Window Gully (Upper Icefall Finish) III & SE Gully (III)
An early start (06.50am) saw us leaving the house as the moon was beginning to set in the western skies, our destination, Great End.
Upper Icefall Variation (III)
Atop Great End
We topped out into morning heaven. Weak winter sunshine, no winds and crystal clear views over the surrounding fells and out to the Isle of Man and Southern Scotland. Looking back to the valley floor all we could see was a continuous line of people streaming up alongside Grains Gill.
Descending back to the base of the crag
A quick descent down the Eastern flanks and we back in the corrie floor eyeing up what next. All we could see was a plethora of dots, spread across every route on the crag. So we opted to have a spot of lunch whilst we waited for a team to get established on Right Hand Buttress (III). Unfortunately for us they took so long to get established (or should that be started) that we decided to move.
So we moved rightwards to look at the ill-defined and not imaginatively named route of Butress Right of Right Hand Buttress (III), one pitch up we decided it was rubbish so traversed across into what was now a relatively quiet SE gully. A straightforward ascent, there was good snow-ice all the way, the only problem coming from the battering the route had received from all the traffic making the couple of steeper sections now quite as easy, with battered rock where previously good water ice would have been found.
Spring Route – IV – The Old Man of Coniston
And so to Sunday.
The first rays of sun were gracing the slopes of the Old Man of Coniston as at least one rather lethargic climber wandered off along the track from the Walna Scar car park. Our plan – South Gully on the Eastern slopes above Low Water.
Early morning sun on The Old Man of Coniston
We took a quick divertion on the approach to see whether Low Water Beck was any closer to re-forming, it was, but still some way away from being climbable again. And so we pulled up the steep flanks to its left before arriving at the frozen shores of Low Water. From here we could spy a short icefall dropping down from beneath South Gully, this was the direct start to Spring Route and with the remainder of the climb looking like it was in ok condition, we opted for this route instead.
After the initial icefall, our route ran R-L across the buttress on the Right
I stood tentatively under the chandeliers of ice that were looming large above my head as Dan set off up the first pitch, the ice looked great, plastic and solid. Dan paused briefly to wind the first of two screws reassuringly into place.
The first Icefall pitch of ‘Spring Route’
Stepped bulges offer a few rest places
A little brittle but swallowing ice screws
Dan nearing the top of Pitch One
From the icefall it was a straightforward pitch two, albeit for want of trying to find the correct and best line. Some of the snow had taken a battering in the recent milder weather and sections were incomplete, albeit linked by now re-frozen and solid turf. Some 35 metres later I stopped beneath an obvious steepening in the gully and lashed myself to a rock thread.
Looking down on a frozen Low Water
The next pitch did not, on first acquaintance look at all obvious. At best it could be described as mixed. This was to prove to the crux pitch of the route, pulling onto a small ledge above the lower gully before a difficult move straight through the overhanging bulge above, a slinged spike for protection and a marginal nut in the undercut of the bulging rock. Above frozen turf and, at full reach, solid snow ice. This, combined with a small ledge out right for a mono-point was enough to pull into the upper groove and exit onto the easier slopes above. An easier option exists by traversing out right from the spike into the gully on the far right.
From here it was much more straightforward. An obvious, if narrow gully forked off left and after another 50 metres or so opened up into a wide upper snow-slope containing firm snow-ice. This was followed for another 100 metres or so to the summit plateau.
From here it was a relatively straightforward descent down North Gully (I). We passed a couple of climbing teams as we down-climbed the top-third section, after which the angle eased a little. We made a quick diversion to scope out the conditions on Percy’s Progress – it was climbable but the ice looked brittle and discontinuous making any ascent broken and contrived so we continued on down and were soon at Low Water once more.