I left Scotland at the start of March with a view to spending a month in Wales rock climbing before I headed off Ski Touring in April. With some work booked in for the month I was looking forward to getting some mileage in and blow off the winter cobwebs. The weather as it turned out had other ideas…
Winter returned with a vengeance to North Wales and work suffered, as trying to run a Summer ML Training proved a step too far on the snow covered hills. However the opportunity came to work on some one day Winter Skills courses at Plas y Brenin which were an absolute pleasure given the stellar weather and the fact there was actually a layered snow pack to get involved in…a rarity in Wales!
Welsh Winter wonderland
I tried to resist going winter climbing again but given it was far too cold for rock climbing and the conditions were superb on the hills I gave in.
Two of the best days of my Winter were on routes in North Wales; Shallow Gully Direct on Lliwedd and Central Icefall Direct on Creag y Rheader. Winter climbing in North Wales is a fickle business, even more so on a big crag like Lliwedd. Generally the snow doesn’t hang around long enough to transform into something useful. This year was an exception with the cliff being plastered in sticky snow ice…more akin to conditions you would find in the Alps! Shallow Gully gave 8 pitches of incredible climbing, never too hard, bold in places (the start especially!) and a top out on the summit of Lliwedd.
Stu and Tim doing that rare thing of relaxing in Winter. A plastered Lliwedd in the background.
Central Icefall Direct was a route that I had missed out on a few years ago and having been in Scotland when it was subsequently ‘in’ I was chuffed when work got cancelled (because of the snow) and got together with Luke and Glyn to climb this Welsh winter uber classic. What a route!!
On the hallowed ground of the icicle! (Photo: Luke Brooks)
From the ridiculous to the sublime…I think that fairly well sums up the couple of months I spent in Scotland this winter. When I arrived at the start of January it felt like going back to the previous March when everything was warm, wet and melting. I left at the end of February after a couple of weeks of stunning alpine like weather that left me wanting more. Quite different to how I felt after last winter when I couldn’t wait to see the back of Scotland!
This winter has been a good mix and balance of work and getting out on the hill for myself. It’s always a tricky one as a freelancer as it’s hard to turn down work yet the main point of freelancing, for me, is to have the time to get out for myself. I’ve been based in Fort William for the past few seasons now and this was no different. It was great this year staying with a few guys from North Wales so there was always plenty of people to go climbing with along with plenty of beta for work or climbing. Fort William is an odd place in winter as its usually completely deserted and definitely feels like the back of beyond at times. Yet somehow there manages to be a good social scene as everyone migrates to the same area for a period of a couple of months!
First day out of the season…bouldering at Ruthven!
It has been great this winter climbing in places that I’ve never been to before such as Beinn Eighe, Lochnagar and Carn Etchachan. I’ve been wanting to get to these places since I first started climbing in Scotland but somehow hadn’t managed until this year.
Beinn Eighe…big and intimidating
Eilde Canyon…It was cool to check out this oft talked about ice venue in Glencoe. Not much in condition when we were there but certainly a more continental style of climbing…minus the sun and blue skies!
Organ Pipe Walls, Beinn Udlaidh. Chris Thorne storming up the main pitch.
Rob Spencer and the Godfrey Jackson Memorial team on a PYB Winter Mountaineering course.
Some of the QUBMC guys on their yearly trip to Scotland…somehow they always manage to get good conditions!
A grand day out with Guy and Murdo! Guy engaged in the crux on Auricle, Coire an Lochain.
Matt and Scott enjoying good conditions on Taxus, Beinn an Dothaidh.
Ronnie engaged on the top corner of Compression Cracks. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be from here as the snow turned to mush. Highlight of the day was coming down Castle Gully..very atmospheric!
Smiths Gully on Creag Meaghaidh…a route that I had been wanting to do for a while and it didn’t disappoint!
Lochnagar is one of those places that always seems so far away when living on the West Coast. However with stellar weather and reports of good conditions the trek over and were rewarded with a magic day!