It was to be my my first taste of Ben Udlaidh today, a venue I have heard allot about being one of Scotland’s pure ice climbing venues, however, I have always been drawn towards long routes and mostly on mixed ground so it was a nice change to be heading for short ice routes instead. Al was keen to kick start his weeks ‘holiday’ so armed with sharpened axes and crampons we joined a few familiar faces (including Guy and client) on the short walk upto the crag.
We warmed up on the three star classic Quartzvein Scoop (IV,4) which had a few cool moves on the first pitch followed by weaving through some impressive ice architecture to the top. After a quick jaunt down to the bags, Al pointed me in the direction of The Croc (V,5), it looked like the best route at the crag today and I was quietly chuffed I was going to get to lead it. I got 5 meters up the route before being drowned in a torrent of water from above, within 30 seconds I was soaked right through my jacket and down my sleeves to my arm pitts – time to down climb.
Looking much drier on the right was Peter Pan Direct (V,5) another superb route. It delivered two steep pitches of fairly brittle ice but plenty of good screws if you worked hard enough (which Al had to on the top pitch). Conditions are pretty good at the crag, I mean I haven’t been there before to compare but Al said both routes were totally different from last time he climbed them. Ice is brittle in places yet pouring with water in areas too. Cruddy ice and snow in the hollows and over the top of steepening’s make for a bit more excitement, overall the routes over to the left are all climbable with a little care. I now have a taste for the steeper lines on my return visit!