Wednesday, 10 November 2010

A busy day in Coire nan Lochan

With a perfect forecast, inspiration from James' tales of Dorsal Arete the previous day, and the threat of more storms on my days off, today we decided to seize the opportunity with both hands and go for a climb. Despite starting work at 12 we still managed to get a climb done on Coire nan Lochan. Leaving the car park at five, walking rapidly uphill in the dark, we arrived in the pristine upper coire just in time to see Alpenglow breaking over the cliffs. A beautiful sight!

On the walk up, most of the snow beneath the coire lip had refrozen hard overnight. We didn't actually need crampons, but did need to kick steps in places and an axe was required for the final climb up into the coire.

I quite liked the look of Forked Gully. This is a broad scoop directly right of Dorsal Arete, and normally gives a steep snow route with potential mixed ground in the middle. In the conditions, it consisted of frozen turf with a covering of powder snow; exposed rock was well-rimed and isolated patches of the steeper snow were bizarrely frozen iron-hard. We decided that the route was perfectly justifiable given the frozen turf, and indeed it proved to be quite fun, weaving around snow-covered slabs. The conditions were completely delightful: almost every axe placement gave a solid 'thunk' into frozen turf, most of the rubble was stuck down with ice, and there weren't even many powder drifts to get stuck into!

Once at the top we realised that, given a descent through knee-deep snow, I was at risk of being late for work. For that reason we didn't make the summit visit, but hurried down the ridge and back to the car.

On the way down we saw evidence of many other climbing teams, either on the cliffs or on the approach walk. Teams were on Dorsal Arete, a route on Summit Buttress, and plenty of other mixed routes besides. Forked Gully received one other ascent today; Isi, Graham, and Kev.

An excellent start to the season, and things are looking up for more snow (and possibly consolidation?) during the stormy period over the coming days.

Full photo album here.

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