Number 2 Gully, Ben Nevis.
Since my encounter with a small avalanche in Coire nan Lochan a few days ago, I have deliberately kept my distance from the hills. For the first time in over a year and a half, I didn't want anything to do with them.
Thankfully though a bit of distance has done me the world of good, and I found myself really looking forward to visiting the Ben this morning.
There has been a lot of snow melt in the last few days in Lochaber, but what remains is firming up very nicely indeed. With this in mind I headed towards Number 2 Gully.
In a way I think it's a great shame that some of the Nevis gullies have been named so unimaginatively. Minus 3 to plus 5. Number 2 Gully is one of the most atmospheric climbs I know - a narrow cleft forming a striking line up the side of the North face, often filled with gigantic and bizarre icicles.
The amazing ice formations at the entrance to Number 2 Gully
We should stop and think more often about these things. Number 2 Gully could easily be straight out of a fantasy novel if you just allow yourself to look past the guidebook description and the grade.
Conditions were grand in the gully - lots of hard snow-ice, and a very small manageable cornice. Such a contrast to the huge overhanging monster of a cornice that greeted Alex and I the last time we climbed Number 2, in May this year.
A small and easy cornice
Today was really made for me by the temperature inversion that is sitting over the west Highlands right now. I topped out of the gully to see the most beautiful misty haze covering my stomping ground - Glencoe, Glen Etive, Rannoch Moor, Glen Orchy….
I couldn't have asked for anything more to get me back into the swing of things after a brief confidence crisis. I suppose any such accident or near miss like an avalanche can make you question things, but I'm glad that I've got down from the Ben today excited for the rest of the winter and looking forward to what the new year will bring.