Sunday, 8 July 2018

Mid winter week

The Rothera mid winter greeting picture. Most of the Antarctic bases
send each other greeting pictures. We went for the retro look. 
In a tradition which goes back to the early Antarctic explores, midwinter is a time of celebration in Antarctica. Everybody on station gets the week off. In may ways it feels like the Christmas/New year period is in Britain, but (fortunately) without the commercialisation of Christmas.  There are some fun/festive activities as well as a fair bit of time for chilling out and enjoying the Antarctic winter.

The main celebration is on the Mid winter's day; the 21st of June. The day started with Jess the station leader offering to bring people tea or coffee to their rooms. I declined this offer, and went and did some stretching instead. At ten o'clock there was a champagne breakfast. After that everybody gathered in the bar for the opening of the mid winter gifts. 
One of the fun activity which traditionally organised by the field guides for
 mid winter week here at Rothera is the Winter Olympics.
Here the winning team of Jack and Stew pull Aurelia on the dog sledge race.
Another winter Olympic event was create stacking.
Aurelia on crate 11 before the tower collapsed.
 The winning team manged 13 crates. 
Part of the mid winter tradition is that people make gifts for each other. Back in April all the winterer's picked the name of another winterer from a hat to chose who your gift had to be for.  I was not at Rothera at the time, and this this was done on my behalf. I got Theresa the boating officer for my mid winter present recipient. Like myself Theresa had wintered  at Rothera last year, and I had been out on a couple of winter trips with her. I decided to make a photobook which contained about fifty images that I and other people had taken to sum up the winter's she had so far spent at Rothera. A few of the photos in my last blog post made it into the book.

Theresa had also traveled down on the ship with myself in early May. It was decided by the powers that be, that as neither of us would meet a number of the winter's until we arrived on the 10th of May, by which time people could have been working on their winter gifts for a while, that we would be fairest if we made winter gifts for each other. Of course neither of us new this until after the event. Theresa made me a couple of whiskey glasses which had originally started life as beer bottles and been cut, etched and polished; she knew that I like a wee dram from time to time.

Tom opening his winter present. It was not as hazardous as the box would suggest, it was a lovely folding chair made by Sam the chippy.  Sam's framed picture can be seen in the background. 

Kate Doc looks pleased with her gift while Tom looks on from his new chair/throne. 
People admire some of the winter gifts (those that would fit on the poo table at least). My whiskey glasses can be seen towards the back left side of the table. 
In  the afternoon we gathered in the dinning room for to begin an amazing seven course meal which  Lewis the Chef had been working on for days. At 6pm we adjourned to the communication tower to listen to the mid winter broadcast. The mid winter broadcast is half hour BBC radio program for the all BAS winterer's in Antarctica, and is presented by Cerys Mathews. A link to the program can be found at   After that it was a return to the dinning room for more food and drink.
Mid winter's meal. 
The weather in the days following mid winter was some of most settled winter weather I have seen here at Rothera. There was not a cloud in the sky, and very little wind. Rothera is only a few tens of miles South of the Antarctic circle. Although at this time of year we don't get any direct sunlight on base, some of the local mountains are high enough to cancel out the curve of the earth, and catch a little direct sunlight around midday. 
The view across Rhyder bay. The sun catches the summi of Mount Liotard on the 22nd of June. 

Out for a boating trip. The boats are actually breaking through very young sea in ice, which slowed progress and prevented us from getting very far. However, it was great weather to be out. 
With the settled weather during the days after mid winter, I managed a couple of trips out. On the 22nd joined boating team  and a few others for a recreational trip out into Ryder Bay. The sea was starting to freeze in the settled conditions, and we did not actually get very far due to the ice conditions. However, it was great to get out on the boats, and an unusual experience to be boating through very young thin sea ice. Since then the ice has continued to form and thicken, and we have recently started to do a bit of work on the sea ice. Lets hope it sticks around.
Heading out for an ascent of Orca peak in the pink light of another fine Antarctic morning in the days following mid winter.

Friday, 1 June 2018

Back to Rothera

I didn't actually take any pictures while passing through the Falklands this time. However, on my way North last December I also had a few days in the Falklands, and took this shot of  other BAS people having a look at the wreck of the Lady Elizabeth. In 1936, during a strong gale, she broke from her mooring and drifted down the harbour to Whalebone Cove where she ran aground and still rests today.
Back at Rothera! As mentioned in my last post, I  am spending another winter at Rothera working for the British Antarctic Survey as a field guide.

I arrived here on the Thursday the 10th of May after what had felt like a very long journey. I had left Aviemore eleven days previously. My journey had started with a pleasant train journey down to London where I stayed for a few days. I ended up doing a few last minute jobs which I should have done before I had left Scotland. However, I did manage to find time to do some cultural things like going to the theater. However, it was soon time to do some decent travelling, it is a long way to Antarctica after all. Therefore, the next day I got the train and the bus out to RAF Brize Norton where I caught an overnight flight to the Falkland islands.

I spent a few days in the Falkland islands on my way back North from Rothera last December. At this time I had been near mid summer, and even then it felt like quite a bleak place. This time I was staying on the ship, the RSS Ernest Shackleton. Although we remained in the Falklands for a few days, due to space constraints on the dock, the ship spent a fair of that time a couple of hundred meters off shore. This obviously limited my opportunities to get out and about. However, when the ship was docked I did manage out for one run along to surf beach and a paddle in the sea.
The RSS Ernest Shackleton, the ship I had sailed to Rothera in about to depart from the Rothera wharf for it's journey back to the Northern Hemisphere. 
The Shack heads off. 
After a few days in the Falklands it was time for the ship to sail. The area of the ocean which we were required to cross, the Drake Passage, is a notoriously rough. About half an hour after leaving harbor the boat began to rock noticeably. This got worse  and worse, and I began to feel more and more ill. I am happy to admit that I am no sailor, and I spent the next few days in my cabin being sick. Through the journey I noticed a few different types of motion in the ship; sometimes it left like it would slid down the front of one wave, and then the whole ship would judder as it slammed into the next oncoming wave; at other times it bob from side to side much like a cork, other times it took on a  a slow corkscrewing motion. I am not sure which of these was worse. I don't think I have ever been so relieved to get onto dry land when we landed at Rothera five days after we had left the Falklands.

Due to the threat of ice the ship was keen to get going as soon as possible. After a couple of days of loading and unloading cargo, the ship was off, aiming to make it back to the UK in mid July. The moment the ship leaves is a significant moment in the Antarctic winter. This year there are 26 wintering at Rothera. As we waved the ship in the morning half light we knew that were were unlikely to see any other people until the first planes arrived around the middle of October.
Theresa near the summit of Picts on the second day of out winter trip. 
Ski touring on our winter trip. Mount Mangin and Gwyendalyn in the back ground. 
Exploring crevasses around MacCallum's Pass. 
With the ship departed there was still a lot for me to do. I was out on a winter trip a few days later with the boating officer, Theresa, and had a fair bit of organising to do for that. When all the kit was finally found, organised and packed a day or so later we headed out to the Stokes peaks.  Although daylight is limited at this time of year we had some reasonable weather. We had a good few days with a wee bit of  everything; ski touring, mountaineering, climbing and crevasse exploration.
Sam lowers the flag on quite a grey day at the Flagdown ceremony. 
No sooner than we had got back from our winter trip, than it was time for the flagdown ceremony. This happens every year in mid to late May when the sun no longer climbs high enough in the sky for direct sunlight to hit Rothera. Traditionally the oldest person on base says a few words and then lowers the flag. The youngest person on base will raise it about two months time when the sun reappears.This year it was Sam the carpenter who lowered the flag. Sam is quite musical, and so brought up his guitar and played a tune after lowered in the flag.
The 26 of us who are wintering at Rothera this year. 

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Northern Hemisphere Winter

Myself on The Chute, one of the few winter routes I did this season. Although not particularly hard, it is not often in condition, and it felt good to have got it done. 
It is a long time since I last updated my blog, for which I apologise. I kept meaning to do it, but kept getting distracted. Also, until recently there were no significant events, hard winter routes or interesting trips away in my life to write about. However, an imminent change of circumstances has spurred me into action. As I type this I am sitting on a train on it’s way to London, my first step on my journey to return to the Antarctica for another austral winter. However, more on that later.

Although it does not feel like it, it is now five months since I left Rothera. Returning to Scotland in mid December, I had about three days before starting my winter job as an avalanche forecaster. 
Work wise it was a busy winter for myself due to a combination of factors. I did not manage to get much climbing in for myself, I certainly did not do anything that I would regard as hard or  significant. However,  I did mange a pleasant route or two,  and despite a lack of climbing it was a satisfying winter.  
A pleasant day avalanche forecasting on Ben Nevis. 
Some winters, such as the winter of 2016/17, are quite pleasant weather wise, but with little snow on the hills. During these winters being out on the hills is quite pleasant, but the avalanche hazard is quite a bit lower, and the work feels less satisfying. There are other winters which are characterised by stormy conditions with lots of precipitation and freeze/thaw cycles. Although these winters can build good ice conditions, lots of strong winds and regularly getting soaked by the incessant West coast rain makes work harder going. However, the avalanche hazard tends to be higher making the work more satisfying if physically less pleasant.

This winter seemed to be the best of both worlds, there was a fair bit of snow meaning with work felt worthwhile, as well the skiing being pretty good, but it was generally below freezing on the hills, so things were good in terms of comfort. I could definitely handle a few more winters like that one.

Through the winter I was pondering Antarctica, and whether I should go back down to Rothera for another winter season. Before I had even left Rothera previously I had been offered a position as a field guide the following season. BAS were keen for me to head down in the middle of March so as to be able to catch the last flight on the season into Rothera. This had felt a bit too soon, I had wanted to remain in the Northern hemisphere into the Northern spring. Fortunately however, there was a change of circumstances, and an opportunity arose to head South in late April/early May. That tipped the decision in the direction of heading South for another austral winter in Rothera.
Sunshine and good snow. Ski touring near the Gran Paradiso in Italy. 
Being around for March and April gave me the opportunity to get involved in a bit of Alpine ski touring. However, all the people I knew who were going out were at times when I was not available. Then I noticed a post on social media from a Scottish guy called Chris Dickenson who was already out in France with a car and who was looking for people to go touring with in a few weeks time after the people he was with had to go home. I did not know Chris, but a little research suggested he knew what he was doing and as I was keen to get touring in the Alps, this seemed like a very hassle free way to get that done. I sent him a message, and we made a plan. A few weeks later I flew to Lyon, from where it is easy to get the train to a place called Oulx in the Italian Alps where I met Chris. In the days leading up to travelling the weather forecast had been poor. The the Gran Paradiso area seemed to offer opportunities given the forecast, and so we headed there. In the end the weather was not as bad as was forecast, and we had a good five days hut to hut touring in the Gran Paradiso area. I was impressed by the Italian huts, particularly the quieter ones which were off the beaten track (i.e not on the main route up the Gran Paradiso itself.). 
Great weather conditions whilst touring in the Vanoise. 
I had also been invited on another touring trip a few weeks later. Initially, I was not sure if I would be able to go on this one due to the timing of various medical check ups required by BAS for my work in Antarctica. However, a cancellation by someone else allowed to to re-arrange  the timing of some of these, and I was able to head out again. My friend Andy from Inverness was also going and had made all the arrangements. All I had to do was book my flights and get myself to Aviemore where he would pick me up and drive me to the airport. At the other end, in Geneva we were picked up by Tom, another friend who was already out there.

Arriving in the Alps we did not really have much of a plan. The forecast was looking pretty good all over. After a fair bit of discussion, in the end we decided upon the Vanoise area. There we managed six days hut to hut ski touring with great weather, with an ascent of the Gran Casse (3856m) on the final day being a bit of a highlight. 
Andy and Tom at the summit of the Grand Casse, the highest peak in the Vanoise. 

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Into the Field.

Steve in the cottage at Fossil Bluff. It has quite "traditional" feel about it
A couple of weeks after the first planes arrived at Rothera in mid October, I had my first trip off Adelaide island since arriving at Rothera back in March. Myself and fellow wintering field guide Steve were sent out to open Fossil Bluff for the summer season. Fossil Bluff is a refueling station for BAS's four twin otters, which are used to support the science and logistics in the field. It is situated  on Alexander island and is about an hour and a half's flight South of Rothera. It consists of a small cottage which was build around 1960, a few sheds/out buildings, and a skiway (an unprepared snow runway). Although occupied during the during some winters in the 1960's and 70's, today it is a summer only station. However, the interior of the hut does not feel like it has changed much since people were wintering there, and staying there feels a bit like staying in a museum. 
Skiing above Fossil Bluff. Not a bad outlook. 
Myself and Steve were there for about ten days. Although we were quite busy dewinterising the cottage and preparing the skiway, we did manage to get out and about for a bit of skiing and mountaineering. Although the rock was quite shattered and the snow was a bit firm the situation made up for it. 
Julie having dinner outside the Pyramid tent at Castle depot with John the pilot and Adam the co-pilot.  
I was then recalled back to Rothera for a week or so in preparation for my next stint in the field. BAS has a number for fuel depots scattered around the British Antarctic Territory. Due to accumulations of new snow every year or two these need raised to the surface to prevent them from being buried. The plan was for myself and Julie (one of the other wintering field guides) to raise a couple of depots.

The first one of the list was Castle depot. Castle Depot is at almost 77 degrees South, and in view of the Ellseworth Mountains. Despite being over 1000 km from Rothera were were able to get there in a day due to consistently good weather conditions on route. 
Depot raising. There were about 50 aviation fuel in the hole in the snow that needed pulled out and stacked on the surface. Fortunately we had a skidoo to help. 
The next morning the plane headed off, back to Sky Blu (a deep field logistics centre which I spent a fair bit of time at during my first stint in Antarctica) leaving myself and Julie to start digging. It took us about a day and a half to raise the depot.  Fortunately during this time the weather was good with us. Unfortunately when it came time for us to be picked up the weather was not so good further North, and no planes were able to come out and pick us up. The following day the weather deteriorated with us, and we had about four days or so of lie up until a plane was able to get in to collect us. It was then back to Sky Blu for a few days. With the running of Sky Blu being someone else's responsibility it felt quite pleasant place to be, pottering around helping with a few jobs here and there. 
Good optical effects above the pyramid tent at Castle depot as the bad weather which had effected us for a few days cleared. 
By this point, it was getting relatively close to the time when I was suppose to be leaving Antarctica.  It was decided that it was too much of a risk to send me back out to get involved with raising any other depots in case I got stuck out, and missed my flight North. Therefore I headed back to Rothera on the next twin otter which was heading that way. 

Arriving back at Rothera I noticed an increase in both the number of people and wildlife on base. There were around 80 people, which although less than the peak numbers, was still much larger than the 22 of us who had wintered and so it felt quite busy. Wildlife wise the elephant seals had started arriving, and although there were not in full force yet, were starting to get in the way a bit. 
An elephant seal having a good scratch. The number of these guys around base had increased significantly just before I left. 
A few days later my bags were packed, most of my admin was sorted, and it was onto a BAS's Dash 7 to leave Rothera. As the plane took off and climbed away to the North I watched as Rothera, my home for the previous nine months, got smaller and smaller before finally disappearing into the distance. I pondered my feelings about leaving, about how a winter in Antarctica had effected me and whether/when would I be back. However, at that stage, only a few minutes away, it was too soon to answer any of those questions. 
The view from Rothera. How much would I miss it.  

Friday, 1 December 2017

The End of Winter.

Our camp at Myth. Unfortunately due to a combination of factors, I didn't get any routes done in this area. 

Firstly a wee apology for this post being a bit out of date. I had some technical problems which prevented me from updating my blog for a while. However, despite the delay I still felt it was worth writing about the end of the winter here at Rothera. 

After my winter trip with Zoe, discussed in a previous post, I had four more winter trips.  On the first two of these I managed to get through McCallum's Pass and over to the West side of Adelaide Island. The mountains there tend to be larger and more spectacular than on the Rothera side of the island. Unfortunately due to a combination of factors I was only able to look at these mountain, and was not able to climb them. Something to come back for perhaps?
Digging out windows of the accommodation building during Sepember. The snow is just about up to the roof,  and this is the less snowy side of the building.
During September the weather turned very stormy for a few weeks. Due to the weather didn't manage to get very far at all on my next winter trip. In fact most of it was spent digging out windows and doorways around base as the snow drifts reached roof level on a number of the buildings.

Towards the end of September the weather started to calm down. My final winter trip was a field guide trip with Bradders and Steve. With lots of daylight hours and two fit and keen companions I had I high hopes of getting some good climbing and skiing done. Unfortunately, the night before we were meant to head out the weather did something I had not seen before, it dumped about two feet of soft snow with very little wind. From a skiing point of view this might have been good. Unfortunately it was not very good for travelling. We tried really hard, but the skidoos kept getting bogged down in the deep soft snow, and after a number of frustrating attempts we failed to get more than a few miles fro base. Due to the snow and worsening weather through the week I only managed a couple of routes and a small amount of skiing all week. 
Steve driving through some deep snow. Unfortunalty the skidoos did not mamage very well in this snow, and we did not get very far.
However, when the weather and snow finally settled down in early october there was some good skiing to be had. 
After the field guides trip it was time to get the base into summer mode. This required some long hours, particularly from the mechanics who had to clear all the snow which had accumulated on the roads around base and the runway throughout the winter. After a few delays the planes finally arrived, slightly later than expected, on the 18th of October.
Watching the first plane coming in. Tom and Julie (seated) where on sea ice safety cover. Bradders (in red) and myself  just came out to watch.
The Dash 7, the first plane of the season, coming in to land. 
At the time I was slightly apprehensive of the regarding the arrival of new people, and the resultant change in the atmosphere. After all, there had been just 22 of us on base and we had not seen anybody else since the ship had left back in early April. Although there inevitably was a change when the planes arrived, this was not particular rapid or negative. Most of the people of the first few planes had spent a fair bit of time down here, and were people that I knew.  The first planes also brought a bag of fruit for each of the winterer's, which having not had any fresh fruit for about 6 months, tasted fantastic.

Although the arrival of the planes did mean that some of the freedoms of the winter were curtailed, it also meant the beginning of the field season began. For me this meant the opportunity to get into the field and see a bit of Antarctica, something which I will write about in my in my next post. 

The first fresh fruit for over 6 months, Amazing!

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Antarctic Entertainment.

The descent of Gwendoline, one of the local peaks which makes a good ski tour.
Before I headed South back in March, I wondered what I would do to keep myself entertained through the long dark Antarctic winter. In reality keeping myself entertained has not proved to be a problem at all, I fell like I have been constantly busy.
When I first arrived Rothera was on operating on summer work hours; 8.30am until 6pm Monday to Friday, and 8.30am until 1pm on Saturday. However, after the ship left the station changed to winter work hours; 9am until 5pm Monday until Friday.  
After work ski tour on the back of reptile ridge a couple of evenings ago. There is now just about enough light to get out after work.
At the weekends, weather and winter trips permitting, I have tried to get out skiing and climbing as much as possible. Unfortunately the weather has been very unsettled this year, and so I have not been out as much as I would have liked.
Soft snow. Myself enjoying some nice powder on the side of reptile ridge. 
Rothera is quite a windy place, and the snow we get here is often quite firm and wind affected. However, you do sometime get powder, unfortunately it does not tend to last very long before it blows away. There is some good ski touring in and around the Stokes Peaks, which are about half an hour skidoo drive from base. However, the number of skidoos we have access to is quite limited, which limits the number of people who are able to get out there. Reptile ridge, which is much smaller, but is much closer to base and can be accessed without skidoo can also give some good skiing.  
Climbing on North Stork. Conditions here were a bit better then on Reptile ridge, but not as good as over in the Stokes. 
From a climbing and mountaineering point of view the Stokes peaks offers the best option for day trips. There has been some good snow/ice on some of the routes this year. However, again access is via skidoo, and this as well as the poor weather, has limited how much climbing I have manged in the Stokes this season. Unfortunately the much more accessible reptile ridge has not been in great condition this year. Most of the ice here melted out last summer which was unusually warm and settled. Little ice formed here during the autumn, and so most of reptile consists of  unconsolidated snow on loose and shattered rock.

I have been trying maintain some kind of rock climbing strength. Therefore I have been training a fair bit on the finger board which I brought down with me and the small campus board which was already here. There is also a set of gymnastic rings, which are good for a cheeky half hour session at lunchtime. It will be interesting to see how I am climbing when I do finally make it back onto some rock climbing (although who knows when that will be). 
Trying to maintain some finger strength. 
There is a small gym at Rothera. I have found that half an hour or so on the treadmill or the rowing machine before work is a good way to start the day. On a Sunday evening and a Wednesday evening, Ben, one of the other winterer's, runs a Yoga class which have been going to. After nearly six months, I am slightly less inflexible than I was to begin with, but do enjoy the yoga class.

I have really got into playing go. Go is an ancient Chinese strategy game in which aim is to capture territory and your opponents pieces. The rules are very simple, but is is played on quite a large board (19 by 19) and the things tend to get very complex very quickly.
In the middle of a game of go. So simple, yet so complex. 
Then there are organised stations events. These have included film nights, crazy golf evening and an ongoing come dine with me cooking competition.
All this together with keeping in touch with people back in the U.K, keeping up this blog, and reading (there is a good library here), has kept me pretty busy. 
Steve, in appropriate attire, tee's off in the garage during crazy golf competition. 

Monday, 7 August 2017

The Return of the Sun

The sun peaks over the horizon for the first time in a month and a half. 

Although still in the depths of the Antarctic winter, over the last few weeks the days have been getting longer, and the opportunity to get off base to go climbing and skiing has increased. It was a about three weeks ago now, the 14th of July to be exact, that I saw the sun for first time since May. A group of six or seven of us headed toVals, the local ski slope above Rothera, with the hope of catching a glimpse of the sun.
At first out chances did not look good, a dense cold fog reduced visibility to a hundred metres or so. We sat around in the caboose (we small hut on skis which is parked up there) drinking tea and blethering. Then slowly but undeniably it started to thin, around 11.30am a hint of blue could be seen above, by midday the top of the slope was clear, and half an hour later it had all gone.  The sun then caught the top of the hills off to the right, and started inching it's way leftwards along the ridge above. I had just completed a run when I saw this happening, and after a rapid skin up the hill, and I joined the others up on the ridge above as the sun was appearing between a gap in the hills to the North. For the next half an hour or so our little group sat, mesmerised by the direct sunlight, the very faint warmth, and the colour. For weeks the world had been black, white and shades of grey, and then suddenly colour returned. It was quite profound to suddenly realise how much I had missed it. 
Zoe speaks about the winter. 
For the next few days the weather was poor, the world was once again bleached of colour. However, in terms of daylight, things start to change quite rapidly at this time of year. About a week after my first view of the sun from above Vals, the sun got high enough that, on a clear day it would be able to peek to over the hills to the North, so that Rothera itself would glimpse direct sunlight. This was marked by the flag up ceremony. In a previous post I wrote about how the oldest person on base (Trev the chef) lowered the flag when the sun disappeared in late May. The flag up is carried out by the youngest person on base, who this year is Zoe, the marine assistant.
Zoe leads interpretive sun up dance (although Zac in yellow looks
like he is going for the "I'm a little tea pot" dance). 
The weather had cleared, and around 1 o'clock on Thursday the 20th everybody gathered up at the flag. Initially the station leader Paul Samways said his bit about the dark period. He then handed over to Zoe who read out some thoughts about feeling of community which has developed on base since the ship had left. In the days before flag up people had joking suggested that she marked the occasion with interpretive dance. After her words she then surprised people by  getting a small set of speakers out of her jacket pocket, putting on some tunes, and doing an interpretive sun up dance before actually raising the flag.
Group shot after the flag up.
The following weekend, the weather forecast for the Sunday was good, and fellow field guide Bradley was keen to get out for a bit of climbing. We were both aware of an obvious unclimbed corner line on N2, one of the local peaks. We headed out at first light, and after a 30 minute skidoo ride and gentle downhill stroll we were standing below the line. It looked good but hard with a very thin line of snow ice stuck right to the back of the corner.  I offered to give it a go, and was soon engrossed in the intricacies of mixed climbing. It was thin, with lots of technical 6 and 7 climbing, and at times bold, but the squeaky snow ice kept beckoning me on wards. Eventually I ran of of rope, but was fortunate to find reasonable belay and slightly cramped stance. Bradley came up, muttering things like "thin", "no ice" and "how did you do this bit". 
Myself on the crux pitch of myself and Bradley's new and as yet unnamed route on N2. 
I took my opportunity ans hinted that perhaps it would be easier if I led the next pitch due to the way that belay suggested, and Bradley happily agreed to this. I continue up the gully above over a steep chockstone and up the up easier ground to behind the pinnacle. After that a few more pitches of easier ground led to the top, and a stroll back downhill to the skidoos.  The route, unnamed as yet, was about Scottish VII,7. 
Zoe emerging from the South Face of Wolf into the sunshine.
A week after that and it was time for the first of my second round of winter trips. For this trip I was   teamed up with Zoe. Zoe is keen, fit, is a quick learner, and doesn't complain much, so is a good person to get lots of mountaineering done with. We headed out a couple of days early, and came back a day late so as to maximise the opportunity to get things done. The weather was pretty mixed, with some a couple of big storms which dumped a lot of snow, but some cold and clear conditions as well.
In the end we managed  an ascent of Wolf and Trident on foot, a grade IV and a grade V ice route, and ascents of the peaks of Mouse and Gwendolyn on skis. Mouse and Gwendolyn were particularly good efforts given that Zoe had never been ski touring before, and her downhill experience had been a few days at Vals.