Back to Logbook Archive for 2012 | Back to Home Page

Winter Wonderland

Date: 15-18 Feb 2012
Submitted by: Des O'Connor
 Initial plans were laid - staying in Glencoe with a specific route for each of the 3 days of our trip. Some mileage back into the legs via the mighty Bluestacks and the odd forest run in the Gortin Glens and we were good to go - but then we received stories about thaw and drizzle and our hearts sunk. Weekend warriors have little room for moving departure dates so off we went - ferry out of Belfast on a spanking new boat and we arrived at Glencoe Independent Hostel for 2am. Day 1Had to start late due to a crampon problem that required a visit to Nevisport in Fort William. The reports were confirmed-  the Buachaille and Aonach Eagach were not in full winter conditions. So we headed to the North Face car park for the 2hr hike into the CIC hut. Snow was at 800m and cloud cover was from 900m and we were not 100% confident of getting our route. We could see parties on a snow ramp at the bottom of Gardyloo gully so we just followed suit. We had ourselves a good winter hike up the snow gully with some soft snow making the going hard and we soon made out Tower Scoop due to a break in the cloud cover.  There was a queue at this ice route so we moved on past and onto steeper ground, as the eerie looking cave/chockstone at the top of the gully made the occasional appearance through the mist. We made the cave and moved through - superb! With thumbing heart rates we took a look at what was the final section. Again a party of 3 were attempting the last pitch and it looked more than our grade II tools could handle! Never mind our squeaky pants! So with a good array of rational reasons we decided to bail and down climb the gully. People were still waiting to get on Tower Scoop as we were beginning to glissade [bum slide] down the rest of the way :)  Day 2Back in and up to the CIC hut once more, but we must have met everybody and his dog on the way off the mountain - rain, low cloud cover, mushy snow. We ploughed on hoping for a miracle. The hut came into view and the drizzle stopped - the Alt-a Mullin was in full flush with the thaw and we made tough enough going of getting across.  We could see parties heading up gully no. 5, so we tooled up and again followed suit. Just as we hit the first turn onto Ledge Route the cloud parted and we had blue skies and white tops - a miracle! With two parties in front the first pitches were slow but as we rounded the ledge we noticed they had bailed down the snow ramp and we had the route to ourselves! Alpine style the rest of the way as we were rewarded with blue skies all the way to the summit. We descended through the boulders/scree onto the shoulder and down towards the top car park as we negotiated the beam across the river by head torch. An excellent adventure! Day 3 With time restrictions due to our ferry return we decided to go for the Dorsal arête. Day 3 legs were now suffering on the steep pull up to Corrie nan Lochan. But it was well worth it - a winter playground opened up in front of us as up to 30 climbers/walkers were in the Corrie. We could see no one approaching the arete or coming down the gully so we started to second guess our plans but we headed over to have a look. All seemed well so we began to move up the snow slope towards the start of the arête. Alpine style again and with mixed leads we headed over the arête. More ice than snow, compared to our last 2 days and both axes were getting planted on the occasional sticky points. We traversed under the final knife pinnacle as a party of 3 were roping up to climb the pinnacle with full leader protection. Out through the chimney and we were on the summit ridge within the hour. Fighting time we down climbed broad gully with a great slide as the gully opened out. Down to the car, slow going with my knees, quick change in the rain and off to the ferry like a dog with two tails! A great trip - it is a privilege to be able to climb in them mountains. A special thanks to shir Iain Miller for his instruction over the last two years that enabled me to get onto those routes and climb - and come home!

20 Feb 2012

Oops - I forgot to say folks the "We" was myself and Shane Taggart.

20 Feb 2012

Good report, sounds like you's had a great trip.

20 Feb 2012

Well done lads, great pic

26 Feb 2012

Well done lads. Great photo - looks like Ledge Route.

27 Feb 2012

Spot on Columba, just b4 she opens up - first class!

28 Feb 2012

Excellent Des, you use the force well young O'connor. :-) Now Sir you have much more pressing matters at hand with a new wall on Cruit. :-)

Photo of Route