Winter: The only way is ethics …

28/10/16: I’ve lost a bit of the fitness I built up hillwalking in the summer with a few weeks of a cold and post-viral knackeredness, but I’m still starting to think about a bit of winter climbing, the most fickle, tricky, but most rewarding of activities.

Good ice: Me on SC Gully
Good ice: Me on SC Gully

That trickiness means climbing ethics tend to be a bit more flexible om winter. There has been plenty of comment and debate about hammered pegs, although I still carry them in winter as a get-out-of-jail card. There has even been bizarre talk about the ethics of hanging on leashes. If you still have them, that’s what they’re there for  …

But are those things the ethics that should bother us? After walking in the north west I have been talking about winter trips up there: the guide Iain Murray was enthusing about the climbing on Liathach and getting round the back of there does not look too hideous a trek in. I’ve been tempted too by a suggested trip to Norway and then to Italy to bag ice.

There’s always this thing in the back of my mind about travelling long distances to winter climb. It’s obvious, isn’t it: We like winter,we want it, we want those big freezes – but those big trips contribute to global warming, surely? We can  justify it by saying the plane would be going anyway, my small bit of diesel used to get to Torridon is insignificant, and ‘if you take that attitude you would only go to where you can walk, cycle or  train it to,’ and none of those options are very practical for winter hits.

I’m certainly not going all holier than thou on this, and I’ve certainly made many a long drive for a brief encounter with the outdoors in the past

But a couple of years ago I managed to get six or seven good routes in over the winter, mainly with Gary Wroe, and never travelled more than an hour and a bit from Glasgow. That included steep ice on Good Friday (Taxus) and a couple of other decent IVs. It was mainly in the Bridge of Orchy area, and I think I had a day or two on the Cobbler too. Living where we do made it easier, but there was definitely a buzz from keeping the whole day shorter, spending less to get there, and climbing on the local hills.

Something to aim for?