"Ceannacroc Couloir" (II**) takes the wide gully just right of centre."Alpine" is the best term I can think of to describe the superb conditions high up in the mountains just now. Perfect styrofoam snow-ice in the shade, rapidly softening snow in the sunshine, slumping cornices, burning sunshine…the last few days have needed an approach not unlike that required in the Alps.
With the superb conditions continuing in the highest corries, I really wanted to tick off another item on my "to do" list today - a climb in one of the remote and unfrequented corries on the North side of the North Kintail ridge.
A stunning morning in Coir Lair
Snow starting to soften in the hot sun.
The massive snow faces on the North side of the North Glenshiel Ridge
After reaching a bealach at about 900m I made a long descent North down steep snow to reach the base of Sgurr nan Conbhairean's East face. The strength of the sun was quite staggering, and the blue of the sky was so deep it looked almost purple. In such conditions my objective looked magnificent.
Ceannacroc Couloir is a giant snow route, a 900ft long Grade II gully that split the East face. I've wanted to do it for ages, simply because it is known as such a good route in a wild and lonely place. It looked in perfect condition this morning, apart from one complication - the strength of the sun.
Looking down the 900ft length of Ceannacroc Couloir
I could see that the top layer of snow was starting to soften wherever it was exposed to the sun. The approach snowfield to the Couloir was mainly in the sunshine already, so I suddenly knew that I was going to have to climb quickly in order to get to the top before the sun's influence made the gully unsafe.
Amazing panorama over Glenshiel
The wild land North of Sgurr nan Conbhairean
The finish of the route was spectacular, a narrow and perfect snow areté that looked remarkably like a miniature version of the summit ridges of 4000m peaks that I've climbed in the Alps. With the sun starting to burn my face and fresh cornice collapses in sight nearby, I could very well have been in the Alps when I topped out directly on the summit.
The spectacular finish along the East ridge.