Monday, 9 March 2015


I have recently spent some time in Scotland, in rather mixed conditions.  I now see The Shroud on Ben Nevis was in the plumpest conditions it has been for years and I cry a little.  But hey, I didn’t even expect to get anything done this season so at least I can be pleased I got to swing an axe.

Local to our accommodation was Lurcher’s Crag which sports a few easyish ice lines.  Mike was up from Aberdeen for the day so a local climb suited well.  We headed up early, before the forecast mega-winds hit and climbed what I now think may be K9 (IV,4), but it could well have been Central Gulley (also IV,4 depending on guidebook) as we thought at the time.  I led the first pitch, with thin ice and mostly devoid of any protection – but it was pretty easy. Mike led the middle pitch and Lee the last, so it was nice for us all to have a go on the sharp end.  Once at the top, the full force of the gale hit and thank God we were headed north or we would have taken an absolute pasting.  The forecast was for 70 – 90mph winds, and it was definitely in that region.

Take that, Cross! Or, the virtue of using Nomics

After more typically Scottish weather, with an emphasis on wind, we managed to get into Coire an t-Sneachda with our eyes on the Mess of Pottage.  A few teams were ahead of us, so we diverted off to Aladdin’s Buttress.  Doctor’s Choice seemed a good, erm, choice, until we cross referenced guidebooks (must one really carry two these days?) and found that ice should be clearly visible on the top corner, which it wasn’t.  So Original Route (IV,5) was chosen, and a cracking route it was too, despite me hating much of it at the time – I really am pants at mixed. The conditions were such that the routes was covered in enough powder to hide any gear placements but useless enough to provide no upward assistance.  After nearly turning back only feet from the ground, I battled up cracks finding sparse gear until I reached a solid belay. The second pitch was much harder with some serious torques and hooks on steep ground, and with a lot of hoping and praying I managed to get through the difficulties  Top notch but terrifying climbing.  I think it probably took me an hour and a half to lead each of those pitches as the whole route took us four and a half hours.  From where the route petered out, we ab’ed back into Aladdin’s Couloir thinking of doing a second route. Until we realised it was 4pm.

Part one of the 'double-crux'
Part two of the 'double-crux'

Some more pants weather followed, but we managed to get back into the coire and did Aladdin’s Mirror Direct, a route I have done before but it was nice to get on a steep ice route, even if it is bink-and-you-miss-it short.  We carried on up the couloir to the top and the plateau was very scoured and surprisingly un-snowy.  I don’t think they’ll be having a long ski-touring season.  We could see Shelter Stone, and it looked magnificent – originally my aim for the week was Sticil Face.  If that hadn’t been our last day with a need to get down at a reasonable time before the trek home, that would have been a possible choice. But what can you do?

So all in all, not the most productive season, but neither was it a write-off.  And all without wasting any time doing any training!  I do long for Norway though...

Very effective until they get dragged into the brakes and torn in half
I also went on the Glenfiddich Distillery Tour – a bargain at £10.

Apparently, I have never looked so happy

Oh, and I saw an Arctic Hare (as well as a tonne of Ptarmigans, never seen so many).  It was running away from Lee.

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