Summit plateau


Recent trip to Scotland

Posted by Jan Bella on January 15, 2012 at 4:15 PM

   Everybody has heard how great is winter climbing in Scotland. Not everybody has tried it. Till about a week ago I was in this category too. Needles to say now I know the grass is greaner on other side or better to say there is much more snow and ice in Scotland than in Lake District.

   So I have booked myself onto an Ice climbing Improovers Course with Adventure Peaks. 5 days of ice climbing in High Lands.

   I have arrived in Fort William few days before the course was due to start, keen to do some walking and easy climbing. Plan was Number 3 gully and I set off early morning. Walking up to CIC hut from the Ben Nevis Inn car park took  me few hours of slow plot in the snow. Conditions weren't great but higher up it was getting progresively colder, so after quick look at the map and finding the gully i was off. Lots of fresh snow slowed me down even more. Climbing actual gully has been fun and since it's only Scottish grade 1 I felt fonfortable. Early into the climb I could see heavilly corniced top of the gully and knew there was no way of me climbing over the overhanging ice and snow. However I continued upward just to have a look up closer. Soon I found way out of the gully on it's left side where cornice was just vertical for few meters and solidly frozen so after few moments of terror I was on the summit plateau in a white out. It only took a whille to get to the top of Ben Nevis and there I was. First proper winter climb, first Munro and Highest Mountain in the UK all in one day. Yet only half way to my journey that day. Walking back to my hotel took few hours and at the end I have done roughly 18 Km in about 10 hours. Great day!


   Course started on Sunday evening. We met and stayed in the Onich Hotel. I could have hardly asked for better instructor as Paddy Cave introduced himself. Yeah I know Paddy Cave!!

   First day we were off to the Stob Coire non Lochan and after quick look what was in condition we agreed on the Dorsal Arete which is grade II. A Little in the heart of Bidean Nan Blan massif in Glencoe. Off we went rope lenght after rope lenght all the way to the beautiful but little short Arete. Then we took a route on the left for a last pitch wich started with pretty much drytooling at grade III. Brilliant climb with great location and great views. Much recomended.


   Second day we were travelling little north of Fort William and took on Ben Nevis. Confident after first day we tryed the Green gully which was grade IV. Climb was in great condition with about 3 steep steps of ice and some snowy slopes. Unfortunetally weather soon turned bad and we did almost all climb in minimum visibility, rain and with strong winds. Day went well and topping out on the plateau just added to it. We descended Number 4 gully and took easy walk down from the CIC hut. Saddly I have no photos from this day. 


 Third day weather was even worst and we decided on going to the Ice Factor for some movement coaching and technique improvments. Lots of great tips from Paddy and in few hours I was Climbing vertical and overhangign walls of ice. After that we had little bouldering and dry tooling session.


 Next day weather improved and again we aimed for the Ben. Open mind is the key so we didn't really planned anything and just went to see what was in on the day. As it went The Tower Ridge looked great and with Point five Gully missing a massive section of ice after recent thaw we were off. Moving in true mountaineering style and with pitching only few crucial pitches we took only 3.50 hour to complet this 600 meters grade IV route. It was fun! Moving fast we gathered high pretty quickly and views were amazing. I realized I prefere mixed ground to ice climbs and really enjoyed the day. Even my little epic on the Tower Gap where I find it really hard to comit to do the down climb. especially wearing crapmons and with tats covered in ice. After I found nice axe placement I finally moved and enjoyed the rest of the climb. Another great position on the ridge was The Eastern traverse. Exposure was the word of the moment,  but thanks to good snow cover traverse was pretty easy and very enjoyable. We topped out in great weather and even better views. Day slike this don't happen wery often is Scotland. 

   Last day of the course came by way too quickly. Another cold morning seen us going for another route on Ben. Pretty tired from previous days we decided on doing another 3 star route - Comb gully. Easy first 2 pitches at grade II were led by us and harder grade IV led by Paddy. Another Enyojable climb with some great positions and finally leading the pitch. Few ice steps got me working rather hard and periods of hot aches were very unconfortable.  

And how would I close up this week? Well you should go and try it. Great people, great climbs at great location. Tons of new things learned and I can say that great winter foundations and bit more were set. 

I can't wait for another Scottish trip and catching up with people I met. 

Categories: Winter Climbing

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