Petestack Blog

10 April 2013

Up Two down Four

Filed under: Climbing — admin @ 6:48 pm

As a good-looking, deeply-recessed line (described by the guidebook as ‘the finest of the easy gullies on the mountain’), Number Two Gully (II) on Ben Nevis had long been on my wishlist for a solo day out and I finally got to do it today, with my descent by Number Four (I) inspiring a blog title with a nod to Dougal Haston’s immortal ‘Hut [was] full of steadfast English muttering earnestly, up Three down Four, up Two down Five, and other Nevis Gully permutations’. But first, in a nod to my own ‘unpacked’ packed jacket the other day, I’d better admit that I spotted that flaming jacket still hanging on a hook by the door as I put my kit in the van this morning, picked it up, locked the door, had to unlock it again to get my watch, locked it again, drove off, then realised half a mile later that I’d (genuinely!) forgotten my boots…

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So the day might have started with some kind of comeuppance for Friday’s farce, but at least I didn’t arrive at Torlundy with just my sandals to climb in! It was a pretty quiet day on the Ben, with just five vehicles in the North Face car park when I left it at 8:20am and a similar number (maybe four?) in the top car park when I passed some 25 minutes later, but I did pass a couple of walkers there, spotting another pair somewhere above the CIC Hut and yet another (!) apparently heading for Number Three. Given the SAIS forecast (‘Areas of unstable windslab will remain on mainly West to North aspects above 1000 metres’), I wasn’t surprised to find some soft, fresh slab leading into my almost-north-facing climb (more west-facing routes like Italian Climb and Glover’s Chimney looked pretty snowy!) and, despite being satisfied that most of what I met was quite shallow and not heavily loaded, was glad to reach clearer, icier ground at the narrows. After which the top-out was almost an anti-climax, being less steep than expected with a nice diagonal slot through the cornice, and the (still thoroughly worthwhile) climb as a whole probably rating soft II/stiff I on the day.

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No sooner had I topped out, however, than things really clagged in, with compass necessary even to locate the line of substantially buried descent cairns from quite close quarters, and a party of four (German/Scandinavian?) walkers I met ascending with no axes, crampons or possibly anything else causing some concern just as I turned through a hole in the clag for a look at Number Four. Which was far too inviting to leave, being in very amenable condition (as easy as you’ll find it?) with signs of copious traffic, none of the fresh slab I’d encountered further round (it’s a much more easterly aspect) and just a bit of a runnel high up hinting at a previous small slide. I passed two lads on their way up, also catching sight of a curiously slow pair heading towards the start of Raeburn’s Easy Route (which looked quite ‘snowy’ in its northerly aspect) and another pair just disappearing up Ledge Route as I got closer to the CIC. And that’s really about it, save to say that (of the other routes I could see) Comb Gully and the Cascade looked good, Green’s probably OK, Vanishing might still be hanging on, but The Curtain’s well gone.

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6 April 2013

Red Gully, Sgor na h-Ulaidh

Filed under: Climbing — admin @ 6:20 pm

While everyone else seems to be on their umpteenth routes of an ‘endless’ Scottish winter season, my ascent yesterday of Red Gully (III) on Sgor na h-Ulaidh with Jamie B and Jay was quite incredibly my first of the year! And it’s a very good route (classic, even) that would surely see more traffic if transported from Glen Coe’s most retiring Munro (with three-hour walk-in) to one of the more visible/accessible crags.

Have to start, however, by telling you about the ‘unpacked’ packed jacket I was so sure I’d forgotten that we wasted 25 minutes heading home for it without even stopping to check my rucksack before discovering that I had it all the time (so doubt I’ll ever hear the last of that)!

Anyway, Red Gully proved to be a neglected gem, taking a well-defined and aesthetic line for 200m+ to finish within metres of the top (‘a true summit couloir’, as Jamie put it) and providing three decent ice pitches (of which Jamie led the first two and I led the third) before a top half (which would be close to two ropelengths if you belayed where the ice ends) on steep snow. It was a good stiff III, with the ice pitches harder than they looked, the easier top section still relatively serious through lack of gear, and belays in general requiring imagination to arrange (eg mine was an equalised cam — in an isolated mini ‘island’ — and buried axe, which even Jamie, with his nose for gear, agreed was as good as I was going to get).

As for that unpacked/packed jacket, I’d been told that I had to wear it once we’d picked it up, but happily regarded myself as released from that obligation by knowing we’d made a totally unnecessary diversion to get it, so didn’t!

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(Thanks to Jay for the photos of me.)

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