Wednesday, 1 February 2012

A stunning day on Stob Coire nam Beith (posted by James)

A wonderful start to February

As I'm writing this the skin on my face is slightly sore, a bit sunburnt after a great few hours out in the sun and snow. Today was one of those days that makes you forgive all the weeks of drizzle and cloud, in fact the best day of the winter so far in Glencoe.

Clear skies over the Aonach Eagach

Under a clear and freezing sky I made the steep walk into Coire nam Beithach this morning, with vague plans for either Number 1 Buttress or North-West Gully.

A flawless morning on the way to Bidean nam Bian

But as I walked up into the corrie, I wanted to get into the sunshine as quickly as possible. The sky was turning bluer by the minute….today was a day for photography, not for climbing.

So I changed my mind and climbed Stob Coire nam Beith via Summit Gully (II*) instead, a route I'd never done and the most direct line to the summit and the sunshine.

Despite a bit of crust and slab the gully was in pretty good and fat condition. However this doesn't look to the be the case for the other gullies on the mountain which are all looking a bit lean. Arch Gully looks okay, but there isn't enough ice yet for Central Gully or Deep Cut Chimney.

A climber on West Chimney, Church Door Buttress

The top of Summit Gully is an atmospheric place - you twist and turn around a few large towers which divide the gully and you get a great view looking down.

But I wasn't really fussed about the route, I just wanted to get to the sunlit ridge above.

Hourglass Gully and Bidean's West top

It was a wonderful feeling, to pull myself over the steep snow lip and emerge into the sparkling and wintery world of the summit ridge. It was very cold indeed in the wind, but that didn't stop the sun having a bite to it… reflecting off the snow all around.

I made the wonderful and familiar crossing over to the summit of Bidean nam Bian, marvelling at the amount of snow that has accumulated in the corries below. Don't let some of the pessimism online about this winter put you off…there is a great deal of snow around and the high mountains are very much in full winter condition.

Old packed snowdrifts in Coire nam Beithach, about 12 feet deep

Sitting on the summit of Bidean in the sunshine, I couldn't help but think back to the legendary season of 2009/10….the winter when clear skies and frosty days were the norm. I don't know how many times that winter I stood on Bidean's summit and looked across the frozen and silent landscape of Glencoe.

But it's an experience you can never tire of…and to be up there today was just as exciting as the first time I ever stood on Bidean's noble summit in the snow.


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