Friday, 6 January 2017

Chasing the Winter in Coire an Lochain

Winter made a bit of a return on the back of some strong North-Westerly winds just after New Year, thawing again on the 3rd before refreezing overnight and into the 4th. So myself and Sean desperate to get back out again made the early morning drive from Glasgow bound for Cairngorm Ski Centre with the intention of heading into Lochain on the 4th of January.

We were keen to head for Deep Throat but weren't so sure North-Easterly aspects would be white enough after the thaw the day prior. We figured North-Westerly aspects would still be good thanks to the strong overnight winds and cold temperatures. Upon arriving into Lochain we noted that there were already around five or six teams underneath Savage Slit waiting about before eventually dispersing. We therefore figured things probably weren't so wintery round the corner of No.4 Buttress and what was white would now be queued out. There was nobody in the area of No.2 Buttress which was the whitest cliff in the Coire so we headed on up there before settling on the line of Central Crack Route which appeared the most defined line on the broken buttress.

Only one picture today; wasn't a photogenic day! Sean just below the plateau in a howling gale and severe windchill.
Once up high we could now see round to Savage Slit which looked probably just cosmetically white enough although we were surprised to see that routes left of Bulgy were all still most definitely wintery. Surprisingly too all teams had walked past these routes heading elsewhere. Nonetheless Sean started on up Central Crack Route, the central line on the buttress which goes at IV 5 **. The rock was all seriously well verglassed making the initial move off the deck quite awkward and insecure. With a bit of grunting followed by a bout of hot aches Sean peddled on up to the short chimney above. A bit of a grovel with the rucksack ensued before he ran up the easy ground above. 

Cold at the belay thanks to the -6 deg C temperature I elected to keep my thick belay gloves on for seconding. This proved to be a mistake as they slid off the verglassed flake which I yanked on to get me off the deck. I unfortunately slumped onto the rope with my feet just about back on terra firma! After warming myself up properly before having another go things went fine next time round, using metal instead of gloved hands on the verglassed rock! 

We switched gear at the belay then I romped on up the stepped easy ground above which traverses up and left, before finishing up broken ground left of the square-cut wall at the top. I paused for a look at The Crack, of which there is a brilliant picture in the SMC Cairngorms guidebook, and was impressed with the look of the line. Definitely one to come back for in less verglassed conditions!

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