Green Gully (IV)
& Carn Dearg - 1221m

Tuesday 5th January 2016

Weather/Conditions: Full on good winter conditions. Still thin, and nothing in the way of water ice, which might have been better protected.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 14.3km / 1250m / 10h 55m
Accompanying: Iain Smith

My second winter climb. This was the first season I really got into winter climbing, and buying some of the essential kit really helped things get started.

Iain and I made a plan to head into Nevis, but what in particular I left in his own hands. We headed up the night before, starting off walking in darkness.

Dawn brought us a desolate view of the NE side of Nevis. Winter conditions were as yet immature, but a dusting of snow brought the crags into sharp relief. It was definitely winter here, and bloody cold as well. It seemed to become a theme of the winter that I'd suffer most on the walk in. Iain thumbed the guidebook, and out popped Green Gully. So we headed up again for another slog into Coire na Ciste.

It was great to be up close here, the architecture is just beautiful: ragged, harsh, but with an ethereal beautiful given by the hoar frost on the cliffs. A pale winter light illuminated all. It's like an odd, airbrushed alternate reality up here. The previous week, Iain and I had been on Invernookie. I'd not managed to take the lead on that, my first day of winter climbing, so it would be interesting to know if that could be done today.

Iain and I got gear on and went straight up steep snow to the base of Green Gully. My inexperience was apparent when taking my rucksack off on 50 degree hard snow; Iain barked "dig a pit!" - oh yeah, of course... that would make things easier. Iain led first. I attempted to take a lead on the next pitch, but it became apparent that in winter climbing everything was steeper than it looked, and protection was generally worse than it looked. So I brought Iain up the short snow slope and let him lead through the harder bits.

This was great practice for me, and a good opportunity to think about the motion, movement and techniques that really I'd only read about. Protection wasn't forthcoming for Iain either: the ice was snow-ice which will take the end of the axe but not screws for protection. So while it can be climbed, it cannot be protected in the same way bomber water ice can - a little early in the season for that.

It all meant I had the benefit of seconding so I could focus on moving well. Iain led the majority. The ground eases a little by the top of the gully, and it had not formed into a cornice. I led this bit gladly, and went to the top.

On top of the plateau, we packed up and I 'nipped' across to Carn Dearg, one Munro Top I'd never been on. The conditions up here were actually pretty reasonable, and we ploughed down snows in the Red Burn, hitting the track. We passed by Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe, and did the long plod down the moors to finish.

One of the main things I really took from this day was I wasn't quite on top of the climbing yet for leading Grade IV. It needed a couple more climbing days for me to start to feel solid on it. Brilliant day nonetheless, and very decent for Iain to essentially take us out climbing on what is a new style for me.

Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 6.00am North Face car park
(1.50) 7.50am CIC Hut
(3.55) 9.55am Started Green Gully
(8.15) 2.15pm Top of Green Gully
(8.45) 2.45pm Carn Dearg
(10.55) 4.55pm North Face car park
Written: 2017-10-31