Euan and I headed up to Church Door Buttress in Glen Coe today to climb Crypt Route. This was in good condition with rime and powder, but with some verglas in the cracks. The route went very well for two and three quarter pitches until I encountered the “small hole” described in the Scottish Winter Climbs route description. After a considerable number of attempts in different orientations and with all gear removed and eventually stripped down to a thermal and thin fleece it became apparent I wasn’t getting through the hole. Thankfully, I’d led this pitch, so I retreated back to Euan using a number of small abseils to reduce the chances of the rope getting stuck in the through routes and chockstones. From the belay at the end of the second pitch we were able to abseil back to Central Gully in a single abseil.
For what it’s worth, it seemed to be a combination of shoulder width and chest depth that caused the problem in fitting through. It will obviously depend on how compressible your chest is and to some degree how long you are from shoulder to hip; but if you’re thinking of doing it and want a comparison I have a 40″ (102cm) chest and am 45″ (115cm) around the shoulders.
The climbing to this point was very good particularly the second pitch, so a bit disappointing to be defeated by my dimensions.
I was back in Coire Fee winter climbing again today with Gregor, John and Craig. I’d climbed The Comb with Euan and Ivor in late November via the line described in Scottish Winter Climbs and was intrigued by the winter version in The Cairngorms guidebook. John and Craig climbed the route by the line I’d climbed before and Gregor and I climbed the supposedly easier version. I’m not sure I found the correct line, but much of the description fitted; the line we climbed was considerably harder than the guidebook grade and had a serious traversing section, which required a lot of care to protect the second. However, a good day was had by all with some great climbing, stunning views and very pleasant weather.
There was no consolidated snow although we descended via the Kilbo Path and crampons were useful on the compacted snow and ice. The turf on our route was frozen, but it’s worth noting it’s high in the coire. Ice is forming, but the classic ice lines didn’t look climbable yet. Below freezing all day from valley to summit.