As per tradition, we hit up Dilshad’s, Selly Oak’s finest, the night before the trip! With the people carriers (vans) loaded up with club gear and parked worryingly in Selly, we all tucked into superb curries while drinking a pint or two. Many stories of the past were told, and the Mountain Secretary was given a banana by the President to much amusement.
Alarm clocks ran early with many bags lugged around Selly and across campus. The van drivers taking them around Selly picking up friends, only to be half an hour late to North Gate.
Once at North Gate, the great pack began. Soon it was revealed, by a lost old git, that last year two actual vans of other old gits helped transport people’s bags, rather than the big squeeze that was underway. Unlike last year, we had no punctures and we got underway. Not before briefly stopping an hour in for the toilets and breakfast.
After many hours of driving, we entered patriotic Scotland, passing Glasgow and stopping at the last supermarket on the route. From here the road became windy and the travel sickness grew.
Eventually, we arrived at Blackwater Hostel after traversing the Glen Coe pass and settled in. The keg was retrieved and impatiently opened with an ice axe to much calamity. The difference between a cask, which it was, and a keg blissfully ignored by those opening it.
The first day of action. Teams awoke early to grey skies, but psych was high. Twelve of our freshest mountaineers set out with Tom Green to begin their winter skills course, subsidised by the club, to lose their snowy naiveness.
Other groups hit objectives like Dorsal Arête and Forked Gully while another group refreshed their winter walking skills.
Was struggling on the ridiculously long approach, subconsciously decided to drop my water bottle 100m down a buttress to get more accent training.
- Arthur, Dorsal Arête
Tuesday involved the second day of the skills course and groups attempting several different objectives in Glen Coe.
Tried to find Curved Ridge, couldn’t. Had to bail with all 7 of us, but of an epic. Spent hours trying to find it, with no success, ended up halfway up a different route and had to bail down a very loose gulley. Felix and my bag came close to kissing heaven by boulders.
- Arthur, Curved Ridge
Everybody but a plucky few wanted a rest day, after two days of stable weather today was going to be wet, and the rest of the week was up in question too. Most people’s day was scheduled to involve a trip to Fort William, however, one group decided to walk there from the hut in Kinlochleven in time for lunch.
A group decided to walk the West Highland Way from Kinlochleven to Fort William, 26km seeing the amazing mountains and meeting the rest day people for lunch safe to say it wasn't a rest day and our feet were dead. Ethan, Tash, Arron, Max, Miriam, Iestyn, Tom. Was fantastic, 10/10 would do again.
- Tash, West Highland Way
Some ventured into the chilly lock. And each night amazing meals were made and eaten!
The weather was forecast to hold out, so groups planned their big days out. Plans included Dorsal Arête, Fork Gully, Langsam, and Boomerang Gully. A trip to The Ben was now in order: CMD Arête, Number Three Gully Buttress, and Tower Ridge! What an amazing day it was.
Dorsal Arête (Tash, Tom, and Harry) a great climb then to the summit before making a snow bollard down and going through the lost valley and a stop at the pub. Great conditions all around
- Ethan, Dorsal Arête
Felix and I did Langsam, first recorded ascent this year, was very thin; took 1 hour to lead the first pitch. Tymothy and Iestyn decided to bail behind us, guides were coming saying it wasn’t possible, we ended up choosing a grade 4 variant because it was the only one in condition, it was covered in water ice… topped out at sunset to a raven greeting us.
- Arthur, Langsam
The weather looked awful for Friday, raining and the snow turning to slush, so Ice Factor was in order! Throughout the day multiple groups dropped in to give the indoor ice climbing a go and a few went to their bouldering wall too. Luckily we did as it is now closed. However, a selection of brave souls stood out. One group went off for a mountain walk, one for Dorsal Arête; two groups to Anoch Mór but plans changed for one to dry tooling where they met up with yet another group. And one to The Ben but backed off due to the conditions.
Went dry tooling (Tom, Harry, Richard, Tash, Tom M and Meia) was an interesting experience and abseiled down!
The final day and one either to make count or relax. We fielded groups for skiing, walking, trad climbing, skills, and winter climbing!
Trad climbing today with Jack, Harry, Dan, Henry and I. Within 5 minutes of parking, I slipped and fell on a giant rock in the river. Spent the rest of the day climbing looking like I wet myself. I fell like three moves into the climb for my first outdoor fall, and with a big swing. Saw the sun briefly for the first time on the trip. Got one pitch in and bailed because the rest of the route was soppy wet.
- Daphne, Polldubn Crags
Piers and I took Livia and Kayla on their first winter climb up Curved Ridge at Buachaille Etive Mór, a grade 2 route. The climbing and scrambling was fairly manageable, so we moved as alpine-style as a four on a single rope with quick belays at steeper sections. After the ridge, there was an enjoyable section up a snow slope towards the summit, with some icy or mixed bits. Weather conditions were mild, even sunny at some points. Nonetheless, the snow near the top was above the freezing level and in decent condition. All in all a smooth day, and we returned to the minibus at 5pm as planned, right before dark and some rain.
- Tymothy, Curved Ridge
Later that evening we ended up in the local pub for a few pints and a celebration of what we had achieved over the week!
A hungover bunch of stoats awoke to clean the hut, pack the vehicles and travel back to Birmingham. Stuffing the vehicles was a challenge that was underestimated.
I would like to say a big thank you to all the Old Gits who came and helped on this trip, it would not be possible without you. Thank you to Tom and John for running the Winter Skills Course. Thank you to the Midland Association of Mountaineers for your grant helping enable us to subsidise the places on the course. And a special thanks to those who took groups out day after day and enabled everybody to complete at least one technical winter climb!