First light catches the top of the beautiful Central Buttress (II**), today's solo.
An absolutely magic dawn this morning started off my best day of climbing so far this winter. It's amazing how quickly the day can seem to take the shape you want, after you've watched the sun rise from a mountain side.
A stunning sunrise as a pair of climbers gear-up.
The Black Spout area, heavy but firm snow cover.
During the long drought last summer, one day I was in the corrie intent on climbing the impressive Central Buttress. I didn't even start it, the dripping and slimy moss covered rocks at the beginning of the route quickly persuading me to go climb something else. But my lasting impression was that it looked like it would be a really good climb in winter.
The legendary corrie of Lochnagar. Central Buttress prominent on the left.
Looking down the initial gully to reach the buttress.
And so it promised to be today, the moss covered rocks hidden under several feet of perfect nevé and a thick covering of snow from bottom to top. The violently gusting wind at the col had moved elsewhere, and I counted all my blessings that I was here at the right place at the right time.
The long and steep climb up to the crest reminded me a bit of "Stairway to Heaven" on Beinn an Dothaidh, turfy steps which are sometimes a little more awkward than they look. About half way up I had to do a bit of head-scratching, a choice between a hollow icy ramp or a short, awkward groove that throws you off balance. I tried both, then tried the groove again and found a buried placement for my left axe which made the whole thing easier.
Soft morning lighting.
The upper crest, big exposure on each side.
Massive cornices along most of the corrie rim.
My first winter route on Lochnagar, and I already can't wait to get back there. I don't think that view of the gentle curving arc of buttresses and gullies will ever get old.