Monday, 22 February 2010
North West Gully, Stob Coire nam Beith
Although I had work in the afternoon, the continuing good weather was too good to miss so yesterday I once again packed my axes and set out up the hill. My objective was the north face of Stob Coire nam Beith, by whatever route I deemed best. Summit Gully and No.4 Buttress caught my eye, but I had investigated No.4 Buttress before and was unsure of its correct start.
In the end, I followed a system of ledges and ramps in the vicinity of Deep-Cut Chimney until I reached a large 'crossroads' with several couloirs branching off in all directions. I later learned that this was directly above the steep entry pitch of North West Gully, which I had avoided due to the ice being exceedingly thin, brittle, and hacked about.
I then followed North West Gully to the top of the mountain, taking the left branch where it forked again, finally finishing with a further steep pitch of II/III snow ice where the gully narrowed. The route-finding on the line I took was complex and required both thought while on the ground and a basic knowledge of the topography of this large north face.
Conditions-wise, the snow in the gully was acceptable, with a thin layer of powder and windslab lying on top of stable snow. Avalanche risk was low, although at times it was hard going where the unconsolidated layer was slightly thicker. Still not ideal conditions to be climbing gullies, but it was by no means dangerous and I've safely climbed gullies in worse conditions before! The snow ice on the upper crux was excellent, but the water ice on the lower pitches was extremely brittle due to the cold conditions.
Photos from today