Wed 1st Feb - Sun 5th Feb, 2012
Raeburn Hut (2 to 5 nights)
Members Attending: Andy Stratford, Jim Symon, Bob Kelly, Colin Maddison, Gareth Williams, Carolyn Mills.
Guests: Dave Oakley, Kate Graham, Jamie Ledingham.
After four days of climbing around Ben Nevis, The Aonachs & Glencoe with a young Slovenian climber, Tina Rupnik, I had a rest day – it was needed but I was a little gutted as there wasn’t a cloud in the sky…would the weather hold…I drove from Fort William to Raeburn arriving shortly before Jim & Dave landed at 6pm. Plans were made… Dave was to go out on his own training for his forthcoming Winter ML training week on Saturday. Andy & Jim settled on Creag Meagaidh.
The air was dead still at -8 degrees at the car park at Creag Meagaidh at 6.45am. Jim and I had decided not to push things today – Staghorn Gully (III) was the target route– after all it was his actual 50th birthday! As darkness lifted we could see today was going to be special. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky - the sun rose tinting the tops of the mountains pink with a truly Alpine glow. 10m into pitch 4 of the route Andy watched with dismay as an ice screw tumbled down – way down – past the first belay: ‘’we’ll get it on the way back – there’s no one behind us’’ he called to Jim – who, it’s got to be said, was pretty sceptical! From our vantage point we could only see three other teams having come in behind us on the whole mountain. Lower parts of the route were a bit run out – the turf wasn’t frozen. At least two of the six pitches only got one runner each and Jim’s deadman saw lots of action on belays. Andy tackled the final ice pitch on North Pipe – poor ice for screws but finally some frozen turf for the warthogs – but Jim had them all. Damn! After fabulous views at the top we headed down the window and had a brew in the snowholes at The Window, then headed back, via soloing back up the lower section of the gully with headtorches in a successful ice screw recovery mission. What a day!
Bob Kelly & Kate Graham had a fantastic short diversion up Sharp Edge (I/II) on the way, which was in perfect nick. This was Kate’s first winter mountaineering route! They arrived just before Andy & Jim drove in. Dave had arrived back from his wanderings at the Northern Corries.
With the weather forecast settled, Bob, Kate & Dave opted for Creag Meagaidh, Raeburn’s Gully(I), followed by a trip to the summit and a descent via The Window. Once again the deadman proved invaluable in the gully.
Jim & Andy opted for a shorter day at the Northern Corries and The Haston Line (III,4) on Mess of Pottage at Sneachda on another windless, cloudless day. The lean conditions were testing on this route which Jim swore ‘’felt like a 5’’. Andy nearly dive bombed off the crux but surmounted it with a glove-off fist jam and a lot of grunting.
The rest of the team arrived this evening. Jamie was first from Glasgow then Gareth & Carolyn who had lift-shared from Manchester. We also had a couple – Ann & Colwyn – from the SMC. Andy was busy cooking so Jim was despatched in Andy’s car to collect Colin from Dalwhinnie station. After some confusion involving a pub, they finally arrived back in time for Smoked Salmon Risotto.
As usual, Colin had brought the weather with him [that wind again, Ed.]. The howling winds had persuaded Bob & Kate to have an indoor day so they drove down to Kinlochleven and went indoor ice climbing in the big fridge followed by routing on the indoor wall.
Colin, Jim, Andy and Gareth set off for Sneachda to see what could be done…with Jim & Colin taking a minor detour towards Coire an Lochan on the way in… there was a bone chilling wind and further into the Corrie plenty of spindrift from all directions. Jim’s cough had turned hacking and decided a walk back out carrying all the excess ropes & metalwork was the better thing for him to do. With visibility down to 10 metres The GAC team headed off in the direction of The Seam/Invernookie. After waiting an age for a team to move off the bottom belay we finally got moving. 1 pitch further on and it was clear the team in front weren’t going to threaten Ueli Steck. A frustrated Colin called a plan change and we abbed back into Fiacall Couloir and headed up this excellent and underrated II/III. After cleaning his teeth with an axe on P2 Colin headed for the chock stones – sufficiently uncovered for good sport. On the top the weather had lifted – the wind had gone, the clouds had rolled back and we had excellent views…there was a debate over the best descent route and the Goat Track won the vote.
Jamie & Carolyn ended up climbing Big Panty Groove (II) but were originally headed for Crampoff Corner (III) in Coire nan Gall on Carn Liath – first ascent of which was by our new SMC friends in the hut - Colwyn & Ann in 1993.
Jim was still poorly so Andy & Colin left him at the hut at 7am to collect him later for the return to England. Colin recommended Andy take the shortcut via the minor road to Glen Tuick - as Andy turned right the car slid on glass sheet ice but we just managed to stop and reverse. 20metres down the Hill Colwyn & Ann hadn’t had the same luck and had slid but were now facing up the steep hill perched precariously on the sheet glass ice. The grit bin had been nicked or removed so with the arrival of Jamie & Carolyn we all donned boots and spikes – KMC muscle and crampon power saved the day – the SMC were on their way.
Once again the popularity of Sneachda was frustrating - once again stuck behind several other teams. Aiming for ‘Hidden Chimney’ on Pottage we soon diverted to a series of variations on Jacobs Edge (I/II) – looking for the more interesting lines up the buttress sections, which certainly spiced it up.
Gareth was going to ski but didn’t fancy the hordes so went bouldering instead. Bob, Kate, Carolyn & Jamie headed for Braeriach (1296m) via the Chalamain gap, then the Lairige Ghru and breaking trail in deep snow on the ridge of Sron na Lairige. Visibility worsened then brightened at the bealach allowing superb views south of Carn Toul & Angels Peak. A good day out. Bob & Kate headed home late on the Sunday. Jamie got back even later to Glasgow after two AA tows and an attempt to cook a pizza on his overheated engine.All in all a great few days, thanks to all for great company.
PLACES GOING FAST! SEVEN ALREADY BOOKED AS OF 30th NOVEMBER – JUST FIVE LEFT.
Recently refurbished, Raeburn is a superb Scottish Mountaineering Council Hut in a very accessible location.
Located within the Central Highlands on the north side of the A889 between Dalwhinnie and Laggan at G.R. NN 63606 90913 (altitude 319m), this is an excellent base for Winter Walking and Ski-ing as well as Mountaineering and Climbing.
Raeburn is ideally placed for the easily accessed Northern Cairngorm venues of Coire an Lochan and Coire an t-Sneachda, and the winter routes of Creag Meagaidh to the south-west.
The KMC has booked exclusive use of the hut (12 bed spaces) for the Friday and Saturday nights at £9 pp pn. We also have spaces reserved on the wednesday and thursday as well. At least two of us are planning on arriving on Wednesday evening for climbing on thursday and friday, to make the most of the travelling. Please let me know as soon as possible if you would like to book the extra nights so I can firm up additional days with the SMC.
There is also an option to stay on sunday night as well if you want to take the day off work on monday!