Having seen tracks into and out the top of Crowberry Gully yesterday, noting that the freezing level was not going to rise significantly until the afternoon, that there wasn’t going to be a huge amount of fresh snow in the morning, and as a result the avalanche hazard wasn’t going to increase until later today, Lee and I headed to Crowberry Gully, one of Ken Wilson’s Cold Climbs.
For Lee, it was his first significant route in the Scottish Highlands, so not a bad one to start with! We soloed a fair way up, to the foot of a short icy step, beyond which the route boasts three interesting and thinly iced slabs, all of which were in good condition today. We topped out at about midday, so I suggested to Lee that we abseil down the Left Fork, a pitch that I hadn’t climbed before, and climb that as well.
So, we made our way down to the col of Crowberry Tower, and abseiled down. I knew that there was a cave pitch, but I hadn’t expected it to be quite as substantial as it was. We easily got down to the junction of the Left and Right Forks, and then made our way back up. The Left Fork first passes under a chockstone, up an icy groove, before surmounting another small chockstone, before gaining the large and fairly shallow cave. From here, it’s a case of thrutching, bridging, wedging and udging your way up, with reasonably foot holds, but not so great axes to a higher ledge, in the back of the cave, before committing to moving out of the cave, to gain a streak of ice to the left of the enormous chockstone that forms to the roof of the cave. There was reasonably gear on this pitch, which both Lee and myself found strenuous but enjoyable, with plenty of opportunities to gain a rest.
We nipped to the summit, and descended Coire na Tulaich, in which the snow was starting to soften. Quiet a few teams on Curved Ridge today.
Hannah was also out, for a day of personal climbing with Mark. They had to battle with the winds to get into Coire na Ciste on Ben Nevis, where they made a beeline for Mega Route X. Mark led the two pitches, which Hannah followed. They reported good conditions, a bit thin at the start, which was fine for axes, but not so good for screws. The ice improved quickly with height. Very quiet up there, with only a few teams willing to brave the conditions, which whilst weren’t bad, were a bit of a contrast to the weekend. Teams on Fawlty Towers, Green Gully and Ledge Route.