Tuesday, 10 February 2015

A Weekend Pass on the Ice at Beinn Udlaidh

      Scotland was having a cracking February with lots of ice forming with sunny stable weather conditions. I am focussing most of my winter exploring areas of Scotland I haven't previously visited whilst gaining experience ready for my Winter Mountain Leader assessment at the beginning of March. This weekend it was time to dust off the tools, forget the summits and go climb some routes. Jack and I headed to Beinn Udlaidh, aware that it was a weekend and that the crag will be very busy. We had an early start, leaving the van at 5:30am, making sure we had first pick of the routes, neither of us keen on queuing. The sun was just rising as we started up the final slopes to the base of the crag, revealing the routes from the darkness, walls of ice stepped up the crag, huge umbrellas and daggers hanging from overhangs. The ice architecture was incredible. 
Moving up the first pitch of Quartzvein Scoop
Jack under the umbrella on Pitch 2 of Quartzvein Scoop
     I started up the first pitch of Quartzvein Scoop, the classic of the crag, my ice technique a bit rusty as I swung my tools into brilliant sticky ice. I moved up the groove above to a comfortable belay and watched the black dots wandering up the track on the approach. Jack climbed under a brilliant umbrella and climbed round to its right and  up the ice steps above. I finished off the third pitch to take us to the top. 
A busy morning at Beinn Udlaidh
     As we walked off the top, we likened the mountain to a crag where you are able to walk off and select the next route, unlike the huge mountain days you complete whilst climbing a route on Ben Nevis. A large number of teams had now swarmed the crag, with queues present on the majority of routes and teams climbing lines of ice all over the crag. We opted to climb Green Eyes, another IV 4, which provided a steeper first pitch which had become quite hooked out from the previous weeks traffic. 
Jack on the first pitch of Green Eyes
     We opted for a gully line next, climbing South Gully of the Black Wall, with 2 long pitches taking us to the top through some brilliant ice formations. The temperature definitely rose through the day as we finished up climbing Ice Crew, which we made a three pitch grade three. It did however have a few steeper sections of ice, steeper than we were expecting anyway. 
Moving into the bottom of South Gully of the Black Wall

Jack not enjoying the hot aches
Jack moving through the umbrellas on the top pitch
     We stashed the gear, saving our shoulders on the walk down and the early approach the following morning. We were slower on the walk in, the four routes from the previous day taking the toll on our weary bodies. After gearing up we climbed the cold climbs classic Ramshead Gully which was a contrast to the previous days routes with some thuggy thrutchy moves required in the narrow bottom sections of the gully. It was a lot milder than the previous day and the cloud and clag had moved in with a brisk wind, we descended for a leisurely drive back to Yorkshire. 

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