What’s your best Winter climb for the Mid range winter climber? A few of mine – Tower Ridge, Hadrian’s Wall, Comb and Green Gully plus many more.

After looking at The Classic Cold Climbs my mind was taken back to favourite winter climbs. To me it was about my companions and the day. I was so lucky to have climbed many routes before the crowds came in the early 70’s. I usually had strong companions with me but 20 years of winter courses on the Cairngorms the odd foray to Lochnagar and Ben Nevis. On these courses it was letting pupils lead the easier routes looking back terrifying at times. Yet we produced some outstanding winter climbers. We were always on call and dealt with a few nasty incidents when we were in the Corries. The odd climber would have an accident and it brought home how serious winter climbing can be.

One of my first routes was Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis a classic winter journey and for a young lad. Add to that we had a Congo line of other climbers following us. a wild Tower Gap and I was leading across the gap when a climber arrived from Glovers Chimney. I was shocked as it was in the dark by then. He was soling ( climbing unroped) These are the days you never forget. Another was on Hadrians Wall again on Ben Nevis when I used my spare terrordactyl as a runner. Ice axes were breaking and a few of us carried a spare. I was terrified as the belays were poor and in these days the ice screws were basic. Of course Green Gully first climbed in 1906 and Comb Gully make a great day out. Zero Gully when I did it to me was scary limited gear as Point 5 its a lot better now but worth remembering the old maximum the leader must not fall on poor protection on pure ice is to me still very relevant.

Kenny Comb Gully

Glencoe had so many wonderful days – Deep Cut Chimney, Twisting Gully. The Screen, North Buttress Crowberry Gully all classics. Some grand days with steep descents and of course the traverse of the Aonach Eagach.

Cairngorms and the Northern Corries always was enjoyable – I loved Alladins Buttress Chimney with mates Gus and the late Al Macleod . We laughed so much that day especially on the crux when I replaced the tat. Another great route was Fluted Buttress with Bill Batson following a mate Stampy up the route who had lost a crampon and not noticed saying at the top “that was hard”. Of course head over to Hells Lum and climb Deep Cut chimney what a route.

On my winter Course as a pupil it was common to do a few routes in a day like red Gully, Goat track, the Mirror Direct (my first steep bit of ice) Red Gully and Goat track gully. We would descend the Couloir and Central Gully.

Fluted Buttress – Photo Jimmy Coats

I loved the far North Emerald Gully on Beinn Dearg and Resurrection on Sgur Mor that was scary limited protection. An Teallach was another great winter venue with a ridge traverse making it a long day. Also even a few new climbs.

Glen Clova, Winter Corrie and Lochnagar were great venues when I was at RAF Leuchars in Fife . I could get a day off and find the Corries especially Glen Clova to ourselves. We had some great fun on routes like Look C Gully. Lochnagar was a lot more serious but incredible climbing and often we would meet many of the stars of the day out climbing. Winter climbing was a smaller world then.

I had lots of fun on finding wee climbs all over especially the far North more great days on ice mostly not recorded as we did in those days. The annual SMC Journal gives an update on new routes. We found out about Strathfarrar’ fun routes here plus so many others before the guide books were updated.

Dan on the Chancer

I had some great routes in Wales in the Devils Kitchen The Black Ladders ( such a Scottish cliff in winter) such great fun and short walk ins! I was so lucky to get some great climbs here. Also in the Lakes on Hellvelyn and the Peak District

So many grand days great companions, being scared yet getting up the routes and more importantly safely of the route when navigation is critical.

So if you get a chance get out and climb once the weather settles. We have great gear now and superb weather forecasts and the Scottish Avalanche Information service. Ice protection and mixed climbing using improved rock gear makes things a lot safer. The modern ice tools are designed for steep ice and mixed climbing a great improvement. I have not mentioned so many places routes that I have climbed but my advice get the guide books out have a look on the net and the world is your oyster.

Todays tips – always remember when the ground steepens walking poles will not stop a slide or slip. Get your ice axe out and keep your helmet on especially when descending and wearing crampons. Winter is a wonderful time enjoy it safely.

Comments – Central Gully RH, IV-4 ***, Coire na Ciste, BenN. This was the my first winter route. I was taken up it by the extremely able Colin MacLean, then of the Mal Duff possé. I still love it. Will accept any excuse to repeat it. Jim Fraser – it’s a great area high on the Ben.

The Curtain – Pete Kay I had forgotten about that Pete we were not long back from Canada and ran up it. I remember worrying that 5 gully might avalanche and we dragged our ropes down the gully. Great day add in Gardh Gully and Glovers chimney another grand adventure.

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Articles, Books, Ice climbing Canada, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being. Bookmark the permalink.

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