Long have I been interested in winter climbing, but since my first trip to the cairngorms aged 16 i've had little money or opportunity to do much more other than the bits and pieces i've done in the alps - less technical climbing, more finding my way around the mountains. But with extra enthusiasm this year i've managed a good few days out, three days in the Lakes and two weekends in Scotland.
The first outing proved just a bit of good fun, doing Jack's Rake with Ben Mitchell and Arran Greenop up on Pavey Ark in poor conditions.
The next trip was a weekend in Glen Coe which actually turned out to be a drive over to the cairngorms where there were much better conditions. Myself and Arran, unsure of our experience having not done a great deal of winter climbing in a good while aimed to do the Seam (IV 5) but unfortunately overshot the belay and so continued up Invernookie to make a great first proper winter day of the season. Another highlight was a quick dip in Loch Achtriochtan.
Scottish Craig and party on Seam-stress (V 6)
The next trip was up to Red Tarn Cove in the Lakes with Chris Kemp, Arran and Mark Brown (out for his first winter route). On the approach windslab was of some concern but we found the face to be clear with any windslab what was there having fallen off already! We aimed for the line of blade runner but when we got to the bottom I could not resist having a bash at the classic - Viking Buttress (IV 5). I took Mark up this and he seemed to have no problems at all, impressive for his first winter day! On reflection I realised although I had felt like I was mildly experienced, i'd never actually led any of the main crux pitches of any of the previous routes I'd done, and so it was that Viking Buttress turned out to probably be my first proper, technical winter route, which was nice.
The second club trip to the cairngorms proved to be a great success with everyone who came on the first trip getting to do their first winter routes. On the first day I took Jack and Ashleigh on heir first winter routes, goat track gully (III) and Fingers Ridge (IV 5) and I was very impressed to see them both get up with not even so much as a slightly tight rope, using mountaineering axes and bendy crampons.
My latest trip of the season was again up to Red Tarn Cove, this time with Ben Finley. We climbed Blade Runner (IV 4) which i must say is a great ice route despite its stature and my initial worry of being 15 meters run out on the crux. We then attempted V-corner which like everyone else we ended up on the wrong route, taking another groove which is probably the hardest winter climbing i've done - back and footing with front points on millimeter edges.
All in all a good season, I had wanted to go and do Bowfell Buttress but unfortunately there were no willing partners! Good to see the club break out of its mold a bit and get on with the proper stuff, long may it continue!