Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Perfect sunshine on the West Buttress of Sgurr Mhic Choinnich

West Buttress (Diff), Sgurr Mhic Choinnich - the steep central buttress leading to the central summit

I get totally spanked by a route in Coire Lagan yesterday, without actually even setting foot on it. I'd stood underneath the long and steep West Buttress of Sgurr Mhic Choinnich (Diff) and hadn't been able to commit myself to solo it…a wrong mindset and a cold wind sapping away any sense of bravery.

By the time I'd got back to my car I'd let that decision really get to me, and I spent the whole day feeling quite low and lacking in confidence. Negativity like that can be extremely damaging to someone who always climbs alone if you don't deal with it…so today I went back into Coire Lagan to deal with it.

Unbroken sunshine in Coire Lagan
What a difference the sun makes. Standing at the foot of the route again, I couldn't have felt more different to how I had just 24 hours earlier. Not a single cloud in the sky, and warm sun starting to kiss the rock…today I couldn't wait to get up there and deal with my unfinished business.

A very different morning to yesterday

 Sgurr Mhic Choinnich's right-angle profile

West Buttress is the direct route from the coire floor to the summit of Sgurr Mhic Choinnich, a fairly intimidating line but to me an inspiring one. Its steepness increases with height and by the time I was climbing the middle sections, it almost felt to be overhanging the lower half of the route.

The extremely steep top third of the route ahead
Looking across to West Buttress, just left of center
After pulling round a nose I was suddenly amongst the upper rock-band and the route starts to become spectacularly steep. An enjoyable chimney takes you to the famous "Collie's Ledge", a place that had amazed me on my first trip to the Cuillin a few years back.

The steep groove leading to Collie's Ledge, and the upper crux above
Mountaineers on Sgurr Sgumain

It felt absolutely brilliant to climb straight up from Collie's Ledge, up and along a thin traverse in a position implausibly steep for the grade but on totally perfect rock. And it felt even better to be enjoying it immensely, not feeling any of the fear that I'd anticipated yesterday, and had turned me back empty handed.

 Looking to the central Cuillin

 The extremely steep last pitch leading directly to the summit.

The very last move of the route finishes directly at the small cairn of Sgurr Mhic Choinnich's narrow summit, and I sat there grinning in the hot sun. Continuing over An Stac Direct (grade 3/mod) and Sgurr Dhearg just for the hell of it was as much of an excuse for more sunshine as anything else.

An Stac (grade 3/mod) as an afterthought before my descent

The Inaccessible Pinnacle
It can be very confusing being a soloist sometimes. It's all in the mind…I'm very glad I went back to finish the job.


1 comment:

  1. Nice one! I know what you mean about mindset on different days and oh what a difference the sun makes! I'm yet to get back on the rock after sitting on a ledge half way up The Ordinary Route, Idwal Slabs, after my head went :-/ Cheers for the post, inspired me to get back on it!