Wednesday, 30 November 2016


So I've moved up to Scotland to get more winter climbing done, and finally my days off and good weather have coincided. Two weeks ago I was sinking up to the tits in powder in the gorms. Trying to micro-navigate towards a crag in about 20 feet of visibility when everything just looks white. Well fuck all that, the forecast is actually sunny, and no wind....all I need is for something to be in condition to climb. The Glencoe webcams look promising so after work me and Colin drive straight up the A82 and doss in a car park opposite the Buachaille. Plan is the north buttress, which should go in pretty much any conditions. 

The Buachaille - photo taken back on the February trip

Colin runs ultra marathons and does all kinds of crazy ski mountaineering things. I cycle a few miles to work and back and occasionally slobber my way up a hill. No doubt he could be up and back down this route in the time it takes me stagger to the bottom of it, but the plan is to not rush and just enjoy the day. After skidding up an icy path we start scrambling directly up the buttress, the odd step but mostly steep walking. Snow lying all over the place but it's all unconsolidated toss. It's getting light but the sun hasn't yet appeared above the skyline of mountains. 

Me leading up one of the icy chimneys

We stick a rope on for the chimney system that splits the steep part of the buttress. The holds are icy as hell and there's snow on all the ledges. After two pitches of sliding around and chipping ice off footholds, we think sod it and put crampons on. The climbing isn't hard, just kinda awkward, and every now and then I have to use a tool to make progress. 

Following a pitch as the condition get more wintery with height

After the third chimney we short rope the remaining steep bits then take the rope off and jolly up to the top. The weather is fucking amazing. No clouds, snowy mountains everywhere. We drop into Coire an Tulaich and bum slide most of the way down a narrow gully. A final skid along an icy path leads us back to the road, maybe 5 hours after starting. Colin shoots off up the ski lift at Glencoe Mountain to do some skinning while I sit in the cafe eating cakes.

Moving together near the top of the buttress

International Man of Mystery, and some fat English git

Colin disappears off in the evening to get ready for some exciting sounding job in the Alps for the winter. I go to the Clachaig and stuff my face with food and beer. My plan for the next day is the Aonach Eagach ridge traverse, something pretty spectacular but easy enough for me to solo. Colin tells me not to bother descending the other end of the ridge, just go all the way back along it, more climbing more fun, right! I huddle in my sleeping bag as the temperature plummets and the car ices up.

No doubt the best weather I will have all season now....

I leave early and slog up to the first summit in an hour or so, just as the sun rises. It's going to be another spectacular day. The initial descent is the crux of the whole ridge, a grovelling powdery downclimb, after that it's pure fun climbing over steps and pinnacles, mega exposed. Pretty soon I reach the final summit, still feeling strong. Then I look back at all the ridge I've committed to reversing, and suddenly my legs ache and I feel knackered as fuck.....why am I taking the advice of a guy who runs 100 mile backcountry marathons??? With a weary sigh I start retracing my way back through the various peaks and pinnacles to where I started. Actually fuck it, I'm still feeling good, it's still great fun. I get back to the car 6 hours after leaving. Not a bad start to the winter.

Unfortunately the battery in my ipad died in the cold so no Aonach Eagach photos I'm afraid. I arrive back at the layby and startle a bus full of tourists by taking off my wet trousers and eating a whole pack of pork pies in front of them. Mmmmmmm, pig arsehole, that's what climbing is really all about. Here's hoping for a good winter! 

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