Yep I’m back up in Scotland again, this time on the west coast hoping to catch the last of the winter climbing. With a high pressure forecast to materialise over the North Sea and bringing colder, stable weather it was a bit of a last minute decision on Tuesday to once more pack the kit and head up. unfortunately it hasn’t quite been as good as everyone was hoping, but its still doable. There were only 2 climbs left on my list for this year, Curved and Castle, both ridges and good practice for my plan of climbing the Materhorn later in the year.
With temperatures forecast to rise during the day, I knew it would need to be sharpish on route, but with the cloud also forecast to lift during the day, making route finding easier, on a route I didn’t know, it was going to be a bit of balancing act. So I left the car at 07:00 and was gearing up at the bottom of the route before 08:00, The cloud base was only 600m at this hr and the snow in the gully at the bottom of the route wasn’t frozen, the old stuff wasn’t bad, but there was some fresh stuff that wasn’t consolidated at all and you just sank straight through it. By now it had started snowing and although not to windy it was blowing around a bit. As soon as I could I got out of the gully and onto what I guessed in the bad vis, was the ridge proper. I reached the freezing level at around 750m, about what was forecast, but it couldn’t have been here for long as only the surface snow was frozen. So I stuck to the rocky ridge as much as possible and actually had a very interesting time working out all the variables of axe placement in cracks and foot work on single points in cracks. At the top of the ridge it was below -1 and the snow slope was reasonably firm, I took the right hand fork to the Crowberry Tower gap, here the wind was very blustery with lots of driven snow and spindrift. Looking at Crowberry Tower I was thinking should I or shouldn’t I? It look a bit more difficult than what I had ascended, With bad vis, wind and spindrift it could be dangerous, excellent I thought lets give it a go!!
Anyway as it turned out it wasn’t as bad as it looked, just a couple of difficult moves and I was on the top. As I stood on top of the Tower, as if granted a grand reward, the clouds parted, the sun came out and for a brief moment I was Lord of the Universe looking down on everything, well except the summit of Stob Dearg. So after a few photos with the clouds closing back in I abed off back into the Gap. From here its an easy snow climb to the summit where I stopped to have my bait and here was faced with the biggest disappointment of the whole climb. Now I know I always forget something, but pride myself on it never been anything that important. This time I’d forgot to put the sealing ring on my thermos after washing it the last time. So, having an empty flask and a tea flavoured rucksack I ate my dry sandwiches and headed on down the NE ridge the other side of the avalanche prone corrie. As I got lower I met the freezing level at around 900m making the descent very difficult. This was possibly the most dangerous part of the whole day, with slushy snow, sodden turn and scree, none of which was adhered to the mountain side. I nearly did myself a mischief on more than one occasion I can tell you. But before to long I was down and back at the car shedding my outer layers, the whole route, car to car had only taken 4, 1/2hrs. Now as I sit the afternoon in the Clachaig my thoughts turn to the Ben!!
PS: f*^”king American spell check can’t spell worth shit!!!!!