It was a good decision, and after some brushing up on crampon skills, axe use, self-arrest and the rudiments of belaying, we made quick progress up the easy ground to the first belay proper. The snow was encouraging, firm enough for good placements and footwork, and we expected it to be so as we climbed.
After a practice sling belay lower down, the first stance was at a bomber flake at the left side of the gully entrance. I set off on good snow, and soon got a nut runner and then a bomber hex in, so we were very well protected. What looked like the next belay was on a stance at an easing of the angle of slope, but the rock looked very friable, and despite having an inviting crack, I judged it to be too loose.
Pressing on almost to full rope length, I constructed a convoluted belay in some less-than-inspiring choss, but judged it safe enough. There was rock spike giving some protection from anything I might dislodge as I progressed too, so happy with the angle of pull, Frankie lay back and weighted the belay to keep it firmly home.
The last pitch promised to be the best, with some obvious ice to the right on the exposed slab, and the exit slope getting up to around 70 degrees. I set off with relish, but soon was disappointed. The snow had melt-water from above permeating through it, where the sun was on the rocks above. This meant it got less secure as I ascended. The ice we could see was a veneer of re-frozen melt-water from earlier that day, and it was now dripping. Drat! As I climbed, I hoped for at least one runner to supplement the one nut I had managed to place below. That would at least mean if I did set off a mini avalanche, I wouldn't go down with it on top of Frankie!
I gingerly climbed, ensuring each foot placement was as solid as I could, the rock roof above me offering the only chance of a runner. Meter after metre passed, and it looked like I was just going to have to chance it. Then, as trended left on even worse snow, I saw a crack above and to the rear of my left shoulder. A small No.3 nut went in at a perfect angle of pull, and I knew we were safe. I was able to then climb horizontally right and onto better snow and pop out into the sunlight rather more confidently. The snow required a full plunge of each axe to give any purchase and a hefty kick in, but the glide crack at the top that betrayed its fight with gravity to stay on the mountain was still frozen enough in the depths of the snow-pack to make it justifiable.
I had some fun building a respectable belay on the mica schist, as it had few cracks, but after a few minutes, the call to 'climb when ready' was given, and Frankie ascended into the sunlight, enjoying every minute.
We then had a late lunch on a splendid viewpoint before gearing down and passing below Great Gully on the way down. We could see the corniced steepening at the top, and could assess from the slushy nature of the snow that we were on that we had made the right choice. In the right conditions it would be a great enchainment of routes though - One for the future! The walk down in big boots from 800m to sea level with the heavy packs was interminable as ever, but the views were good, and the sense of satisfaction of making and executing a plan well was palpable over a pint in the Ben Arthur, where we could see our day's work.
Til the next time son............ :)