Newsletter entries for 2008

September

Clecy

05/09/2008 – 07/09/2008

Written by: David Knight

Attendees: Barry, Martin, Tony & DK

Overview

After an absence of 5 years from the HMA meets programme and because the ease of travelling to Clecy this meet was resurrected.

05/09/2008

The four of us met at the Portsmouth ferry terminal to embark on the Friday mid-afternoon boat.

A leisurely 6 hour cruise interspersed with banter and fine food resulted in us being deposited on to the French shore at 10.30pm ready to set off on the 30mile drive to the camp site at Thury Harcourt. Having had a previous conversation with the campsite proprietor (in French) referring to our late arrival time I was amazed to find the barrier up and access to our usual pitches.

06/09/2008

First thing in the morning maintaining my daily alpine task I strolled into the village to pick up a breakfast supply of croissants and pain o chocolat. After a leisurely breakfast in the warm autumn sunshine we drove the 10km distance to the Rocher des Parcs via the local epicerie to pick up a new guide book and snacks for the day.

Finding the crag surprisingly quiet Barry and I started off on La Resurrection (4c) while Martin and Tony climbed the adjacent La Dalle de la Souris also (4c). Both these routes are of two pitches and terminate on a large ledge about 20 metres from the cliff top. To top out we climbed the single pitch L’ombilic (3+) and La Voiturette (3+) respectively.

After lunch we swopped routes and once again headed up the cliff.

With everyone climbing comfortably we decide to up the anti a bit so Barry and I chose the (5b) graded La Pollux while Martin and Tony selected the more amenable La Francoise (4c/5a). For me it was all going well until I reached the small roof at the start of the second pitch, no matter what I tried I could not get over it, even Barry with his superior height could not manage it. Thankfully an easier route shared the same belay ledge so we escaped via the comfortable 2nd pitch of La Gluck (4c).

By the time Barry and I got back down Martin who had already completed La Francoise was at the roof of, through which he subsequently cruised.

It was then back to the camp site for a shower before going into town for something to eat.

07/09/2008

Sunday was again hot and sunny and while there were more climbers on the crag there was plenty room and in different teams Martin and I chose to start on the popular La Veronique (5b/5c) while Barry and Tony cruised on La Reposante. Maintaining the same standard we then moved on to L’archiduc while Barry and Tony climbed the direct version of their first route.

With both teams topping out together we sat on the cliff top to take in the view and bathe in the success of a great weekend. After a leisurely beer in a riverside bar it was back to pack the tents and head off to Ouistreham for a meal before boarding the overnight boat.

July

Gower

12/07/2008 – 13/07/2008

Written by: Eric

Attendees: Barry Hewitt, Eric, Ian Mac, Peter, Ian Tingers & Tony (with his dog)

Overview

Despite a very gloomy forecast for the weekend, and a bit of uncertainty as to who was attending, thing started to fall into place on Saturday morning when all 6 of us managed to find one another at Kennexstone campsite. Low tide was around 8am, so there was minimal faff leaving the campsite. Reaching Fall Bay to find waves crashing at the foot of King Wall, I began to wonder if I had read the tide timetable incorrectly, as Tony suggested! After a bit of a scramble to the foot of Ragnarok, (29m S 4a) we climbed up to The Great Terrace. From there Tingers led Gethsemane (31m S 4a) on Lewis Castle East (aka Fall Bay Buttress). Very pleasant climbing accompanied by Amelie, Tony’s dog, barking at anything that moved on the beach. Whilst climbing, Tony hadn’t been idle and had spotted an interesting pitch in a nearby zawn. With nothing in the guidebook, and undeterred by my negativity, Tony set off. I noted at this point that Amelie was quiet whilst Tony climbed. Up to Fall Bay Buttress again, this time for me to have a go at Osiris (36m VS 4c). Well protected, but a not so enjoyable hand traverse below an overhang near the top focused my attention. At the top, and by luck more than judgement, we met up with Peter, Ian Mac and Barry H, who had trekked over from the campsite. After a spot of lunch, the walkers set off back to base, whilst the climbers headed off to Devil’s Truck and spent the afternoon freezing our bits off. Tingers led The Nose (15m S 4a) and I shivered and dreamt of sunnier climbs. Thankfully, Sunday was actually a summer’s day. Another early start resulted in all 6 of us roping up at Three Cliffs by 8.30am. And the tide was out this time. Tingers offered me the lead of Scavenger (26m VS 4b) which fortunately, for me at least, I declined. After all, I’d led my VS yesterday. Much regretting then ensued as Tingers inched his was up a wet, cold and very slippery pitch. Another hour of sunlight would have transformed the climb to something much more fun, as Tony found when it was his turn. Nearby, the other team cracked Perseverance (18m HS 4a). Then I chanced my luck on Arch Slab (24m VS 4c). And I don’t care if I feet didn’t stand directly above the arch! It felt hard enough to me. As the tide came in and all the other climbers chickened out, the cliff was left to Tingers and I. We finished off with Joggled Wall Direct (18m HS 4a) and Quartz Corner (16m HS) before wading through the water, under the arch and up the bay to join the others. A great weekend was had by all. Eric.

June

Alps

09/06/2008 – 14/06/2008

Written by: David Knight

Attendees: Barry Voysey, Barry Hewitt, Martin Lennon & David Knight

Overview

In order to get the Alpine novices, Martin and myself used to early starts we met at Barry V’s house 3.45am. This would allow us to arrive at Dover in time to catch the 6.30 Calais ferry and have the traditional on board breakfast. An uneventful journey through France had us arriving in the Chamonix Valley at around 6.00pm with clear skies and a temperature of 30ºC.

The main difference between this and previous Alpine meets was that instead of camping we had an apartment in Argentiere which at a cost of £50 each for the week was a good deal.

To acclimatise us gently the Barrys had selected a two day outing culminating in a easy grade climb to the Aiguille du Tour. This expedition involved a gondola and chair lift up to around 2200 metres after which we had a two hour walk to the Albert Premier Hut where we would spend the night. For those not aware of it’s location it is situated just above the Tour Glacier at a height of 2700m. With Martin and me being new to glacier travel it was decided that before “checking in” we would practice roping up and crevasse rescue. After a couple of hours of working on these alpine techniques we booked in, picked up our hut slippers and made up our beds (2 blankets and your own sheetbag) before preparing for dinner. With an occupancy of some 130 people, dinner had to be in two sittings. This for those not acquainted with alpine hut ways, I assume to save on washing up you use the same tableware for all courses. On this occasion soup, pasta and beef stew and for dessert, a pear.

09/06/2008

With breakfast, only bowls were for both coffee and cereal, served at 4.00am this resulted in a later start than was planned. By the time we had put on crampons roped up as a safe group of four and made our way on to the glacier it was about 5.00am. Unfortunately the overnight temperature had not dropped sufficiently to freeze the softened snow of the day before. This made the walk up to the Col du Tour 3282m a sloppy and more tiring task than I expected. From the Col we plodded onto the Plateau du Trient and reached a point beneath the Aiguille du Tour by about 08.30am.

To get on to the rock section of the route a steep couloir needs to be climbed and considering the poor state of the snow and our slow progress I told the others that I was worried about the possibility of an avalanche so would not be going further. With that we took a short break, enjoying the magnificent views before heading back to the Col and on down to the valley.

10/06/2008

08.30 Tuesday found us on the first Gondola and chair lift to the Lac du Fouet to climb the Aiguille L’Index III+. Barry V had decided to have an easier day left three of us to do the route and took a leisurely stroll to the picturesque Lac Blanc. With Barry H having a senior moment it took us a little longer than the guidebook’s quoted 10 minute sprint to get to the start of the route. This diversion actually paid off as there were no other parties on the lower pitches.

With no hold-ups and Barry’s directions we topped out fairly quickly. Unfortunately the abseil off into the descent gulley slowed it all up. Barry abseiled off onto a ridge above the gulley as he had done on previous occasions. This left him with a short scramble down into it. Martin and I decided that, to ensure an easy retrieval of the ropes moved them so they dropped directly into the gulley. Unfortunately this took some time to achieve and was made all the more difficult because I was hanging on the end of the rope and then required another abseil off some tat just above the gulley.

It was only when we were on the second ab that we realised that we only had about 20 minutes to catch the last chair lift down. We ran down the gulley and the snow slope only to get to the lift to find out it was another half hour till the last one, phew what a relief. Missing it would have meant a 3hour walk and none of us wanted that.

11/06/2008

After three fairly hard days I was in need of a break so while the others took the telepherique to Plan De L’Aiguille walked across to Lac Bleu crossed the receding glazier de blaitiene stopped for lunch in picturesque spot being overlooked by the Des Grds Charmoz strolled across the reseeding glacier des Nantillons to enable us to look at the guide book for Aig De I’m for routes for future years then with a mixture of walking, skiing, bum sliding and ice axe breaking made their way down to the main path back to the telepherique. I decided upon a rest day and after hiring a bike headed up the valley to a roadside bouldering area. As with the previous days it was wall to wall sunshine and with the temperature in the upper twenties the 3km up hill ride was not very restful. The bouldering itself was excellent and well worth the effort required to get to it. There was one large boulder with about a dozen routes on that until around midday gave shade from the sun and provided a mix of grades from 4c to 6b.

I then freewheeled back to Argentiere for lunch before taking one of the bike routes to Chamonix where we all met up for an ice cream. In order to save energy I caught the train back.

12/06/2008

A last minute decision for Thursday was to catch the train up to a point just above the Mar de Glace and descend the according to Barry H the 15metre ladders which turned out to be about 50metres and do some ice climbing on the crevasse walls. This provided good entertainment and proved a good test for the new boots with it culminating on a 35foot wall of near vertical ice.

 

13/06/2008

Friday actual dawned quite cloudy so much so that the Flegere gondola and chair lift took us up through the clouds. From the top chairlift station Barry H, Martin and I made our way across the snow slopes to join the queue for the East Face du Petite Crochue grade IV+. Unfortunately while gearing up we found that we only had my very thin 8.4mm 50metre half rope between us. Realising how difficult it would be to move as a three on the limited rope length, Barry, who had done the climb before graciously stood down. With a few mid-pitch stances we quickly arrived at what was soon to become a very crowded final stance as we sat and watched a guided climber futilely struggle to make the difficult move into the final grove. After 20 minutes of watching this, to quote my old mate AK “exercise in futility” a second guide invited us to move on through. With Martin leading this pitch we topped out in no time at all. As we sorted out our gear so the client arrived absolutely exhausted. From here it was a pleasant scramble down a steep gulley to the col a short snow gulley and we were soon down to where Barry and lunch were waiting. By now the sun was out and it had got very warm again, so we took a leisurely stroll back to the chair lift stopping several times to soak up the sun and the magnificent views. To celebrate a good day we paused at the drinks kiosk at the upper gondola station for a beer.

14/06/2008

Saturday was the return journey home, again driven well by Barry and Martin.

To sum up my first alpine experience or should it be experiences – great and can’t wait for next year.

Thanks to both Barry’s for their guidance, there is nothing to match experience. Oh, and it helps to have good weather.

May

Wye Valley

10/05/2008 – 11/05/2008

Written by: Martin Lennon

Attendees: Ian, Martin, Eric & David

10/05/2008

Ian and I left early on Saturday morning to travel to Wintours Leap. Took about 2hours to get there and how much nicer it was travelling early on a Saturday rather than a Friday evening. Started the day with Central Rib Route 1a 220 foot severe(**) 4 pitches.

After completing this route it was lunchtime and the sun was out and very humid. After lunch we decided we would climb on North Wall. The original plan was to do Central Route but then discovered that this was half way up the crag!!!(after swearing and cursing about the poor quality Guide Book).We then decided to do the first 2 pitches of Left hand Route 180 foot HS(**) and then went on to do Bacchanalian (the top 2 pitches of Central Route) 120 foot HS (*). We were both very grateful that we were carrying small daysacks with loads of water. North Wall which has Left Hand Route and Nibelheim

The campsite we used was Beeches Farm which was only 3 miles away from the crag. Details below Miss Graces Lane Tidenham Chase Chepstow Gwent NP16 7LZ ‘No frills, just a toilet block, sinks and a expansive, undulating field overlooking Offa’s Dyke. Collect firewood from the wood at the bottom of the site on your way back from the pub. Cost is just £2.50 a night – there’s an honesty jar inside the farmhouse door. Beeches Farm’ A great new shower block and toilets have just been added and the site was quite quiet and well worth a visit if campsite required in the area. Don’t know how much longer it will be £2.50 per night with the new building.

Saturday evening was spent in the pub.

11/05/2008

Sunday plan was to meet up with David and Eric we waited at the campsite for David to give us a call as he said he would ring on the way across but we only received the phone call from Eric when they had arrived at Wintours Leap. We recommended they did Central Rib Route 1. Arrived at Wintours Leap car park they were both geared up racing towards the route. With some comment from David that they may go to Shorncliff after the one route. Ian and I decided we would climb Nibelheim VS 290 foot 4 pitches (**). We carried one rucksac between us containing rock boots and loads of water, as the sun had broken through and was very hot. We decided to walk down rather than take the easy way down having decided the day before there was not much difference in time having picked out the route the day before. The route was well worth its 2 stars all 4 pitches were on clean reasonable rock and some of the climbing was very exposed. We returned back to the car at lunchtime with no surprise that Eric and David had vanished off to Shorncliff and we did not see them again.

In the afternoon the very hot weather was beginning to take its toll and we went on to do Central Rib Route 3 230 foot VD (***) 4 pitches. Ian spent most of the route practising removal of nuts for the young lady in front of us, as she kept leaving them behind. We both agreed that it was well worth its 3 stars and was probably one of the best VD we have ever done and was good value for money. Returned back to the car for some light refreshments and we re packed the car for our journey home. Arriving home at 8pm whereupon we received a phone call from David to say he was just crossing the Severn Bridge. David and Eric had spent the afternoon at Shorncliff where they climbed One for All HS 100ft (**) The Phoney War HS 90ft (**) War of The Worlds VS 90ft (**) It made a change to have dry weather for the whole weekend. Martin

April

Peaks

12/04/2008 – 13/04/2008

Written by: Unknown

Attendees: Martin Lennon (Climber), Tony Ward (Climber), Ian Tingers (Climber), Barry Hewitt (Walker), Ian Mac (Walker), Barry Voysey (Walked Saturday, Climbed Sunday)

Overview

The weather forecast for the weekend was wet, windy and cold. On arriving in the Peaks it was pouring down with rain and we were all glad of the warm and cosy bunkhouse, with the relief of no tents to put up.

12/04/2008

On the Saturday half of the group went out for a walk and the other half went climbing. The climbers first went to Burbage North jumped out of the car and straight back in again. Decided to go to Yarncliffe Quarry.

Routes climbed were

  • Ants Arete VS 4b*
  • Latecomer HS 4b*
  • Ants Crack S 4a*
  • Ants Wall HS 4a*
  • Angular Climb HVD
  • Cardinals Arete VS 4c*
  • Cardinals Crack VS 4b*

The walkers did Castleton Great Ridge and were blessed with a mixture of sun, hail stones, snow and rain.

In the evening various people cooked for the whole group and a lot of wine and beer was drunk.

13/04/2008

On the Sunday we woke up to pouring rain and by the time every one had breakfast the rain had stopped.

The walkers drove off to Birchen car park and did the Three Monuments Walk with Peter displaying his party piece of standing on top of a trig point.

The climbers went to Gardoms Edge and could see the rain coming in, quickly kitted up.Tony and Martin did Apple Arete VS 4b***. Ian and Barry V did N.M.C. Crack VD**. By which time it had started to rain so retreated back to the car and travelled home.

February

Scotland trip

09/02/2008 – 16/02/2008

Written by: Martin Lennon

Attendees: Barry Hewett & Martin Lennon

Overview

Departed on Saturday morning 6-30am with the weather forecast for the week mainly consisting of snow, rain, strong winds and avalanche warnings of category 4. Snow chains and shovel adding to the gear. Driving up towards Birmingham with clear blue skies and the sun shinning we made the decision to stop off at The Lakes, as the forecast for Sunday was crap! On driving over the summit of Shapp the weather had closed in and snowing heavily, but this did not deter us with the objective being Sharp Edge. The only problem being all our gear and clothing was packed in all different bags in different places of the car. By about 12-30pm we were on our way. Snow had stopped and visibility had improved considerably. At the foot of Sharp Edge crampons and ice axes were drawn. Near the end of the edge we traversed across left with some exhilarating semi frozen turf climbing and then walked on to the top of Blencathra and back down the ridge overlooking Sharp Edge. We were back on the road all packed away by 4-30pm. Carried on journey to Onich near Glen Coe via ASDA in Dumbarton, I had a near scrap with a bloody large stag (Barry thought it was a notice board) near Glen Coe arriving at 10pm to a warm and cosy cottage.

Sunday With strong winds, rain and snow we had a long lay in. At midday we decided to walk up to The Lost Valley in Glencoe (Allt Coire Gabhail). Upon walking up we found the snow extremely soft and a hell of a lot of water running off the slopes and into the rivers. Had a late lunch in the Lost Valley and we followed our steps back to the car, still raining and windy.

Monday Weather much the same as Sunday so Martin decided he was going to do half a day skiing and Barry was going to go for a stroll at the back of the cottages. No skiing was done, turned up at ticket office but had closed the lifts an hour earlier (spoke to people the following day, I could have done skiing in the morning and they were complaining that it took 10 minutes to get to the gondola station in the morning and in the afternoon took just under the hour due to the high winds). I had to settle for a walk along the Loch by the cottage as Barry had the key.

Tuesday Up bright and early with the encouragement of a slight lull in the weather but care was required as a category 4 avalanche warning on some slopes. Started our day’s walk at Kinlochmor Church (near Kinlochleven) and strolled up to the top of Sgor Eilde Beag and followed the ridge to the unnamed top (1062) and then on to Nar Gruagaichean and followed the ridge down to Leachid nah-Aire and back towards the car.

Wednesday With the best forecast for the week being today we decided to do the Aonach Eagach Ridge, even then there was the chance of rain or snow showers with occasional gusts. Arrived at the east of the ridge car park at 8-30 am, we put one each of Martin’s trainers in each rucksack, weather had closed in and was raining. Decided to press on and followed the south east ridge towards the top of Am Bodach on the way up weather changed to blue skies and good visibility. When we got to the top of Am Bodach the weather had closed in again, beginning to think that Barry was having second thoughts. But whilst putting on crampons weather began to clear and we decided to carry on. Took a couple of breaks along the way enjoying the superb views. With all the fresh snow two small groups in front of us had picked a very good path along the ridge for Barry and I to follow. Arrived at Sgorr Nam Fiannaidh early afternoon and then we made our way down to the Clachaig Inn. Here I left Barry in the pub whilst I walked back for the car, after having retrieved my other trainer from Barry. I joined Barry later for a well-earned pint or two. Here we reflected on what a great day it had been. Aonach Eagach Ridge Summary Route distance 8.03 KM Total Ascent 1090M Total Descent 1245M

Thursday Strong winds and more rain forecast we were spoiled with another lay in. Opening of ski lifts delayed, at midday drove up to the Nevis range ski area as they were reviewing the situation at 12-30 pm. At 1pm they decided the winds were ok for the gondola but not for any of the other lifts. Drove back into Fort William, Barry went for a stroll around the town and I went on the climbing wall.

Friday More strong winds and rain forecast category 3-avalanche warning on some slopes, due to strong winds decided to forget skiing, drove into Glen Coe and decided to walk up Coire Nan Lochan. We decided to leave ropes and lead gear in the car as a lot of the snow had been washed away with the rain and higher temperatures. We left the decision as to where we would go next when we got to the top of Coire Nan Lochan at the small lakes. When we arrived decided where we would go from there, as it was dependent on the conditions. We looked up into the gullies and noticed that there had been some recent avalanches. With the strong winds and the soft deep snow (for some reason I kept following Barry’s footsteps and kept finding myself up to my thighs deep in snow. Am I getting that heavy??!!). From the small lakes we went along the Gearr Aonach ridge to see if we could find the zig zags down the front of the middle of the three sisters. Thankfully we found them and enjoyed the scramble down. Followed the footpath from the Lost Valley back to the car. Despite the weather and the conditions we had a great day. By the way for the record the ski slopes did not open again.

Saturday Up early to start the long drive home, left the cottage at 7-30 am and arrived home at about 5-30 pm. A great time was had by the two of us, great cottage, good food and looking forward to next year. Martin

HMA Scottish Winter Trip

17/02/2008 – 22/02/2008

Written by: Patrick

Attendees: Patrick & Andrew

17/02/2008

We set off at 07:30 as planned, carrying enough gear to mount an assault on an El Cap route. Alternating pitches, we made steady progress upwards and, the going not being as bad as expected, we arrived at Fort William before dark. The anticipated horrors of a 560 mile drive from the South Coast had failed to materialise and only a brief encounter with road works at Glasgow had loaded a few minutes onto our journey time. Andrew had managed to locate a cracking little apartment for the week just outside Spean Bridge and we spent no time at all making ourselves at home. Soon the place had all the cosy hallmarks of inhabitation by climbers with mounds of gear being spread liberally round the floors and working surfaces.

18/02/2008

After consulting various weather forecasts, we decided on Glencoe for the first day. An early start found us with heavy sacks plodding up the valley towards Stob Coire nan Lochan, a 1115 metre peak, with the contents of two Plas y Brenin mini buses in hot pursuit. Our target was Boomerang Gully, a grade II climb that we could see from the road and appeared to be in condition. Inevitably the young Turks from PYB overtook us during one of a number of breaks to admire the scenery, which fortuitously also enabled us to get our breath back.

Gearing up at the snow line, we headed on towards the base of our chosen climb. We soloed the initial ramp, there being no obvious belays on the firm snow slope, until we reached the corner. This provided a fine location for a rest and a bite to eat. At this point I became thoroughly disenchanted with the quality of Glencoe rock when I managed to displace a block about the size of a television set almost by looking at it (an old style television set with valves and transformers and things, not one of these modern flat screen jobs). The climbing up the main part of the gully was on good neve and straightforward. Great fun!

We topped out onto a windless summit with blue sky and clear views in all directions. Many photographs were taken after which we descended via the col between Stob Coire nan Lochan and Bidean nam Bian and then down the Lost Valley.

19/02/2008

Tuesday morning saw us heading for the Cairngorms with the external temperature gauge in the car indicating a shivery minus six degrees. Arriving at Aviemore some two hours later we found ourselves in the company of what seemed to be most of Scotland intent on taking advantage of the superb weather conditions. Glenmore Lodge were out in force.

We had already decided to head for Coire an t-Sneachda, a decision that we reinforced when we heard that the other popular alternative, Coire an Lochain, was not in good condition. A mere 60 minute walk in found us contemplating the intimidating rocks at the base of the ‘Trident’ Gullies. Gearing up, we cramponed up the snow apron to join the queue for The Runnel, a grade II winter climb. Upward progress was slow due to the number of parties on the climb but it did not matter too much as the views were excellent and the company on the belays convivial. Most of the climb was easy and on good neve with massive steps in it but a narrow icy exit corridor at the top of the route provided a bit of excitement.

At this point it is probably worth recording that Andrew is a bit of a born again climber and had brought with him his two most prized possessions from a misspent youth. The first was a shiny peg hammer of some antiquity that sported a wicked pick. His second most prized possession is a deadman. This is a substantial device, of similar vintage to the hammer and built to a specification latterly unavailable. The modern equivalent is terminally flimsy by comparison although may have something of a weight advantage. More of this later.

Anyway, when Andrew topped out his pointy bling thing caught the envious eye of a local prompting him to utter the memorable line “That’s a sexy wee hammer you have there”. I suspect that this pleased Andrew more than the completion of the climb!

We wandered back down to the bottom of the crag with the intention of climbing the third of the Trident Gullies, Crotched Gully, another grade II. Curiously, most of the crowds had departed, even though it was only early afternoon. So we popped up the gully, occasionally remembering to place runners, although the need for them was minimal and the opportunity to do so similar. A solitary ptarmigan perched at the half way point eyed us with curiosity as we thrashed our way past. After topping out we headed back to the ski centre and thence beat an orderly retreat back to the west coast.

20/02/2008

On Wednesday we teamed up with Andrew’s chum Ken from Glasgow and after a leisurely start headed towards the nearby Aonach Mor. Andrew and I were headed for Coire an Lochan on the east face whilst Ken, who was in training for a winter ML assessment, was planning to get in some ice axe arrest and belay practice. The Nevis Range gondola provided an easy start to the ascent, albeit at a price (£8.75). Which on the way up seemed steep but on the way back a snip!

The weather had deteriorated somewhat overnight and visibility was considerably reduced. After a snack break at the top gondola station we headed off round the hill, choosing a route that maximised the opportunity to traverse the steep snow slope.

When Andrew and I arrived at our chosen line, Right Twin, another grade II gully, already had people on it so we elected to head on and see what we could find, eventually finding ourselves at the foot of The Web a grade II/III just south of Easy Gully. Leading the first pitch I headed off up the gully. However after having made the first a few moves I was none too cheered at what greeted me. I should have been excited seeing all that ice but somehow it only caused a deep apprehension. The gully was also subject to sizeable stream of powder snow running down it. I took fright and retreated, a decision that I was able to reconsider at length in the safety of the local hostelry that evening. I headed back to Easy Gully where I took a belay. Andrew joined me shortly where he rejected my offer of the rack and instead rummaged in my sack, retrieved the deadman that I had been hosting for the last three days. Suitably armed he set off purposefully up the gully with the intent of planting it in the cornice, leaving me to contemplate the crack that I had just noticed running across the ‘bomber’ block that I was belayed to.

The rope ran out and out until there was no more and with Andrew still some 15 metres from the cornice. Fortunately some kind soul with foresight of our predicament had cut a substantial ledge in the slope at exactly the right spot. Very soon the valley echoed to the resounding ring of Sexy Wee Hammer on battleship boilerplate. Having firmly planted his runner Andrew headed off to the top with me tailing on behind.

We topped out into a bitter wind that cut across the Aonach Mor plateau. Gathering our possessions as best we could we scuttered off down the frozen ski runs, Andrew tacking across the slope, me plodding stolidly down the centre line; both techniques seemed equally effective.

21/02/2008

By Thursday the weather had clagged in with a return to typical Scottish conditions; ie wet and miserable. So we bimbled off to Kinlochleven with the intention of having a session on the indoor ice wall at the Ice Factor. Unfortunately they were fully booked so we amused ourselves for couple of hours on the indoor climbing wall until we were both too pumped to climb anything, however low the grade. After a swift drink at the nearby Clachaig Inn we returned to Fort William to indulge in a spot of gear shopping at the climbing Mecca’s of Nevisport and Ellis Brigham.