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Tuesday 10th 02 2009 05:28:47 PM

Pictures and words by Andy Main

Ben Udlaidh

We had a great two days up at Ben Udlaidh, one of Scotland’s premier ice venues.  The first day, conditions were perfect; no wind, blue bird skies and about -4 at the base of the crag.  However, we’d got up a bit late and by the time we reached the crag was shtumbed looking more like the Northern Corries on a busy day. We decided to forgo the classic for the time being and headed for the less busy right hand section. We chose ‘Doctor's Dilemma’ which takes a wandering line up the face to the right of ‘Central Gully’. It’s a good route with some variable ice and fun pitch out of the cave and through the ice chandler! The whole route was made harder by having my monos on the wrong feet. Doh!  We then descended ‘Central Gully’ which was alright being mostly snow slope; the only hard section was a small ice step made very interesting by having a 2m hole through to the stream under it!

Udlaidh was so good we decided to return on the Sunday, crampons on the correct feet this time!  Gunning for some of the hard classic ice, we rocked up to the crag early hoping to beat the crowds and were the second group to arrive in the corrie.  We wandered up to the left hand sector and took a look at “Peter Pan”, “The Croc” and “Captain Hook”. Unfortunately it was few degrees warmer than it had been the day before and the entire wall was dripping in the sun.  We considered “Quartzvein Scoop” but the queue of about 4 parties dissuaded us.

We settled for “Green Eyes” a shaded line of to the right of the left hand sector.  Again a nice line, but variable ice was found and Warren nearly took himself out on the second pitch, disturbing a huge partially froze ice block.  The third pitch was a bit epic as well; easy climbing demanded a 30m run out I’d just gotten to rock and a bomber gear placement when the snow ledge I was on gave way.  I took a tumble over the rocky ledge leaving one axe hooked in a crack, landing on the snow below I continued to slide knowing my nearest bit of gear was about 25m below and a nice ice fall waited for me to launch off.  I went into automatic and attempted to self arrest while screaming at Warren to take in.    I arrived at the belay with about 20m of slack out, having managed to stop my slide.  After a wee breather I got back up to my high point and my second axe, got the gear in and continued on up, being slightly more wary of solid looking snow ledges.

Great wee into to ice climbing on Ben Udlaidh, we’ll be back later this year and might even get some of the classic in.

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