Darren and I arrived in Scotland on the 8th of Feb at the Distillery Cottages in Fort William for a weeks climbing with James Thacker. The first day involved a very early start to try and beat the freezing level which was due to move above the summits by midday. It was a proper introduction to the vagaries of Scottish winter weather. We raced up into Stob Coire nan Lochan after meeting James at 0600. Sadly we lost the race and the idea of wading up Dorsal Arete or Ordinary Route in slushy snow did not appeal. So we spent the day discussing snowpack stability and avalanche risk along with trying out a number of different snow belays. Not quite the ideal start to the week, but it was to make the following day all the sweeter. Here is Jame’s blog post.
The weather was completely changed the following day. The freezing level was much lower, there was little wind and clear blue skies. We didn’t get up quite as early but we still made good time into Coire na Ciste. After a look at the routes available James decided that Number 3 Gully Butress would be the route for the day. We geared up low in the Coire and trailed the rope up the snow slope to the base of the route. James raced up the route, Darren and I followed quickly as well making short work of the difficulties. Indeed for me the route wasn’t technically hard but I pushed myself on the route so by the final pitch my calfs were getting very pumped. The last few moves on to the summit plateau were a real struggle. However it was a good lesson as I paced myself much more efficiently for the rest of the week. As the day was so nice we walked round to the summit and navigated off the summit down Coire Les to the abseil post. While it was hard to pretend it was whiteout conditions, I needed to get the practice in to shore up my poor navigation. We then dug out a snow bollard to abseil into the corrie with. Then we walked past the CIC Hut and back down to the car park. Jame’s blog on the day.
Gearing up and keen for the route
Moving off the belay
James on the belay
Heading up to the summit
Looking back up into the corrie from the CIC Hut