Well I’m sitting here with a marg, ala Kelly Cordes and reflecting on my first full Scottish Winter Climbing season. I had 6 days planned and I ended up getting 7 days of winter/ice climbing done, thanks to the big freeze in early January which bought a route in South Wales into condition. It’s been a stunning winter so far and there is still more to go, but sadly I’ve run out of money and days off. So I’m going to spend a little time reflecting on what I’ve learned so far.
There’s little better than a great day out on a classic route (Ledge Route) on a classic mountain (Ben Nevis) in perfect weather. It’s also great fun climbing a classic waterfall (Steall Falls) with good company. I have to say I’m not a big fan of gully climbing. The one gully I have done (Crotched Gully in the Cairngorms) wasn’t very pleasurable. Partly due to my own inexperience, as I ran out of rope attempting to get to the belay. That meant I had to do a downclimb to find a belay, which took a very long time as there were few gear placements on the route. Also the climbing was very dull and samey. I much preferred the Fiaciall Ridge which we climbed the following day. However I led grade II quite happily. Grade III next year, for sure! I think that IV would be manageable, still we’ll see how next year pans out. I’ll have a happy summer gear shopping to make sure I’ve got all the bits needed. I’m still lacking ice axes, boots and crampons. I’ve had such fun this year that I’m happy spending the money getting all the bits I need.
Many thanks to Alan Kimber and Alec Roberts for sharing their knowledge and skills. Both are great instructors and I would highly recommend either for all your winter mountaineering and climbing needs.