Friday, 19 February 2010

North-East Buttress (IV,4), Ben Nevis

With fine weather predicted, Mark and I headed up to Ben Nevis to climb North-East Buttress. The weather proved to be best I have ever experienced on the mountain with clear, blue skies and no wind. The led the Man trap and seconded 40ft corner which felt easy with plenty of neve. We were on top by 2.30pm and able to enjoy the fine views for a while before descending into Coire Leis.

Approaching the CIC hut
Sunrise over the Munroes
Approaching the Minus Face of Ben Nevis
Climbing Slingsby's Chimney
Mark climbing the lower stretch of NE Buttress ahead of the real climbing
Climber on the first pitch of NE Buttress
Mark seconding the first pitch
Mark leading the second pitch
View to Tower Ridge
Mark approaching the Man Trap
Mark climbing 40ft Corner
Summit of Ben Nevis's NE Buttress
Ben Nevis's summit observatory
The Indicator Wall beneath Ben Nevis's summit
Descending into Coire Leis
Ben Nevis's Little Brenva Face
The Orion Face of Ben Nevis
Sunset over the CIC hut on the North Side of Ben Nevis

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

The Wand (V,5), Creag Meagaidh

Dan and me paid a visit to Creag Meagaidh, which currently has numerous routes in condition. The trail was virtually clear of snow which allowed for an efficient approach. The Pumpkin was dotted with climbers but the Wand remained unoccupied. We headed for the latter. Dan led the lower half of the main ice slab and belayed in a small cave at half height. I continued to the top of the difficulties. Ice conditions were excellent and the climbing felt easy for a V,5 today, no doubt helped by my recent spate of ice climbing in Rjukan. Another good tick this season. We were treated to an Alpine sunset and Dan managed to find his gear dropped from the 1959 Route a week ago. An all round good day.

The walk-in
The Post Face
Climbers on The Pumpkin (V,4), left, and the vacant Wand (V,5) on the right
Dan climbing the Sash toward the Wand (V,5)
Dan leading the start of the Wand
I take over the difficulties
(Photo by Dan Moore)
Dan & me on the Wand
(Photo by Alan Halewood)
Dan above the main difficulties
Winter sunset
Perfect conditions

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Rjukanfossen (WI4), Rjukan

We made our first outing to the Upper Gorge today to climb Rjukanfossen (WI4). A group was already at the base of the route so we opted to climb the centre of the icefall rather than wait to start from the normal left-hand side. I ran the 60m ropes out to full length, and then some, in order to reach a cave belay on the right-hand side at 2/3 height. The ice was uncharacteristically "Scottish" compared to other routes climbed this week with fluctuating ice quality. At one point I realised the ice beneath me was only a couple of inches thick, beneath which was running water.

Rjukanfossen (WI4)

Leading the first pitch
Stewart joined me at the belay. Rather than continue up the main icefall it looked more fun to climb into the back of the cave from where a tiny exit emerged back onto the icefall higher up. For a big chap it was a 'bold' decision as I only just fitted through with lots of wriggling. The snow became very deep in the final few metres before the top and I was left scratching amongst ice and large boulders in order to find the route exit. I belayed in a foot deep bucket seat at the top of the route. Awesome day.

Climbing into the cave

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Krokan, Rjukan

After yesterday's performance it felt only right to return to Krokan to actually tick some routes. Stewart led Bullen (WI3) to begin with, following the narrow channel on the far right-hand side. This felt steady enough on second.

Heavy snowfall this season
Stewart climbing Bullen (WI3)
Taking advantage of the cragging nature of Krokan, we top-roped nearby Tipp (WI5) in order to get more practice on WI5 terrain. Without the hassle of ice screws the route felt easier than yesterday's effort although I still needed to briefly pause at two thirds height to relive the forearms.

Me top-roping Tipp (WI5)
Next it was time for me to lead a WI4. Gaustaspøkelse to the right of Tipp looked a perfect first WI4 lead for me as the steep climbing was interspersed with easier ground to allow recovery. It proved a great route. The main fun saved itself for the top where hanging ice positioned a short distance away from the main ice wall allowed for some Scottish-style back-and-foot chimneying to the top.

Me leading Gaustaspøkelse (WI4)
Me leading Gaustaspøkelse (WI4)
Me leading the top section of Gaustaspøkelse (WI4)
With three routes climbed we decided to return to the Lower Gorge for a final route. Stewart led Swiss Army (Right Start) although deviated from the classic line by staying left at half height rather than mounting the far right steepening. The route was probably more like WI3 via this line. Another great day's climbing at Rjukan.

Stewart leading the start of Swiss Army (Right Start) (WI4)

Monday, 1 February 2010

The Lower Gorge & Krokan, Rjukan

Stewart and me decided to explore the Lower Gorge this morning. We were the first people at the venue however it soon became busy. We climbed firstly LP-plata (WI3), which felt steady enough.

Stewart leading LP-plata (WI3)
We followed this up with Kursruta (WI3). The steep start made the route felt slightly harder than LP-plata despite being the same grade. Climbing was also steeper and more sustained in the lower part than the crux of Bølgen yesterday and so a good progression in difficulty for me.
Me leading Kursruta (WI3)
(Photo by Stewart Young)
Me leading Kursruta (WI3)
(Photo by Stewart Young)

With two routes complete and many of the others now occupied we decided to head to Krokan for variety-sake in the afternoon. The venue was a short drive up the hill passing roadside ice routes on route with great views back down the valley.

Valley views
I had plans to attempt Gaustaspøkelse as my first WI4. Somehow I got sucked into trying Topp, which was a WI5. It looked hook-out so figured the route was within my ability. Things started well. I hooked my way up the route, placed an ice screw in the hard ice with great difficulty and continued on. Near the top of the steep section things turned for the worse. The ice was bullet proof. I tapped a hole with my axe for the ice screw to sit in. The screw would initially bite but then quickly lose its bite. I would give the screw a gental tap to try and regain the bite but it would repeated quickly be lost again. With the screw half buried I cut my losses and clipped the shaft of the screw with a quickdraw. My forearms were wasted. I climbed a little further before they gave up. I let go of the axe shaft to take the strain on my leash... My leash was not done up tight enough... My hand promptly slipped through the glove and I fell leaving an axe and glove in-situ in the ice. I landed upside-down a matter of meters above the ground. The half-sunk ice screw had held and consequently saved my neck (quite literally). No harm done, but I'll register that as a 'near miss incident'. Stewart was left with the task of climbing up to retreave my axe and glove as my forearms were done for the day. He didn't fancy leading on either and so abalakov'ed off. Maybe I will try and WI4 tomorrow...
Climbing Topp (WI5)
(Photo by Stewart Young)
At the screw that wouldn't sink on Topp (WI5)
(Photo by Stewart Young)
The photo tells the story... (note the half-sunk ice screw)