Saturday, 9 June 2012

Jubilee Weekend

Four days off work? Yes please! The weekend was a myriad of results. In summary there was one dismal failure; one tide miscalculation; one perfect day on Glencoe rock. Oh, and one day sat on the sofa.

The Dismal Failure

To say 'dismal' is a little unfair, we still counted it as a worthwhile day out. There were just a few minor errors made. We set off from Keiloch, probably too late, for the long walk in to Garbh Choire of Beinn a' Bhuird. Approximately 15kms, it's a lovely walk through the Fairy Glen with very little gradient until the last couple of kilometers approaching the Sneck.

A long way still to go
A long way still to go
The objective was to climb Mitre Ridge and Squareface, the two easy classics of the area. Once at the Sneck there is still a bit of work to get to the base of Mitre Ridge which is at the far end of the coire. On the way, something caught my eye and made me turn and then nearly jump out of my skin as I saw a busted up wooden elephant staring at me amongst the boulders. The elements has definitely taken its toll (along with a long drop from the top) compared to the pic on UKC of it at the top of the climb.

Exactly what you expect to see in the Cairngorm's remote corries!
"All animals die alone"
Mitre Ridge is graded Hard Severe but this is supposedly just the first pitch and the rest is of VDiff standard. In keeping with our 'alpine training regime' myself and James had brought only a lightweight rack and ditched the rock shoes in favour of big boots. The next mistake.

I started up the first pitch which is not incredibly positive with big boots and was a little damp. At about 10-15m i'd already used half the rack and had clipped a rusty, wobbly peg. I then looked up at the next 10m of damp slabby corner before the break and decided this wasn't going to happen. Down I came to give James a go on the sharp end and see if he could get past it.

James re-ascending my high point to try the slabby corner
James re-ascending to my high point
Not surprisingly James didn't favour it either and got the pleasure of lowering of the rusty peg to retrieve gear. I'd remembered there was an easier winter start just around the corner, so we went around to give that a go. Having started up I then looked at my watch; 4pm!! We'd had enough signs just to pack up and head home, knowing where we had gone wrong on numerous levels. 

All that was left was the long walk home, feeling a little disappointed and with very achy feet. Got some nice pics before we left though.

Mitre Ridge
Mitre Ridge in profile
Climbers on squareface
Climbers on Squareface
Tide Miscalculation

Put simply: I went to Limekilns with Calum and after doing a few of the climbs suggested we move to Hawkcraig. I'd looked at the tides and thought 3hrs after high tide would be fine. It wasn't. Doh!

Super Glencoe Link Up

The saving grace of my long weekend was a day on Buchaille Etive Mor with Ben Sharp who i'd met through UKC. Starting a bit earlier this time (and with a much shorter walk in) we headed up with a vague plan starting with North Face Route. The 2 star severe doesn't seem to be as popular as it's neighbours on Rannoch Wall judging by the little worn approach paths. After only a little bit of guidebook consultation and looking a pictures on my phone we found the start.

It is a quality route with good rock (the few pitches we did anyway) and worthwhile of its 2 stars. We came off the route after pitch 3 to move on to Hiccup (VS 4c) which was also an outstanding route that Ben led.

Ben on 2nd pitch of North Face Route
Ben on P2 of North Face Route
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Airy belay above P1 of Hiccup
[Photo credit: Ben Sharp]
The rock on this day was like touching the loop side of velcro with one of those scatch pad things. You put a hand or foot and it just stuck! 

2nd pitch of Hiccup
Ben on P2 of Hiccup
The top of Hiccup brought us out to Curved Ridge below Rannoch Wall, where we initially thought of doing January Jigsaw (another classic severe). As there was someone already on it, Ben convinced me to give Fracture Route (VS 4c) a go around the corner. 

It was an awesome route that made you think about the moves but not overly strenuous. I was slightly put down by the guy speeding up the HVS to the right of me with only two nuts on the entire route!

Ben seconding Fracture Route (VS 4c)
Ben seconding Fracture Route

Photo Credit: Ben Sharp
Well chuffed with Fracture Route
[Photo credit: Ben Sharp]
Ben then led on looking for the last pitch of Grooved Arete. I think we actually ended up doing a P2 Fracture Route/Crowberry Ridge combination as we definitely ended up on the ridge towards Crowberry Tower. All that was left was a little scrambling to the summit, at one moment passing under a precariously perched block! The little keystones holding this in place had daylight shining through in several locations.

Photo Credit: Ben Sharp
Please don't fall on my head!
[Photo credit: Ben Sharp]
An absolutely super day out and i'd seriously recommend linking up routes as a fun mountaineering excursion. The changing of rope systems and the continual interest from picking the best lines really makes a good day.

Check out even more photos in the gallery by clicking any of the photos above!

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