Climbing conditions throughout Scotland have been phenomenal for the past three weeks, when we've been working. With time off it was time for us to to go and play on' Meggy' (Creag Meagaidh) and avoid the queues on the 'Ben's' classic ice routes.
I'd done most of the big classic ice routes on 'Meggy' except for the uber classic but serious 'Smith's Gully'. I convinced Fi that with modern ice tools and ice screws, it was a lot easier to climb and protect nowadays, especially given the prolonged cold spell and the low avalanche risk.
It turned out a good choice and we had the route to ourselves, though getting up the upper half of the first pitch was definitely the crux of the route. The deceptively steep upper half of the first pitch had cruddy snow ice and lack of reliable protection. However once up the following four pitches were steep but on superb snow-ice with reliable ice screw runners when needed and for belays. Rock gear for the most part was thin and unreliable and not a route to do in poor snow or ice conditions.
Half way up the route a few hefty snow flurries moved in and almost immediately we were bombarded with small spindrift avalanches, however as the axe placements were so good, it only added to the Scottish winter climbing atmosphere and the obligatory hot aches!
The upper crux, although steep and extremely exposed turned out to have good ice screw protection and the one bomber bit of rock gear on the whole route (a WC hex 6) This gave me the confidence to look down to savoir the mind blowing situation and then shout "yes, it's OK" as I pulled out over onto the easy finishing slopes.
At the top we went left on a 55 metre pitch to avoid the cornice before navigating back off the heavily corniced plateau, tired but happy, down the ridge to the car... :-)
Some unedited video clips and more details and photos on Fi's Marmotte Blog here