Mike Dunn and Kenny Brookman started the weekend early heading into Coire Nan Lochan on the Friday to climb Ordinary Route on Central Buttress. They started this route in February 1988, retreating due to drunkenness ( possibly darkness ). Therefore it took them exactly 30 years to complete, slow even for us.
A Sunny Glencoe. Coire Nan Lochan
Myself and Martin Riddell departed Ayrshire after work therefore it was past Midnight before we reached the CIC hut, Martin carried the climbing gear from the NF car park to the hut and I the food & drink which I think was a trick ! Saturday morning we allowed the main majority of the others in the hut to depart first allowing us to have a leisurely breakfast after the late arrival the night before which had continued into the wee hours.
We split into two pairs on Saturday, Mike and Kenny did Nasturtium on Central Trident Buttress. “You don’t need to tell anyone we did the wrong first pitch, just that it was a magnificent lead by Kenny”, said Mike. Ok I said, I won’t tell anyone !
Martin took me on my first “real” winter route “Ledge Route”. The conditions were good however the wind was buffering us now and then but nothing too bad. Heading up the steep slopes to the first slab for me was the toughest part of the day, a few hard puffs of the cheeks in the deep snow ( neve, I googled it ) and I was soon following in Martins footsteps. We roped up to cross the first Slab & Martin lead all the way making sure I was close behind, securing us as and when required…….in the middle picture you can see guys climbing on the ice curtain, our route took us up to the left of this and then across, above it and to the right.
On Ledge Route we were blessed with some spectacular views along the way, a stack which looks like it could go at anytime as well as some nice pictures of the Ridge and the North Face………Martin assessing the way forward.
At the top of the Route we were rewarded again with a superb view, a perfect spot for lunch.
For our descent Martin cut a Snow Bollard for us to use in order to abseil off, something I have never done before…….some nice spin drift coming off as I waited below for Martin to join. The steep back climb down Gully 4 was again another first for me, this was a slow process but I got a good rhythm going and soon enough we were on more leveled ground where the walk down to the hut became more like what I am used to.
Saturday night in the hut was filled with stories and good laughs with several lads from Aberdeen along with some lads and lasses from Edinburgh, Manchester and the Wirral.
Mike had his fill of climbing and decided to head down and bag another Graham, “Druim Liath” on the Sunday, looking back to the NF of the Ben and pointing out Ledge Route in his picture. I was more than fulfilled with my “Winter Route” and although Kenny and Martin offered to pull me up Italian Route I declined, allowing them to crack on early on Sunday leaving myself a two others on Hut duty.
Seriously, this is just a Graham ! Mike looking back to the Ben, Ledge Route highlighted.
After a light breakfast Kenny and Martin departed the CIC hut on the Sunday morning, leaving Jabba to his slumbers, this time though the winds from the day before had blown themselves out to leave a crisp clear day.
The Italian Climb was the objective of the day, off Kenny strode, at his usual pace, soon leaving Martin scurrying after him – onwards and upwards on a path, then a traverse across a steep bullet hard neve slope before Kenny decided to ascend, much to Martin’s concern. Kenny soon reached the base of the cliff face whereupon a shout went up “Errr, could you drop a rope down as I’m keiching myself on this exposed slope”. Kenny duly obliged and Martin soon joined him at the cliff face – nowhere near where the Italian Climb started so a wee traverse, down climb, then up again (ok about two pitches) and we soon reached the base of the climb.
Kenny made short shrift of the first pitch, in a lovely open gulley, on ice hard neve- lovely for axes but no protection so a full run out of 50m to reach the fixed belay. Kenny then took the second pitch again, this time gaining an ice screw on the right half way up, before sighting a peg further up – only problem was the peg had been placed on 60m ropes and Kenny had a 50m rope – a wee discussion took place, I ( Martin ) untied Kenny from the 50m leaving him now climbing only on a 60m rope so he soon reached the belay to find that the tat on the peg was rotten resulting in Kenny down climbing back to find a suitable belay lower down.
Once Martin had tied back into the 50m rope he soon joined Kenny at the belay, took the gear and headed up for the third pitch, again a full run out but with excellent axe placements before a belay was set up on the left of the gulley.
Kenny headed up, once again took the lead and went upwards but soon discovered the way blocked by a overhanging roof – not grade III territory so we figured we were off route.
A quick confab later we concluded that as the route should now just be a snow slope to Tower Ridge, which we were to descend, or the decent route was to abb down the route (as described in the guidebook) we should look for a suitable abb station.
A large boulder provided a great point for a sling and a mallion, a right traversing abb (using axes to hold ourselves from swinging straight down, not easy when abseiling) brought us to some insitu tatt providing us with another abb station, down that to the first belay stance where we found a party starting the Italian Right Hand ice climb ( which looked lovely ) and they were happy enough to share the belay stance with us as we abbed off – a very pleasant experience.
Once at the base of the climb a snow bollard ( second of the weekend for me ) meant we abbed down the initial steep approach slopes before traversing across the steep neve field to gain easier ground a walk back to the Hut to find that Jabba had cleaned up, swept out and was about to clear out.
Jabba set off, closely followed by me, then Kenny came bounding along, all making it back to the car park to be met by Mike who had been Graham Bagging ( yup, he’s still at that strange game but it keeps him happy ) to end off a cracking weekend at the CIC hut – the weather had been kind, the climbing great and the craic just as good – it was even very friendly in the hut!
Regards Mike, Kenny, Martin and David ( Jabba )
Great stuff, gentlemen! Almost makes me want to go winter climbing again. Almost.
If you come on the next one can you bring soup ?