Thursday, 20 June 2013

Quartzvein Edge

Quartzvein Edge (Moderate**), Creagan a'Choire Etchachan. The route follows the obvious central arete.

Two days spent around the Loch Avon basin has left me fascinated. Can this really my new back-yard?

Climbing here is so different to in Glencoe or the Cuillin. There it is all about steepness. Many find the approaches and walk-ins to the cliffs painful and laborious, they are sharp but short. But here some of the best climbing venues in Scotland lie at the end of long walks and lengthy plateau crossings…not places for those who seek quick fixes.

Looking across the Loch Avon basin to Creagan a'Choire Etchachan in the far distance.
Creagan a'Choire Etchachan
The idyllic shores of Loch Avon

It almost feels like you have crossed a whole landscape by the time you arrive at the cliffs of Creagan a'Choire Etchachan. A round trip of 11 miles and 4500ft of ascent isn't even that big to climb a mountain route by Scottish standards, but the scale and quality of the landscape that you cross to get there is quite amazing.

The Shelterstone Crag
Stacan Dubha

Female ptarmigan

Tuesday's attempt to climb was thwarted by the weather so I ended up doing a cheeky diversion to Beinn Mheadhoin, my 200th Munro. Hillwalking…oh yeah, I remember that! It has taken such a back-seat to climbing and hill-running over the last year, but I don't think I realised how much until yesterday. But spare time is such a precious thing, and I think you must spend it doing what really engages you, whatever that might be.

The tor on the summit of Beinn Mheadhoin, my 200th Munro
 Huge snowfields remaining on the East flank of Ben Macdui

So yesterday I was back again, but this time heading towards Creagan a'Choire Etchachan to climb. "Quartzvein Edge" - I liked the route name the moment I saw it in the guidebook. And I like the fact that the start of the route is marked by a small lump of quartz inset into the granite, a wee injection of character into the route before you've even started.

The start of Quartzvein Edge, with the small piece of quartz in the bottom right third of the photo.

Looking up.

The "red walls" of Creagan a'Choire Etchachan.
Routes that follow edges are often my favourite, and Quartzvein Edge's position directly over Forked Gully is pretty neat. I don't find climbing on Cairngorm granite very "obvious" at all yet so I'm being a bit cautious with the routes I'm choosing to solo, but this route was great laid-back enjoyment in a beautifully wild place.

Where next? And will the notorious Highland summer weather be kind to me?


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