Saturday, 9 February 2013

Ben Mudlaidh

There's something fundamentally wrong to a 4.55am alarm setting on a Saturday morning.

Or is there? Today's mission: Ben Udlaidh in a day from Paisley. Doable? Very much so.

The forecast was for a bit of a thaw, so we set off early. Brendan picked me up at 5.30 and me proceeded on to Dumbarton where we met Andy and Vicky. Obviously still asleep, I kept sitting in the wrong car for a few minutes before realising what was going on.

We were the first to arrive at a worryingly mild Glen Orchy farm at 7am, and the scary pigs (I like to think they're called Snowball and Napoleon) that block the way were out in force and wanting fed, so bearing in mind the movie Snatch we went the long way round. There wasn't much snow in evidence for a while and the path was pretty muddy, and it was still very mild (3degC) when we reached Coire Daimh but compared to last week, the view was lovely, there was no wind and there still seemed to be plenty of ice about.
Brendan on the tropical approach. Quartzvein Scoop on the left, Green Eyes on the right

9am saw us finished the walkin to Scotland's premier roadside crag. Our plan A was to try Peter Pan Direct (V, 5) which seemed in but thin. Not the day to be pushing the grade, as there was a lot of melt. Plan B was the catchy South Gully of the Black Wall (IV, 4).
The clouds don't work properly

Approaching the route, the snow underfoot was bomber nevee, which is always a good sign. Brendan had the first lead, a narrow funnel of ice through some sopping crappy rock. The ice was good, if a bit thin.

Crap photo of Brendan on P1.
Winter shouldn't be so enjoyable. Photo: Brendan Bailey

The only rock gear we brought were 3 tricams, all of which got placed in the first pitch. I think I may have brought Brendan over to the dark side.

 The second pitch was amazing. Perfect fringes and curtains of steep ice draped over the gully. Plenty of calf pump and giving yourself a good talking to in order to trust unseen axe placements over bulges that 'seemed' fine. It was even good enough to take screws, although the steep positions I found myself in meant I placed them badly. Something to work on.
Me enjoying P2. Photo: Brendan Bailey

It seems Scottish ice climbing can actually be fun! There were some very unusual features in the top 10m metres, lots of ice mushrooms and what looked like upside down drops frozen improbably above the ice.

Brendan topping out

We topped out to the traditional turf belay at 11.30am (I don't normally even get started on a route until 12ish!). We considered doing Green Eyes (IV, 4) but the top of the first pitch looked very thin and everything was melting. So we made good our escape, meeting Andy and Vicky back at the car after they had just climbed West Gully (Andy's blog here).
Coire Daimh on the walk-out. Thawing rapidly but a big drop in temperatures due tonight.

Back at the car by 1pm and in Crianlarich Hotel pub at 1.30 for a pint of the black stuff. All very surreal for Scottish Winter!

Also, Soreen is the best food ever. Yummy squidginess.

Sinéad's over form home next weekend, so no winter climbing (unless I can talk her into it). Now just to force myself to allow this blasted finger injury to heal...

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