Friday, May 8, 2015


This a belated blog about my Scottish winter climbing season.  I got back from Kenya, in mid January, and spent nearly all of my free time until easter North of the border winter climbing, or at least trying too.

Weekend one. I headed north with my Dad. There was a shed loads of snow so desperate as I was to climb we decided to go skiing. Thanks to Iain for lending me his spare skis and boots. 

Do days out in the hills get much better than this? Iain Peter and Ginger-Lee skinning in the Drumocter Hills. 
Skiing back down. I'd have been a bit more careful had I realised how big the cornice/drop was.
The next morning the road up to the Northern Corries was closed so we had no choice but to go ski touring again. It's a hard life! We met this chilly pair near the bottom of A'Chailleach.
The old man on skis. The weather wasn't bluebird this time but it was good fun.
Dad in a bothy halfway up A'Chailleach. The weather turned good, so we continued skinning to the summit and then skied all the way back to the car.
Weekend two was frustrating. I had planned on spending three days north but my clutch burned out on the A66. Dad drove to meet me and I got my car towed back to Sheff. Cheers to Paul for signing for it in the middle of the night. Saturday found us (and everybody else) it seemed heading towards Beinn Uliadh. Thankfully we were at the front of the pack. A mixture of over confidence, poor technique and blunt crampons found me halfway up Peter Pan Direct pumped out of my tree. I gingerly lowered onto my lanyards and ran away. Cheers to the lads from OB who gave me back my screws. We then joined the back of the queue on Quartzvien Scoop, which was good fun. The forecast was for a thaw on Sunday so we drove back to the Lakes. 

Dad leading the classic Quartzvien Scoop on Beinn Uliadh.
Dad topping out. The wind was bitter.
These guys were pretty fun, though they'd happily devour you given half the chance.
Weekend three. My planned partner bailed on me at 7:30 on Friday morning. Given the dire forecast that was probably a good call on his part. I was still psyched. I desperately texted anyone I thought might be keen. I got a reply from Pete saying he was, but he was only interested in climbing the Shield Direct, a four star Mick Fowler grade VII, a grade or three higher than my usual standard. I agreed on the condition that Pete was leading. After work I drove to the Lakes and met Pete. The MWIS was predicting 100mph gusts, but we convinced ourselves that it would be out of the wind and started driving. The next day we climbed the route in ace conditions and better than predicted weather. Thanks to Pete for leading all the pitches. Maybe one day the stars will align and the route will in condition, I'll be good enough to lead it and will be in Scotland with a day off! On Sunday we had a mellow start (we left the car at 10am) and climbed Green Eyes on Beinn Ulaidh.   

Pete Graham leading the Fowler/Saunders classic Shield Direct on Carn Dearg Buttress. 
Me seconding the crux offwidth. 
Peter in his natural habitat.
A more mellow Sunday - Green Eyes at Beinn Ulidah.
Weekend four. I lured Nikki north with talk of blue skies and sunshine. Amazingly we woke on Saturday morning to blue skies sunshine. We climbed the mega Classic Crowberry Gully on the Buachaille. A brilliant route, easily worth its four stars, and a great way to get Nikki psyched for winter climbing again. On Sunday Nikki had a rest so Becky Coles and I headed for Scabbard Chimney in SNCL. It was a bit mild and the rock was black, but the back of chimney was fully of stonking plastic which was great fun to climb.

Nikki nearing the top of Crowberry Gully on the Buchaille. 
Becky Coles climbing Scabbard Chimney in SCNL. Not the whitest route I've ever climbed, but I don't think I could have climbed the plastic ice in the back of it without axes and crampons. 
Weekend five: Ian and I head to Meggy. We dossed the night in the carpark and had a mega day climbing Pumpkin and South Pipe Direct on Saturday. On Sunday we nearly got blown over on the walk into the Northern Corries. We turned around to run away and I got blown over, breaking my walking sticks. You win some you loose some.

Ian enjoying the Pumpkin on Creag Meagaidh. We climbed South Pipe Direct afterwards. A brilliant day out.
Enjoying well earned fish and chips in the Kingussie afterwards. Mega winds the next day meant we got blown over on the walk into the Northern Corries and consequently ran away. We should have headed West...
Weekend six: Back again with Nikki. We climbed Route Major on Carn Etchican. It has been a long held ambition to climb in the Loch Avon basin and it did not disappoint. On Sunday it was super windy and Nikki's knee was giving her gyp so we had a chilled one. 

Carn Etchican and Shelterstone Crag. 
Nikki squeezing out of the tricky chimney on Route Major.
Nikki happy to be back and the car after naviagating across the Caingorm Plateau in the dark. 
Weekend seven: Tim, Malcolm and I set off from Sheffield, picking up Pete in Penrith. We arrived at the Lochnagar car park at around midnight to find the, previously unlocked, nature reserve locked. Thankfully it wasn't raining and we all managed to squeeze under the awning. The next day Tim and I enjoyed the spindrift-tastic Polythemus Gully and arrived back at the car totally soaked. Several hours later a very bedraggled Pete and Malcolm arrived back after an attempt on the Link Direct. In our soaked and near exhausted state Tim heroically drove us round to Aviemore without falling asleep at the wheel! The weather on Sunday was full on but a short day in the Northern Corries was felt far more mellow.
Pete and Malcolm dossing outside the nature reserve at Lochnagar. This was left open when I last visited in 2012 but is currently locked. Thankfully it wasn't raining, there's an awning and handy plug to power Pete's fan heater.
Tim Hill seconding the first easy but scary pitch of Polythemus Gully on Lochnagar.
Tim seconding the third pitch. A narrow gully that funneled spindrift like crazy and made the climbing pretty exciting. 
Tim leading Aladdin's Mirror Direct in the Northern Corries on Sunday.
Followed by Patey's Route, pretty tricky. 
Weekend eight was spent in Chester cerebrating my Grandfather's ninetieth birthday.

Weekend nine: Tim didn't need much persuading to head up again. He was so keen that he bought new boots. On Saturday we walked in with crowds on the Ben, until we got round the corner into Corrie Leis, and had North East Buttress to ourselves. What a great route. The Mantrap should not be underestimated. In the afternoon we climbed Indicator Wall.

On Sunday we had a lazy start and got the first lift up Anoch Mor. An hour later we found ourselves at the col between Anoch Mor and Beag looking at a wall of drooling with plastic ice. Tim led the first straightforward pitch and I soon found myself stood below the steep wall of ice psyching myself up. With some trepidation I set off. Thankfully the ice was good. After a steep section low down I regained composure on the half height ledge before setting off again. The pump quickly returned and I just managed to hold it together on the final traverse right. My best lead of the winter for sure.

Tim Hill halfway up Northeast Buttress. We'd walked into the Ben with the crowd but found sunshine and solitude on NE Buttress. 
Tim leading the Mantrap - desperate!
In the afternoon we dashed down and climbed Indicator Wall. 
The next day we had a lazy start and got the lift up to Anoch Mor. I then proceeded to get pumped out of my brain leading Stand and Deliver on Anoch Beag.
On weekend ten I made a bad crag choice and headed to Creag Meagaidh. The sun was shining and the temperatures were well above the summits. We started up Centre Post but quickly ran away when it started spitting large rock and blocks of ice at us. We drove back to Sheffield and I spent an enjoyable Sunday at Stanage re-remembering to rock climb. 

Doctor Crocodile on the walk in before the crag started spitting rocks and ice at us...
Weekend eleven. I head back to the Ben with Simon Kimber. Rain on Saturday saw us running away from Minus Two Gully. We should have headed up higher to the Indicator Wall but I didn't fancy the avalanche prone wade up Tower Gully. From speaking to the folk who did it sounds like it was still wet. 

Sunday found us backing off Minus Two Gully this time due unconsolidated snow on the pitch one. To make something of the weekend we thought we'd wander over to Harrison's Climb Direct ( further than you'd think) and climbed that in melting conditions. 

Minus Two running with water, just before Simon and I ran away. 
Simon on Harrison's. The last route of the winter for me.
Easter in the North West of Scotland was lovely but there was no winter climbing to speak off. I'm now trying to get my head back into rock climbing mode. The walk ins in the Peak all seem blissfully short. 

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