Friday, 29 March 2013

29th March 2013 - Glenfinnan Horseshoe

A pleasant walk in

Looking towards Streap

Some mixed terrain on the initial slopes

Looking back down the glen

The panoramic views eastward

Glorious conditions on the first summit

Looking out towards Rum and Skye

Eastwards towards Ben Nevis and Lochaber
Today I was out for a wee solo walk and so I decided to have a crack at the Glenfinnan Horseshoe, a wee classic I have had my eye on for quite some time. The weather was looking fair, and much of the previous weekends snow was all but gone so I was not expecting an epic!

The beauty of these mountains is the lack of interest people seem to have in them. With Nevis and the surrounding mountains of Lochaber so close by, you are almost guaranteed a fairly quiet day. The walk in to the beginning of the horseshoe is quite long, but its asthetically very pleasing with the mountains growing larger on each side, tree clad, and the rolling waters of the River Finnan playing the tune beside you as you walk. A bike would make this much quicker, but also you would miss much of the wildlife and serenity in the process.

Beyond the Corryhully Bothy I struck a path heading North - North West up the flank of Sgurr a' Choire Riabaich and followed this through some scrambly rocks (you can choose more interesting routes if you are so inclined). After a short steepening it eases off, and bumbles its way, now through a good covering of snow, towards the summit of Sgurr nan Choireachan. From here the views are superb, out over towards Skye and Rum, back to Lochaber and South to Mull. Trully a stunning place to spend some time and reflect. After some refuelling and a few pictures, I set off on my way eastwards over Meall an Tarmachain towards Beinn Gharbh.

As time was a factor, and I had spent a little too long enjoying the panoramas before, I opted to take a traversing descent down towards the quad track in the glen below, passing a large herd of deer who seemed quite undisturbed by my presence. Upon dropping back to the track, I made rapid progress back to the car, enjoying the walk out almost as much as the walk in.

All in all this is a cracking little circuit, with stunning views, moderate terrain and a nice 'remote' feel to it. Certainly one I would recommend, along with its neighbour, Streap.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

16th March 2013 - Comb Gully

Nevis Base Camp

Looking up towards Comb Buttress and Green Gully, Number 3 Gully Buttress and Number 3 Gully

Some Graupel in the snow pack

Craig leading off on Pitch 2

Smug git tops out

Robbed blind of a good ice lead....
Today Craig and I were on a mission to nail Green Gully (again), but after a long walk in to the CIC, and then on up towards the base of the route we were soon thwarted by a number of teams already queing up to get on it. Knowing that things were set to deteriorate in the afternoon, we were keen just to get on something and hope for the best, so after a short discussion we headed towards Comb Gully (IV, 4) which sits around the buttress from Green Gully.

Snow conditions were not great today, with several large patches of fresh windslab and plenty of snow being blown around. To top this off there was a very definate weak layer of Graupel in amongst the snow pack (see picture) so alarm bells ringing kept me alert as we traversed round to the initial gully slopes. The gully was pretty loose for the first pitch which we soloed. Craig got up first and fired in a few screws, and we agreed to split the interesting ice pitch in half so that we both had a go on the interesting stuff.

Craig led off, and it seemed to take an incredible amount of time while the rope slowly slinked through the belay device, but in fact it was relatively quick. Being cold and stationary has a dramatic effect on your moral and sense of time, and even more worryingly, Craig was almost out of rope which could mean only one thing: He had led the entire ice pitch!!

As I climbed I could see why Craig had taken his time, it was steep and quite sustained but very short. I felt the hot aches kick in just as I topped out over the final bulge and saw Craigs smiling face. My smile, however, was short lived, as I spied my 'pitch' - 40 metres of gearless snow slope topping out into the wild spindrift that seemed to have really picked up in the last 30 minutes. I didn't see most of this pitch as I had my eyes closed, but soon the angle eased off and I was able to build a reinforced axe belay and bring the smug git up!!!

On top we were both pretty elated: it was cold, windy and visibility was poor but we had had another cracking day, another classic climb under our belts and we would beat the worst of the weather. Seeing countless people traversing the summit plateaux wearing jeans, trainers and carrying plastic bags....

We made a swift exit down number 4 Gully, sliding most of the way down on our backsides. Craig had a particularly good slide which must have lasted 300 metres. The heavier you are the further you slide it would appear....

No sooner had I got home, and about to tip my toe in the shower that there was a call out for two crag fast climbers on the North Face....typical!! All ended safe and sound :) 

Another cracking day on the Ben - heres to plenty more!

Friday, 1 March 2013

1st March 2013 - Number 3 Gully Buttress

A happy Craig at the third belay

The interesting step after Craig's lead

Davie Scott, Dave Anderson, Craig McKay and Me

Descending Number 4 Gully - Looking to Number 3 Gully Buttress (centre)

Craig after topping out. Smiles all round
Today Craig and I were keen to get on Green Gully on the Ben which comes in at a cozy IV, 4 (but gives easy for the grade by all accounts). So after travelling up with Davie and Dave, who were aiming for harder times, we marched in to the CIC hut in good spirits. This winter everything has been in excellent condition so we were confident that the ice would be fat and very receptive to some screws!

After gearing up partially at the CIC, we started to make our way into the coire, which was looking pretty busy already. Our target of Green Gully soon went out of the window due to a number of teams queing at the base of the climb, so after a short while humming and hawing over what we should do we decided on having a bash up Number 3 Gully Buttress, which is the classic Grade 3 on the Ben and an oft forgotten gem.

After a tough trudge on bullet hard neve up to the base of the climb, we rigged up an ice screw anchor and got ourselves (rather awkwardly) sorted out to climb. After some classic Craig & Craig faffage we were good to go, and Mr McKay took on the first lead, climbing up good neve and ice to the first belay. From there I led on, and not knowing the route very well, annoyingly stopped short of an interesting but straightforward rocky step. Craig took over to lead a short pitch up and round the corner on an interesting snow shelf which provided little gear. I led on from here, covering some interesting rocky steps and a nice little traverse onto a solid ledge with two different ways to proceed. Having felt robbed of the rocky step previously, Craig let me have a bash at the super thin and crumbling traverse step to the right hand side, which involved a tentative down climb and a bold move to cross. However, after several attemps this way proved beyond me, and after a forage up to the left we realised this might be a better approach. By this time, though, my enthusiasm was sapped so we quickly swapped over and Craig made short work of the final snow ramp onto the summit.

From here we met Dave and Davie on their way down, and after a quick skoot down Number 4 Gully we were soon on the CIC track back to the car.

We had a cracking day, and it was just what I needed to get me back in the zone after recent events in the mountains. The banter was non stop, even between belays our laughter rang out across the mountain side and it was good climbing with someone with very similar values and goals.