Sorry for the shortage of specific climbing photos in this blog...the wet killed my camera today...
Getting soaked to the skin was definitely not on my list of things to do today but the deteriorating conditions experienced this morning up on the Ben certainly tested both me and my kit. More of that later...
After the ‘rest day’ yesterday (basically we were knackered!) Dean and myself woke this morning raring to go and get a quick fix back up on the Ben before the six and half hour drive back home. We walked with very little talking allowing the rolling mountainside to ease away our aches from the first day. A quick drink at the CIC water pipe and we headed up towards our objective for the day – Vanishing Gulley Grade V 5 ***.
The gulley leads up onto Tower Ridge where you can enjoy a big day out if you decide to continue up the ridge to finish. However, we wanted to do the two long technical pitches then abseil off and make a quick exit of the hill.
I led up the first pitch soon realising that there was a shortage of decent anchors mainly due to the ‘chewy ice’ which was taking first time placements with the axes but was a little ‘mushy’ to place screws. This inevitably meant long run-outs but the climbing was good and absorbing. Nearing the belay, I suddenly realised that the deteriorating condition (warm), meant that the waterfall that was now coming over the steep section of the next pitch was landing right where I needed to stand. For some reason today I wore hardshell (waterproofs) for the first time in probably 10 years and how happy I was. I stood under the spurt of water trying to belay Dean up and feeling rather sorry for myself. If I had worn my softshell as I normally do today we would have had to abseil straight off back down the gulley.
After Dean arrived at the belay we were joined shortly after by Donald King a local MIC out working with a client Chris. Donald works for Abacus Mountaineering (http://abacusmountaineering.com/index.html). I was at first reassured that Donald had chosen the same route as us but as he approached the belay I asked him if the spurt (large waterfall :-)) was normal...his response of “OOOOOOOOOH!” didn’t fill me with confidence as he looked on with a slight glint in his eye as the Sassenach in front of him was being p***** on by the Scottish mountain.
Surprisingly, even though I was wet through in my gloves and a little damp everywhere else I wasn’t too cold. Donald and I exchanged pleasantries and I helped to build his belay as I was on a small ledge having to hang out from the dodgy looking tat and he managed to position himself below me (protected from the water)...clever man!
Dean as confident as ever stacked two screws in the steep ice wall that rose in front of him...and he was off. This was Dean’s first Grade V route and after seconding his pitch I think he deserves praise for the confident manner in which he sent it having at one point at least an eight metre run-out.
A really pleasant few days with a lad that is progressively becoming a star in the making...Good lad!