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Golden Oldie & Tunnel Vision, West Chimney & Tower Ridge

I was playing back at home today, with Nick, Andy and Allan.  Allan had a fair bit of summer mountaineering experience, but had never worn crampons before, whereas his friends Nick and Andy had done a fair bit in winter before, so I thought a route like Golden Oldie would be a great introduction to winter climbing for him, and be of interest to the other two.  Quite a few other folk had similar plans this morning, but we managed to stay out in front on the approach, and once on the route, soon left the crowds behind.

The route was in perfect conditions, with the turf fully frozen and snow largely consolidated, giving first time axe placements almost every time.  We romped up the route, and were on the summit for midday.  After a quick bite to eat, we walked over to Easy Gully on the East Face, which is in great condition (no cornice, good firm but not icy snow), and made a quick descent down that, passing a couple of teams who had decided not to try and tackle the cornices above Right Twin.  We climbed Tunnel Vision, which had a great pitch of very good snow/ice (don’t expect too many screw placements) and no cornice at the top.  The main pitch of this ticked the chaps’ boxes, and with still plenty of time spare we wondered down the NE Spur, and had a look at snow bollards and abseiling before calling it a day.

Andy was out with James and Robert, they enjoyed Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis, which must have been in brilliant condition.  We could see a number of teams on the Great Tower from where we were today, quite possibly Andy, James and Robert!

Finally, Chris rounded the Advance Winter Climbing Course off, by heading away from the crowds, and up to Bidean nam Bian, where he and John climbed West Chimney on Church Door Buttress and something on Collie’s Pinnacle, which he couldn’t find in the guidebook.  They’ve enjoyed a great week at a number of interesting venues.

More subterranean adventures: Flake Route, Bidean

Continuing yesterday’s theme of squeezing into tight spaces, Hannah and I had a rare day off together, and so ventured up to the brilliant Church Door Buttress on Bidean nam Bian, to look at Flake Route.  Whilst the approach feels long, we took a couple of hours from the car park to the foot of the route, just next to the esoteric and truly subterranean Crypt Route.  Flake Route by comparison is quite ‘en plein air’.

The route moves straight into a deep and narrow slot (but not quite as narrow as The Clanger which I climbed yesterday), so we decided that leaving the packs at the foot of the buttress was a wise move.  Gaining the crack was fairly straight forward, although making progress, at times, once established in the body width chimney, was a bit tricky (yet secure), with plenty of body wedging and arm barring, along with useless foot pedalling, as some of the snow was quite unconsolidated.  From just beyond the exit of the slot, Hannah took over, and led a fairly straight forward pitch to converge with West Chimney, which Steve & Dot and Mike with his two clients were enjoying themselves on. Steve was grateful that the tunnel pitch on West Chimney is no longer!

A number of routes all finish up Raeburn’s Chimney, which probably forms the crux of Flake Route, just,  so we all moved efficiently to minimise hold-ups.  It turns out we weren’t the only ones enjoying Bidean today, a number of top end climbers were also trying some harder lines, which didn’t finish up Raeburn’s Chimney.