Leading up to this trip I had my eye fixed to the MWIS and SAIS forecasts. The conditions were looking grim at best and heavy snow and high winds were forecast over the next few days. Planning our routes would take extra attention as the high winds would cause wind-slab and cross loading on Northerly to southerly aspects, these conditions would present a increased avalanche risk!
Once we arrived at the CIC hut we planned out our day and decided on a relatively protected gully behind the Douglas boulder (Douglas gap). Warming up on Douglas gap meant we could check we were working as an efficient team and our belays etc were quick enough!
Conditions were fine up the gap with plenty of consolidated snow. After a long day figuring out small issues we retreated back to the hut for tea and medals!
During the evening we checked the forecasts and hatched out a plan for the next day. We decided that Ledge route would be the best decision, but, Number 5 gully would be loaded with snow and take special care to enter quickly without being avalanched!
Day 2 – Ledge Route Grade II
After reaching the start of ledge route(Rather quickly up the gully) we moved together and covered plenty of distance, stopping only when the leader ran out of gear!
Note on the picture above a group soloing up the ridge. The group turned out to be Team Patagonia and Chamonix legend Jon Bracey!
Topping out on Ledge route felt great and conditions couldn’t have been better. The crux was the snowfield at the top which felt very unstable. Bumping into Chamonix legend Jon Bracey was an extra bonus and after a quick chat with him we moved down towards the hut!
Day 3 – South West ridge IV/5
By far the best climb in my relatively short climbing story, I found this simply a magical day out. We started out towards Douglas gap and traversed across onto the ridge. Exposed in places and technically harder than anything ive climbed before I found the moves comfortable and the axe placements solid. Lots of hooking and torquing found us at the summit in a snowstorm but a great day out!
After we returned to the hut we reflected on the three days. The main thing is we executed our plans to the letter but were prepared to change if the conditions or circumstances dictated so. We considered climbing Castle Ridge on day 3 but changed our minds as the approach slopes were dangerous. This turned out to be a good call as a team of climbers were avalanched on the approach, luckily with no injuries to report!
On the whole it was a successful trip that pushed our limits but didn’t put us in any imminent danger. Mountains are unpredictable places and must be treated as such. Using all the tools we had like MWIS and SAIS are great but using them effectively will take much more practice!