Monday, December 1, 2008

Ben and Glencoe winter report

I'd been planning a week in the Alps for my big winter holiday but they've had shed loads of snow and the faces were looking more like Patagonia than France. Interestingly the very conditions we crave for winter climbing in this country. With a very promising forecast I swapped Fort William for Chamonix and headed up with Andy Benson. Andy's particularly keen at the moment having had a superb trip a week earlier with Rich Cross (Sioux Wall, FWA Heidbanger and East Face Direct on Stob Coire). On the Saturday we were met with snow down to sea level (the pic shows Andy ankle deep at about 500m alt) and a 4 1/2 hour trail break up to the Ben, much enjoyed by every one who followedAndy approaching Trident buttress with the line of Devastation a summer E1 marked, which we think hadn't had a winter ascent yet.Andy on the steep start to the first pitch. Ther were 2 tough pitches but there was gear available at regular intervals although it involved a bit of digging and fiddling. As a result the route proved easier than expected probably VII,8 Sunday morning dawned a perfect winter day, blue skies and -6c. We headed up to the Raven Gully area on the Buchaille. Eventually opting for Ravens Edge, Rab Anderson's big VII,7.
This proved to be a superb and very sustained route which led us to climb the last pitch, a fairly savage offwidth, in the dark This pic shows Andy on the 3rd pitch, the open book corner with Slime wall and a plastered Guerdon Grooves behind him. As an aside we were able to check out Cubby's legendary route. Which lookeed very hard, insecure and bold especially without ice, although personally it didn't float my boat. The line which I'm sure was logical for the first ascent from afar looks very random and uninspiring, there are other unclimbed lines on that wall that do look superb however.
Ive got a couple more days up here and am thinking of heading up to the North West. For those thinking of coming up, temps have gone up a little, all snow so far has been unconsolidated powder, there is some ice, and exposed turf is frozen up high although most bigger clods were insulated by a blanket of snow and are pretty soggy. There's certainly fun to be had though.

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