To make a change from getting tired cold and miserable underground I acquired some shiny new spiky bits and took Rob 2 up on his offer of some winter climbing up in the bonnie heights of Scotland. So, getting tired, cold and miserable above ground instead. Perfect!
After finding some suitable gloves courtesy of Mark Brown at about 4.30 on Friday, I met up with Rob and Sam Stringer just off the M1 at 5 where we all jumped in the Palais d Skoda and set off following signs to The NORTH. We collected a Peachey in Penrith before crossing the borderinto Scotland. There were some ‘interesting’ conversations ranging from the existance of free will to the benefits of riding horses, ask Rob for the details on that one but it balanced out the previous topic.
We reached Glencoe at about 11.30 and set about putting the tent up and clearing the back of the car to accommodate us for the night. Peachey and Rob spent the night in Hotel Skoda and I got to cuddle Stringer in a tent that was clearly intended for someone more my size than Sam’s.
Come the morning, the very cold morning, we packed up the car at 7.30 and set off to our first location, hoping that the snow would be good. We parked up and looked at our destination up on Stob Coire Nan Lochan. White with snow (and cloud)…
What isn’t apparent here is the wind, lots of wind (and not from me). So given the poor vis I left the camera in the car and we set off on the 2 hour walk in to the crag. Me and Sam got a brief a brief lesson from Ro on the way up of doing ice axe brakes for if we slipped on any slopes. We split into two pairs at the bottom of the crag after donning crampons and axes and decided what routes to do. Me and Peachey set off to go up a grade II gully, not too challenging for my first go. We got the occasional glimpse of what we were aiming at in breaks in the cloud and were soon well on our way up the gully. I quickly decided that goggles would have been nice with strong gusts blowing ice and snow into my face half-way up a climb was unpleasant at best. After tackling the awkward cornice at the top of the route we had a breather and set off back down to the bottom of the climb. This sounds easy and it should be however, the wind was gusting at over 80mph making walking along the ridge rather difficult but quite fun.
Back at the bottom of the crag we had a quick jaunt up and down a grade I gully to finish off the day before heading back to the car to await Rob and Sam. We later discovered that the route we had done wasn’t the one we’d intended to do and was actually a grade III route which explained the awkward section at the top.
We arrived back behind the Kings House and put out accommodation back up being watched by some rather tame deer.
After Sam had finished vandalising my tent with his axes we went into the kings head for some much needed beer and food. I had a rather tasty venison stew accompanied by a nice scotch courtesy of Sam in payment for tent abuse. It took a while to decide where to go the following day and some consulting with AD but we finally decided on a crag that was conveniently on the way back. Bed happened after a few games of shithead with a rather shattered Peachey.
Sunday was glorious, bright clear and crisp.
We ended up at a crag on the side of Beinn an Dothaidh where we ended up climbing as a group of 4 up an awesome grade III/IV with a good mix of snow ice and water ice. Absolutely amazing fun (if occasionally terrifying) and a few hours later me and Rob topped out after the grade IV ice fall finish which was epic.
Rob belayed the other two up the rest of their route before a quick group snap on the summit in a brief clear spell with the weather just starting to turn. But we did just about manage a group shot in a brief lull in the weather at the summit at 1004m
I can thoroughly recommend winter climbing to anyone who enjoys feeling cold, tired and miserable (even if only in hindsight) with a good dose of adrenaline from scaring the crap out of yourself. Seems to describe most cavers in my mind and it does make a nice change of scenery going up rather than down!