Savagery in SCnL

On the final day we decided that a walk in to Stob Coire nan Lochan (SCnL) would be the best way to finish of our already tired limbs. So once more we began the slow and steady pull up into the corrie again in the rain which turned to snow as we gained height. Legs were definitely slowing down but we still made the corrie floor in a respectable time. Teams were already on Dorsal Arete so we decided to do the first few pitches of Ordinary Route with the aim of ending up and doing some leading on Boomerang Arete. The crux of the inital pitch was quite tricky and I think James was worried we wouldn’t be able to manage it, but after some discussion he romped up it. Darren and I however weren’t quite as quick. I honestly couldn’t have climbed it without leashless axes. I stepped left onto a ledge before the technical 5 crux slab, so had to make a large move onto the spike, before finding a bomber hook for one axe a crap hook for the other.  I  then spent a while cleaning off the small footholds and working out the sequence for the next few moves. I then moved up balancing on my frontpoints and manteling down on the one axe with a good placement. I was then able to get axes into the neve at the top of the slab, so I was able to move up further. Unfortunately I didn’t have the stamina to get the nut out without a rest on the rope. Once the nut was removed it was a simple romp to the belay.

The second pitch was much steadier and both Darren and I shot up it. I took a small slump when removing a cam as the snow that had seemed solid when I kicked a ledge proved to be less than solid. We arrived at the belay on the arete. Unfortunately the temperature had risen and the snow had turned to rain. This meant that the arete was rather loaded with snow so we decided that the safest option was to bail. A quick abseil and we were at the bottom of boomerang gully, we quickly got out of the danger zone and onto the corrie floor. We then made the long and slippy trudge down the path of slush back to the car park.  While it wasn’t a perfect day the technical climbing was awesome and the experience of bailing in winter was a good one to have gained.  Jame’s blog post is here.

All that remained was to return to the cottage dry off our gear, pack it all up and begin the 8 hour drive home.

So far this winter thats a total of 6 days of climbing routes (two on PyF and four in Scotland) and one day walking around only for conditions to be poor.  So that’s fairly decent bearing in mind how changeable British weather can be.  The week was an excellent trip and was certainly money well spent.  I learnt an incredible amount from James, both from watching him climb and what he did and from asking him endless questions about snow stability, placing gear, navigation, climbing etc etc.  I’ve definitely learnt much more in a week with a guide than I would have done from a week on my own.  Now hopefully I can get out a few more times before the winter is over to put the new skills into practice.

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