UPDATE July 2015: Ken and Hannah are now running Scottish walking, mountaineering and climbing courses for West Coast Mountain Guides.
Over the weekend, I have been out with Andrew, for Abacus Mountain Guides. Andrew had been on a number of courses with ‘Mountain Craft’ a number of years ago, and was keen to get back into winter climbing and be guided whilst picking up a tip or two along the way.
With a low freezing level, and considerable avalanche risk above 800m, we decided to stay low and visit the West Face of Aonach Dubh, and go for the Cold Climbs classic No.6 Gully. The approach is fairly short, so we soon found ourselves at the start of the second pitch (the first was incomplete). The ice was just about all there, although a bit cruddy in places, and required a bit of care before committing to the tools and foot placements, but the climbing itself was great. The crux pitch was in reasonable shape, and we took the right hand finish, giving a bit of turfy mixed climbing to finish with.
The route could certainly do with some cooler temps to firm things up a bit, but a great route non-the-less.
Today, we ventured into Ben Nevis, to see what the freshly fallen overnight snow had done. Made travel higher in the mountains difficult, that’s what! Our initial plan was to try and get to Comb Gully Buttress, but it quickly became apparent that there weren’t enough hours in a day to manage that, so we opted for Italian Right Hand instead, which gave one fantastic pitch of well hooked ice. We abseiled back down after the difficulties and with plenty of time left, climbed the main pitch of Italian Climb as well, a pitch I hadn’t climbed before, which gave a slightly shorter and easier angled pitch of grade III ice. A couple of abseils saw us back down and wading out.
Meanwhile, Han has also been busy, running an Introductory Winter Skills weekend for West Coast Mountain Guides. Day one saw Han and her team getting to grips with the core winter skills on Aonach Mor, followed by an opportunity to put all the new found skills into practice with an ascent of Stob Ban on the second day.