Soloing the classic ice guily of the Southern Highlands, Taxus (III***)
Taxus is the obvious steep left-slanting gully, just left of centre
The bottom icefall of Taxus on the left - the only route still in condition apart from West Gully
It's a route that has always interested me - its slightly fickle nature, its location away from the reliable and often crowded ice-climbs of Lochaber, its need for a good winter to be in safe condition late in the season, its enigmatic name…
The superb weather and climbing conditions of the last two weeks have kept me so busy that I'd hardly noticed March was just around the corner. From past experience I know just how quickly the winter can turn to spring….and how routes on your "wish-list" suddenly have to wait until next year.
But despite really wanting to climb Taxus this winter, I felt no pressure to get it done today as I walked up into the North-East corrie. So many great routes in the last two weeks - if I got it done today it would be a bonus, but I felt I'd be happy to walk away from it un-climbed as-well.
Yet another blue sky day
The cornice above West Gully - avoidable on the right
In the easy angled middle section of the route.
Looking up the steep initial icefall.
The key to the route is this first icefall, and although it was a bit thin and water was starting to flow underneath the ice, it was amenable to climb with plenty of good hooks. I found myself climbing without feeling any of the pressures that you sometimes feel when on a route you've wanted for a long time.
Two more short ice pitches followed, the conditions improving with height on the route - the clear skies overnight undoing some of the damage caused by warmer daytime temperatures.
Looking down "Taxus" - a line of footprints can be seen on the right where you exit onto a ridge the exit slopes.
The last 12 days have probably been my best ever run of routes in the mountains. Nine routes climbed, all of which have been great and under blue skies, some solos of classic Grade III's, and approximately 20,000ft of ascent. Time for a wee rest I think.