Thursday, 16 January 2014

Quartz Gully, Fiacaill Couloir, Broken Gully and Spiral Gully

Underneath The Shelterstone

It is a good change sometimes to set out on a winter's day without really having a specific route in mind. I can end up being so focused on soloing a particular route sometimes, especially when it's one that I think is going to feel bold, that I can feel near blind to the bigger picture going on around me.

I was in an odd mood this morning, indecisive yet bursting with energy. From past experience, mornings like that tend to turn into "link-up" days - climbing on one crag then moving on to the next, moving fast and keeping all options over. I love these days - I know very few greater freedoms.

Fiacaill Couloir (II/III*) ended up being first, a route that had always looked like one of the best lines in the corrie and so proved to be today on my first ever time up it. It's a good job I wasn't out looking for the thrutchy chockstone move the route often supplies, as the great boulder was no-where to be seen under a deep cover of firm snow.

Fiacaill Buttress. Fiacaill Couloir (II/III*) is hidden above.

The entrance to Fiacaill Couloir.

Looking down from the top.

Half way up the weather rapidly turned Scottish, but some snow and a white-out didn't dissuade me from making a quick march down towards the Loch Avon Basin.

The Basin was fully earning its nickname of the "realm of the senses" today, the mist and snow dancing around the massive Shelterstone Crag and the sound of the river running deep below the snowpack. It's one of those places that I feel it doesn't really matter what you actually do.

Garbh Uisge Crag (right) and the Shelterstone (left). Quartz Gully (II/III*) is just out of sight to the right.

Quartz Gully (II/III*) on Garbh Uisge was the result of my trip down into the Basin, not a stand-out route in itself but the location is amazing, looking up at the North wall of the Shelterstone. I thought about another route down there, but it seemed to be warming up slightly and the snow was still feeling a bit damp so off I headed again.

Crevasses in Quartz Gully. No more photos of the route, the camera was getting soggy in the snow.
Back up Coire Domhain and down into Sneachda, and Broken Gully (III*) caught my fancy. The first half of this was great, continuously pretty steep and I was really enjoying it. But I got to the crux traverse, and the snow had become extremely cruddy and committing to soloing it seemed unwise. So I carefully downclimbed and went looking for what could be next.

Spiral Gully (II**) turned into my last route for the day, a nice rapid romp up steep snow . Three and a half routes I'd never done before, a day well spent.


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