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2 big days..A Ridge Too Far....

2 big days..A Ridge Too Far....


Postby coachmacca » Tue Feb 18, 2014 10:54 am

Munros included on this walk: Bidean nam Bian, Stob Dearg (Buachaille Etive Mor)

Date walked: 07/02/2014

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With conditions a bit mixed (basically high avalanche risks left right and centre!) we had our routes decided for us on the most part in early Feb.

I had arranged some Scottish Winter guided climbing (just up to Grade III)with a contact i have been speaking to for most of a year (initially in relation to island Peak which didn't happen..) . . Jon Gupta (of JCG Expeditions). Greta guy btw .. really amazing guide, highly recommend!

We were based out of the Strath Lodge, 10 mins from the Clachaig and again it was lovely- Turned out I had once worked with Ann that runs it .. I cannot recommend the food and comfort enough, as well as the local hillwalking and climbing knowledge they have and happily impart! (P.s the lounge is full of mountain books and magazines. it was like heaven!)

Anyhoo to the hills!

Day 1 was to be Dorsal Arete on Stob Coire nan Lochan - a Grade II - Snow heavy on the ground meant a long walk in ... ooft - I had forgotten it could be a tough steep walk even in summer but Sam really found it hard going in winter...

so about 2.5 hours later we reached the headwall of Stob Coire nan Lochan - or at least we think we did as the virtual white-out meant we could see very far :lol:

Anyway it was a great , if fairly simple route, only 1 tricky "crux" bit where a small chock stone in a narrow gap meant a bit of climbing/standing/axe placements but was great fun! Weather was variable - clear at points, light wind, occasional snow/spindrift to make it interesting.

The main crux being the very narrow fin near the top of the route can be daunting if you don't like exposure but if you straddle and "bumshuffle" (technical climbing term I believe) across its fine.... Sam opted however for a more "superman/starfish" motion and basically crawled along it :lol: ... She did really enjoy it overall though - especially as a first winter climb ! :clap:

Happy campers (walkers/climbers) at the top
Image
Scottish Winter Feb14 by coachmacca, on Flickr

Was a great day and we even stopped at one point to allow Jon to complete his, much more positive and non idiotic NekNomination - see here for the mountain variation! -

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=yo ... pp=desktop


Summitted after maybe 2 hours so a nice short climb , high fives all round then a walk out including some great tips, pointers and training on cornices, rime direction, scouring etc..

Back down and to the warmth of Strath Lodge and great food to see us off to be ahead of Day 2 ... the real story! We even got to meet the outdoor photographer Alexandre Buisse (link here http://www.alexandrebuisse.org/ )and the Rab Sponsored climber/mountaineer Jean-Baptiste Desmoulière so we felt in great mounatin company :D

Since Sam found the long walk a real challenge alongside a climb and being a bit knackered after Day1 I decided we should try Curved Ridge - short walk in, Sam had done it in Summer no probs and its was a "doable" grade iii

Up at a very civilised 7am for 8am brekkie then out (Dan's breakfasts at the Lodge are AWESOME!) we walked into the base of the Bookil in about an hour, turn up at the waterslide then begin the steep first sections of the route proper. Snow was abundant so we decided to gear up and rope the first couple of sections to be on the safe side .

Walking in to Buachille Etive mor
Image
Scottish Winter FY14 by coachmacca, on Flickr

Weather was great throughout - We started climbing about 10.am... we summitted at 5.30. - just as the sun set... obviously all did not go to plan! ?

Steep "walk in" (looking back at Sam) - Glencoe ski resort to right above Rannoch Moor
Image
Scottish Winter Feb '14 by coachmacca, on Flickr
We got to the first real pitch after some great fun , steep snow climbing - swimming at times! Already some amazing airy sections but both Sam and i were very comfortable with it (me loving it tbh) so a few snaps along the way were easy to achieve.


Snowy steep first sections (before the actual climb) - Jon Gupta leading
Image
Scottish Winter FY14 by coachmacca, on Flickr


At the first real pitch though we started to have to deal with a bit of rock,/snow mixed terrain - holds were hard to find under the snow, where there was snow it was but soft to axe into and that combination together with the increasing exposre meant Sam's spirits were sinking.. fast. I hadn't really noticed at first but as Jon had moved ahead to set the next belay Sam had been clinging white knuckled to her rope... when I suggested she relax as it burns energy she looked at me and I could see she was really scared... :(

Looking up to the first real pitch of the day
Image
Scottish Winter Feb '14 by coachmacca, on Flickr

Basically she hit a bit of a panic attack and was not basically cragfast! :shock: :( At that point mixed emotions go through you eh...). I felt awful that she was so scared (felt responsible), was a bit worried about how we were going to manage out of the situation (abseiling is never easy.. and we have never done it anywhere except the ice wall) an then there was the (ashamed to say it) frustration that we might not be able to continue the climb).

Rapidly this last emotion disappeared and my only concern was for Sam's safety and her state of mind. Ok whats the strategy?

I coach in my day job so know something about what might and mioght not work - saying "calm down" does not work... but distracting Sam might so I pretty much strnely told her to look at me - LOOK at me and listen to my voice. This was enough to short circuit her panic but she was far from ok.. from there I had to try and make her recognise that a) she couldn't go anywhere as she was on a rope, that b) I would never let her fall and c) that technically she could easily manage it... she slowly accepted it was purely fear and to her credit (so proud!) she slowly unclipped the belay and started to move up and over the rock! :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:

Once past that point and onto the next belay Sam had calmed considerable y but the stress had really tired her out and she was not in a greta place for the rest of the climb ahead - she did however want to go on. We agreed and off we set.

Looking back at the clear ridge line we had taken - Ronnoch moor below
Image
Scottish Winter Feb '14 by coachmacca, on Flickr

Sam moving into one of the final gully pitches (my view for most of the day :wink: )
Image
Scottish Winter Feb '14 by coachmacca, on Flickr

The long and short of it is that we completed the climb, slowly, understandably Sam was tentative, kicking it steps many more times than needed, unsure of axe holds and at one icey "bulge" was very nervous but climbed up and over - the Ice Wall training certainly had paid off for both of us!.

My primary (and Jon's) concern now was that at this pace we may not summit in daylight... not ideal :shock: He was very good with Sam and in a very supportive voice just asked her to try and dig deep one last time and push on - no pressure, no orders, no stress (I cant say the same for me sadly :( ) and she pushed herself to the very limit energy wise.

Sam on a ledge behind Crowberry Tower ahead of final steep gully (just above her on right) Image
Scottish Winter FY14 by coachmacca, on Flickr

The route felt very long, the final gully and steep narrow exit onto the summit ridge seemed a mile long but slowly but surely we climbed/trudged it and summitted literally as the sun went down. Quick rest - eat, drink (for heat and energy), headtorches on , map and compass check... and off we set.

Summit pic is a blur so heres one from about 1/3 way up the ridge
Image
Scottish Winter Feb14 by coachmacca, on Flickr

We quckly hit the "motorway" of footprints and followed them down to the shoulder and to the out track , we could aslo see some headlights behind us so we werent the only ones summiting in the dark... not over yet though... Go to remember the walk down can be as tricky as the climb up in Winter!

As we made our way down the steep route it was clear a few people had been bum sliding during the day creating nice smooth tracks.. problem was these had now frozen over so presented a treacherous "slide" for us...

I thought I'd be clever and walk with one foot on this (for speed) and one in the deeper snow (for stability)....

Yeah .. don't try that folks! :lol:

A few steps, bit of momentum and boom - I'm up to my knee in snow, pitched over, fell forward and WHOOSH! I'm cannonballing down the slope and accelerating!

Ice Axe arrest training at the ready! One attempt.. dug in but bounced out and got turned around, second attempt hardly got in before again bouncing on a bump and getting flipped over until finally the third attempt I got right over the axe and buries it until it ploughed a furrow until I stopped... :shock: :crazy: :crazy:

A wee sit to "gather my thoughts" and then I was up and caustiosly finished the walk out... Sam basically bum slid with Jon holding her on a rope but we all got down safe and in quite quick time... Finally home at 8pm - 11 hours later!

Big big day! Clachaig inn for beers and pie to celebrate and then sleep.... like a log.

Sam has decided Grade iii is too much for her for now, grade ii for a while yet and still plenty of hillwalking to enjoy - I think im getting the vertical bug though.... :wink: Enjoy the pics!
Last edited by coachmacca on Mon Feb 24, 2014 2:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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coachmacca
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Re: 2 big days..1 too much for Sam!

Postby mrssanta » Tue Feb 18, 2014 10:05 pm

that was fab!
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Re: 2 big days..1 too much for Sam!

Postby coachmacca » Wed Feb 19, 2014 9:40 am

Thanks MrsSanta :D Amazing couple of days!
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Re: 2 big days..1 too much for Sam!

Postby AnnieMacD » Wed Feb 19, 2014 2:27 pm

Great adventure - looks pretty scary to a land-lubber like me.
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Re: 2 big days..1 too much for Sam!

Postby SAVAGEALICE » Thu Feb 20, 2014 8:56 am

wow! :shock: well done to you both :clap: ..enjoyed your report :D thanks for sharing
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Re: 2 big days..1 too much for Sam!

Postby soapy27 » Fri Feb 21, 2014 6:56 am

Excellent report there Coachmacca and well done Sam :clap:
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Re: 2 big days..1 too much for Sam!

Postby coachmacca » Fri Feb 21, 2014 8:50 pm

Thanks Guys - gotta admit it did feel like a real mountain adventure lol - bit too much for Sam but kudos to her for pushing on! Real bravery :clap:

Hoping for more soon :D
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Re: 2 big days..1 too much for Sam!

Postby ChrisW » Fri Feb 21, 2014 11:54 pm

Some stunning shots of a fantastic day CM. I'm with Sam on this one I think but kudos to both of you for your real mountain adventure- what a great day :clap:
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Re: 2 big days..1 too much for Sam!

Postby coachmacca » Sat Feb 22, 2014 6:30 pm

Cheers Chrisbut correct me if I'm wrong but are you not the man who "walks" in the mountains of Canada the land of bears and avalanches (like flying sharks) :clap: :lol: Kudos to you! :D
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