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Meggy, Smiths and a ride in the spin cycle
Craig Meagaidh or "Meggy" as it is known is a large sprawling mountain situated just north of Loch Laggan its NE facing Coire Adair is 3km wide, 500m high and hosts some of the best winter climbs in Scotland. Smiths Gully is considered to be one of the hardest traditional Scottish Gullies, despite this "Smiths" is a much sought after tick and when conditions are good there is often a race to get there first.
Original Blog by Nick Harper
Back in March 1988 Kevin and I went for a look at "Smiths". We had been on Ben Nevis the day before along with Guido and Pete Brown. They went to the inner corrie for a look at a climb called the Pumpkin. Even then I knew the snow in Reaburn’s Gully was not good. We ploughed a trench close up to the right hand wall as far as the bottom of "Smiths", now't there. Kevin wanted to go on and check Ritchie’s Gully. So he ventured out it the middle of the gully and kicked up 10 feet or so. Like a fool I followed. Snow started teeming down and just as I was about to tell him to stop messing about the whole area went. Avalanche!! I swung my axe and it was ripped out of my hand, then some one hit the button for the spin cycle. So we are tumbling and somersaulting.
Three things went through my head, first get hold of that axe before it flails an eye out on the end of the leash, two this is very unpleasant but it's good because I am still alive, and finally, this could still end badly. Then it had finished with me and I am laid among the boulder below the gully. Heart rate 220 plus, and breathing short and shallow at about the same rate.
I got up and looked for Kevin. No sign and my right ankle was very sore. Shouted, no answer. Then I looked down the slope and there was someone standing there. I'm thinking where did they come from, and then realized it was Kevin and he was on his way up to me. He was always one for getting value for money so he had stayed on the ride nearly as far as the stretcher box. When he got to me he asked if I was ok, but kept going. He was looking for his axe which had escaped him by snapping the leash.
We walked down until Kevin got bored with the slow pace I was limping along at and left me. A tough walk out.
When I reached the gate at the farm I put my arms over the top of it while the tears ran down my face, there might even have been a few sobs. Guido poled up out of the gloom and offered to take my sac. There has always been a bit of mother hen in him.
This time round, the approach commenced from the car park at 05.20. We passed 2 pairs in the first mile or so. Plugging along Guido and I spotted a head torch that had to be in Reaburn's gully. What time did they start? It took us another hour to get there. We were gearing up when a Canadian couple arrived. As Guido was struggling with a heap of knitting that was one of my ropes. They would have been within their rights to start, so I engaged in conversation and told Guido to get a belay on. It worked and they waited. First pitch was "phat" as they say in Canada. I led off, nice ice, straight into the narrows, few steep bridging moves with good axe placements in old neve. Some snow and joined the early birds. they left the car park at 04.00!
Took the rope in, all 4m (60m ropes) and got Guido coming up. He arrived and led through on to a great pitch of ice and neve. It took screws and there was some in situ gear as well. The Canadian girl arrived and she tried to make me understand why they had come over here. Most of the traffic is the other way. Guido did about 55m and away I went. Next pitch a steep ice wall on the right with a scuttle run up the left hand side. The ice was good at the bottom, but got more hollow and snowy higher up. That was about it apart from a set of steps that went out left. No steps what so ever going up the rest of the gully. I'm thinking there must be some big hanging cornice up there so we went with the flow. A great route in very good condition complete with buckets and hooks in places.
We walked across to Easy Gully and descended to a climb called Last Post. Lots of teams on it, so we decided to just do the steep initial ice and rap off. Few bits of debris coming down so I put plenty of screws in. A guide with a client was chatting me up on the belay. He was on a single rope and wanted me to chuck it down after they rapped off. They were doing the same as us. No problem. He took a couple of photos of Guido coming up on his way down.
When we got down to the Lochan I counted 17 people walking down from the Window. There were at least 50 cars in the car park. A big day for Meggy.
Further information: A series of climbing guidebooks for Scotland are available from the Scottish Mountaineering Club.
Smiths Gully is graded VI, 5 and Last post V,5.
Anyone wishing to take part in mountaineering should be aware that these activities are inherently dangerous and as in the article you may have to make critical safety decisions based on your own judgement every time you climb outdoors.
More blogs & photos can be found on Yorkclimbers.com
More blogs & photos can be found on Yorkclimbers.com