Following a stormy Christmas Eve, Thursday dawned clear and still in Observatory Gully. A team on Tower Ridge were tackling the first steepening directly whilst we pondered the chances of approaching Indicator Wall without releasing a slab. The week’s thaw and rapid refreeze had produced perfect climbing conditions but other than a lone SAIS forecaster we saw no-one.
Longer gullies are always absorbing places to climb, as the quality of the ice is rarely the same all the way up. Short ropes made the ascent particularly memorable, rather than notable, taking nearly eight hours to the plateau. With no dinner guests, we indulged ourselves in ten or eleven wonderful rope lengths of chewy snow and ice. Heavy rime and glassy choked cracks reduced protection to screws and in situ pegs, but solid placements and strong snow on the steeper pitches gave us the confidence to keep searching.
Whilst spindrift and rotten ice is almost certainly around the corner, one day in a thousand delivers the most perfect gifts. Point Five Gully has given me so much pleasure over the years: I’ll just have to lower my expectations in future! We’ll be treading carefully this week as more wind loading and strong temperature gradients on thinner cover lower confidence on moderate slopes. Plenty of graupel remains in some places, and we’re unlikely to have carte blanche again.