This was my first winter route for a few years and I was hoping to bag an easy classic with my old climbing friend, Jonathan Lagoe.
Image: The first technical pitch
Unfortunately the route did not go as planned. With the wind blowing from the south the upper section of the gully filled with new snow on a hard surface and avalanched while we were on the second technical pitch. When it happened I was placing a screw just below an ice bulge.
I heard a deep rumble and everything went dark. Of course I knew what was happening but I continued to place the screw hoping that I could get it clipped before I was swept off. I was lucky to be standing below the ice bulge which meant the debri merely glanced the top of my helmet. Despite a reactinary jerk on the rope from Jonathan as he assumed I was 'off' I continued to place the screw and clipped it just just as the avalanche ran out. Jonathan said later that all he could see of me during the avalanche was a hand frantically twisting an ice screw. In 34 years of winter climbing in Scotland and the Lakes that was my first experience of an avalanche.
Image: Jonathan at the stance after the avalanche
After some debate and analysis of why this had occurred despite the apparently benign conditions we decided to retreat on the basis that it would stupid to take the risk of a second avalanche happening while we were climbing the easy upper section of the gully.
Not withstanding the drama on the route we had a fantastic day in the arctic hills which made me realise what I have been missing over the last three years.
Some shots of the frozen loch below the crag:
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