimney with good mixed climbing was encountered and John tackled this in true form up to the infamous tower gap were he was surprised in the climbing needed to climb out of the gap. A belay was found and i seconded the pitch and reveled in the fine climbing involved and quickly joined Mr. Forrester on the ridge.
From here to the plateau is all easy but exposed ground so we moved roped together and topped out to a beautiful day on the Ben.