Sunday, 6 February 2011

The "Pearly Gates" (posted by James)

In the steep icy chimney on "Pearly Gates"


"Pearly Gates" (Grade II) Stob Coire nan Lochan, Glencoe.


In the last week I've seen some of the worst weather we've had since I moved to Glencoe. A savage storm ravaged the Highlands for almost 3 days…and along with the rapid thaws of the last 2 weeks it hasn't been looking promising at all for winter climbing in Lochaber.


But three days of no sleep was incentive enough today for me to get on the hill regardless of a fair deal of doom and gloom about conditions on UKclimbing.com. And I'm glad I did, because snow conditions in Coire nan Lochan were superb today.


Looking up to the small chock-stone.


I'd been wanting to climb a route called "Pearly Gates" on the summit buttress of SCnL for a while, but it has been out for most of the winter. In order to get a look at the full length of the route, I quickly climbed Dorsal Arete first and found it very different indeed to when I last climbed it a few weeks back. It is well banked out with iron hard nevé and perfect snow ice.


As Pearly Gates looked promising, I descended half way down Broad Gully and started climbing.


The bottom of the route was good value for the grade today - quite lean, with fairly thin ice mixed on frozen turf. But soon you arrive at the gates themselves, two large pinnacles split by a chimney with a chock-stone at the top. Today the chimney had a steep snow-ice pitch before the chockstone, and it's definitely an atmospheric (if short) route.


From the snow fan which ends the route I could see lots of other climbers, nearly all heading for Twisting Gully and Dorsal Arete.


Looking down on the "gates" from above


So things are much better than feared! There's been lots of freeze-thaw and so long as you go high enough conditions are grand. Be wary though…cornices still threaten the majority of the Glencoe gullies and some huge snow-bridges over the rivers and burns have collapsed fairly spectacularly in the last few days.


Two climbers head into Twisting Gully, a popular route today!


As soon as the weather improves I'm hoping to be spending more time on Ben Nevis and Aonach Mor….and then soon enough I'll be looking to Aonach Beag for some late season action.


James

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