Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Classic Mountaineering

Over the last couple of weeks I have had the luck to have three days of classic Scottish winter mountaineering on some fantastic ridges in the West and North-West Highlands. Never too technical, and not requiring too much gear, this kind of mountaineering is so rewarding. Efficiency with route-finding and rope-work is repaid by a fluid, efficient traverse, mountaineering at its simplest and finest.

First up was the A Chioch Traverse, on Beinn Bhan, in Applecross (NW Highlands) with Calum. A stunning ridge surrounded by deep, imposing corries leads to an intimidating headwall. From a distance it looks impregnable, but an amenable way leads up tricky rocky steps and natural grooves to the summit plateau. Very tricky for its traditional grade of II, one or two of the steps are more like III, and definitely pitched climbing terrain for most people.

Looking at the headwall, A Chioch traverse

Approaching the summit plateau of Beinn Bhan

Second was the Queen of mainland ridges; the Aonach Eagach, Glen Coe, and a chance to catch up with Dave. This is a long day out even in summer; in winter, with deep, unconsolidated snow it was a tiring day. The effort was worth it though, as we enjoyed some fabulous weather, and a stunning sunrise. Most of the ridge is often done unroped, but the descent from Am Bodach, and the Pinnacles section demand care, and a rope adds security. Due to the unconsolidated snow, we made a couple of quick abseils to avoid the sketchy, slabby descents. The guidebook grade of II/III seemed spot on; never harder than II technically, but a committing undertaking with no escape possible once into the meat of the traverse.

A great day in store.....

Great weather

Great mountaineering

Sunrise on the Aonach Eagach

The steep descent of Am Bodach, we down climbed then made a short abseil

Worth getting up for......

Lastly in this recent trio was an East-West traverse of Stac Pollaidh with Toby and Calum. This stunning "mini-mountain", in the far NW Highlands, is not often in winter condition due to its low height and coastal location. Thus just adds to the appeal of a winter traverse! It is well described in summer, but the traverse is not mentioned in the winter climbing guidebooks. It gave us a great day out, with some interesting steps and a couple of abseils, and all sorts of weather from blue skies and sun to horizontal sleet and snow! It felt like II/III again.....trickier steps than then Aonach Eagach, but much less of it!

Stac Pollaidh--wow!

Tricky step

Stac Pollaidh