Monday, 30 January 2012

A picnic at 1000m

After driving what seemed like a billion miles for my friends wedding in Stafford and a late evening at the Banff UK screening in Glasgow, I stopped at Stewart's flat for a couple of hours kip before heading up to Glencoe.

Plan A was North Buttress on Buachaille Etive Mor however from the Kinghouse carp park it didn't look favourable. Plus, I was quick to mention that I was absolutely shattered. Paradoxically, I did then go on to suggest we try Raeburns Route IV,4 in SCNL, with probably the stiffest walk in the Glen! Fatigue aside we packed bags and started the arduous slog uphill.

The standard approach time of 1hr45ish raced by in sweat soaked conversation. It was warm! We arrived in the coire and were treated to some dramatic views of the buttresses disappearing every few minutes into the cloud. There were lots of teams in the coire, spread all over the place. Two teams were on Raeburns and in the time taken to gear up and approach, the first team hadn't got too far along.

We decided to change plan and try a direct approach on Dorsal Arete. I'd done the route previously but with time moving on and not being prepared for ice we headed over. This, in hindsight, was a bad idea with Dorsal Arete being like Covent Garden tube station in all but the worst conditions. 

I started up the variation start which probably went around III. My eyes were glued to a 'straight up the middle' line but on reaching a verglas choked overhanging corner, my unfamiliarity with Andesite and my fear got the better of me. Instead I traversed by wading across powder filled ledges and occasionally having to bridge over a couple of wide cracks. Did I mention I hate traversing?

Stewart coming up the variation start

Climber descending Broad Gully

At the first belay on the route proper now it was clear what a mistake it was to join this route. None the less, we joined the cue and had a chat with the people in front. James got the next pitch.

"I'll just pop up and have a look" I said, before disappearing off up the next easy section. I'm told whilst I was away the tea was drunk and it was the last time it was warm....

I met up with the guys in front (Becky and casparmck) and could now behold the aforementioned tube station. They decided to walk off the side into Broad Gully rather than wait. As we'd already passed up Raeburn's I thought we'd just stick around waiting. So James and Stewart came up to join me and we had a little picnic.
The view

Whilst eating we photo'd two teams on climbs on Central Buttress, not sure of the routes but they looked steep from where we were.

When it was our turn we headed up to the well-photographed arete pitch (ironically, I don't have any photographs of this as my camera went flat!). Having seconded the route before but going around the pinnacles, I was keen to lead it going straight over the top. Over the top I did. Although, in the spirit of never learning my lesson, I started from way below the arete and placed some ridiculously short runners resulting in mega rope drag. Pulling up onto the broad part of the ridge I must of looked like one of those guys on 'World's Strongest Man' pulling the concrete lorry! Plenty of people up top taking embarrassing photographs too!

A succession of bums slides later found us back at our stash down the bottom ready to walk out, only needing head torches for the last couple of hundred metres. I like when you can halve your approach time on the descent! 

Cracking route and cracking company

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