Tuesday, 11 March 2014

The Traverse of An Teallach

 The Traverse of An Teallach (II****)
I think I lost one of my nine lives a couple of weeks ago. An instant stab of terror at the noise of a cornice collapsing, that sickening moment in a white-out when you can't see whether the debris is going to miss you or not.

It had been so much warmer than forecast, and I'd decided to retreat only a minute before it happened. If I'd been a bit higher up the slope? Who knows. Everything has felt so serious this season.

All that is a world removed from yesterday on An Teallach. For a whole day the sun shone and it shone bright, the air was calm and not a single snowflake fell. I'm still pinching myself. Some days this winter I've felt like it was going to keep snowing until the end of time. Given just how brutal the season has been, this feels like the most hotly anticipated high-pressure in history.

It has taken me 5 years of living in the Highlands to get up to An Teallach. I don't even know why, seeing as though it is widely hailed as Britain's finest mountain. The ultra classic traverse of its main ridge is one of the only 3 star Grade II's in Scotland that I'd not already done, and I can now definitely say it was worth the wait.

Looking back to some of the pinnacles.
The Corrag Bhuidhe Pinnacles lived up to the hype, a spectacular section of ridge with immense views down on the great wilderness of Fisherfield. I bypassed the first pinnacle but took the rest direct, finding Alpine conditions of hard neve and mainly dry rock. This section of the ridge is fairly serious in parts, as although it is possible to avoid some of the harder climbing, any bypasses involve exposed traversing on steep snow, which could be hair-raising of conditions were poor.

 Alpine conditions

The Alpine conditions continued, with some big avalanches echoing in the corrie adding to the ambience. Where the snow was exposed to the sun it was softening into sugar, and I started to feel like I was getting sunburnt. A slight heat haze hung over the North-West Highlands and the brightness of the snowfields was startling. Isn't it the best thing, being on the tops when it's like that?

Lord Berkeley's Seat 

 Beinn Dearg Mor

Sail Mhor and Liathach 

After I'd got past the difficulties on the ridge I found myself peering down at a fun looking gully filled with snow-ice. Too good to pass by so a quick descent into the corrie and I climbed back up The Spectre (II) which was a short but atmospheric route. All this perfect neve was making me too happy so I decided to descend North Gully (I/II**) to get even more.

Incredible views into the wilds of Fisherfield

As if I'd not been treated enough for one , three golden eagles circling over Glas Meall Liath caught my eye. I'd only ever seen three flying together once before on Skye, during my month there last year when I eagles almost daily. I've been so fortunate to spend a lot of time watching golden eagles but they still always impress, and are the icing on the cake of a perfect day.


1 comment:

  1. Hi James, loved the account and photos. Can I ask if it would be possible to have your permission to use the very first photo in this post, as a reference subject for a pencil drawing? I am an amateur artist specialising in photo realism. My usual work is portraits but I would like to try some mountainous landscapes. Thanks in advance.
    Mark Everson