I’d sort of promised Ivor a new route for his birthday last week, so today saw us out on North Craig on Mayar. We walked in from Glen Doll, however with current conditions and a bike an approach from Glen Prosen would be much quicker. From about 700m the Kilbo path has sections of steepish hard neve and walking along the ridge of the Shank of Drumfollow is probably a nicer option; we used this in descent.
Despite well frozen conditions on the approach, a forecast freezing level 200m below the crag and cloud cover keeping the sun away the crag wasn’t in great condition. There wasn’t a lot of ice around, the turf was variable and the snow soft on the lower sections. We had to settle for an easy line of I/II using soft snow ramps and turf about 50m down left of White Plains Drifter. The ramps led in 55m to a small col on the ridge like left edge of the crag, from where an easy 10m pitch lead to the top. If it’s a new line we’ll call it “68 Guns”, which is too good a name for the line, but fits with the intentions of the day. From the top of the crag we took in the summit of Mayar on the way out. A good day covering plenty of ground, if not quite what I’d hoped for.
Snow from the tree line in Glen Doll (circa 600m). Fresh and wind blown snow accumulating on North and East aspects and in sheltered areas on top of old firm snow. Lots of avalanche debris around, presumably from Sunday. There are still some very large old cornices around on North and East facing aspects and these are building again with fresh snow. Cloud most of the day above 700m. Freezing level circa 750m during the day. Some light snow showers later in the day falling as rain below 600m.
Mac, Sharon and I were out yesterday and looking for a crag that would be East enough to avoid the rain for as long as possible; low enough to be below the worst of the wind and avoiding avalanche prone slopes. We opted for North Craig, near the Mayar Burn gambling that the bouncing freezing levels would have built ice.
We approached from Glen Doll via the Kilbo Path with suprisingly good snow cover from the edge of the forestry. The cloud set in as we climbed out of Glen Doll and was with us for most of the day.
The gamble paid off to a degree as we were able to climb White Sun of the Desert on thin ice and soft snow until the last 10m where both snow and ice became excellent. The ice lower down required a delicate approach and made for bold climbing as it wasn’t thick enough for screws. However, it may well have been less hollow than on the first ascent as we were able to take a direct line up the steep iced groove. A handy thread and threaded wire allowed us to abseil back down the line of the route.
The ice on the steeper lines didn’t look substantial enough, so with the freezing level rising we opted for a easier new Grade II line about 20m to the right as our second route of the day. This was mostly on Grade I snow and ledges, but with a good finish up the icey corner groove on the left hand side of the large pinnacle like feature.
We then retrieved our abseil gear and headed back across the plateau in very poor visibility and with steady rain setting in and falling as rain up to 850m. Plenty of windslab around in sheltered locations and careful route choice/selection required. The rain may have stabilised some of the older windslab, but it looks like we’re due fresh snow on strong winds on Saturday. There’s more information about the routes on this crag on the Scottishwinter.com and Graniteandice blogs; The Cairngorms guidebook only has the summer line of High Plains Drifter.