So it seems the winter season which just kept giving is finally coming to an end. Over the past 4 months I have managed 21 days out in winter conditions all over the country, including the Brecon Beacons, Snowdonia, Glen Coe, Lochaber and the Isle of Skye. During these days I managed a winter walk, 2 days skiing and 33 winter climbs including descents of which 26 were unique, and most were in fantastic conditions. This winter has been truly spectacular as I have had so many days out on brilliant ice and in brilliant weather and I have progressed from climbing grade III to being happy at V and even attempting a VI, over the course of the winter I have climbed many of the classic lines lines on Ben Nevis, seen some spectacular views and made new friendships. I finished my season in just about the best way I can imagine by heading up to complete the Cuillin Ridge Traverse over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend in fantastic alpine conditions.
My winter started in December before the major thaw which hit the country in January and wiped out winter for a month. On the last day of cold weather after a few freeze thaw cycles I headed up to Snowdonia for the day with Jason and climbed five brilliant routes, and saw both sunrise and sunset while out in the mountains.
- Pant Y Lluwchfa [II]
- Ladies Route – III, 3 ***
- Trinity Buttress – III, 3
- Crib y Ddysgl – I **
- Crib Goch Traverse – I ***
Towards the end of January it got cold again and this time just for long enough for some routes in the Brecon Beacons to come into condition which was brilliant as it meant I had lots of ice climbing within 2hrs drive from my house, during a week I managed 3 days out and discovered just how much ice can vary in difficulty depending on conditions.
- Torpantau Falls – III [IV, 4]
- Waterfall Gully – II/III [III]
- Craig Y Fro – II/III [III, 4]
- Torpantau Falls – III [III, 3]
Soon February came around and began a very intense period of trips to Scotland, between the 9th Feb and 1st April I only spent two weekends in Bristol, the rest were spent climbing in Scotland! My first trip was a weeks trip with friends from University where easy routes were the name of the game, but it was a brilliant week, with some good weather, plenty of snow and fantastic company. During this week plans had to be changed a few times at last minute due to strong winds shutting the Aonach Mor gondola, however we made the most of these days and I managed the route I really wanted to complete which was the Aonach Eagach Ridge with Hannah and Ruth.
- Fraoch Bheinn [Walk]
- Stob Ban – North East Ridge – II/III **
- Aonach Eagach – II/III ****
- Dorsal Arete – II, 3 ***
- Snowboarding at Nevis Range
The day after I left Scotland there was a mini thaw followed by two weeks of completely Alpine weather, where it was cold & sunny with low winds. Due to this weather I made a last minute decision to head up for a three day weekend. Due to not wanting to make the walk up to the CIC hut with packs every day we decided it would be a good idea to camp at the base of the north face, this turned out to be a great decision as the cliffs of the Ben were unsurprisingly busy. Over these three days we climbed three classic routes in conditions which could not be improved and it was brilliant. I don’t think I will ever better these three days for a period of winter climbing in Scotland due to the combination of classic routes, great weather and great ice.
- Orion Direct – V, 5 **** [V, 4]
- Number Four Gully – I [Descent]
- Tower Ridge – IV, 3 ****
- Point Five Gully – V, 5 ****
After getting back from Scotland at 3:30am on Monday morning, it was back to work for a grand total of three days before heading back to Glen Coe with the Avon-Mountaineering Club for their annual Scottish trip. During this trip I finally made it up Aonach Mor and climbed yet more classic lines on Ben Nevis, however this time we had more “Scottish Weather”. It was during this trip I climbed my favourite ice climb which was Minus Two gully which was absolutely brilliant due to being sustained & varied with an interesting topout along North East Buttress.
- Boomerang Gully – II *
- Broad Gully – I * [Descent]
- Dorsal Arete – II, 3 ***
- Easy Gully – I [Descent]
- Left Twin – III, 4 ***
- Minus Two Gully – V, 5 ****
- North East Buttress – IV, 4 ****
- Number Four Gully – I [Descent]
- Hadrians Wall Direct – V, 5 ***
After a week in Scotland, followed by two weekends on the trot I was quite content with not heading back up to Scotland again for the winter. However as this winter just kept giving with the fantastic conditions remaining, after one weekend in Bristol the addiction took hold and it was back up to Scotland. This trip ended up being a bit more eventful than the others with my having a fall off Minus One gully and us retreating having been firmly chastised, however we made the most of the day and finished up Vanishing Gully.
With the cold weather continuing over the easter weekend my plans of rock climbing in Cornwall evolved into a long weekend climbing in Scotland. However, after a few emails with Mike Lates from Skye Guides I discovered that the Cuillin Ridge was in full on winter conditions. Due to the forecast to remain properly cold but sunny we decided to head up and have an attempt on a winter traverse on the Cuillin Ridge. After three days we completed the ridge, it was a fantastic three days, the best mountaineering route I have ever done and I cannot think of a better way to end my first proper winter season in Scotland than by having completed one of the most sought after routes in the country.
I know the fat lady hasn’t sung yet and in Scotland and there is still ice everywhere, however with it warming up down south my attention is turning to rock climbing and I can’t help but feel anything else this season will be disappointing after the Cuillin Ridge. I have no idea how I will ever better this winter in Scotland, there is still plenty left that I want to climb but will I ever manage this many classic routes in perfect conditions again in Scotland? I have started looking at routes in the Alps and Alaska for winters to come so who knows what will happen next year.