Ben Udlaidh (I know it’s not a Munro)

7 03 2010

Mmm, anyone see a route they like?

I’ll make this a short one as I had no intention of not doing a Munro yesterday. I was just looking forward to a good days climbing after a difficult week. And so it was that we, me, Peter, Stuart and Kenny, set of for Ben Udlaidh at the late hour of half seven on Saturday morning.  Initial plans to tackle Ben Ime due to better snow conditions and the likelihood of less traffic, were changed when we picked up Kenny, who, after some consultation, suggested Oodly might be the best bet. As a result, he was so right!

Last time I was there was a long time ago and it was blizzard conditions, and we did Central Gully in a whiteout. No fear of that this time around. It was fabulous! It was such a good day that on the way up we even managed to avoid the stop at the worlds coldest toilet for Pete! Turned out he saved shitting himself for later. With us on the trip was young Stuart, Petes nephew, and if you ever met the two you would never know they were related. Stuart is a young, self-assured intelligent boy with a determination to achieve and a willingness to learn along with sensibility way beyond his years. Pete on the other hand, well, is Pete. Stu, had recently just recovered from a serious moment on Bidean (pronounced Bichan apparently on Highland Rescue!) which involved a helicopter airlift after a serious fall, and a spell at Belford Hospital to fix a fractured hip, however, today he was well up for his first day out climbing. And he did superbly well too.

On the walk in into the crag, Ken did his usual and tore off like a whippet after a scent leaving us all labouring behind. When eventually we caught up under the crags (see picture) we looked at the amphitheater of rock and ice in awe, it was stunning! This is surely not Scotland? Never seen a winter like this. Having discussed potential routes and noted a particularly stunning waterfall on the far right of the crag which wasn’t even in any of the guides, we opted to head towards Central Gully and have a squint at West Gully on the way. At West Gully we stopped, it looked great for us, and would be a good challenge for Pete and Stu, should they accept it! After much deliberation, they did and we got geared up at the bottom. Well, we would have got geared up at the bottom had Peter not forgot to check Stuarts crampons for suitability! They were too small! No matter how hard I tried to cram his boots into the sharp metal bits, they wouldn’t go. Pete, if it was me, I would have told him to go sit on the rocks and have his lunch and we’ll catch him when were finished. But fair play bud, you sacrificed your gear for his enjoyment, well done you! You’d have shit yourself anyway mate!

Vertically kicking our way up to the start, we saw vertical ice appearing to hang from the sides of the gully, dripping water as it thawed in the warm conditions. Off we set, Me, Kenny and Stu, with Pete offering great support from below. The climb itself was wonderful. Two pitches of ice giving it a Grade 3 and split by some steep snow slopes, Stuart managed it surprisingly easy, albeit very quietly! Memorable moments, my icicle belay in the cave which raised Kenny’s eyebrows and the two young guys who flew past us soloing the glorious icicle hanging garden above us! Brilliant guys!

Fear or concentration, you decide!

Eventually, after a fabulous final ice pitch, I topped out and in true MunroBlagger tradition found a wonderfully safe belay of Deadmand and crampon heels. It was a stonker, don’t worry! Pete appeared behind me having walked up to meet us and get some good pictures of Stu. He looked gutted, sorry bud, next time. Stuart arrived out of the gully and at this point, the grin he was harbouring was obviously internal. Well done Stuart, a fabulous first ascent of a Grade 3.

You deserve a big pat on the back after Bidean mate, well done!

On the way off, we headed back to the Grade 4 icefall we saw earlier and had a go at it. It was steep! Kenny went up and put an ice screw on the first pitch and headed over the top. I followed. It was outstanding, reminded me of Ouray cragging! We got established on a sloping ice belay and tried to chuck a rope back down to Pete. No luck. We tried again,  no luck again. The rope was now in a major fanckle! we faffed until Pete got fed up and shouted for us to “leave it”. Sorry Pete! : ) Having looked at the options for retreating off, we decided that the best way down was up. So I hammered my axes in and headed up the frozen ice. The ice was melting quickly underneath us, and I opted for the less direct route which got us off the crag.

Unfortunately, we didn’t complete the route, however it was a fabulous days climbing, one of the best! Lets do it Thursday Pete. 2 moments to remember, the huge explosions as we were on the cave pitch on the route, what was it? It sounded like a major avalanche!! And the avalanches on the rail line from Crianlarich to FW at Ben Dorain, no wonder the trains can’t get through, they are major!

Kenny and the beauty of a high runner on ice!





One response

17 03 2010
Peter Polis

Looks like everyone had a great time 😦

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