Climber topping out on Central Gully Right Hand
The current spell of arctic weather is forecast to end tonight with a general thaw and high winds. Unfortuently my climbing partner cried off after a dodgy pint so it was back into solo mode. There had been plenty of reports of good conditions in the Great End Gullys so a quick stomp up from Seathwaite was called for. I suspect a number of sickies had been pulled today as the crag was heaving as folk made the best of the conditions. With teams just starting my first two choices I opted for plan C and South East Gully (III) There was a team of three on pitch 2 but I was able to bypass them by climbing the narrow left hand variation and traversing back right into the main gully system at around III+. Topping out in to the sunshine there were spectacular views over towards Scafell but a chilly wind sent me back down Custs Gully for a quick descent. Conditions were proving to be pretty good with plenty of bomber neve but some hollow ice and a surprising amount of spindrift. I also found a couple of small pockets of shallow windslab on gully exits. There was plenty of evidence of avalanche activity from last weekends thaw below most of the gullies but things were very stable today.
A quick traverse across the crag apron and I headed up Window Gully (II/III) which was in good but thin condition. The Upper Icefall Finish gave a reasonably steep exit on good ice and well frozen turf. Back down Custs Gully which involved a squeeze under the lower chockstone minus my rucksack and across to Central Gully. Reaching the Amphitheatre the ice fall of the Left Branch Finish was in place but so were six climbers waiting patiently for their turn. I opted for the Right Branch finish (II) which featured a very thin crux but then easy snow slopes to the top. A quick blast down via Esk Hause and time for a couple of hours Christmas shopping in Keswick after 800m plus of climbing :)
Interestingly after destroying my helmet last month in Nepal I was climbing in my retro Meteor but not to be outdone I passed climbers in bike and snowboard helmets today!
South East Gully (III) & the obvious Central Gully RH (II)
Topping out on Great End in to the sun
Footsteps across Great End
Icy summit slopes towards Ill Crag and Scafell Pike