Lochnagar is an amazing cliff, Ive only climbed here in the winter a couple of times so with high hopes Davie and I thought we would pay a visit. The weather was simply stunning this morning so as we approached through the col, all eyes were on the massive cornices barring safe exit to what appeared to be ALL routes on the NE – NW aspects. Its a good idea to have a few routes in mind when visiting the more remote cliffs, especially when there are less blogs/reports and recent information than the more popular climbing areas. We went for Shaddow Buttress A (IV,5) as it appeared to have the smallest ‘sufferfest’ at the top and with so much snow about we had our fingers crossed for solid neve and a 3 star outing. We soloed the first pitch upto the overhangs then climbed the route in 5 pitches. We took a variety of variations including the short sharp Shaddow Chimney (IV,4), the icy grooves of Vortex (IV,4) and the direct finish up the Tower (IV,5) all climbed on very sugary snow which was poorly bonded to the rock making it feel quite serious overall, certainly no neve rendering Nomics utterly useless, I would have been better off with a 70cm straight axe! Thankfully we chose right and there was no horror show of a cornice at the top, although out right there were some very impressive looking snow formations, almost Andean flutings! All great fun though and with such glorious weather its hard not to look back at it being a superb day out.
Davie – ‘swimming’
Davie on the left dwarfed by the cornice looming over Polyphemus Gully
Harder routes such as Eagle Ridge and anything on the Tough Brown Face look just as buried and poorly consolidated. They are also guarded by cornices estimated to be upto 8m in depth. West Buttress looks a little more rocky and with less in the way of huge cornices but it gets the sun for allot of the morning so I would expect be even less bonded than what we were on!
Bit of a change in coast (again) which meant a swift and easy walk into t’sneachda with high hopes of drier and colder weather than over west. To be honest we left the carpark in a bit of a blizzard getting absolutely battered by the wind right up to the base of Aladdin’s where we were joined by Gary and Paul also heading for the same buttress. I only have a few routes left to do here and The Lamp (V,6) was one of them. The bottom 4m are completely buried but at least the upper half of the first pitch was there giving a good bit of climbing before linking the traverse out right into the snow bay. The upper pitch had a few nice wee moves on superb snow and neve depositing us right at the abseil into the couloir for a great short day out. Paul and Gary did The Genie, other teams were on Damnation, Doctors Choice and Original Route. Blue skies and hardly any wind in the end – what a treat!
Dave and I walked up Ben Nevis today. Plan A was The Great Chimney however, after hearing from Mike about a substantial cornice guarding the exit onto Tower Ridge we decided a cautious ‘look’ would be in order before committing. Sure enough anyone breaking through the cornice was going to bury their belayer…….Plan B (East Ridge of DB) then had a team heading it’s way so we decided to join the crowds on the opposite side of the boulder and have a look at Plan C (Jacknife) only to whiteness two teams at its base dodging massive blocks falling from SW Ridge and narrowly missing their heads!!! Sometimes it’s just best to call it a day……
The curtain was looking good (no screws today) as was most of the (busy) routes on Douglas Boulder. Didn’t see anyone up high although there were a few folk battling the winds toward the ciste as we walked back to the CIC. The weather was surprisingly good before 9, even though it was windy it was certainly colder than yesterday and we even had some blue sky’s!….. Oh and the Shroud has given into the thaw too
Rain was bouncing off the van roof this morning making us doubt whether we were going to get anything done on a mediocre forecast. We decided to embrace the wet though and managed to make it up into Stob Coire nan Lochan with an open mind as to what to climb. Scabbard Chimney (V,6) hit the bill with no droopy cornices threatening to spoil our day. The route was in pretty good condition, the crux has now thawed enough to be a mixed climb with plenty of gear and true to the grade. The remaining 3 pitches were pretty run out with little gear but a certain drop in technical grade, topping out and a great descent down NE Ridge al made for a great day out. It pretty much snowed/rained all day with the freezing temperature sitting around the summit, wind was pretty benign but there was some serious powder avalanches flowing down the route all adding to a great ‘Scottish’ day out.
Its been a while since I sacrificed climbing for winter walking but the last couple of days Duncan and I have been going over a few things in preparation for his assessment this week. We both cursed the conditions being so good as we wandered up the hill map and compass in hand instead of technical tools or ski’s – like most folk today. For once we wanted the ‘ming’ to come in to make navigating more challenging and thankfully at about 900m visibility went down to around 20m.
Loads of people out touring in the lovely weather today, we didnt see much of t’sneachda or the Loch Avon basin therefore unable to comment on climbing conditions. The amount of snow about is unbelievable, once/if the winds subside for more than one day there will be plenty of excellent skiing to be had!
I am sure you will pass without fault Duncan, whatever you do don’t drop your map!
Duncan doing his thing
So much snow!
Serious fracture lines at the top of Corrie Cas
I have never seen so many people skiing at Cairngorm before. Both Cas and Ciste carparks full.
The Douglas Boulder is big, that is what I took away from today. Conner and Richie made tracks up the SW Ridge (III) whilst James and I fancied Direct Route (IV,4) which takes the front face of the Douglas Boulder from the lowest point. The first 80m or so is a nice snowy grade II ramp after which comes a couple of lovely icy chimney’s with great rock gear on the right hand side. From here we got led astray a little and just followed our noses up lovely ice ramps and even a good 5m icefall! Our rising traverse took us over to meet the top of SW Ridge and onto the top of the boulder.
James getting involved
Brilliant light on the Ben today
This climbing lark is such an adventure!
The day was a full test of winter skills with massive run outs, stomper belays and an abseiling of a snow bollard to get us back into East Gully from the top of the route. The route in the guidebook is 215m, possibly 4 or 5 pitches but we managed 7 pitches, 3 of which were full 60m rope lengths, hence finishing at last light. Superb!
Calum and Richie bumped into Mike on Jacknife, other teams climbed The shield, Route I and SW Ridge (DB). We also bumped into Dave and Calum on route to an adventure toward the Brenva Face. Still lots and lots of snow about on Ben Nevis, care is needed with your approach but there’s so much to go at if your prepared to battle for it.
James and I had a cracking day up Stob Coire nan Lochan today. We climbed Raeburns (Ordinary) Route IV,4 which was in sweet condition with really helpful snow, ice and neve in all the right places. It was very sociable though, with Matt and Dave working for the Brenin each with two guys as their respective partners. Mike sounded like he was having a great time on Crest Route; Tim was also in the Coire on Scabbard Chimney not to mention other teams climbing Dorsal and NC. The routes look to be in superb condition, very wintery and not overly buried. Forecast gusts of 60mph didn’t materialized and we were even treated to some blue sky and an exciting bum slide back down to the path! Got drenched on the way out though, but hey who cares when you’re on the decent – right!?
Central Grooves – One for the tick list…
James following the first and best pitch of the route