Thursday, 26 July 2012

The East Buttress of Coire Mhic Fhearchair

Looking up at my route, East Buttress (Difficult***)

I stared into the wild eyes of the red deer, shocked at the absurdity of what I was convinced was about to happen. On a narrow ledge on the Triple Buttresses of Beinn Eighe…and I was about to be charged head-on by a panicked hind who's only means of escape off the ledge was blocked by me. A brief moment of fear as we stared into each other's eyes, and the deer came straight at me. 

I pressed myself against the wet grass and grabbed a heather stalk…my only hope of staying on the ledge and not being knocked 200 feet off the slimy ledge by the hind. A scurry of hooves and noise and I opened my eyes. The deer barely missed me in its full-on sprint for safety along the ledge, and I continued along the so inappropriately named "Broad Terrace".

The view down from the Broad Terrace

That was my (frankly quite frightening) introduction to climbing on Beinn Eighe.

The more friendly side of Beinn Eighe, the climbs hide on the corries hidden behind.

Coire Mhic Fhearchair is an incomparable mountain corrie. Other corries are arguably more magnificent, but where else will you find such a perfectly formed arena as the Triple Buttresses? As a child I would look at photos of this corrie and long to visit it, stuck in the flatlands of Suffolk. As a 12 year old I couldn't have dreamt that one day I would climb one of the Triple Buttresses.

The grey and stony world of Beinn Eighe

Before this morning I hadn't been climbing for about 3 weeks. A minor foot injury had seen to that. But insomnia has made a return as well…so this morning it was time to try and restore some sanity, injury or not.

East Buttress is the left-most of the three buttresses in the centre.

I've climbed many of Scotland's great mountaineering routes, all of them solo, but a route in Torridon is a gap in my experience I've wanted to fill for a while. But the start to my day was not encouraging…low cloud, haze and mist. As I put on my boots to start the approach, midgies filled my ears, my nostrils, my eyes. Drops of rain fell from the sky. 

Sail Mhor from Ruadh Stac Mor

Too long a drive to not try…so after a lengthy walk I was in the entrance to Coire Mhic Fhearchair, finally looking up at the Triple Buttresses, my route the left-hand buttress.

East Buttress from below.

Apart from Quiver Rib in Glencoe it looked the steepest mountain Diff-grade climb I can think of. Steep, and pretty intimidating to set off up without a rope. But it looked good, really really good.


And it was. After my very near miss with the red deer on the (not broad at all) "Broad Terrace" I was soon climbing and really enjoying it. It is a superb mountaineering route…continuously steep with a choice of lines, exposed and in stupendous surroundings. And the crux is at the top, as it is with all great mountain routes -  a vertical corner which looked tricky at first but I soon squeezed up, feeling pleasantly secure after the slimy crux of the North-East Ridge of Aonach Beag.

The crux corner.

Then on over the Munros of Ruadh Stac Mor and Spidean Coire nan Clach and the sharp descent down to the glen. A great route of quality amongst the awesome Torridon landscape…another one to remember.

A stag on Spidean Coire nan Clach.


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