Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Not climbing the Cullin in winter.

After an Easter of capitalism I was psyched to go climbing. Ephemeral ice condition and high pressure had formed over Scotland and every mythical ice route appeared to be in. Ollie understandably wanted to go to the Ben, after all it is the best crag in Britain and he was yet to do a big route on it. I'm lucky and have climbed many of its' classic routes so was keen to go elsewhere. Many big name routes were bandied around, Smith's Gully, Minus One, Poacher's Falls, Silver Tear, I wanted to do them all. Then I strayed upon this excellent photo report: The Cullin in winter. I was in love. The Cold Climbs essay with its' endless superlatives was read and all other plans went out the window. Ollie's heart was still set on Point Five but he's easily lead astray and soon we were driving north in the sunshine.

Eventually we reached Glen Brittle in the dark and settled down under the stars, with light bags packed (for a one day ascent - We had no idea how big the thing is!) and the alarm set for 3am. The alarm sounded and we quickly ate breakfast, before setting off. Neither of us had climbed the Ridge before and were unfamiliar with the approach. We underestimated the distance involved in getting onto Gars Bheinn and cut up far too early, as dawn broke we realised our mistake and decided to miss out the first Munro and start the ridge from the T-D Gap. We wouldn't get the full tick, but it would be a good day out none the less. We soloed up into the Gap and got the rope out. Ollie set off up the pitch, it looked tricky in crampons. Then disaster struck, as he made a committing move he dropped his ice axe down the other side of the Gap. Ollie finished the pitch and I was lowered down to collect the axe, which I found right at the bottom. I headed back round to to meet Ollie where we decided too much time had been wasted so we called it a day and headed slowly back to the car.

Burrows ready for bed in Glen Brittle.
Breakfast at 3am - yummy!
Just after dawn and we're off route already.
Burrows in the TD gap, just before the axe drop...
We couldn't smash the ice with rock so we tried using a Bubbles with no success...
Sad Burrows back at the car. Note the size of the bags - We clearly had too much gear to be successful.
It had been cloudy on Skye, but back on the mainland wall to wall sunshine returned. We drove to the CC Hut in Roy Bridge, where Ollie had the idea that he'd spend an enjoyable afternoon doing nothing in particular. Unfortuantley for him I had better ideas and with a little persuasion we were driving to Fort William to buy some rock shoes (we'd left ours in the Lakes). After blagging the largest discount possible ("You don't understand, we're AC, CC, BMC and VC with Bar") we sped to Glen Nevis where we climbed an excellent Hard VS called Storm in the evening sunshine.

Ollie climbing the top pitch of Storm in the evening sun - flipping ace!
Back at the hut we packed light bags, acquired the Ben Track key and ate a Pizza, before slipping into a deep sleep ready for another early start. The Ben was in stellar nick, but amazingly it was nearly deserted. At the CIC Hut, we ditched our bags and wandered up to Point Five Gully. I'd climbed the route once before with Will Sim in similar conditions. We spent the first week of the Easter holidays staying in the CIC Hut and ticked off a whole host of classics in perfect conditions. It remains one of my fondest climbing memories. Conditions today were very similar and we hooked our way up the first three pitches, before simu climbing to the top, topping out just after eleven. Although we had time for one or maybe two more routes we decided to head back to the Lakes in readiness for another weekend of enterprise.

Burrows and the Ben.
I think he might have hot aches.
Burrows on the Rouge Pitch, unfortunately its' battery ran out after taking this shot.

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