Wednesday, 19 January 2011

My hardest winter solo climb to date (posted by James)

Steep mixed climbing on one of the crux sections

Boomerang Arete (III), Stob Coire nan Lochan, Glencoe.

Even though I'm not too fussed about climbing grades, I'm like most climbers in that to jump a grade is always a psychological leap. Although I've climbed harder routes than Boomerang Arete, I've never soloed anything harder in winter.

After almost 3 weeks of no climbing at all, yesterday I was brimming with energy and enthusiasm. I find it's often good to seize it when it's there, and to try something ambitious…whilst still climbing within your limits.

A fair bit of rime ice and nevé

Scottish winter climbing requires a far more hardened attitude than climbing in summer, and patience and determination to go with it. Due to the inherent dangue of solo-climbing, I have waited to make this grade-jump until I felt entirely ready.

Boomerang Arete is a broken ridge curving up the summit buttress of Stob Coire nan Lochan. It's one of those routes that almost feels like you're discovering it for the first time, as route finding isn't obvious at all.
Boomerang Arete is approximately in the centre, curving up right.

It has a fair number of steep mixed steps, before becoming a curving snow ridge, with narrows of immense exposure in the middle section. I was treated to some good patches of nevé just where they were useful, although fresh powder snow made things more difficult than they could have been.

I also liked the fact that the route had a sting in the tail, an awkward chimney to by-pass a wall right at the very top of the route once all the other difficulties have been passed.

The narrow and exposed section near the top

Conditions in Coire nan Lochan were better than I'd hoped generally. A fresh layer of snow covers an old hard snow-pack, but whilst constantly assessing conditions I didn't find the avalanche risk to be too high today. Be warned though, cornices threaten Forked Gully (right fork),Twisting Gully, SC, NC, and North West, and none of these routes have seen much traffic since the fresh snow.

So all in all, a brilliant return to winter climbing after 3 weeks of no activity. Nice also to talk to a few of you up there today who recognised me, I hope you all had as good a day as I did!


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