Scotland February 2009
|Date: 22nd Feb 2009
Submitted by: George Carleton
In a quest for adventure and an ice filled gully or two four intrepid mountaineers (PJ, Peter, Sandra and myself) set forth for Fort William.
Our objective for the first day was Green gully at the back of the Ben, so off we went with the hope of plunging our axes into ice instead of the usual scraping and scratching on snow powdered rock.
Our hopes where not in vain, even with the temperatures rising and the snow and ice receding we found green gully thawing, but climbable.
Peter and I both started leading together, Peter being a few meters in front, with PJ and Sandra on belay. The first pitch was not too bad, even though water was streaming through and over the ice it felt reasonably solid. The next ice pitch was a bit full on, Peter having gotten over it first shouted down to make sure we put our hoods up. We soon found out why, it was like climbing through a waterfall, I had difficulty looking up through the torrent, but the ice was solid enough so on we went.
At the top of the second pitch we were faced with an intimidating bulge of vertical ice. Peter romped up it with confidence; I on the other hand having almost no experience of proper ice took my time to make sure every pick placement was bomber.
The last section gave us options, Peter led up another pitch of ice on the left whilst I went right up a steep snow slope, not wanting to make it too easy on myself I finished up a final bulge of ice on the left of the ramp which led to the cornice.
The following day we headed for Aonach Mor East in search of ice. The gondola took a bit of pain out of the walk in; Peter went one better jumping on the ski winch which took him running up the mountain, while we plodded up the final slope.
Meeting up again at the top we geared up quickly and descended in to Easy gully glad to be out of the bitterly cold wind. After a bit of debate we eventually settled on Jet Stream another 3 star grade IV. I led off first this time getting over the initial ice bulge and up a narrow ice filled gully which led into a bay with a short but steep wall on the right, and a steeper narrower gully above with very patchy ice. I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t like the look of the ice above and having used all my ice screws and being a bit run out from my last placement. I tried to climb to the left of the ice where I thought I might get a wire into a crack in the wall of the gully only to discover the rock was loose and I had forgotten to take the wires from Sandra before setting off; now what? There was only one thing for it down climb into the bay and rethink my options. The situation soon improved when Peter caught me up and I was able to borrow a few nuts. This time I decided to go up the short wall on the right, there where a few tricky moves but easier ground lay ahead. Peter went straight up the partially iced gully, which was no soft option going by the string of expletives.
By this stage PJ and Sandra were getting a bit concerned; with my slow progress and PeterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s colourful language; apparently there was talk of tying the two ropes together and leaving us to it, but thankfully they didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t. I got in a good peg belay and brought Sandra up. From our stance I could see the top, a steep snow slope, a short bulge of ice then another short section of snow before the cornice; soon be at the top!
On reaching the cornice there were no signs of previous climbers having broken through, the snow was soft and unstable; I tried to chop through a couple of places out to the right where it was less overhanging but with the snow giving way under my feet and again having a long run out on the rope I felt far from secure. On SandraÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s suggestion I traversed out to the left in the direction Peter had climbed, eventually I could see his rope cutting through where there was a break in the cornice, I just had to keep kicking steps and plunging the axe across the slope, then flop through the cornice to safety. Exhausted and elated I set up an axe belay and brought Sandra up. Then we quickly threw the ropes into the bags and headed off the mountain.
Another great trip with great people and fantastic climbing.
26 Feb 2009
Alan Bill and myself climbed Green Gully a few years ago and enjoyed it very much. A good climb well done you lucky people.
Peter McConnell in Green Gully