Crypt Route

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.

Diamond and Church Door Buttresses as we descended.

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.

Euan about to start the steep section on pitch 2.

The climbing to this point was very good particularly the second pitch, so a bit disappointing to be defeated by my dimensions.

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.

Coire Fee

John and I were in Coire Fee, Glen Clova, today with a Falkirk Community Trust Introduction to Winter Climbing Day team of Andy, Paul and Ross. Ross and I climbed B Gully with the icefall finish before descending A Gully on soft snow, ice and rocks. John, Andy and Paul climbed a couple of ice pitches of A-B Intermediate before descending by abseil.

Ross at a belay in B Gully.

After the long period of cold weather in Scotland it had unfortunately turned warm with rain above the summits over last night and through this morning. Snow was receding in the wet conditions and ice was melting. The turf was still firm on the crag away from significant drainage. A team was backing off Look C Gully as we arrived and B Gully Chimney did not look climbable to me. It’s worth noting that the approach track and path to the coire was still very icy on our descent and requires care.

Costa Blanca

Euan and I are just back from a four day climbing trip to the Costa Blanca in Spain. With direct flights from Edinburgh and very good value accommodation at this time of year the area can be a great option for some winter sun rock climbing.

Euan onsighting on steep ground at Pinos.

We climbed at:
– Echo Valley.
– Pinos, a particularly pleasant setting with good steep routes and great views to the coast.
– Gandia, which has lots of excellent routes in the sixes and sevens and some very sharp rock on the quieter upper tier.
– Puig Campana. We climbed the classic Diedros Magicos. This is a great five pitch mountain route with an abseil descent and requires trad gear. The crux moves on the last pitch are not giveaways at the grade. The approach is best made from the higher car park as described in the guidebooks. Do not park in the large, circa 8 car carpark, as this is reserved for rescue team/helicopters, but a short distance down hill. The approach is now approximately 300m up the track from the large car park, where a scramble up rocks gains a good well marked path on the plateau leading to the base of the routes.
– Alcalali. This is a superb crag with quality routes across a lot of grade ranges. There are now a lot more routes than in the older guidebooks. We found the free to download RockTopos Alcalali very useful, although routes have been added since this has been updated. A lot of the routes are around the 30m mark and some have extensions, it’s worth tie-ing a not in the end of your rope to avoid possible mishaps when lowering.

Euan in a sea of limestone on pitch one of the excellent Diedros Magicos,

Euan will put up more photos from the trip on Facebook in the next day or two. This is a great relaxed way to get lots of mileage on rock at this time of year. If it’s something that may be of interest feel free to contact the ClimbNow team.

Euan with the Puig Campana behind and the start of the climbers approach track. Do not park here, but a little further back down the road.

Glen Clova

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.

Gregor approaching the end of our traversing section on The Comb.

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.

Glen Coe

John and I were out today in Glen Coe with a Falkirk Community Trust Mountaineering team of Devon, Paul, Pete and Pete. We climbed Dinnertime Buttress with a few fun variation pitches before descending via the Stob Coire nan Lochan path.

Paul on the approach to Dinnertime Buttress with the Aonach Eagach behind.

Winds were low during the day with no new fresh snow. The turf was not well frozen until over 800m and we climbed without crampons for the whole route on snowed up rock on the steeper sections. Ice is forming in Glen Coe, but none of it looked climbable as yet. We didn’t encounter any older consolidated snow from before the thaw, there may be some higher up, which will now be under a layer of fresh unconsolidated snow.