Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Odyssey and Langsam

The first icefall on "Odyssey" (II/III*), Bidean nam Bian

It just keeps coming! 10 days straight of sunshine, cold nights, firm snow and stonking conditions on the highest mountains. Almost too good to be true. But true it is, and the last 10 days have been some of my most active ever during a winter season.

In some ways I've neglected Glencoe a bit this winter, preferring instead to climb in new venues and explore different places. It has been brilliant, but climbing on Stob Coire nam Beith the other day made me realise I've missed climbing in the Glen. There is so much quality on my doorstep, too much to ever tire of.

It had been a while since I'd climbed on the ever popular Stob Coire nan Lochan. It used to be a regular haunt when I first came here, until I realised I preferred the obscure and remote to crowded and classic.

 Coire nan Lochan at first light


That having been said it is one of the finest corries around, something I was reminded of vividly this morning. My plan A didn't was not to be, but the startling dawn was reward enough for being up so early. I seem to have seen a lot of startling dawns in the last ten days.

Change of plans, and over to Summit Buttress where I found great nevé and some enjoyable steepness on "Langsam" (II*), a route I'd never climbed before. The guidebook description confused me (as it seems to a lot of people) but I followed a twisting icefall over several bulges to reach a narrow groove running towards the summit, with great quality ice and snow throughout.

Looking up to the next ice bulge on "Langsam" (II*)
The view to Bidean on a morning like today is quite something to behold, and immediately I gave into temptation and set off up towards its summit to try and climb another route.

Bidean nam Bian's North ridge

Looking towards Stob Coire Sgreamhach

On the steep ground to the right of Hourglass Gully are a series of icefalls coming down slabby ground to reach the snowslopes below. I'd noticed an entry in the 2011 SMC new routes journal about one of these, and it became my second route for the day.

"Odyssey" (II/III*) started with a short icefall - bomber hooks and reassuring footplacements throughout. After a short section of steep snow you reach the upper half of the icefall, and here things changed quite rapidly.

Great nevé on the first icefall

Whilst the lower icefall was on thick nevé, I found the ice to be crusty and far less fat on the upper half of the route. It certainly focused the mind…occasional "dinner-plate" pick placements seeming alien compared to the conditions I've been climbing in all week.
Odyssey climbs a partially snow-covered icefall towards the right of the photo

The route was continuously quite steep with no rests at all, and although no-where harder than low-end Grade III ice, it felt like a committing and fairly serious solo.

How much longer will the great conditions last?…


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