After sorting gear and loading up uncomfortably large rucksacks the walk in began up the now much improved Allt a Mhuilinn path under a dark and brooding sky. As is usually the case it wasn't long until waterproofs were needed but we were still up at the (empty!!) CIC hut in not much over one and a half hours. After a quick drink and a snack we headed up into Coire na Ciste in search of a snowhole site recommended by someone in the know. It soon became clear that the snow was too wet to sleep in and on a quick glance higher in the coire we witnessed either a powder avalanche or substantial spindrift avalanche (is there a difference?) pour down from the upper slopes of Tower Ridge and decided it would be daft to venture much higher into the darkness! Back at the hut we looked at all our possibile options, head higher up towards the Arete to find better snow, turn back and sleep in the car or squeeze three wet bodies into a small two man tent. After a bit of reluctance on my part we turned round and headed towards the carpark however, it was only 15 minutes before we began to doubt our decision and pitched up the tent. A couple of brews later and we were all squashed inside and enjoyed a surprisingly comfortable night.
An alarm roused us from our slumber at 530 and after a quick breakfast we were en route for Coire na Ciste. The Curtain looked thin but tempting and so we made a start towards the base with Helen out front breaking trail. On reaching the base she swung her axe and hit very thin ice "it might just about hold your weight" was enough of a reason to leave it for another day!
Now heading for Thompsons Route we yet again found ourselves in a maybe, maybe not, maybe its ok debate about snow conditions and avalanche risk and so the plans changed again and we headed for the classic Green Gully to avoid suspect slopes below Number 3 Gully.
The climb was started from a dodgy ice screw belay and can be summed up as follows:
Steves pitch (60m) = 2 crap ice screws to an okish peg belay.
Iains pitch (60m) = 1 ok nut, 1 ancient piton, 1 sling over a shallow spike to a crap peg and nut belay.
Helens pitch (60m) = 1 bulldog, 1 tied off ice screw, 1 good spike, a fair bit of scary thin ice to a deadmans belay, a burried axe and a lot of wishful thinking.
Iains pitch (20m) = a lot of snow ploughing, digging and bum shuffling.
The route proved to be in pretty poor condition with rubbish ice and loads of fresh powder. The lack of decent belays made it feel extremely committing finishing with an exposed shuffle along a corniced knife edge arete on the crest of the Comb. Scary stuff!
Safe at last we made for the summit and were rewarded with a magnificent view from possibly the best vantage point in the country. A bit of ice bouldering on the summit shelter, a few photos and then we turned for a pleasant walk back to Number Four Gully. After some more humming and hawing about snow and avalanche risk we finally abbed into the gully and bumslid back into the coire.
A bit disheartened by the conditions on the mountain we phoned our weather guru back in Aberdeen and it seemed clear that things would only be worse in the morning. On returning to the tent we cooked up dinner before considering our options. With a warm front forecast and the prospect of a wet night in a cramped tent Steve and I packed our kit and headed back to the carpark but Helen was already comfortable inside her sleeping bag and decided she would walk out in the morning.
Next morning dawned wet and wild so we headed to Nevisport for breakfast where we were joined by a very wet Helen who had had to fish the tent out of the river before walking out! After a few coffees and teas we headed to the library to check the weather forecast before calling it a day and heading home a bit despondent at the lack of climbing but looking forward to a nice meal and a warm bed! All in all a bit of an adventure!
Fingers crossed for another cold snap!
Posted by Munro, Iain (iain) on 2008-04-01 20:21:46
Yeah lets just hope for better conditions to come. Looks like the thaw is on now so all we need is the cold snap... Hmmm... Interesting day out though! Steve
Posted by Walls, Steve (stevejr) on 2008-04-02 01:13:46