Scottish Winter Climbing – Jan 2024

With a winter climbing itch to scratch and some very cold temperatures forecast in the Cairngorms Myself and two of my regular climbing partners Lukasz & Martin headed up to Aviemore for 3 days. Staying in Boat of Garten meant that the Ski center carpark was just half an hours drive so we spent every day in the Northern Corries.

Day 1. Andromeda IV 4.

Day 1 and we thought it best to avoid potential crowds in Coire an t-Sneachda and headed in to the relatively quieter Cairn Lochain. A couple of groups ahead of us luckily all had different objectives so we had Andromeda to ourselves. A relatively easy first pitch up Milky Way lead to the crux pitch which Lukasz took. The intense cold with not much build up meant interesting conditions with lots of frozen turf with powdery snow and not much ice. Pros; easy to find gear, Cons not much useful neve and ice for axes.

Lukasz’s impressive lead on the crux which in the conditions felt very top end grade 4 ended with an excellent little cave belay where we could shelter from the almost constant spindrift dumps. A bit of cornice bashing was required to top out into the welcoming arms of zero visibility and 50mph winds. Lovely!

Day 2. Wavelength IV 4.

Day 2 and we decided on Coire an t-Sneachda for the slightly shorter walk in and out after the previous days battle against the conditions on the walk out. Wavelength was the objective and we managed to get straight on it without any queues. Martin got the first pitch up Spiral Gully then I went for pitch 2. A great pitch which i promptly go a bit lost on, finally found the right way up a nice bit of mixed climbing to the belay.

Lukasz got pitch 3 up more nice mixed and neved up chimneys. I got back on lead for the top pitch which had a couple of really nice steep mixed sections. Another top out into zero vis and 40mph winds so we quickly sorted the ropes and headed back across the plateau to the ski center.

Day 3. Fiacaill Couloir II

A total navigation failure on day 3 saw us on Fiacaill Couloir instead of our intended route. No visibility on the walk in and overly optimistic guidebook interpretation meant what we though was Invernookie turned out to be a total nothing. The clouds lifted after a 60m pitch and we spotted the right bit of Fiacaill buttress way over to the right. A quick bit of down climbing and we were at the proper base of Invernookie but behind another team.

With time getting on we decided to do Fiacaill Couloir. Two really pleasant 60m pitches brought up up the the chockstone. In the current conditions getting round the chockstone felt more like grade V than II, the amount of tat below the chockstone was testament to the number of teams who retreat here. After what felt like a full on wrestling match with the boulder I managed to get round it and we were on to the top. A quick descent down Goat Track Gully got us out of the wind for an easy walk back to the ski center.

Will’s Kit.

Petzl Nomic

Arc’teryx Alpha FL 30

Mountain Equipment Changabang Jacket

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