Went up north for a long weekend with Andy, having not done much in the way of anything recently, and specifically winter stuff given all the cold and snowy spells we’ve had recently.
Despite the demise of my legs since October’s silliness, resulting in the usually unpleasant walk-ins being slightly more so, I seemed to enjoy the suffering of early starts, heavy packs, long days, cold belays and general winter climbing fear. Looks like my winter mojo’s back and I’m keen for more!
After an alpine start from Penrith on Saturday, we drove north and arrived in reasonable time in Glencoe, for the slog up to Coire nan Lochan. Andy picked out a lean looking mixed route, and after I dispatched the approach pitch, set about grunting up the next corner pitch.
Fortunately, having not done much in the way of hard mixed climbing for a number of years, this gave me the opportunity to remind myself what it’s all about with the security of a rope above, prior to tackling the next pitch whilst trying to ignore the exposure. A few exciting moves were offset by reasonable protection, and my progress could have been a bit less snail-like, but all-in-all I was pretty chuffed with myself.
After some deep fried dinner in the anti-bustling Fort Bill, we headed over to doss in Creag Meagaidh car park, in preparation for another early start. Occasional heavy showers during the night indicated the forecast change in the weather, and we had plenty of time during the two-hour plus walk-in to enjoying the now well-made path and contemplate the benefits of wearing trainers rather than plastics next time! Approaching Coire Ardair as the light grew, we could make out reasonable build-up at the base of the major gullies, but much of the hill was shrouded in mist. We opted to head into the inner coire to have a look at a couple of the classic ice-lines, and were immediately drawn to The Pumpkin, the small amount of which we could see looking brilliant. Long story short, we romped up it.
Descending from the ‘The Window’, a cool looking wind-scoured bealach, we had plenty of time to scope out the other lines now the cloud had lifted a bit, and even consider doing another route. Knowing my feet still had to walk me the two hours back out, and do another day on the Monday, I suggested we continued scoping the place out for future trainer-clad visits!
Continuing the move eastwards, we headed to Aviemore, took in some glove shopping, treated ourselves to some Australian/Mexican flavoured calories, and a beer or two in Glenmore Lodge prior to dossing once more in a car park, this time at the Cairngorm Ski Centre.
A lethargic start saw us wandering in slowly to Coire an Lochain to see what we could find. Reports from the lodge spoke of blackening buttresses due to the rising temperatures, but a cool, damp north-easterly of increasing strength overnight seemed to have done the trick. Wandering up the approach slopes into the ming, a well-rimed buttress appeared, sporting a nice little direct line. With Andy duly appointed to do battle and make inevitable slow progress up this, I concentrated on enjoying the winter elements and keeping ‘warm’.
T’was an interesting little pitch, and a good lead by Andy, requiring pretty much everything in the way of precarious winter thrutching. This took us to join up with the original route up the buttress, and now full exposure to the ‘breeze’. With as little fuss as possible, we had a quick change over, a romp up good snow to the top, and back down the adjacent couloir to the relative sanctuary of the coire.
A great weekend away, and sure to be followed by more in the near future.