Saturday, 1 February 2014

White's Gully and Fuselage Gully

Beinn Eighe's Triple Buttresses.

Like most people, I whispered a quiet "wow" the first ever time I saw the Triple Buttresses of Beinn Eighe. I'd nearly been knocked straight off the (quite narrow) Broad Terrace by a panicked red deer, and rapidly fell in love with the place as I soloed the superb East Buttress.

I have very fond memories of that day, but the light had been that dull kind that you get on warm and muggy days in July, and I remember imagining just how fine it would be under a crisp winter sun. The wind had battered me as I topped out from Deep South Gully on Wednesday. Would the much-anticipated day of high pressure actually arrive on Thursday? I wasn't holding my breath. I think I'd probably had a lifetime's worth of blue sky days during the previous 4 winters.



Views to the Lochcarron hills at dusk the day before.



First light on Slioch, viewed from just below Sail Mhor.

But for the first time this season, Alpenglow lit up the mountain tops as I walked in to a climb. Mullach an Rathain glowed pink, the memory still fresh of my brilliant day in Coire na Caime earlier in the month. Fresh rime covered the cliff faces and yesterday's wet snow crunched underfoot, and the silence was conspicuously loud. All the other walk-ins have all been a stuck record this season, the sound of the wind not giving much else a chance.


The view North at dawn from below Coire Mhic Fhearchair.

Turning the corner into Coire Mhic Fhearchair felt as I remembered, but graced with winter it really is something else. I've climbed in most of Scotland's greatest corries in winter, but my imagination hadn't quite done this one justice. 



No matter how many photos I've seen of Fuselage Gully, there is pretty high novelty value to climbing up past Lancaster bomber wreckage and hooking your ice axes over a propellar. I guess it's one of those iconic places in winter climbing that you just have to go to at some point or another. Though most of it was buried, and the email I recieved when I got home asking if it was
banked out enough to ski did make me wonder.



Climbing up past and through wreckage of a Lancaster bomber wedged in Fuselage Gully.

To top out from a climb and then be greeted by 'that' view of Liathach is something pretty special. What next? Sail Mhor's giant gullies looked impressive and promising of the best vantage point from which to view the Triple Buttresses. The massive White's Gully is another one of the great giant Torridonian gullies, and it wasn't long before I was climbing up to its base.


Mullach an Rathain, one of (the?) most beautiful mountains in Scotland.


Sail Mhor. The bottom part of White's Gully seen on the left.

I made quick work of the long bottom half of the route, occasional steep steps adding interest to the already awesome surroundings. I was brought to a sudden halt when I turned a corner to find another team engaged with the crux, which looked about grade III,4 on cruddy ice. Hmmm...time to improvise.


Two climbers dwarfed by the massive White's Gully (II*).

The easy entrance to White's Gully.

A flick back through my photos of Sail Mhor seemed to show a traverse right was possible, that should bring me to join the crest of Ling, Lawson and Glover's Route. Solo traversing isn't my favourite part of any climbing day, and there's certainly added pressure when you're going into unknown ground. But ample neve and frozen turf made it a quick job, and after nosing around a bit I was on the crest of the buttress and soon on the summit.

Sail Mhor's summit is an inspiring place to be, the panorama over Torridon is world-class.There's probably more adventure in that view than you could fit into a lifetime.
I'll be back at the next opportunity.

James

1 comment:

  1. Great story - very inspiring indeed and nice pictures

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