Soloing "West Gully" (III*), Beinn Udlaidh
I entered this winter with my usual reservations firmly in place about soloing ice..I was going to stick to buttresses, ridges and perhaps one or two gullies that inspired me. But this has been a winter of firsts, and with an opportunistic attitude I have reaped the rewards of an outstanding season in ways I didn't expect.
A heavily banked out Beinn Udlaidh
Beinn Udlaidh is somewhere I'd always rejected as somewhere I'd go soloing. Scotland's most well-known low-level ice climbing crag…a place of great quality after heavy snow-fall and sustained cold, but not somewhere I'd have felt confident climbing un-roped until very recently.
The icy world of Beinn Udlaidh
"Organ Pipe Wall"
And it had never really occurred to me that I would climb my first ever route here this late in the season…in fat and good conditions, confidently and enjoyably, before an Easter Sunday Clachaig morning shift. I had no idea this would be the next twist-in-the-plot of my winter until a few hours before I was greeted by the famous pigs that guard the track into Beinn Udlaidh's Coire Daimh.
Looking up West Gully
On the crux
How bizarre it felt to be standing underneath such extensive ice after such a short walk from the car, at such low altitude, when spring had already been well-established for weeks already this time last year. Getting sunburnt on the dry rock of the Northern Cuillin last March felt a life-time ago.
West Gully was in great condition - first-time axe placements and an enjoyable course through the icy world of Beinn Udlaidh. The atmosphere here felt very different to that of the higher mountains, cosy almost, the stresses and concerns of snow conditions and hazards still present, but without the fully "Alpine" feel of many of my days climbing recently.
Extensive ice near the top of West Gully
What next in this season which doesn't want to end?