Friday, 22 January 2010

Scotland Conditions Shaping Up Nicely

Since making the drive North last Friday I have been on the hill every day. Last weekend I was working for Nick at Alpha with Glen and Rob. This was an intro winter course, but as they had been out trying there crampons out we decided to do Dorsal Arete on the second day - a fine grade II climb in Glen Coe.

I then met up with friends Kath, Paul and Mat on Monday. We initially headed to do Cairngorms to find much snowier conditions. Up on Fiacaill Buttress we soon discovered its white appearance wasn't soft snow but well frozen snow ice. This allowed us to climb anywhere, but a lot of time is needed to dig out the cracks for protection. An ascent of the Couloir was chosen then a top rope session of Belhaven, The Seam and Short Circuit (all very different to last time I climbed them).

We were all keen to climb in NW on Tuesday and Wednesday, somewhere I have been climbing only a handful of times. The first day we made the long but steady walk into Beinn Eighe and the imposing Triple Buttress. Last time I was there I made an ascent of the Central Buttress seconding the memorable crux. This time it looked a little blacker than hoped. Mat and I climbed East buttress that had good snow and neve on the ledges, though the steeper bits were dry and so we used just 1 axe to ascend. A great route though.

On Wednesday, after much debate, we decided to stay in the NW and drive to Glen Carron to look at Sgorr Ruadh. After a little confusion navigating around a deer fence and a 2 hour walk we looked up, to find, nothing that resembled winter! To save the day we went up a grade I gully on hard neve, finding a snowy branch higher up (possibly grade III) before descending another gully on the far side of the top plateau. Not quite as hoped but not a completely wasted day.

So Thursday I returned to the West and was working with Adele and Jagged Globe. The clients, Paul and Bob, had already done a few routes and were keen for ice so the West Face of Aonach Dubh was chosen. We went up the long and varied number 3 gully - which was new to myself, Adele and Al Halewood who was also there working. Some good initial grade III ice pitches lead to a snowy gully and bits of easier ice higher up. Just when you I though it was all over though the climbing continued over rock steps and snowy flanks before eventualy topping out by the Lochan descent. Fun journey.

That is the last 6 days in a nutshell. Need to now get a new camera to replace my broken one so I can display some more pictures.

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