/ Grade III solo
I can climb III and I am confident on steep grade I and II ground when consolidated, and the two grade III routes I am desperate to do are SC Gully and Good Friday Climb and I fancy soloing one of them. SC being the less serious out of them. I soloed up to the ramp on SC 2 years ago and backed off as it was dripping and stones were falling out the gully.
Now I have demonstrated to myself that I am more confident soloing easy ground with a decent sleep than I am leading it with no or little sleep and that with an easier and later walk in, I think I could try something harder, with the benefit of time saved through no rope work. If I havent had a sleep I struggle to commit to something.
Now with current conditions being nice and consolidated am I being reckless in my thinking?
The consequences of falling while soloing are pretty serious. But how often do people fall on grade III? And how serious would a roped fall on grade III be in comparison?
Milesy - only you can decide if soloing is justifiable. I used to solo a lot on rock, but what was justifiable for me varied enormously, with just tiny factors making me change my mind one way or another. The most important thing for me was to remember not to be blinded by desire, but to think rationally about every moment.
Me personally? I'd go jump on it! But I'm relatively confident in winter.
To actually climb something. If I wait for time, and partners and conditions the season will be over.
I let a friend down because my baby kept me up all night, had 2 hours sleep and I was in no condition to commit to a climb. Any time I organise an outing I lie in bed praying the baby doesnt wake up. At least winter walking trips I can function with no sleep so thats not a big concern, especially when there is a group. But when you have one person relying on you it is a big let down to say sorry mate, I cant even spell my name, fancy a walk instead?
At least being sensible about route conditions, weather and ability, if I am myself I dont have anything to prove to anyone but myself. I can enjoy my drive and walk in without imposition at my own leisure. I can back off something without fear of reprimand.
If snow is soft or unstable I have less control of the situation and like I found out in Glen Coe last Friday. When things are consolidated I can trust my placements a lot more.
If conditions are good I think the risk is justifyable myself for the benefits gained. Before you know it is Spring and then the summer rain comes and the summer season is spent walking as well! As much as I love Scotland - the ever changing weather makes it incredibly difficult for the casual climber. :)
I probably found it as exciting as leading Indicator Wall on the Ben which I did 2-3 days previously as my 2nd grade V.
Since I climbed SC when it was blatantly out of nick, I can't offer any advice on that.
There is certainly nothing wrong with your aspiration, but long grade IIIs are still serious routes and I would not under-estimate them.
> The consequences of falling while soloing are pretty serious. But how often do people fall on grade III?
Well, it happens, and when it does the consequences are often fatal. Having witnessed someone fall from a grade III winter climb while soloing and having been the one who had to deal with the mess I can tell you now that I'm not a fan.
This issue isn't the dificulty of the climb but the medium on which you are climbing which, in winter, is much less predictable. The reason why the above climber died was because the snow collapsed as he was topping out.
As a climber who has rolled the solo dice many times I am not here to judge anyone. But be under no illusions that the gamble may be the ultimate price. I have lost a friend to this game (soloing Tower ridge), I have seen a friend hospitalised for months and I have witnessed the above incident.
I also always use tools with wrist loops of leashless tools with a spring leash attached to a harness or over the shoulder sling. Obviously dropping a tool is a no-no, but the leashes give you a second chance if, say, your feet pop.
> Well, it happens, and when it does the consequences are often fatal. Having witnessed someone fall from a grade III winter climb while soloing and having been the one who had to deal with the mess I can tell you now that I'm not a fan.
Yeah, I know. I wasn't trying to convey bravado, but to add balance and rationality to the previous poster. Most people who climb winter routes work on the premise that you don't fall off, and soloing is no different really. The rope adds a degree of safety, but we all know that there are routes where belays leave something to be desired. Most people would happily solo grade I, and they are common descent routes. Where the individual draws the line of acceptability has to be down to them on the basis of the level of risk they are willing to accept and a judgement on their ability.
> The consequences of falling while soloing are pretty serious. But how often do people fall on grade III?
That is true but a slip on a many grade I ground are likely to be just as serious as off grade III pitch onto grade I ground. I think the fall from the pitch is not the problem, it can be the grade I ground and terrain contained within afterwards that is likely to be the deciding factor, particulatly in bomber neve conditions.
> People fall from grade 1's and even from slips on paths....someone fell down ben lui central gully last weekend
I know. I guess I am not getting my point across very well. People will always have accidents in the hills on all grades, whether soloing or otherwise. All we can do is balance the risks that we find personally justifiable with our personal skill level, and make decisions on the level of challenge we wish to tackle accordingly.
Soling in winter isn't like say just nipping off to the local gritstone crag and soloing a load of VS's you know like the back of your hand in the setting sun with others around you. You have to get on the train (in your car), walk for a while, maybe camp, then walk in) its all this time alone where you really think to yourself whether your that keen on doing it. If your just doing it for want of a partner its this stage that will probably find you out. Once your on the route, that's the enjoyable part.
I didn't stop soloing because of an experience while soloing but due to a fall with a rope on, it made me think. Try to experience a lot of things with a rope on before you eschew it for whatever reason.
it helps if you feel immortal, doubt is your enemy, remain positive. this may sound obvious, but you really don't want to have nagging doubts, half way through the crux. soloing as a super hero is the way forward, if you meet other parties "stand back citizen this is a job for .... in tandem as Batman and Robin would be stellar, would really like to do this!.
SC by the way is usually a little delicate on the crux. Good Friday is a lot more exposed but technically easier.
It would be a brave man who advised you (or anyone else) to solo anything. I'm not feeling brave today, but for what it's worth I suspect that most soloists have some experience of harder ground, to give some safety margin.
Milesy, there's a basic rule you're forgetting.
solo grade 1 (in ideal conditions) when you can cruise grade 3
solo grade 3 (if you must) when you can cruise grade 5
> Milesy, there's a basic rule you're forgetting.
> solo grade 1 (in ideal conditions) when you can cruise grade 3
> solo grade 3 (if you must) when you can cruise grade 5
I don't think this is a hard and fast rule.
My brother has never climbed a IV or V in his life yet is a proficient and active Grade III soloist.
if there is any hesitation then never ever start a solo. it should feel like climbing the stairs.
If ur cruising higher grades then no bother as its always good to have a grade or two spare,I've soloed a lot of 3s manily bcoz of the FAFF of ropes and waiting around and lately no dependable climbing mates so soloing was the only way to get me about it I was cruising 4/5 at the time and was out every week, its not the route itself that worries me its the exits with no ropes or gear and if something goes tits up your in the shit! so its good to have the experience of higher grades if u do helps you keep your cool
Conditions have been great with bomber conds so go for it, I'd do sc gully
But wouldn't solo good friday , great route tho
Think I'm doing sc gully Mora solo ur welcome to come :-)
Im going to be honest- if you have a kid why are you considering soloing something with doubt in your mind about it?
Grade III's are often pretty straightforward, but that doesn't mean that they can't throw some steep borderline Grade IV at you from time to time.
> It would be a brave man who advised you (or anyone else) to solo anything. I'm not feeling brave today, but for what it's worth I suspect that most soloists have some experience of harder ground, to give some safety margin.
Not always bordeline - I've encountered IV,5 climbing on supposed grade IIIs. Winter grading is by definition approximate, if you climb enough at any grade you will inevitably end up de facto climbing at the grade above. At these times you have to look deep in your locker for that something extra. I find this easier with a rope and protection.
Part of it is out of frustration, but also part for the other reasons. Not being on a time table, more having other people reply on me rather than the other way about. Being able to back off something and not ruining someone else's day.
Circumstances collude to prevent me doing anything at all and I like the idea of of being able to expore and be nosy on a whim without.
I think I would rather solo some stuff than not do anything at all if I know the conditions and weather is good. Sure things like top outs can be hairy but arent they a lot of the time run out on rope as well anyway and I would arm myself with beta where nessessary of course. I know the top out on SC isnt bad just now so I am not worried about it.
I am sure your child will not be happy if you "died doing what you loved" .....I have never understood that saying
Having said that, soloing can be a rewarding experience, and I understand the frustrations, and have had some great days out soloing easy routes (up to III) myself when partners aren't available. However, frustration can lead us to take bigger risks than we might normally, and sometimes it is braver to turn back (have a back up objective), but you probably know that. As an adult you make your own decisions based on your own risk assessment.
If you decide to do it, consider Staghorn Gully on Meagaidgh. It had big bucket steps and an easy exit a week ago. Stay safe whatever you decide to do.
I soloed good friday climb a long time ago. I was quite comfortable soloing III's and it went fine, but during breaks in the cloud, when I could see the drop below I was a bit concerned. One slip and that would have been it. It had never really been a consideration of mine until that point.
Having witnessed first hand a few years later, someone falling from the exit chimney on Orion direct and see them fly past me, Im not sure I'd do it now, although I have soloed lots of other things since.
In good conditions the climbing on these routes isn't very hard , but I think there is an element of luck when you are soloing in winter, no matter how experienced you are.
If I were you, I'd try and find someone to climb with and do something else. Good Friday climb isn't that good a line anyway.
I enjoyed Good Friday, conditions were great so perhaps that contributed. For Milesy I'm not going to offer much except perhaps maybe lower your soloing sights a wee bit back down into a zone where you're very comfortable and you can still have a good day. I solo I/II and feel comfortable but at the back of your mind is that small slip that hopefully wouldn't ruin a roped and protected climb but would seriously spoil your day otherwise. Don't let a desire to do a route lead you into a situation where you may regret it, and I do understand the frustrations of time off/weather/conditions/partners etc all needing to come together. You may well solo the climb with everything clicking into place, but it is winter and you are probably aware that things don't always pan out perfectly.
Is it the Guinness advert that says, "Good things come to those who wait"?
Examples are The Vent and Gardyloo Gully... they can range from IV to I depending on conditions!!!
Just my 2p...
> I don't think this is a hard and fast rule.
> My brother has never climbed a IV or V in his life yet is a proficient and active Grade III soloist.
No.. but it is a good rule :o)
I fully understand where you are coming from - I'm not too keen on leading. The rope alone and being responsible for someone else's safety add a nervousness to my climbing that's not there when I'm on my own.
I was glad to have a belayer and a rope on on Sunday tho, even tho it was the spinner that caught me. Loose rock AND loose snow or ice can add up to make even a Grade I dangerous but I'm sure you're aware of that.
Certain climbing manuals give instruction on solo climbing with a rope (usually in the context of rescuing a stranded partner, but applicable to other situations as well). This won't make you fast and light (quite the opposite) but it could allow you out in partnerless circumstances onto terrain that warrants some protection.
I'd refer to the manuals rather than to a keyboard warrior and I'm not advocating you adopt these procedures but I am throwing it out for discussion:
I recall you need a basic winter rack and as much rope as you're happy carrying but it might work well with something light like 30m of Beal Iceline because you're unlikely to be climbing sustained verticals. The idea is to use the rope to protect the steeper pitches but not the easier ground in between. Here's what I recall (but please don't rely on my ageing faculties):
Find 2-3 bomber anchors at the foot of each pitch (slung boulders are best), rigged for an upwards and (ideally also downwards) pull. Tie both ends into the anchors. Then (in the case of a half rope like the Iceline) flake the rope out carefully and tie into the middle of the rope and tie each strand to your tie-in about 3m and 6m from the two anchored ends and then clove hitch each strand near the anchors to two HMSs and climb as if leading two seconds. Get a runner in early for each strand and continue placing runners and adjusting the clove hitches and short tie-ins (you'll need the slack to make upwards progress) to the top of the difficulty/crux so that any fall factor is minimised. 15m climbing length ought to be plenty to clear grade II/III difficulties, 5m is more likely enough. Then rig top anchors with redundancy for the pitch and downclimb (or abseil even) on a prussik or device removing runners as you go. Finally, release bottom anchors and reascend on your top anchor using a prussik or device. This is fiddly because the knot/device needs feeding with hands already occupied by an axe. On the other hand, you get to do the exciting bits twice!!
The tolerances of a half rope would probably allow for it to be used as a single on short pitches like this which makes for much easier rope management but the manufacturers wouldn't recommend it I'm sure, so use a single rope for easier management if preferred.
This is a laborious technique, and very slow, but, if you want to feel better protected climbing alone, it might suit small pitches of medium difficulty, sandwiched between grade I ground. It wouldn't suit any climb of sustained verticality or pitches without rock anchors. And the complexities of the procedure could lead to confusion, poor rope management, and distracted climbing just where concentration is most required.
Certainly I wouldn't recommend this method as safe. Staying at home is much safer. There is no partner to organise a rescue in the event of a fall resulting in injury. And the complexity of the procedure carries its own risks. But it might provide confidence climbing alone on dangerous ground, in summer and in winter. And I hope I've accurately remembered all the stages. Here's a link to a source on the web:
I'm sure someone far more knowledgeable and experienced than me can point out any flaws/omissions or indeed suggest any improvements to the procedure
My top tip - tricep extensions and wrist curls.
I agree with others - you'll probably be scared out of your mind soloing at your best lead grade, in your position (in fact probably mine too ;) I wouldn't solo harder than II.
Already do both in abundance. Been training my grip, wrists and forearms and my axes already feel strong and secure in my hands. Training like a demon in all areas just now. Pretty much stopped going out getting drunk and partying (I like to sip a single malt though) to get myself im prime fitness! The inevitable happens. The season finishes and I havent managed to get out much due to circumstances and there is nothing to do but start going out drinking with my mates again which I dont want to do! Sick of it now.
There's plenty of cool stuff to do in spring / summer with your increased fitness. My next objective after winter (I'm hoping for one more weekend preferably in Scotland), is a 4 day trip to Skye in May including Cuillin ridge in a day and some of the classic long HS -> HVS including the Integrity combo. Come summer then looking at increasing my lead grade a bit locally and then off to the alps for two weeks, which will probably be my high light of the year, although a week skiing and ice climbing in Cogne a couple of weeks back was pretty damned good!.
A lot of it depends on you. Personally in good conditions I often don't find grade III neve /ice that necky, I'll happily run things out on good picks and often get so absorbed in the climbing, I forget about the run outs or even placing much protection (it's almost an after thought). There's been plenty of grade III leads I would have soloed, problem is you can't be sure before you set off!
Having said all that, if your primary motivation is frustration at lack of partners and inability to get out, have you considered a day or two with a guide? May seem like a bit of an outlay but if you treat it not just as hiring a partner but also a learning experience, both in terms of technical stuff, and also, being in the company of someone who should be very confident on this sort of ground, it may be quite worthwhile.
Thanks. That is why I was considering SC primarily as I have been watching the conditions of it. I have been up to the ramp before and climbed back down (wasnt in condition) and I sat and watched people on it last Thursday and got a good look at the top out as well. So it wasnt a case of me jumping on something blindly.
Regarding my earlier post on this thread (in which I mentioned my brother's remarkable soloing powers), it has since been pointed out to me by someone whose views I respect that this could be misinterpreted as recommending soloing. I certainly wouldn't ever recommend any such thing, even though I've done my fair share of it!
Milesy, why don't you drop my brother a line and have a chat with him about it? I suspect he'll be able to provide a useful point of view. Best of luck whatever you decide to do.
Thanks Alex. I would never take any action directly based on anyones advice so dont worry about that. Anything I will will be the result of deep thinking and consideration.
For climbing with a partner a later start is definately of benefit to me and I would rather be last on the route and walk off in the dark and be climbing with a fresh head and motivation than an early start to be first on a route and having lunch back at the car.
I have seen people arrive for a route on The Ben to be at the back of a 1.5 hour queue and stay in the queue. Why not just have an extra 1.5 hours in your pit in that case??
Good heavens. Ice routes such as Good Friday or SC would, in decent conditions, be far,far more amenable solos than Tower Ridge or even Curved Ridge. Are you actually trying to kill him? I've soloed quite a few Nevis V's but I don't think I would solo Tower Ridge without back-roping the tricky bits.
I always remember completing my first mortgage applicationm, and having to answer detaield questions about various outdoor pursuits I did and specifically the type of climbing.
The only activity that wasn't covered by insurance was winter soloing.
Those actuaries spend their lives studying what kills people and what risks the banks/ building societies should take (i.e. us).
Aye I was thinking I'd much rather solo ice and neve than mixed cruxes myself, if your climbing well on ice each pick is a belay!
> Aye I was thinking I'd much rather solo ice and neve than mixed cruxes myself, if your climbing well on ice each pick is a belay!
That is exactly how I felt on NC Gully last week. Every single pick placement was bomber. At no point did I think a placement would let me down. My grivel springer leash to my harness although not rated to hold fall, it has done for many (Andy Kirkpatrick for example) and I felt at times I was on belay. Not that I would be throwing myself off on to them at any time, but I certainly think they would hold a low impact slip on neve. My footwork is decent anyway.
It seems to me an odd sequence of logic/motivation that gets you from the threat of your (new-born?) baby keeping you awake to soloing Winter routes.
If the problem is lack of sleep, should this not be the problem you look to resolve rather than side-step the impact of that problem. There are other ways of resolving this which would seem preferable (to me at least).
- If the baby sleeps in your room could you not consider sleeping in a spare room or on the couch, with ear-plugs.
- Sleep round your partners' house the night before (with a therm-a-rest and sack if no spare bed/couch).
- Go for a good run/cycle etc the evening before to tire yourself
- Acknowledge that with a dependent child in your life you may have to make concessions in other areas - possibly greater than you initially anticipated but presumably not forever (admittedly this said as somebody without a child).
If you're simply intent on soloing then that's a different question and one for yourself, I imagine. Though if you're seeking to somehow justify an emergent desire to solo this again seems an odd justification, to me at least.
The above is meant in good faith and constructively, from somebody who struggles to sleep with an early start ahead of them and know how much a grind that can be (and that's without a kid!)
Are you really up to it at the moment, physically and mentally? I know what it's like having a baby and feeling frustrated at not being able to get out climbing, but tis a temporary thing. If you're getting out soloing enough, then build up your standard and confidence; don't put yourself under pressure to get something done when there are more important things happening in your life.
The fact that you feel the need to ask the question without just going and doing it with confidence suggests, yes
Soloing winter routes is certainly not minimising risk, especially when they are not a few grades under your max. No matter how good condition they are in silly things can happen to you that if roped wouldnt kill you but if soloing would.
Also, your spring leashes might hold, but the axes would 99.9% rip through neve when shock loaded if you fell onto them. You cant have a low impact slip if it means your tethers get loaded.
All in all rather you than me!
I do think this is a bit daft especially when there is loads in condition as there is at the moment. While I buy into the staying in bed longer bit, I'm not sure if its a great idea when soloing. I once did a big gully on the Ben starting out at 3pm, no spindrift, rocks or ice coming down. I wouldn't have liked to be soloing it though, its nice not to have to be worrying about it getting dark. Basically if your soloing you'll have to get up early - I'd rather have a rope on when I'm tired, winter climbing having had 2-3 hrs sleep was quite a normal thing for me, as I suspect it is for many coming up from Glasgow/Edinburgh and beyond.
Something the OP might like to think about - what if you're soloing the crux and get hit by a large lump of ice?
What if you are soloing and your crampon falls off? this happened to me soloing the Orion, I nonchalantly put it back on, had a conversation with a pair in zero, think they were more scared than me, (this was back in the eighties with shitty Cassin step ins) the moral be prepared, solo with umbilicals and I would have a fifi attached to my harness, this saved me in this situation.
where do you put the fifi so it doesn't fall out but you can get it easily? Seems like a silly question but I didn't fully resolve this issue whilst in cogne for a week!
aye I got that much ;)
I would just stuff the hook behind the harness belt, this seemed to work fine, if it does drop, it doesn't really hinder progress, just more annoying than anything, although this didn't happen often.
> Something the OP might like to think about - what if you're soloing the crux and get hit by a large lump of ice?
Me and my mate were a good way up number 2 gully on the Ben climbing unroped when I got clocked on the cheekbone with wee bit of ice from above. Felt like I was punched, the bleeding and subsequent bruising way out of proportion to the offending skittery wee bit of frozen water. Glad it wisnae a large lump!!
yeah I settled on that in the end too but it did fall out although less often than the other places I tried first.
If you've felt good on both III leads and II solos then I guess that's not bad preparation. Of course feeling good on IV/V leads would be better.
I was going up Observatory Gully one morning and someone was hacking off ice on Smith's Route. I could see them. All of a sudden ice was belting past my face and god knows what speed and making whoooooom whooom noises like bullets in movie. Another time in a thaw ice and rocks came belting down on us on Waterfall Gully at the belay on top of the ice. Nearly took him off his feet and he is about 16 stone.
I am not soloing anything serious tomorrow now. Not looking good for me. Maybe after weekend :) Might go do No 3 gully or something to get out.
A guy i climbed with last month said that V is the grade to get to, so many classic routes to be done at that level.
I'm a big fan of winter soloing, many new routes in the new north wales guide on the ladders and craig Dafydd all on sight and up tp VI 6 plus many big classics. Doesn't mean its a good thing though. My best lead has been VII 7 /8.
My best advice is that soloing is a very personal and obviously dangerous occupation and in my experience there are no substitutes for extensive experience of conditions at your chosen venue and CONFIDENCE.
If you thrive on being scared and run out (and have lots of experience of it) that kind of confidence will help in winter soloing.
Stamina will help a lot too because you may find yourself going up and down a section a few times before you commit.
Conditions that I find best are after freeze thaw cycles plenty of neve and snow ice, (well stripped back helps you see more too).
I usually test the water ice, snow ice, turf and neve by seeing if it will hold a one axe pull up, if it does then I feel happy to solo even steep VI ground.
Wear a harness the first few times and take a bit of gear and a rope for emergency bail out and confidence. Sometimes tying yourself off while you sort your head out will save the day,.....its not cheating its staying alive.....just record it as such if on a new route.
Remember the potential variables are immense.
Hope this helps, good look to ya and be safe, once you commit be confident but steady. Enjoy
Steeper ground no way I'd be heading for a decent route
No2 gully, north gully, Garadh gully,ledge route wud have been good options, or even the cic cascades has some steep grade3 sections u cud have practised on surely that wud have had been more beneficial in giving u ice time and more experience
Leading to your target of Sc gully and good friday
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