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From Big Snow To Big Thaw

Date: 12th March 2010
Submitted by: George Carleton

On Friday, 12th March, I met up with Sandra K for a last shot at some winter climbing. We blasted up to Kinlochleven in a brand new automatic car provided by the hire company.

The first day saw us heading for the Buachaille, the plan was to climb The North Buttress but some how we ended up on a buttress to the right, possibly great gully buttress. On getting to the top we still had plenty of time so we looked for other climbing possibilities on the way down Lagangarbh corrie, we turned our attention to a series of iced up slabs and corners which led to a good steep bulge of ice before reaching the top, I’m not sure what the route was but it felt like a hard III or easy IV.

Day 2 we headed for the Cairngorms and Coire an T-Sheachda, chasing the better weather. We settled on Patey’s route 120m IV’5 and were just able to locate the start of the route before it disappeared in a shroud of mist. The route offered interesting climbing and the second crux had me doing the splits while flailing for an axe placement.

We descended Aladdin’s Coulour to the base of the crag to look for another route, as it was still early enough in the day. I thought Doctors Choice IV’5 looked good in the guide, but I ended up on the Genie V’7 the first pitch of which was mostly torquing a thin crack with crampons scratching on a blank slab. On reaching the first belay we decided to retreat, as the route was not in condition and given the difficulty it would take longer to finish the route.

Day 3 was to be the big Ben day, we got up early and tramped up the Alta a Mhuilinn track in the rain through deep soft slushy snow, with a boot disappearing into a hidden stream every so often. On getting to the CIC hut we were soaked and dejected. The only sensible course of action was to turn around and head to the nearest coffee shop for a breakfast bap and a mug of strong coffee.      

The afternoon brightened up so we took a walk up to the water fall in Glen Nevis and I did a bit of bouldering.

Day 4 and the last one of the trip, we settled on Stob Coire nan Lochan and the Right fork of Twisted Gully 150m IV’5 which turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. The snow and ice was not as firm as it could have been but it still offered good climbing.

On reaching the top we were rewarded with great views of Dorsel Arête which was loaded with climbers, and of the surrounding mountains in all there splendour. Then it was time to make tracks back down to the car park, and make a dash for Glasgow and the airport.

With each trip to Scotland I always come away having learned something new, this time it was don’t use the break like a clutch on an automatic car, unless you want to put the passenger through the windscreen; Never eat at a little Chef, unless you want indigestion; Don’t assume you know where a route starts, and finally learn to live with the fact that conditions will always have been perfect the weekend before or after your trip.      

30 Mar 2010

Too true about the conditions. Has the egg on Sandra's forehead gone down yet after her unexpected windscreen contact? :)

31 Mar 2010

Thankfully the seat belt did it's job, i wouldn't want to be responsible for injuring someone studying law, could be expensive!

01 Apr 2010

your defence is to claim an unexpected reaction say e.g. an uncontrolled spasm as a result of seriously dodgy roadside tucker. In all honesty, I'd have to support you on that one!

Photo of Route
Sandra nearing the top on Right Fork of Twisted Gully - Sandra nearing the top of the second 60m pitch.