Saturday, January 7, 2012

Caingorms with Livingstone

Instead of partying until still o'clock in the morning on New Years Eve Tom and I drove up from the Lakes to Aviemore and were asleep in a tent by ten thirty.

We got up bright and early and walked into Coire an t'Sneachda. Lots of snow had been stripped out by the thaw and it felt way less wintery than when I was up before Christmas. We started up Stirling Bomber. I lead the first introductory pitch and Livingstone powered his way up the main groove, which was well protected with good hooks. We then wandered down, grabbed our sacks and started up Belhaven.

Tom starting up pitch 2 of Stirling Bomber.
Me in Stirling Bomber.

I led the middle pitch, which had a tricky start (Tom fell off seconding!) but was pretty easy otherwise. Tom then started up the main corner. He took his time but seemed to be cruising. Thankfully he didn't get too spooked when I took him off belay mid crux - I'm sure I heard him shout safe. The cold must have been getting to him. He topped out just before dark.

Tom starting pitch 2 of Belhaven.
Tom about to be taken off belay on Pitch 2 of Belhaven!
I seconded the pitch by head torch and popped off towards the top when a hook ripped. We quickly paked up our and headed down the fiacalli. The wind blasting us all the way back to the car.

That evening we decided to use Tom's car as a heath robinson drying room. This worked brilliantly until the car stopped working. Luckily Tom had AA cover and we got the car fixed the next day. Unfortunatelt by the time it was fixed there was no time to go climbing, so we spent the rest of the day sat by a fire in a gear shop in Aviemore, reading guidebook and buy nothing.

The next day the weather was awful with 120mph winds forecast so we decided that heading up into the hills wasn't sensible and spent most of the day reading old climbing magazines (I mean revising) in Mill Cottage.
Tom on tricky variation start to Yukon Jack Pitch 2.
Weather and avalanche forecast were still rubbish the next day so we decided that Mess o Pottage was the safest bet. I lead off up Yukon Jack a IV 5 that is graded for the ice. There was no ice and it felt a notch harder. The climbing was fun and thankfully sheltered by a corner. I got to a good ledge at about thirty metres and brought Tom up. The climbing above looked steep, tricky and not grade IV! Livingstone heaved his way through with relative ease and then scampered up easy group out of sight. Eventually the rope ran out and went tight. Apprehensively I set off, thankfully Tom kept me really tight.  I committed to two torques and was trying to step across to easy ground. The next thing I knew both tools had ripped and I was on my back on the belay ledge several metres below. I guess that's why you climb with a sack on in winter! I managed to get second by sneakily hooking a krab.

By the time I got to the belay the weather was even worse. So we escaped up the Haston Line and got blown across the Plateau and back to the car.

On Thursday we headed into Coire an Lochain with no set plan. Fresh snow fall, white out and inept navigation made finding the crag quite tricky. Thankfully we bumped into Pete and Malcolm and Dave and Dave on the walk in, who were able to show us the way to the crag.

Dave Almond starting up Big Daddy.
We geared up and chatted about various routes, but decided to do Inventive because of the super grim windy weather that was funneling us up the crag. Tom started up the Vent and spent and age trying to mount the chock stone, while powder collapsed around him. We sacked that off and headed for Ventilator, which the guidebook suggests as alternative start to the Inventive if the Vent chock stone is unclimbable. By this point the weather was truly horrible and we opted to just get blown up the route to relative calm of the Plateau. 

Tom after being blown up Ventilator.
Back at the car we decided to drive back to the Lakes as the forecast for Friday was warm and wild. On Friday we headed back to Bangor via four hours of power at White Goods - the best shit crag in ever!

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