Thursday, 9 July 2009

The Pinnacle Ridge of Garbh Bheinn

For months now, from Glencoe village I have been gazing out over the loch to the mountains in distant Ardgour and Ardnamurchan. Of these mountains, one reigns supreme over all the others in both height and grandeur, and this mountain is Garbh Bheinn.

Today we finally set foot upon this mighty peak, which by virtue of not attaining Munro height was completely empty of other people. Our original plan had been to climb the Great Ridge, a classic Difficult rock climb first done in the 1890s. For that reason we took only a rope and a token minimum of climbing gear. I was wearing my nailed boots and was confident they would perform well on the Gneiss of the mountain. It's all part of the ongoing experiment into period climbing gear.

However, when we reached the corrie it became obvious that the Severe Direct Start to the Great Ridge was the natural line, and it would be a shame to ignore the first pitches of the Direct. For that reason we decided to keep the Great Ridge for another day, and chose the slightly easier Pinnacle Ridge for our objective instead.

As we started climbing it soon turned out that my nailed boots weren't anywhere near as comfortable on the highly grippy, less than positive rock of Garbh Bheinn. I needed smearing ability; to compensate, I had to develop new climbing techniques fast!

The first tower on the ridge proved to be serious, with route-finding difficulties. Our way up was pretty stiff for Moderate. Isi led the corner and steep wall, and I seconded, finding it difficult on the tiny edges and dodgy smears. I feel certain that we missed the Moderate route and found a random variation, at about VDiff standard.

From the top of the tower, an easy but spectacular arete led to the final tower, which fell after some reconnoitering to find the easiest line. A knife-edge arete which I ascended a cheval led to the summit ridge.

The views were splendid, some of the best I have seen from any mountain in the region. We chose a long and leisurely descent ridge, with plenty of opportunity to soak in the fantastic views.

A grand day on the hill.

Photos from today

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