Wednesday 1st December 2010
Weather/Conditions: Snow, sun and wind from the north east whipping snow off the plateau. Drifts were especially deep but windslab was a couple of inches thick at most. Hard terrain, especially on the snowed up boulder fields.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 5.4km / 400m / 3h 25m
My mountain activity recently has been lower than I'd have liked, but with commitments piling on top of one another as they do, it's tougher to get to the mountains than usual. And with all the hill-going crew seemingly doing as little as me, I can't hitch lifts either.
I got a lift to Blanefield and set off up Slackdhu with spindrift and wind in my face. I met a guy from Strathblane who had soloed Long Gully and was his way back down. He said the snow was in good condition apart from the cornicing. He mentioned the occasional bottomless pit of snow. From subsequent experience, this meant more than occasional.
I wasn't going to climb my left ramp today (the more exposed of routes here - above and right of Long Gully) but thought I'd check out the right ramp - it looked dodgy but it was the best reasonable option.
The snow was hard work but the ground steepened and I competed against steep slopes, deep drifts and occasional windslab. I tried ascending the hill by a couple of routes, but alone and without enough awareness about avalanches, I couldn't make myself climb the exposed slabs. What if... kept going through my head. In certain circumstances you can get away with just going for something regardless of possible outcome. With snow, there's no point.
The guy I'd met at the start said it was safe but I was making my own decisions. Assume the slope did slide - I'd be overwhelmed quicker than I'd realise what was happening. I'd already set one off in the Campsie Fells and I wasn't going to do that again.
So I decided to traverse the slopes in a SE direction but with the sun going down I began to doubt that I'd make the summit. Beneath Jenny's Lum, the slopes were turning pink and I went up to the Lum to have a look at the ice smear and see the sun go down from there.
It was beautiful evening. I spent ten minutes at the crag, wading through the drifts and checking out the ice smears, which shattered and collapsed to the touch of an axe. With the sun on the horizon I set off to Strathblane, taking pleasure in the views, ease of descent, and the spindrift, lit orange by sunlight and snaking across shaded blue snow. Behind me, my weaving descent tracks glowed. It was a beautiful sunset. I took the river back to Campsie Dene Road and emerged at Strathblane tired completely out of proportion of the small size of today's route.
So I got the bus home where I met a couple at the bus stop that had spent their day walking the West Highland Way from Milngavie.
Roll on winter, I reckon. Maybe soon I'll be happy to feel the warm breeze of summer, but with winter ahead I'm keen as anything.
(0.00) 12.15pm Blanefield
(1.35) 1.50pm Slackdhu HP (390m)
(3.25) 3.40pm Blanefield