Thursday, 14 March 2013

Pumpkin, Comb and Gardyloo

This season just about all of my climbing has been on Ben Nevis so on Monday Davie and I headed to Creag Meagaidh for a change of scenery and some more climbing!
Creag Meagaidh
The long walk in was actually quite pleasant and it was nice not to be racing up the Allt a Mhullin for once! We had our sights set on The Pumpkin (V.4) one of the classic ice routes on the mountain. The air temperature was about -6C when we set out from the car and as soon as the wind picked up it was freezing. Still, the brisk walk in with climbing packs kept us warm and the sun was shining too. We geared up and headed up to the start of the climb, behind another guided team who were just finishing up the first pitch.

 The cold temperatures had really caused the ice to become brittle but obviously a very popular route, the ice was stepped and most axe placements were hooks. The first pitch was very enjoyable with a short steep wall at the end. Again the bomber hooks allowed short work to made of it. Davie cracked on up a long pitch 2 with about half a meter of rope to spare! I met Rob Johnson and his clients as they reached the first belay so after having a nice chat we carried on.

Starting up pitch 3

Davie seconding pitch 3

Another team topping out
 Another nice ice pitch with great belays and before we knew it, Davie was leading the 4th pitch up an iced up turfy groove. The final pitch was an easy snow slope and was climbed in the belay jacket as the winds picked up. Some great views from the top were enjoyed before a quick descent via the window and back at the car for before 5.

Davie glad of a warm jacket!

I was also enjoying the belay jacket!
Yesterday day Davie and headed back on to home territory and were back on the Ben. We had both wanted to climb Comb Gully (IV,4) but hadn't got round to it this season yet. Both of us were also keen on Gardyloo Gully (II/III) as we walk past every time when guiding on the Tourist Track, we thought it would be nice to climb out of it for once! We raced up through the Gulch to get ahead of a team who were also heading for Comb Gully ( they didn't seem too happy to get second place but the early bird and all that!) We got the gear and ropes out at the narrows and I led up the first pitch, which lent itself well to being climbed in a long 60m pitch. Above the difficulties Davie raced up to the summit and we enjoyed a quick refueling session.
Finishing up the main pitch of Comb Gully

We climbed down Tower gully (I) which was actually quite awkward as there was a lot of fresh powder covering some large stepped out sections of neve. The calves were burning a bit by the time we reached Gardyloo but were keen to press on while the weather was good.

Descending Tower Guly (I)

The exposed traverse underneath Gardyloo buttress

Heading towards the chockstone

Great decorations hanging down at the belay!
 The cave/tunnel pitch of Gardyloo was probably the most bizarre bit of climbing I've done. As it narrowed I took off my rucksack and clipped it to a sling to drag up after I escaped the tunnel. With no room to swing the axe I slowly wriggled through the exit tunnel and squeezed out back into the gully. Great fun if a bit weird! Another great view at the summit, and a Red Burn descent back to the car.

It looks like the weather is changing a bit now and I have to admit, it's been a superb season for me. Not quite time to hang up the tools just yet but if it was I'd be quite satisfied with how this winter has gone.