4 Routes in Glencoe

Levin and I have been out in Glencoe for the last two days. Yesterday we climbed Curved Ridge and Crowberry Tower on Buachaille Etive Mor. The route was in excellent condition. We descended via a snow bollard into Coire na Tulaich.

Today we climbed Dinnertime Buttress on Aonach Dubh, Dorsal Arete in SCNL and descended Broad Gully in SCNL. Dinnertime Buttress didn’t require crampons until beyond the crux chimney. Dorsal Arete was in the best condition I have ever seen it in. Broad Gully was descended on good snow (although there was some shallow windslab).

Lots more photos on the facebook page.

Exiting Dorsal Arete.

Eastern Slant, Glencoe

Eastern Slant today in Glencoe with the Falkirk High Tops Team. This lovely route is located on the East Face of Aonach Dubh.

Conditions were deteriorating throughout the day and we are now in need of a refreeze.

The team at the top of Eastern Slant.

Dinnertime Buttress

It was a beautiful day in Glencoe today. A team from Ballachulish and I climbed Dinnertime Buttress in Glencoe before descending Stob Coire nan Lochan.

The route was in good condition from the chimney pitches upwards with good quantities of snow. Dinnertime does not rely on frozen turf which was useful today as the turf on this aspect is currently very variable.

I have posted a video on the facebook page to give an idea of snow cover.

The summit of Aonach Dubh.

The summit of Aonach Dubh.

Four Days Based in Lochaber

I got back last night from four days based in Fort William with Andy and Rob. On the way up on Friday we stopped off at Bridge of Orchy and headed in to Creag Coire an Dothaidh. We’d been aiming for Salamander Gully, but a team diverted on to it just before we got to the crag, so we headed up Centigrade. The ice was a bit hollow in places and required a delicate approach, but gave a good sheltered climb.

Rob and Andy high up on Centigrade.

Rob and Andy high up on Centigrade.

Saturday saw us head up to Ben Nevis and climb Ledge Route in excellent conditions. We were the first team up on the day, which required a bit of trail breaking and some careful route choice in sheltered spots with pockets of unconsolidated snow. We saw lots of teams out on The Curtain, Vanishing Gully and heading up towards Harrison’s and Castle Ridge.

On Sunday we needed a shorter day with options to cut off early if required as Rob’s foot was playing up a little. This made me think of Masa and Yuki Sakano’s routes on the North-West Ridge of Binnein Shuas. It’s a short walk in and the routes are on small buttresses up the ridge. I’d climbed Location, Location, Location last year with Jim Bayliss and spotted an option for an alternative start; the cave mentioned in Masa’s description is actually a through route. This gave an hilarious squeeze/thrutch with rucksacks needing to be removed part way up. Rob described it as “like being a kid again”.

Andy about to do battle with the narrow section of the cave.

Andy about to do battle with the narrow section of the cave.

Higher up we climbed Bogle Eyed, which gives a short, but excellent quality, ice pitch and seems to form quite readily. We then aimed for what I thought was Summit North-West Buttress. We climbed what looked like the “obvious zig-zag snow line”, however, it felt somewhat nippy for a II and we popped out about 20m North of the summit rather than “80m West”; so not the same line, but a good pitch direct to the summit. If you want more information for routes on Binnein Shuas search on Scottishwinter.com.

Yesterday we climbed Dinnertime Buttress finishing via No. 2 Gully on Aonach Dubh West Face in Glen Coe. The ground was hard frozen from the glen up and the weather was glorious. There are still areas of unconsolidated snow and slab around, so route choice requires thought.

Rob and Andy near the top of No.2 Gully.

Rob and Andy near the top of No.2 Gully.

We then drove back down and as the guys were flying out this morning we had time for a meal in Edinburgh and a couple of drams in The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, which made Rob very happy. I think Andy was just happy the weather was a vast improvement on when he was up earlier in the season. I’ve added some photos to the ClimbNow Facebook page.

Zig Zags and Dinnertime Buttress

This week I am once more based in Ballachulish. Yesterday we climbed the Zig Zags in Glencoe looking at the skills required for guiding grade I before descending the route via down climbing and abseiling.

Today we climbed DInnertime Buttress before descending via Sob Coire nan Lochan. From late afternoon yesterday and right through the whole of today there has been a thaw in Glencoe. The turf however above 500 metres has remained frozen and large quantities of snow still remain. With the temperatures dropping tonight there should still be plenty to do tomorrow.

Chris on Dinnertime Buttress.

Chris on Dinnertime Buttress.

Dinnertime Buttress and the East Ridge of Stob Ban

Yesterday with a team from Ballachuilish I climbed Dinnertime Buttress (Aonach Dubh) in Glencoe. Crampons were required from 543m upwards. The turf was not in good condition. Above the crux section we moved left to climb interesting mixed ground at II/III.

Today the team and I went to Lochaber and climbed the East Ridge of Stob Ban. This is a great mountaineering route with varied climbing. The snow and turf was in good condition from 800 metres upwards but poor below.

Matt and Kay on the East Ridge of Stob Ban.

Matt and Kay on the East Ridge of Stob Ban.

Northern Lights and Classic Mountaineering

Andrew flew up on Wednesday and I picked him up from EICA Ratho, where he’d visited Alan Lockhart who’s working with him to solve some long term injuries. We then headed North with the aim of four days of mountaineering/climbing. Andrew is planning some long term goals in the Greater Ranges and the idea was to improve Andrew’s efficiency of movement on alpine terrain, look at some specific skills and also have a good time ticking some Scottish classics without aggravating any injuries. As we drove North we were lucky enough to get a great view of the Northern Lights along Glen Dochart and North of Crianlarich. On Thursday we climbed North Buttress on Buachaille Etive Mor and descended Curved Ridge taking in Crowberry Tower. We had sunshine at times and the rock was surprisingly dry with most of Rannoch Wall looking dry enough for climbing.

Andrew exiting one of the chimneys on North Buttress.

Andrew exiting one of the chimneys on North Buttress.

We then headed up to Skye as Andrew had never been in the Black Cuillin and was keen to get a feel for the ridge. The weather on Friday was unfortunately worse than earlier forecasts, so Andrew didn’t get much chance to see the hills. However, we ascended Sgurr Dearg via Coire na Banaichdaich and it’s North-West Flank; climbed the Inaccessible Pinnacle by it’s East Ridge and descended the South-East Flank of Sgurr Dearg to the An Stac Screes. Having been in constant steady rain and cloud for most of the day we then decided to bail down the screes and out via Coire Lagan.

Approaching the top of the Inn Pinn in the rain and cloud.

Approaching the top of the Inn Pinn in the rain and cloud.

With the forecast not looking great on Skye for Saturday we had an early start and made for the Cairngorms. Here we walked in to Coire an t-Sneachda. After a pleasant chat with Glenn and Euan who were headed for Hell’s Lum Crag we climbed Pygmy Ridge. We approached this via the line of Central Gully Left Hand and it’s worth noting that there a couple of sizable perched blocks in this area at the moment. Once on the plateau we headed down Coire Domhain and around to Stag Rocks where we climbed Afterthought Arete, sticking to the ridge as much as possible to maximise the climbing.

Andrew on Afterthought Arete.

Andrew on Afterthought Arete.

We had accommodation booked over in the West for Saturday night and needed a shortish day to allow for flights on Sunday, so the final day saw us back in Glen Coe. We climbed Barn Wall Route on the East Face of Aonach Dubh, this requires a steady approach as although there are excellent positive holds throughout there isn’t a lot in the way of gear. We then headed around under Stob Coire nan Lochan, so Andrew could get a look at this as a potential future winter venue, before heading out along Gearr Aonach and descending The Zig-Zags.

Andrew tired, but smiling, at the bottom of the Zig Zags on the last day.

Andrew tired, but smiling, at the bottom of the Zig Zags on the last day.

Four days of Classic Mountaineering in mostly very good weather for the time of year with the exception of Friday. If you’re heading out it’s worth knowing that we haven’t had a proper frost yet and hence the midges are still around and biting, thankfully for me they seemed to prefer Andrew.

Stob Coire Nan Lochan

The photo below shows Stob Coire Nan Lochan today and will hopefully give climbers a good idea of the conditions. Forked Gully, SC Gully, NC Gully and Pinnacle Gully are clearly visible.

The photo was taken today from Aonach Dubh were I was out with a group completing a winter skills session.

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Dinnertime Buttress/Number 2 Gully Link Up

Caroline, Chris, Tom and I visited Glencoe today. Following the recent snowfall and the forecast rapid rise in temperature, we opted to link Dinnertime Buttress and the upper section of Number 2 Gully to give us a safe route. The choice worked well with good snow present in Number 2 Gully after the introductory scrambling on the buttress below.

After gaining the summit of Aonach Dubh we practised ice axe arrest skills before descending Stob Coire nan Lochan in heavy rain.

Climbing into Number 2 Gully.

Climbing into Number 2 Gully.

Ben Nevis and Glen Coe

I’ve just spent an excellent weekend based in Fort William with Rachel and Sabine.

Tower Ridge in early morning light

Tower Ridge in early morning light

On Saturday we had an early start to walk up to Ben Nevis and climb Tower Ridge in time to be off the ridge and summit well before the forecast thunder storms.

Sabine and Rachel just above The Douglas Boulder

Sabine and Rachel just above The Douglas Boulder

The thunder storms never appeared as they tracked further East, but we did have the best of the weather on the day, only encountering cloud on the upper part of the ridge and some light showers on the way down.

In cloud above the through-route on the Great Tower

In cloud above the through-route on the Great Tower

Today we were out in Glen Coe climbing Barn Wall Route on the East Face of Aonach Dubh. After the overnight rain and early low cloud the rock was initially very wet, but dried with height and rising cloud levels. The route gives a good long climb at the grade, but is fairly sparse on protection.

Which way? High on Barn Wall Route

Which way? High on Barn Wall Route

We then headed up to the summit of Aonach Dubh before traversing underneath Stob Coire nan Lochan and descending Gearr Aonach and The Zig-Zags.

Gearr Aonach

Gearr Aonach