Binnein Shuas and The Cairngorms

Over the last two days Chris and I have climbed a couple of Scottish Classic Rock routes. On Saturday we walked in to Binnein Shuas and climbed Ardverikie Wall. The route was in perfect condition with all pitches being dry and was a popular choice with five teams climbing the route during the day. Sun cream and hats were essential in the glorious weather.

Chris and me above the corner of Savage Slit.

Today with a forecast for rain showers west of the A9 we headed to Coire an Lochain and climbed Savage Slit. The route was sheltered from the wind and we had a few spots of rain, but nothing which impacted on the climbing. Two great routes in good company.

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.

Binnein Shuas and Drumochter

Yesterday, Saturday, Jim and I were looking for a climb to suit the forecast of strong Northerly winds and fairly continuous snow for the Aviemore area. We chose to head along to Lagganside and the North-West ridge of Binnein Shuas where I’d remembered a report on Scottishwinter.com from last year of some new routes by Masa and Yuki Sakano. The climbing starts at 560m, finishes below 750m and facing North-West we hoped it would be scoured on the routes.

Jim on the delicate upper section of Location, Location, Location

Jim on the delicate upper section of Location, Location, Location

It’s not a long walk in, but breaking trail, even on the estate tracks, and sometimes thigh deep snow off the tracks meant it took a while. We climbed “Location, Location, Location”, which I’m guessing will be the second ascent. We split the route in to two pitches, which seemed the obvious thing to do as there’s an initial steeper section with a good block belay above, followed by a short walk to a more slabby delicate section.

Me beneath the perfectly formed ice line. Photo Credit: Jim Bayliss.

Me beneath the perfectly formed ice line. Photo Credit: Jim Bayliss.

We then walked up the ill defined ridge aiming for “Laggan Fantasy”. However, on crossing the easy angled gully forming the obvious step in the ridge we spotted a short, but perfectly formed, ice line down and right of “Laggan Fantasy”. This started steeply in a short left facing corner just right of a severely undercut wall and was climbed on perfect ice easing in angle with height. It gave 20m of excellent water ice climbing followed by 10m of easy ground to a great belay in blocks. A short route, but in keeping with the others on the ridge and great for the day. If it’s new I think the name will be “Bogle Eyed”, III,3. A definite reward for the effort of getting there on the day.

Stepping back onto the ice from the top of the corner. Photo Credit: Jim Bayliss

Stepping back onto the ice from the top of the corner. Photo Credit: Jim Bayliss

With one eye on the weather we then abseiled back down to our sacks and headed back to the car. A good decision as the drive back to Aviemore was interesting; it’s never encouraging when you pass a snow plough in the ditch.

On the same day Derek, Murray, Nettle and Nick headed back to Drumochter for a second ski tour and having left a car at Dalnaspidal skinned up the track to the old quartz quarry before traversing A’Bhuidheanach and A’Bhuidheanach Bheag and descending Fuar Mhonadh. The route worked well giving them the wind at their backs for most of the day.

Lots of fresh snow during the day and into the night on Saturday on strong Northerlies with lots of drifting. This closed many roads in the area including the A9 overnight. Sunnier today with slightly lower winds and below freezing down to Aviemore. The winds means ridges are still scoured, but there’s a lot of wind blown snow on lee slopes and plenty of wind slab around and cross-loading in gullies and other features. Careful route choice is required.