Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Leococyte Buttress

 Leococyte Buttress (III*), the buttress in the centre.

Despite some of the on-line speculation that the winter climbing season had come to an early and abrupt end last week, winter's inevitable return has been a rapid one. Only 5 days ago the remaining snow cover in the West Highlands was restricted to a few high-up snow-fields and easy gullies, and yet things have changed so rapidly that plenty of teams have been out on successful accents of mixed climbs today and snow is lying almost to sea-level. 

A glorious day on Beinn a'Chreachain

With a freeze followed by a healthy dump of snow, I was very eager…no anxious…to get out climbing today. The last few weeks of thaw have left me more motivated than ever, and its reminded me yet again that you can't take anything for granted with a Scottish winter. The weather and conditions can change so quickly, you have to get it while you can.

 Magic at first light

Today I wanted to climb somewhere different. Although I love the feeling of getting to know crags, corries and mountains very intimately, there's always a great feeling that comes from climbing somewhere new. So I decided to take a chance that conditions would be good and headed towards Bridge of Orchy. 
 A cold wind and some mist for atmosphere

When I soloed "Stairway to Heaven" on Beinn an Dothaidh in December, it really opened my eyes to just how different climbing on those hills feels to climbing in Glencoe or Lochaber. The sense of space and the expanse of the view over Rannoch Moor is unlike the steep and precipitous surroundings of Glencoe.

Beinn a'Chreachain is the most northerly of the Bridge of Orchy hills, a long walk from the car and its corrie has a nice feeling of seclusion and remoteness. And it was here that I headed today, a walk of 3 hours through fresh snow before I reached the base of the corrie.

I arrived with an open mind, but quickly my sights were set on "Leococyte Buttress" (Grade III*). It was the central and most aesthetic of the buttresses in the corrie and looked to be a route I'd be comfortable soloing.
 Near the base of the route

The initial icefall mentioned in the guidebook was very thin so I climbed mixed ground to its side to reach the centre of the buttress. I became increasingly covered with spindrift that soon became non-stop….and it felt great to be in amongst real winter again.

 Turfy mixed.

I found the climbing straightforward and open to much variation. And I'm glad that I did, as today was a day to take in the glorious views that were becoming more wonderful by the minute. As the sky cleared and turned to blue, the sunny panorama over Rannoch Moor became absolutely awesome.

After soaking in as much as I could on the summit, I started the long walk back to my car with content. Today wasn't about the climbing, it was about exploring a remote and secluded place and savouring every moment, and about reminding myself that every day out in the Highlands in winter is a privilege. Roll on more.


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