As the forecast for the Lochaber area wasn’t too stunning we elected to head over to the Cairngorms on the third day. After a much shorter walk-in we arrived in Coire an t’Sneachda. We had a look around the corrie and the Fiaciall Butress was selected as the crag du jour, as there were already climbers on The Seam, James decided the Invernookie (III,4) was the route for the day. It’s IV,5 under powder according to UKC which is even better, as guess what it was pretty powdery when we went up it. The routes generally looked in good condition with a stunning looking Patey’s Route in the middle of the corrie. My legs were really glad of the short walk in, it was a nice change from the past two days. As the route was considerably shorter I suffered much less from a fitness point of view. My leashless axes and the solid neve coating the route made the crux moves quite easy. Helped by being able to watch Darren struggle on them I floated up the crux moves. A couple of high axe placements and few free climbing moves (a cheeky sidepull) and I was up on to the final rightward ramp up to the top of the Fiaciall Ridge. We scrambled up that and navigated around the top of the corrie, dropping back along the ridge into the ski area car park. Sadly by now my blister on top of a blister had ripped into one massive open wound on the back of my heal. So despite all the taping and the blister plasters for the first few days, I’d still ended up with a wound the size of a 50p peice on the back of my left foot. Once we were back at the cottage it was back into the now routine business of drying off gear and repacking the bags for the following day. The movie for the evening was True Grit, something we’d need plenty of on the final two days.
Back to the Ben for the penultimate day. My legs were beginning to feel it and there was a definite slow down as we slogged up into Coire na Ciste. However we did manage to keep up with a couple of Jame’s considerably fitter mates on the way up the path to the CIC Hut, while they were probably strolling along it was nice to have all the training pay off. We were keen to get on a IV and Central Gully Right Hand (IV, 4)) was clear so we geared up and got on the route. The first few pitches were dispatched quite easily however the final pitch up the middle of the gully was quite tough and I got my first forearm pump of the week. It was excellent to be back on proper steep ice. Also as I was following Darren up the pitch I got quite a lot of ice and spindrift down on my head. Proper Scottish climbing. However I pulled up the steep ice onto the easier ground with a short plod onto the top of the cliff. Conditions weren’t quite so good weather wise and we took a short walk around to the top of Number 4 gully where the snowpack was stable enough to allow a quick walk down the gully back to the CIC Hut and again down to the car. The weather wasn’t quite as nice as it had been the past few days so not as many photos in this post. I’m hoping that I’ll get a few more tho and when I do get my grubby paws on them, I’ll amend this post.