Sunday, 22 January 2012

Alpine Scotland: a photo essay

Myself and Stephi have been meaning to climb together for a while. A high pressure system on the horizon and some big plans led to a weekends fun in the Northern Corries. Through the Dundee Rucksack Club, a large group of us were doing an MCofS winter climbers workshop. I had the stirling idea of booking a YHA for the night so we could have two days in Aviemore and it would be grand. It was grand in the end, but organising certainly isn't my fortay!

A 5.30am start from Perth should see us into the Loch Avon basin pretty early right? Well, yes it would if we hadn't chatted too much and gone 25 miles north of Aviemore before realising. With the early start wasted we raced up Fiaciall a' Choire Chais in perfect sunshine. I decided to take my SLR with me on this day and was so glad I did. I feel the quality of photos is so much better over my compact. So, apologies in advance if this is a little 'photo heavy'.

 We were treated to an inversion on the way up. The shadow of the plateau cast over the clouds was awe inspiring. It was tempting to strip down to baselayer only it was so warm...this was not a great sign.

Making good time we were optimistic about the route planned for the day. Deep Cut Chimney IV,4 looked from recent blogs as a potentially 'in' mixed route on the only crag retaining much winterness. 

Everything went wrong, starting with decision to reach the base of the route with just ski poles and crampons - no harness on yet (?!). The apron just got steeper and without realising we found ourselves on ground we didn't really fancy gearing up on. Cue Stephi guiding my legs loops over my crampon spikes on a pretty small ledge with no belay options. Lesson learnt - gear up early!

At least I know my gear is good!

I did the first pitch which was a little unconsolidated but otherwise okay, then Stephi did the next which from the noises she was either enjoying or getting gripped! I wasn't too sure until I reached her. After quite a long time I seconded up to find a 7 point spiders web, I mean belay. "I wanted it to be good" she said. Well, it was bomber no doubt about that!

Perfect place to spend time standing around.

Generally being a little disappointed with the condition of the route we made a decision at the next belay. I inspected a little further up, but not far enough that I couldn't reverse the moves, however it just looked like a summer route further up. We were having such a lovely day in the sunshine, we didn't see the need to scratch up the bare rock that appeared to be ahead of us. Plus we were a little behind time. So, we did some sketchy abseils back down to the basin and started walking out. (Note to self: don't be afraid to leave more gear!)

Perfect end to the day

The following day we had an excellent winter climbers workshop with Kevin and Carl. We went right through all the prior research if you like; conditions; weather; avalanche hazard. We then went up into coire an t-sneachda to talk about where to gear up (a day too late!!) and practised making snow bollards and buried axe belays, amongst other little tidbits from the instructors. Overall a really helpful day.

Climbing Ninja strikes again

This is how you sit....

Note: this was a pre-dug anchor and Kevin requested me to say this was not his, as it was 'piss poor'....or words to that effect.

The penguin brigade

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