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Glencoe Feb 2008

Date: 3rd Feb 2008
Submitted by: George Carleton

Sandra Kennedy and I took ourselves off to Fort William for a spot of winter climbing. We were given hope of good conditions when on the drive up from Glasgow temperatures reached as low as -7 and there seemed to be plenty of snow, going by what was being illuminated by the headlights of the car.

For the first day we decided on Dorsal Arête, Stob coire nan lochan. The gullies where more or less out of bounds after large dumps off fresh snow giving them a category 4 avalanche hazard. After a long steep hoof in we reached the arête which seemed to be in fine condition.

Sandra tackled the first pitch, me the second, which left Sandra with the fin (the crux of the route). By this time we had a bit of company; about 8 other climbers waiting there turn. Sandra rose to the challenge and got past the fin which has a fair bit of exposure and then brought me up on a tight rope. Unfortunately one of the moves required a good hand hold and an ice axe was surrendered to the mountain.

The next day forecasted 85mph winds so we thought we would give the climbing a miss for a day and go for a walk up Stob ban in the Mamores. Unfortunately it turned out to be too windy even for a walk, as we had to turn back before reaching the coire.

Getting back to the car I realised my ice axe was missing. I had to march all the way back up the valley to where we had turned back before I found it. We retreated to the Ice Factor for soup and a bit of shopping to raise our spirits. When there we saw Dave McLeod, of E11 fame; which made my day.

Refreshed we returned to the wind and rain and did a bit of unethical but enjoyable dry tooling before calling it a day.

On our third and final day we tackled Curved ridge on the Buachaille. There was still plenty of snow in Glen Coe which seemed to promise good climbing conditions. There were two other groups of climbers ready to start the climb but we managed to get away first. I started off by tackling the most direct, if difficult line I could find, after a sideways step I was back on course and just about ahead of the others. Sandra and I moved together as much as possible, trying to keep a runner or two between us when we could find somewhere to put in gear. We ended up traversing into the gully which meant ploughing through fresh snow which was a real slog, before regaining the ridge proper.

(Sandra's input - this was an excellent Grade 3 route the majority of which was led by George and other parties trailing us. I heard one of the climbers behind us say she was glad that someone was blazing the trail).

On getting to the top of the climb the wind had really picked up and was blasting spindrift into our faces. We had anticipated poor conditions on the summit and Sandra had already programmed coordinates in to her GPS to get off the mountain. We were going to go down Great gully but with the wind blowing us off our feet and the gully being loaded with fresh snow and avalanche conditions still category 4 we followed a guide and his clients who thought it safer to go down the ridge. It was late in the day by the time we got back to the car, so we threw all our wet kit into the boot and raced down the road to Glasgow to catch our flight home with no time to spare.

All in all a great weekend which reconfirmed my love for the Scottish mountains under winter conditions which can be extremely wild, unpredictable and very full on.

Photo of Route