Thursday, 4 February 2016

One of 'those' weeks

1st gearing up of the season for the team
Looking at this weeks forecast I knew it was going to be 'one of those weeks'.  Blowing a hoolie, temperatures up and down like yoyo, I was going to have to dig deep to make the week work for my group.  I have wrapped up the Introductory Winter Climber course for Moran Mountain where I was working with two John's and Matt.  Our first day, Sunday, the outlook was positive.  We knew we had to make the most of this day.  Instead of having a shorter skills based introduction, we had a good sized day on the brilliant A'Chioch Ridge on Beinn Bhan (II***).  With a mix of easy mountaineering followed by a brilliant grade two headwall it got the guys into the zone and we were able to make great progress and onto the summit.
High up on the final headwall on A'chioch
Summit team on Beinn Bhan
Unfortunately the weather had almost turned tropical by the time we returned to the car.  Winds on the summits were to be in excess of 90mph and raining at all levels.  The very little snow we did have would very quickly reduce to just enough for a snowball fight.  Day two we had to make use of the training crag on the Applecross peninsular.

Day 3, urghh!  Rain beating off the wind rocking mini bus as we drove down Glen Torridon, I mustered up some enthusiasm and coaxed everyone out the bus and we started the 2 hour walk along the Allt a' Choire Dhuibh Mhoir up into Coireag Dubh Mor.  Might I add, in 60 mph head winds driving rain through every opening and stitching leaving us all utterly soaked by the time we reached the corrie.  Again I dug deep and found some more enthusiasm as the rain slowly turned to stinging graupel.  We opted for the Way up (I) gully.  And for Matt and John to do the leading.  A great performance from them in these horrendous conditions but after half way it was getting a bit much, especially as Matt was getting very cold and his lips were changing colour.  From here I took over and we whizzed up to the top, still been blasted by constant graupel, so powerful that it would sting the back of my legs.  We all belly flopped over the gully rim like soldiers who have just completed the toughest assault course.  We rejoiced as we were out of the worst of the winds.  Today was no summit day.  No chance.  We got 'outta there'!  So grim but what everyone agreed as type two fun (fun afterwards, not so much during).
Walking round Beinn Eighe
Low on West Buttress
With a desire to climb a little harder, I took the team into the mind blowing Coire Mhic Fhearchair, on Beinn Eighe, a pleasant 3 hour walking before you start climbing.  After yesterdays suffering, today seemed very benign, it was cold, crisp and the mountains had a winter coat on.  To surge up some drained enthusiasm from the last couple of days we opted for West Buttress (IV,4****), a hard mountaineering route with plenty of interest throughout.  For me, this was perfect as I hadn't climbed the route and its days like this, on-sight guiding, which makes up for the tough days this week.  And what a route, very sustained, I think we did 12 pitches up the route which I think I had underestimated but we all worked hard and got up and down the south side before it got dark.  A top effort from the guys!  I was super pleased to complete the trilogy of the triple buttresses (East, Central and now West).
Dont worry lads, there is only a couple of tricky pitches...oops!

Our final day dawned and again we just about had good conditions.  We never touched freezing level, it was always one pitch above our head.  With this forecast we took the walk back into Coireag Dubh Mor and climbed George (III,4) which goes in pretty much any condition fortunately.  We made pretty swift progress up the route and this time went over the summit of Spidean a' Choire Leith before making our final descent off Liathach, our final knee destroying descent of the week.  All in all, it was one of those weeks, a week that looks suboptimal but actually it proved to be very productive and very enjoyable, albeit a little tiring.  Thanks to my clients for putting in all the hard work and the very generous tips at the end.  Hopefully see you all again soon.
Leaving the cave pitch on West Buttress

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