Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Central Gully - Creise and Meall a Bhuiridh

Central Gully, Creise (I)

Having spent the night parked at the Glencoe ski centre whilst the wind whistled about the van we walked towards Sron na Creise following a line of telegraph poles as they marches across the floor of the valley. Fortunately it had been a cold night and what looked to be very boggy ground was well frozen. The skye was a brilliant blue with the mountain tops dancing in and out of patches of low lying cloud.

The Buachaille dances in and out of the morning cloud

Rounding the spur of Creag Dhubh Sron na Creise comes into view the choire and a series of gully lines clearly visible. We had wanted to climb the classic Inglis Clarke Ridge but it looked very out of condition as we approached the buttresses staring back at us an unwelcoming black and ice free. The Weep would have been a good fall back option but a) we did not know about it and b) looking back at my photos the fun bits looked buried!

Sron na Creise

Central gully was easy to find and arrow straight up through the cliffs that guarded the mountain. The route was steep for grade I but the neve was good and the climbing easy. By now the cloud had entombed the mountain and by the time we reached the summit ridge a bitter wind was blowing. 

Not easy to get lost

From the top of the route its about a kilometre along a broad ridge to the summit of Criese proper. The decent is tricky in poor weather the mountain drops away precipitously to the left into Mam Coire Easain offering no lines of weakness apart from where it relents ever so slightly to join the narrow ridge to Meall a Bhuiridh that forms the coire headwall. 

Like whales in a stormy sea 

In the clag that surrounded us we counted paces until we arrived where we thought the decent should be, we could see no sign of the ridge through the mist and although the drop to our left had relented slightly it still looked pretty close to vertical. Eventually having spotted a cairn to convince us we were in the right place we cautiously descended, the gradient soon relented and the ridge line emerged out of the mist. 

Having crossed the col we pulled steeply onto our second Munro of the day  Meall a Bhuiridh and as we reached the top the summit rock broke through the cloud to give a fantastic view of the great mountain around us bursting through the broiling cloud like giant whales in a stormy sea. The Glenco ski centre reaches almost to the summit of the hill so we defended by the piste as the cloud slowly cleared to reveal Rannoch Moor in the depths of winters grip.

Dom descending towards the van with Ranch Moor in the distance

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Taxus - Beinn an Dothaidh

February and for once we chose a good week, Dom and had had taken a punt and come up to Scotland for a full week of winter climbing. To be fair Dom as a teacher had not had much say in the mater at all but for once the conditions smiled relatively kindly on us and we got lots done.

The original plan had been a huge circuit of the highlands taking in the classic winter ridges; Torridon  An Teallach, the Fannichs etc., but although plenty of snow and cold temperatures were blanketing the hills so to was a thick layer of cloud for the majority of the week and those route are so special i'm willing to wait for perfect blue winter skies, even if its another 10 years.

Thanks to the generosity of some friends we had managed to borrow a camper van for the week meaning convenience, mobility, and hopefully some jaw dropping views to go to sleep to. We eventually spend most of the week in Glencoe, partly because of the Clachaig and partly because there was so much to do! 

 The sun sets over Loch Tulla after a climbing Taxus on day 1

Taxus (III), Beinn an Dothaidh

A classic 3* route and a compromise, not so easy that Dom gets bored, not so hard that I get scared. Despite sleeping in the car park at the base of the walk in the long drive the day before led us to sleep in meaning we were not first, or even fifth on the route. Rather than wait we headed up a Haar which was supposed to be (III) but was thin and turned out to be the hardest thing we climbed all week even if the difficulties were only a few meters long. 

Dropping down West Gully we found only one team left on Taxus so stood around whilst Dom got cold (thats what happens when you get skinny enough to climb 7b).  The route looked pretty buried with most of the ice steps well covered.


Eventually getting started I led the first pitch which was pretty easy with good neve and well tracked but was soon brought up short by running headlong into the team above who were taking an age to move off the first belay. Finding an alternate stance out right, I brought Dom up and instructed him not under any circumstances to fall on the belay... or even look at it.

Dom asked if we could pass and having received accent from the other team and he climbed on through, up a short ice step of about 3 meters which proved to be the last difficulty of any merit on the route. Then in his words he Ueli Steck'd it past the other team on what was essentially a steep snow gully, I then led the upper pitch out onto the summit.

We then traversed round to Beinn Achaladair and a fantastic sunset before taking rout one back to the van.

The view from the top of Beinn an Dothaidh -Taken in 2009 (at the same time as the banner on the blog main page)

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Crowberry Gully - Ice climbing in Scotland

I've sadly neglected this blog for months now but have finally got round to posting again. February saw a week long trip to Scotland and for once I managed to time it with some great winter conditions; all be it without the blue skies.

Towards the end of the trip I had a day in Glencoe on the fantastic Crowberry Gully and now thanks to the Christmas addition to the camera family of a Go-Pro it was captured in full HD for you to enjoy.

A more detailed write up is to follow....maybe?