Wednesday, 29 April 2009

The North Buttress of Buachaille Etive Mor

Lots of scramblers were out and about on Buachaille Etive Mor today. James and I took the opportunity of dry rock and potential sunshine to climb the North Buttress, an impressive mountaineering route climbing from the path directly to the summit of the mountain. The lower part was rambling and easy, while the excellent upper chimneys provided several pitches of Moderate and Difficult climbing that we decided to rope up for and make use of the excellent natural belays.

All in all a fantastic day on the mountain, climbing a route I had wanted to do for some time now. We saw several teams on Curved Ridge, a group on Broad Gully Buttress, and many walkers going up and down the normal walking route (which still has snow patches, but not on the main path).

Photo album

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Sgorr Dhearg

Today I went scrambling with Vicky on the East-North-East Ridge of Sgorr Bhan above Ballachulish. Vicky had never climbed a Munro before so we chose a scenic, interesting, but not too difficult route to a high summit. As an added bonus, it was my first time in these mountains also.

Vicky coped well with the at times loose scrambling on the ridge, and as we climbed the clouds parted to offer excellent views over Loch Leven and down Glencoe. All in all a very good day in the mountains: sweeping ridges, a bit of scrambling interest, and a tremendous summit with expansive views. There is a little snow left on the open face of the mountain but none whatsoever on the walk up the ridge.

Photo album

Thursday, 23 April 2009


Today we went for a wander up into Coire nam Beithach with the intention of climbing No.3 Buttress on Stob Coire nam Beith. The route proved to be dripping with meltwater and generally disintegrating, not to mention the route-finding intricacies! After climbing part of what I believed to be the first pitch, I was forced to lower off a wire as the slabby traverse ahead was impossible to cross in boots. Our second attempt took us onto steep wet grass, overhanging choss and more sketchy terrain. Our pride in tatters, we retreated!

Instead of the buttress, we headed up into the coire beneath Bidean and followed the broad snow gully to the top. The snow proved to be thawing but firm, easy to kick steps in. Central Gully was not complete (neither were any of the routes on Stob Coire nam Beith), but we noticed that Hourglass Gully on Bidean's West Top appeared to be in good condition.

Rain to spread in from tomorrow. At the moment the mountain crags are a little more loose and wet than usual due to the continuing thawing of the snow, which will doubtless continue for some time.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Reiff and Sheigra

Winter has definitely come to an end in Glencoe, and the rock season has begun! With the promise of clean rock and warm weather, Isi and I travelled North with Jamie B and Lorraine to Reiff and Sheigra. On the first day we climbed loads of stuff at Reiff, including the classics Moonjelly VDiff*** and Tystie Slab VDiff***. Isi and I also got loads more Severe mileage under our belts which has improved our confidence on rock tremendously. We even managed a Hard Severe, the corner-route Meikle Neuk (Isi's lead).

After a full day at the crag we went and camped at Sheigra Bay, an idyllic spot with a good flat meadow for camping, despite a biting wind. The next day was spent spying out all the little geos and secret locations in the Sheigra cliffs. We climbed In the Pink (VD), Red Lead (Severe), and the excellent Tall Pall (Severe***), which was my lead. Tall Pall is located in the hidden Treasure Island area and featured a brilliant slab, an exposed traverse with dodgy footholds, and a steep wall to the top.

All in all an excellent little trip and a lot of good routes.

Photo album

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Fresh snow

Quite a bit of fresh snow down to at least 800m this morning, which will have had an impact on the avalanche risk in gullies. Bad weather to come over the next few days.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Coire nan Lochan today

As my brother James has recently arrived in Glencoe for the summer, but has done no walking hereabouts, we went for a wander into Coire nan Lochan for an introduction to the layout of the region. The weather was surprisingly good today, with only a little cloud hovering at about 1000m and no rain. Another surprise was the quality of the snow. The lowest snow patches were somewhat mushy, but as we moved into the coire things firmed up nicely.

Most of the easy gully lines are 'more or less' complete. Broad Gully and Forked Gully appeared fine, although it's anyone's guess what the turf is like in the middle of Forked Gully. Boomerang and NC were complete but the mixed steps appeared rocky. Buttresses are almost entirely free of snow. Dorsal Arete is probably climbable but cannot be considered in condition by any stretch of the imagination!

We walked up Broad Gully on largely excellent neve, with only the odd patch of softer snow. Clearly it had frozen overnight. The pack consisted of mostly homogeneous re-frozen grains, well bonded and consolidated. No avalanche risk whatsoever.

Upon visiting the summit we were treated to an excellent view of Bidean--looking very Alpine today--and Stob Coire nam Beith.

Facebook album

Friday, 3 April 2009

Another afternoon of climbing at Polldubh

With more fine, hot weather Isi and I decided to spend another afternoon at Polldubh doing some classic routes. First to fall was Tyke's Climb, the Very Difficult start to Repton Ridge, a route I had done a year earlier in big boots. We finished up Repton Ridge and found it easy but just as enjoyable and varied as I had found it last March. The so-called 'hand traverse' proved to have excellent footholds when wearing rock boots!

After that I led Three Pines (Severe 4a) which I found straightforward except for the steep crux section. Three or four tricky, committing--but well-protected--moves lead to an easy upper slab that was probably nearer Diff than VDiff thanks to the huge juggy handholds. I took my time at the crux on lead but ultimately found it easier than Fence Edge the other week, even though I seconded on that occasion.

The evening was ticking away by that point, but we still had time for one more route. The Gutter caught our eye as one of the classic Diffs at the crag. Since it looked easy, we soloed it and found it very straightorward but an enjoyable route nevertheless. Also managed to get a good look at the adjacent Pine Wall (now Hard Severe I believe), and have resolved to climb this at some point, when we feel ready!

An excellent day all-round, and a couple of days off well-spent. Tomorrow we are heading up the Ballachulish Horseshoe for an easy morning of walking before work.

Facebook album from today (including yesterday's photos as well)

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Polldubh this afternoon

Another day of fine, warm weather dawned with us taking a group of Clachaig staff to the Ice Factor for an introduction to climbing. John and Sue particularly enjoyed themselves and I suspect several of those present will be back for more!

By mid-afternoon we were on the way to the Fort for a quick session at Polldubh. We only had a short time before our bus was due so headed for Tricouni Buttress with the intention of doing Tricouni Slab, a classic VDiff I have wanted to do for some time. It proved to be an excellent route, exposed and not over-protected but the climbing was both of high quality and quite easy. I breezed most of the slab on lead except for one move which had to be figured out: eventually I discovered that I was starting a few inches too far to the right! With this realisation the move was completed with ease.

Today conditions were warm and dry, excellent for rock climbing. Large snow patches remain in Glencoe and I expect Coire nan Lochan is still mostly full of snow in the gullies. Temperatures are mild but are forecasted to fall over the weekend. I think it's safe to say that winter is over from the perspective of more difficult winter routes, but the easy gullies will be possible for quite some time yet if you choose your day, given clear weather and the odd overnight frost.

We're going back to Polldubh tomorrow for the whole day, so fingers crossed that it won't rain.

Facebook album for today