Continuing the Intro to Winter Climbing Course with Moran Mountaineering…
Monday saw both Robin’s and my team heading into Coire Dubh Mor (home to Poachers Fall and Salmon Leap), to climb the three star classic, George. The weather was fantastic to say the least, with next to no wind, and bright blue skies, and we made short work of the approach into the corrie and soon found ourselves gearing up at the base of the narrow gully of George. Conditions in the gully were very good, with firm neve and some great licks of ice, and so whilst a tunnel can be climbed on pitch 3, the ice outside provided far better technical climbing at about grade 4. Both Eds did very well on their first taste of more technical climbing, and we topped out in the main ridge of Liathach to be greeted by brilliant sunshine, and views in all directions. A quick ascent saw the team on top of Spidean a’Choire Leith, the highest Munro on the ridge, before the mammoth descent back down into Glen Torridon. Poacher’s Fall was the only complete ice line in Coire Dubh Mor, but looked quite thin… However, the main ridge traverse would have been fantastic!
Yesterday, we were joined by Martin, and all three were keen to jump on the sharp end, so both teams headed to Suspense Gully on Beinn Bhan, under yet another blue sky. Whilst there’s quite a bit of snow on the steep headwall of the corrie, I doubt that there would be much on offer (particularly after today’s thaw). Suspense Gully (is actually two grade I gullies, separated by a huge fin of rock) provided the perfect route on which to practise leading (good gear, spacious belays and firm neve), and so both of the Eds and Martin each had the opportunity to lead a pitch, with me soloing alongside wittering on about placing early runners, gear selection and the principles of building belays. A very productive day, during which all three grasped the foundations of leading a winter climb.
The forecast for today was showing a slight deterioration in the weather, with milder temperatures, fresh winds and drizzle moving in over the course of the day, so we made an early start, and headed for Sgurr Ruadh in Glen Carron. I hadn’t climbed here before but the promise of a three star grade II seemed to fit in perfectly with The two Eds and Martin’s aspirations. The mountain is situated just north of Fuar Tholl, but has a much more gentle approach on good paths most the way, so within two hours, we had reached the base of Post Box Gully, so called because of the requirement to climb beneath a huge chockstone and pop out of a slot above. This happened to be the first pitch, and gave some brilliant and quite technical (grade 4?) moves, requiring a whole host of moves from bridging to using hands rather than axes to make progress, far more value than your average grade II! Crux pitch done, the rest of the gully still provided some good climbing, with a couple of more technical steps, all of which the team did well on. After topping out, we made the 20 min detour to bag the Munro, before scurrying back down to avoid the worst of the rain. Another great day in the bag and the intro team are certainly racking up starred routes this week!