Alpine start saw Craig and Mark arrive in the Coe at 0700 hrs for a climb in Stob Coire nan Lochan. This is a wonderful location for winter and summer climbing but to be honest is a brutalising excursion in winter with a hefty pack on; it rise directly from the River Coe at around 100m to 800m unremittingly over a distance of some about 2k...it is however a fantastic training day for the heart and lungs.
We had an eye on a a couple of climbs but waited to check conditions in the corrie; there was unfrozen turf, insulted by powder snow making climb a slow and thought provoking exercise to ensure good axe & crampon placements. Hence we chose a route we knew in such conditions and headed for Raeburn's Route on central buttress (also known as Ordinary Route).
This goes at IV4 but we reckoned it was a technical grade harder today with the conditions. Mark led off the first chimney pitch which is usually the crux, tho there is much interesting climbing throughout. It was lean and sketchy with the rock not frozen in place, so care was needed. I led thro the second pitch and Mark took the third pitch up the chimney and thin/exposed ledges to a good belay; this is another great pitch and hard moves required on the ledges with no neve. We'd climbed this a couple of years ago and my recollection was the fourth pitch was fairly straight forward...little did I know what was waiting.
|Mark on pitch 1|
|Mark coming up pitch 4|
|Craig at top of pitch three - powder snow in evidence...|
The final move started fairly easy but got consistently harder due to the lack of good snow/neve and unbounded rock. There are a series of short steep walls to negotiate, one in particular being meaty and required some thought and a back off after I couldn't find a placement once committed (of a sorts) to the final pull over...loose rock was all I found under the snow. A different approach worked next time round and before we knew it, we were on the summit having a Mars and a crumpet...much needed.
A quick descent down Easy Gully saw us back at the bags for much needed water and some classic Heinz Tomato Soup - the soup of mountaineers :) Then a quick change out the kit and a whirl down the technical 5 path - super icy and slippy.
Up at 0430hrs and home for 1910hrs after a long hard day; this though was worth of a five star shout as a day; great climbing; great weather; and, home for a great bit of steak pie...what more could a man ask for.