See the pyramids, swim with dolphins, do a parachute jump. These are the things that are often on people's bucket lists, things to do before you die. For Brian, climbing Point Five Gully has been on his bucket list for many years and today was the day to give it a go. We tried and failed last year. In fact we didn't get anywhere close to it last year. This time though, everything came together perfectly.
We had a good frost last night and the walk in was cold, dry and calm. Right from the start it was clear that it was going to be a very good day for ice climbing. The forecast for today changed a lot over the last few days from pretty harsh to really quite nice. So it was an unexpected bonus to get such a nice day. Perhaps as a result of the changing forecast there were very few people walking up the path. Two teams went for Orion Direct and a couple of other teams headed up Observatory Gully. As it turned out Brian and I got to Point Five Gully first.
The climbing is brilliant! The first three pitches are all steady away with no particular crux section. The ice is good but not stepped out as it was a short while ago. Recent snow and mixed weather have filled in the pot-holes up here at the same time as making more pot-holes in the roads! I was lucky for the second day in a row with the spindrift. Just after I stepped out over the rogue pitch it started coming down in really quite heavy flows. Brian got the full works on the Rogue Pitch so he climbed it more or less with his eyes shut!
The last three pitches to the top are snowy and with few enough places to belay. The ice is covered up a bit with rime and snow making it hard to find anchors. However it is easy climbing compared with the first half of the climb. We drifted right of the bed of the gully a pitch and a half before the top so that we could avoid the cornice. We stepped out into brilliant sunshine, a view of every mountain in the Highlands and Islands, and a feeling of satisfaction. Well done Brian, great climbing, I'm so glad we got such a wonderful day for the climb. If any more climbs pop up on your bucket list let me know!
There is a general cover of 1.5m of snow above 1200m and the path is covered by snow from half way. This gave us a very helpful slide down the Red Burn all the way to the path. The waterfall just above the path is completely covered in snow and it is safe to slide all the way down right the way to the path. Over the Easter holidays if you are thinking of walking to the top of Ben Nevis it is worth rememebring that it is still full on winter on the summit despite the daffodils and warm sunshine in the Glen.
A successful walk requires winter boots, crampons and an ice axe as well as the skills to navigate accurately in the snow. This means being able to take a bearing off the map and to follow it on the ground. You also need to be able to measure the distance you are walking by counting your paces and knowing how many paces you take in 100m. If it is sunny and clear you might well get away without these skills but if you are in the mist you can not rely on the cairns or foot prints to guide you. I don't want to put anyone off but I do want everyone who tries it to have a good time.
Self reliance is a fundamental principle of mountaineering. By participating we accept this and take responsibility for the decisions we make. These blog posts and conditions reports are intended to help you make good decisions. They do not remove the need for you to make your own judgements when out in the hills.