There is a tangible feeling of excitement amongst the local climbing community this week….it has turned cold again and stayed cold, and lots of us have been out there having it on classic routes.
But it's not just that. It has been a very significant week in the history of Scottish winter climbing.
Lots of hard routes have been climbed, new and repeats. On the 29th January Greg Boswell and James Dunn made the second ascent of the absolutely mental line of "Don't Die of Ignorance" (XI,11) on Ben Nevis….Martin Moran and Murdo Jamieson made the first ascent of "Rudolf" (VIII, 8/9) on Beinn Eighe on the 23rd, Iain Small and Simon Richardson pioneered "Fly me to the Moon" (VII,8) on Creag Meagaidh on the 22nd….
Ben Nevis in grand condition
But a single event towers above them all. A few days back I was having a good chat with Guy Robertson in the Clachaig. 28 years after it was first climbed, Guy had just made the second ascent of "Guerdon Grooves" with Nick Bullock and Bayard Russell.
In the last 3 years I've been lucky enough to witness some very significant moments in Glencoe's climbing history. But the repeat of "Guerdon Grooves" is without a doubt the single most important event for years in terms of winter climbing in Glencoe. Its name is mythical amongst Scottish climbers, and for it to be finally repeated is massive.
In line with my "get it while you can" attitude towards winter climbing, I was eager to get out again today. After backing off Neptune Gully on the Ben (cruddy ice) and seeing that both Jubillee Climb and Neireid Gully were very thin, I eventually climbed North Castle Gully.
Climbers in the "Central Gully" area of the Trident Buttresses
It is an easy route, but as giant winter gullies go, it is a magnificent example. At almost 1000ft long, North Castle Gully is a mountain feature that would be quite at home in the Alps.
North Castle Gully, the obvious gully just right of centre
Only from the steeper top sections of the gully do you realise how truly gigantic it is, and the scenery you pass through is tremendous. Conditions were good on the whole, lots of nevé with a few avoidable patches of windslab.
It looks to stay cold for a few days yet….