Sunday, 19 February 2012

Unfinished business above Coire Gabhail (posted by James)

Something I've realised recently is just how inherent the theme of "completion" is in climbing. If you don't finish a route, or reach a summit, or achieve a goal there is always a feeling of failure.

Along the same lines it's the same with climbers who put up new routes and develop a crag - you always want to feel a sense of completion and you aren't happy until you feel like you've put it to rest.

This winter I've paid a lot of attention to the rarely visited West face of Beinn Fhada in Glencoe. I've done a few routes there but a while back I noticed an unrecorded narrow buttress on the right hand side of the Summit Buttress. It caught my eye, but despite a few vague attempts I hadn't got around to really trying to climb it yet.

Moody lighting over The Aonach Eagach

With a forecast for constant thaw starting tomorrow, I realised today would almost certainly be my last chance for turfy mixed routes on a relatively low crag like this. I wouldn't be happy unless I'd given this unrecorded route a go… I've grown very fond of this wild and beautiful mountain face above Coire Gabhail and I wanted to feel that sense of completion.

So at 6am I was once again making the relentlessly steep approach up the lower slopes of the West face. It was a beautiful dawn, the sunrise catching the summits and the Aonach Eagach putting on a fine performance in the crisp light.

The trouble with a crag like the Summit Buttress of Beinn Fhada is finding your route from the approach below. Everything looks so different from when you view it from adjacent summits, and the nature of the crag hides cliffs from view from below. But I know this area well now, and after a while I managed to find the narrow buttress I was interested in.

As I'd hoped, the cold North Westerlies had made Beinn Fhada a good choice to climb on today and the turf was nearly all very nicely frozen. After 100m or so of nice turfy ground I got to the bottom of the buttress.

It was a nice climb, mainly snowed up rock with turfy ledges in-between. I took the first short wall direct and it required awkward moves to haul myself to its top. After a flatter section there was then a steep narrow chimney to climb the second wall.

The second wall on "The Rhyme", I climbed a line up the right hand side of the photo.

Looking down "The Rhyme"

All this time I'd been eyeing up a slightly steeper buttress just to my left, so I downclimbed a short gully and climb this as well. Again an unrecorded route, and again an enjoyable one. It had two distinct cruxes, the first one an awkward corner which made me perform some fancy crampon-work, and the second a really nice steep crack up the top wall.

The crux crack on the second route

It felt so good…to be climbing with not a sight or sound of anyone else, and to top out into bright sunshine on the ridge crest. I continued over to Stob Coire Sgreamhach, and then up the majestic South East ridge of Bidean nam Bian, the sun slowly toasting my face as it reflected off the snow.

Bidean nam Bian's South East ridge

Both the routes I climbed today are unrecorded but very distinct and worthwhile buttresses so they are worth me recording:

"The Rhyme" II/III - the right hand narrow buttress. Take a first steep wall direct up to a turfy ledge. Continue to a second steep wall, climb this by either a narrow chimney on the right or a fault line on the left. Easier ground leads to the top.

"Last Orders" II/III* - the left hand buttress. Climb turfy ground to an awkward corner. After this easier angled ground leads to a steep wall split by a crack on the right hand side. Climb the crack and continue to the ridge crest.

("Last Orders" is appropriate…my last chance to climb on this face this winter, and also referring to a merry evening in the Clachaig last night…)

The blue arrow points to the top of "Last Orders", the red arrow to "The Rhyme"


1 comment:

  1. Hi James,
    Thanks for sharing your adventures, they make really wonderful reading. Great photos too. Been a follower for a year or so.