Thursday, July 3, 2014

Western Scrambling

With last weekend’s forecast good for the SW and poor for the NE, Ann & John took the long Friday night drive to Roy Bridge with an eye on some easy mountain climbs. Forecasts being just that we awoke early on Saturday for the long approach to the NE Ridge of Aonach Beag, to find it shrouded in the only cloud around. A hasty change of plan got us under the clear skies of Ardgour for a route on the well-named Garbh Bheinn (rough hill). 

Pinnacle Ridge is the right skyline
An hour later we were at the base of Pinnacle Ridge, a grade 3S scramble. There is some uncertainty about what the S stands for in this system but some of the more printable ones are scary, serious and slimy. Still being geared up for our harder previous choice of route this didn’t bother us too much, but we were soon glad of it.
The lower section

The rock is very rough gneiss with lots of good holds, but in places there is a lot of exposure. Typically this seemed to be worst at the one part where the holds ran out at what the guidebook called an awkward move, which was an inelegant belly flop onto a ledge clutching handfuls of heather and loose soil. Difficulties soon eased and the rest of the ridge was very pleasant with straightforward but varied scrambling in a great situation. 
Upper, easier section

Nice slab to finish

As always the view from the summit was stunning in all directions, and we were slightly relived to see that Aonach Beag still had a cap of cloud, so good choice there.
Since it was still a bit early to call it quits on such a fine day we decided to complete the full round of the corrie, in itself a bit of a classic day out with two more Marylins to do. 
View west up Loch Sunart from the summit
On the steep pull up Beinn Bheag I was beginning to regret the choice given the heat and a pack weighed down with rock gear and a rope. Luckily Ann recognised the signs of brewing discontent and shut me up by producing a bag of Tangfastics. Sorted.
Wandering along to Beinn Bheag
The angle then eased and we had a pleasant tromp around to Sgorr Mhic Eacharna in what we realised was early evening light. Luckily the bogs were all dry and springy so the descent was fast and dry, and as a final highlight we found a nice stand of the increasingly rare lesser butterfly orchid.
Towards Glencoe from Sgorr Mhic Eacharna

Down Loch Linnhe to Lismore

Lesser butterfly orchid
Sunday brought more fine weather but sore legs confined us to a supposedly short day out in Glencoe. We went for Barn Wall Route on Aonach Dubh but ended up on who knows what, certainly not a grade 3 scramble. Lack of gear placements and increasing steepness led us to quit before things got silly, the first abseil retreat we’ve done for a very long time. And before you rush up there on a salvage mission, I still remember enough tricks to have not left any gear behind.