KMC/FRCC joint winter mountaineering meet
Waters Cottage Meet report 2022 - Joint KMC/FRCC winter mountaineering meet
KMC /FRCC members: Andy Stratford, Steve Graham
KMC Members: Emily Thompson, David Rainsbury, Joe Dugdale, Gareth Williams, Paul Lonsdale
FRCC members: David Henchcliffe,
After working in Derbyshire until Tuesday evening I headed up to services south of Glasgow then onto Fort William on Wednesday for a work recce for a filming project on Ben Nevis. On Thursday I went up the Ben again just to the half way lochan area in foul weather with the film team then off back to Waters Cottage, where Emily arrived not long after me. Her focus was Navigation practice for her upcoming ML so on Friday morning she went off to get lost and find herself. I do that most times I go out so I don’t need to practice it…..
The weather was a tad on the warm side on Friday morning but up high would probably Ok, so I decided on Stob Corrie Nan Lochan with its steep walk in, conditions in the Corrie were excellent with good vis and not too much wind, so I solo’d Boomerang Gully (II) then descended Broad Gully to traverse the corrie to get back round to NC Gully – an absolute classic grade II with brilliant rock architecture. I was back at the hut before the next wave of arrivals: Joe Dugdale and David Rainsbury first then Stevie Graham and finally David Henchcliffe – an aspirant member of the FRCC.
Saturday dawned and the big bad Ben was calling! We had the track access key to the top adit car park and Steve, David H and myself headed up from there, making the CIC in an hour. We re-oragnised ourselves ready for the grind up into Coire na Ciste – there was lots of potential for avalanche danger, so we picked the safest lines possible round to Comb Gully area and opted for Comb Gully Buttress which normally finishes in an area without a cornice. I took the first pitch – a stretch of snow then a steep short icicle to a steep icy ramp, more snow and just enough rope to get to a small rock outcrop which didn’t yield a belay easily! Stevie took an easy snow pitch then David a short icy chimney before Stevie opted to pick up the plum line to finish – the rarely in condition Icicle variation which gives the route an overall V,5. It was a fantastic lead, which I followed OK (we had just spent a week in ice in Hemsedal ice climbing) but David struggled and ended up having to take another line to finish the day. Epic! We topped out at the summit and due to the snow loading of No.4 and the Red Burn took the safest line via the zig-zags to the half way lochan then over the bogs and back to the Allt a’ Mhuillin and the car.
Meanwhile Joe and David were making an attempt on the Ben via the CMD arete. They got part way up Carn Mor Dearg before the strengthening winds, poor visibility and biting spindrift forced a retreat. Emily went out to do her WML Nav practice and attempted to get herself lost again, but didn’t manage it. A fail in one respect but one that was hopefully going to turn her WML into success.**
Sunday morning dawned and Steve decided on an easy day and a drive back to work at his site near Dundee and David H reckoned the icicle had broken him(!) so also headed home. I had a fresh partner in Gareth who was chomping at the bit, and conditions were calling us back to Stob Corrie nan Lochan. We were open minded about our options, eventually deciding on the classic SC Gully (III) which in the conditions was good value especially with a nicely mixed traverse pitch.
Emily had another day on the hill with a friend getting less lost, David took it easy and had ‘’a proper Sunday’’ and had a shorter walk.
On Monday morning Gareth and I drove to the Nevis Range ski centre, and got the Gondala to 600m then a walk to the summit, and an abseil and downclimb to the East Face of Aonach Mor. We attempted Typhoon (IV,4) and I managed a long 50m pitch, but on Gareths’ lead the crux was falling apart – it was too warm and too thin to climb safely, Gareth had a good look but we both agreed it was wiser to bail out. We went back under the cliffs across the spooky slopes and solo’d back up easy gully and to the summit. On the way down I went to have a look down the cliffs of Bhreac Leac, the site of Andy Vines fatal accident, and Catherine’s miraculous and courageous survival from two years ago. It was an emotional moment. We made the Gondala and got back to the hut – David and Joe were back having had a day out, and Emily had headed home – having had enough of getting lost! Our next new arrival, Paul Lonsdale had arrived, so we began plotting the next day out….
Tuesday morning and we headed up to Stob Corrie nan Lohan again (3rd time in six days for me!) in fabulous weather, selecting the classic Twisting Gully (III,4). I led a long first pitch over the first (thin) crux which was a good value tech 4 in the conditions and got a comfortable stance, well dug out from previous days. Gareth led a good value full length second pitch to another excellent stance, and I followed through to lead another long pitch to the plateau. It was stunning weather with great views.
By Wednesday the weather was just stunning and the five of us left at the hut (Joe, David, Gareth, Andy and Paul) decided on the route over Carn Mor Dearg and up the CMD (I) arete to the summit of The Ben. The conditions were superlative – little wind, perfect visibility with vistas for miles, pristine snow with solid neve underneath. It literally does not get better than this in Scotland. This was David’s first Monro after his big knee op, so a spectacular return to form for him.
On Thursday, the rest of us headed home whilst Gareth stayed up for the CIC meet at the weekend.
It had been a cracking week, and seven days out of seven on the hill for me so I was glad for a leg rest!
** Emily’s dedication to Nav practiced paid off and a week later she passed her Winter Mountain Leader.