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When Ice is nice

The odd day of ice climbing has presented itself through January and February. With the mountains being black one day and white it next it has been difficult to find good conditions.

Despite the poor weather there has been selective days of high pressure and beautiful climbing conditions.

Mid January my good friend Iain Smith appeared on my door step having hitched all the way from Stirling, an impressive task in itself. We packed ropes, rack and sorted out gear getting excited about the day to come. 5am came round all too quickly and we grabbed bags and made a get away. The target, 1978 route on the side of An Teallach. However as we walked into the corrie sinking knee deep into fluffy white powder we started to realise that maybe conditions were not as fabulous as we’d hoped. Not to be deterred we walked into the base of the route where the rock all looked white, unfortunately this turned out to be nothing more than a dusting on top of dry sand stone. We did spot some ice at the bottom of an approach gully to Lord’s Gully so we though that looked nice. Managing to place an ice screw it felt like we were in business. It was short lived and there didn’t seem to be a way forward as large chunks of wet snow fell off with every swing. Soon we were running away tail between legs. Not wanting to be put off we opted to finish up Lord’s gully via the left hand side. Another hour and a half saw us to the start of the ‘technical’ section. Three pitches later we squirmed though a cave and out to the summit ridge. Now dark we knew we were in for the long haul, on top of Sail liath at 8pm having been dark for over 3 hours already. Back at the car for 22:30. A brilliant 14 hour day on the hill.

ice climbing, An Teallach
Iain on the walk into An Teallach
Lords gully, An Teallach
Iain approaching climbing Lord’s Gully

Glenmore lodges winter climbing festival in January gave rise to another day’s climbing. This time being guided by Al Halewood. Invernookie is a grade III 4 in Coire an t’Sneachda and a classic of the coire. It was a great choice for the day as the wind was spinning over the ridge. Climbing beside North Face sponsored athlete Hansjoerg Auer I felt slightly out of place.

ice in the Cairngorms
Al Halewood and Neil Hamlet walking into Invernookie
Ice climbing, Invernokie
Pitch one of Inverookie
ice climbing, cairngorms, Invernookie
Neil and Tim on Invernookie

With my enthusiasm returning for winter climbing I soon found myself back in the Cairngorms once again. This time climbing in Coire an Lochain on a fantastic route called The Milky Way. Conditions were spot on and although there was the odd spot of poor snow on the whole it was fantastic.

Cairngorms, ice climbing
Happy faces on a sunny walk in
Invernookie, cairngorms, winter
Invernookie
Cairngorm, winter
Topping out on an amazing day

Bring on March, lets hope there is more climbing to be had.

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