Monday, 13 January 2014

Scary Penguins

Ever hopeful of a decent winter climb, Craig and Mark headed for SCNL in the Coe to check out a couple of routes.  An early start saw us head off into the dark at 0715.  A steady pace to the top saw some alpenglow on the tops and a very snow corrie.

Over the Aonach Eagach
Snow walk in
There was one other team ahead, on Twisting Gully - very bad option we thought - and there was plenty of fresh windslab which fractured with ease.   After a chat and a scan of what might be climbed, and climbable, we opted for Raeburn's Ordinary Route and struck off up the slope to the start.  There is a layer of graupel about 4" down and the pack pretty solid about 9" down.    There is certainly a huge amount of snow in the corrie; indeed, this crack/fissure/crevasse was at least 10 feet deep;

A dubious walk
We got up asap and set up for the first pitch.  Mark took first and me second with the cracks buried or iced up; gear was hard fought and pretty thin in places, compared to normal conditions (what  are they in Scotland...)
Mark on pitch on
Craig coming out the chimney line on pitch one
Pitch with a view
There is no neve; a snow crust broke through mostly and the snow was very hard packed windslab or very soft fresh which broke through, so things were constantly hard fought.  Notwithstanding, we did have a good time and Mark started up the third pitch, through the initial chimney then partly up the wall but no gear and soft snow brought a sensible decision to retreat and we set up an ab directly back  down the route.  
The abseil station - we are not the first...
60m ropes nearly took us to the car and we got part way down the approach slopes, which at 30 degrees are just at the wrong angle to hang about on.  Thankfully we got down to the corrie floor without incident and after soup and a sarnie had a pleasant walk out.

The walk out
...still walking...
All in, a great day with some climbing at last.  The conditions are not great and the avalanche danger remains high, requiring care and safe travel, with sound decision making.   Hopefully some better weather might bring an improvement in conditions to settle things for some more action.

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