Scotland half Term

East Ridge of N Buttress of Stob Ban

East Ridge of N Buttress of Stob Ban

A little while ago now but some photos from a week working for Mountain Magic, www.mountaimmagic.org.uk.

On the Saturday (13th Feb) Paul, who runs Mountain Magic and I had a day out together for some climbing and a chance to get our heads together for the week ahead working together. Paul needed a mellow day to test but not overstretch his recovering knee and given the avalanche conditions I suggested that the East Ridge of the North Buttress of Stob Ban was a good option and might be a useful route in the coming week. Paul hadn’t climbed in the area so that was where we headed. Nice climbing of borderline II/III depending on line taken with a relatively low level start and then on a ridge up to the North ridge of Stob Ban. A number of others made the same decision to avoid the Ben after Fridays easy releases.

Billy & Gavin on the Upper Arete

Billy & Gavin on the Upper Arete

Monday was another sunny day and after meeting Gavin on the overnight London sleeper it was a day on Aonach Mor as Billy had never worn crampons before. Tuesday was mild and wild so in the absence of the Ice factor it was dry tooling and coaching of movement skills with indoor sessions on route planning, avalanche awareness and winter kit. Overnight it had snowed quite a lot and it was windy – so Wednesday morning saw both teams setting out for the East Ridge of the North Buttress of Stob Ban – wish the route name was shorter! First winter climb for Billy an lots to learn for someone who had only sport climbed before, so 1st trad & 1st multi pitch too! Next day we headed up to Stob Coire Nan Lochan in Glencoe where there was heaps of new snow. Rejecting Raeburn’s Original route and Boomerang Arete as being too hard with too much digging in the conditions I opted for Dorsal Arete which also turned out to need a lot of digging even with a team only a short way ahead! Gavin & Billy enjoyed the Dorsal Fin whilst a Alan & Mo slipped passed below with their clients and dug the cornice for us – not often a cornice at the top of Dorsal Arete but there was one that day.

Deep snow on Dorsal Arete

Deep snow on Dorsal Arete

Friday was back to mild & wild so we headed a little further into Glen Nevis and made a big boot ascent of ‘The Gutter’ a diff on Polldudh crags. Lots of water down the Gutter, no surprise there, and time spent getting to grips with Trad gear, building belays, stance management and escaping with a ‘Stacked’ Abseil.  A week of full on Scottish experience except for climbing on ice.

Billy & Gavin 'enjoying' another exposed Arete, the 'Dorsal Fin'

Billy & Gavin ‘enjoying’ another exposed Arete, the ‘Dorsal Fin’

The next day I was working for West Coast Mountain Guides, www.westcoast-mountaingiuides.co.uk with Allan who was keen to build on previous ascents of Ledge Route and Dorsal Arete. Very high up Fridays rain had been snow and this was coming down heavily to lower levels as we walked in. Again the E ridge of N Buttress of Stob Ban looked to fit the bill nicely, it didn’t disappoint and by now I knew exactly where to dig for certain belay anchors. Another ‘proper’ Scottish winter day – rain, snow, wind, blowing snow and even a view at times!

Allan amongst the spindrift on Saturday, E ridge, N Buttress, Stob Ban again

Allan amongst the spindrift on Saturday, E ridge, N Buttress, Stob Ban again

Sunday didn’t dawn a good visibility day for some Piste Sking so I headed home early for some work in the Lake District, 4 hours to Penrith then another 4 hours for the 28 miles to Kendal. Traffic from a serious RTA at Junction 37 had backed up to nearly Penrith but I didn’t know so missed the opportunity to escape at Junction 40. Sadly there was a fatality and a serious injury to 2 Highways Patrol staff who were hit by a car whilst assisting with and earlier incident. Mountaineering Instructors are not the only ones doing jobs with inherent risk but at least we have control over exposure to those risks.