/ Am I pushing my luck?
Most beginners will want to rope up at grade II, but it depends on all sorts of factors ... Some will prefer a rope on a grade I, particularly if there's a cornice to negotiate. If in doubt, good tuition is invaluable.
I usually carry a rope on grade 1 if I can't see how big the cornice is, but don't expect to use it. A wise person once said to me, the cornice never gets any smaller the nearer you get to it! You need to know how to use it though and if its just a rope, you'll be using snow belays.
I generally happily solo Is and some IIs in easy nick, but when I first started I roped up on a lot of 1s. I'm generally a bumbly, lots of people will happily solo what I rope up on.
Depends a bit on the type of route and the amount of gear too, if you can move together efficiently on a ridge alpine style, a rope is a great bit of safety but if you are slow, its going to be painful. Pitching stuff on easy ground is agonising, but if you have a rope on, its not much use unless you are placing some sort of gear so you need enough pro for decent running belays.
first II I soloed was the north face of Pen Y Fan- turf, snow and broken sandstone. Very hard to protect, so the safest thing is to solo.
I'd get some stiffer boots though if I were you. Stiff boots feel better on steep ground, but more than that, they have nice slicing edges that make it easier to kick in when moving about on snow without crampons. Warmer too.
I notice the gully you did rates a unanimous grade I from the seven UKC users voting in the logbook. It seems to be more usual for a 'grade I gully' to have more variability, to reflect that small sections of it (an icy chockstone, a steeper bulge of snow) actually fall within the realm of grade II. So I would say that soloing a grade I gully implicitly requires that you solo grade II ground, typically trusting to a pull or two on your iceaxe as you will have done on Striding Edge.
Even without harnesses, that is then enough to rig a buried horizontal axe and bucket seat in order to belay a leader over a cornice or to use an Italian hitch to belay the party up or down steep or exposed steps on ridges. I'd say that would be enough for all grade Is, most grade I/II routes and some grade IIs (i.e. gullies under deep consolidated snow or routes where the difficulties are known to be short or avoidable).
Equally, there are other grade IIs where I'd carry no additional gear than perhaps a second sling & krab and some abseil tat, but I'd always go with harnesses even though there would probably be a fair chance of the rope staying in the rucsac. Routes like the Anoach Eagach would fall into that category as they can vary massively in condition from a pleasant walk with 3-4 short scrambles with good handholds on dry rock to a full winter expedition covered in deep hoar.
Finally, there are other grade IIs that feel more like proper climbs especially in lean conditions (The Runnel, Spiral Gully) where a few wires might not go amiss. From grade II/III upwards and certainly for all grade IIIs I'd much prefer to approach them roped up and carrying some sort of lead rack, even if it is not subsequently used.
As regards footwear, crampons and axe/axes, things are less clear cut. I would very happily solo Tower Ridge (give grade IV) with exactly the set-up you have described but there are a fair few grade II gullies I'd stay well clear of without both a second axe and stiffer boots (and an ice csrew or two). As a rough guide, a single axe and walking boots/crampons (rather than mountaineering boots) are not a great handicap on most ridges and easier mixed routes (e.g. Dorsal Arete, grade II) but you will rapidly struggle on routes with short icy steps.
A lesson I've learned the hard way. Went out soloing some grade II stuff with my girlfriend to find ourselves on a route that was in full winter nick, (frozen turf, ice, rime) but not banked out with snow that the grade II applied to.
The top out, rather than the easy snow slope that was described in the guide, was a gradeIII/IV move past a overhanging chockstone bridging out into the gully. There were a few tears. But she managed to solo it in walking crampons and a single axe with me "spotting" her below
Ill be carrying a confidence rope on that territory in the future. It was terrifying.
Impossible question to answer without being there I've roped up on 1's before and I have also soloed 2s and easy 3s.
My general rule of thumb is: ( For me,I hate soloing)
1s Partner and I gear up (put harness on and have basic protection on harness, sling around shoulder etc) and have the rope accessible if required mainly for cornice or cornice avoidance etc.
2s Gear up and generally use ropes to protect steep steps/ crux areas of the climb. Though its not uncommon for me to rope up at the start and the rope stays on the entire climb (Also depends on which partner I am climbing with).
3s and above rope and gear from the start.
My other thing is every time I use axes/gear, or enter rocky ground etc and even in summer on scrambles etc I wear a helmet. Some people will say why? and some mates laugh when we are picking our way through broken rocky ground practically a walk and I have a helmet on. They can laugh all they want but I prefer to wear it. I had a mate who tripped on rocky ground while walking and butted a rock. A helemt would have saved him from the stitches that he required!!.
Too right I am. Exiting the gully to a sunset over the Coniston fells was magic!! Wish now I'd joined a club after my high school Geography teacher gave some of us a taste of rock climbing years ago.
Steep snow is far bolder than most Winter climbing. If you can rock climb you'll find that most buttress or ice routes are safer than what you did because you'll be sticking gear in. I often feel in more danger on approaches to routes than on them!
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