Friday, 29 March 2013

Central Couloir (Right-fork), Stob Coire Sgreamhach

 The Central Couloir (II*) - in the shade just left of centre. The short Right-fork (III*) is hidden. 

You know that sinking feeling you get when you realise you've lost something really important? That's just what I felt half way up my route today…where the hell were my car keys?!

After fruitlessly searching every pocket and depth of my clothes and rucksack, there was nothing for it but to continue my climb and deal with it later.

On such a stunning morning it was not hard to very quickly forget my troubles. In the four years I've lived in Glencoe I've been privileged to see it from many angles and in almost every possible lighting and weather conditions. But I'm not sure I've ever seen it looking quite so beautiful as it was today.

Coire nan Lochan on finest form.

The mixture of spring and winter conditions in the mountains often brings out the very best of the Highlands, and so it is just now…is there anything better than walking through warm sunshine to go and climb an icy mountain face?

Coire Eilde in Glencoe is a firm favourite of mine, one of the least frequented corries in the Glen but in my opinion one of the finest. Nearly all climbers coming this way are headed towards the classic Sron na Lairig, so deeper into the corrie is a place of solitude but Alpine character.

Coire Eilde

Cornices at the start of Eilde Canyon, where ice routes were being climbed today.

I'd climbed Stob Coire Sgreamhach's East face before, but until today I'd never got around to the grand "Central Couloir" which splits the face. It is similar in appearance to the Central Gully of Ben Lui, but a bit steeper and from what I've seen is blocked by a chockstone when lean.

I had to climb fast to avoid the rapid effect of the warm sunshine. The East face had been wind-scoured and was largely void of fresh slab, but the sun was quickly softening the nevé and any ice not in the shade. I took the main section of the couloir at great speed, but stopped quickly when I realised my car keys were absent without leave….

Impressive surrounding in the couloir
A minute later I discovered a hidden fork heading out right from the couloir. It was much steeper (grade III), and was obviously a much more interesting exit onto the upper slopes. The ice was in fantastic condition and first time axe-placements all the way made it a really enjoyable and unexpected twist to the day.

The Right-fork (grade III). Ice in good and enjoyable condition.
 Huge rime crystals on the Beinn Fhada ridge

A careful descent of the Beinn Fhada ridge (the bad step can be avoided entirely just now, heavily banked out) took me back to my car…where I found my keys sitting on the roof of my still un-locked car. I smiled - it would't have been fair to have such a great morning spoiled.


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