Waiting for the White Stuff to Arrive Crag Notes

© Rob Greenwood - UKC

October is a transition month, stuck between seasons. The cool breeze and bronzed bracken indicate that summer has long gone, but the alluring amber leaves of autumn are easily overlooked when your mind is elsewhere, waiting for the white stuff to arrive.

Early Season  © Rob Greenwood - UKC
Early Season

Late Season  © Rob Greenwood - UKC
Late Season

It's been almost ten years since I've thought like this. The sound of scratching, torquing and thwacking was once synonymous with the winter, but in more recent years its made way for rubber, ripples, slopes and slaps. However, my mind was wandering one day and this is where I ended up, wondering about winter climbing.

October is an optimistic month for the winter climber, where the chances of actually getting out are quite slim. However, hungry to feast on the first snowfall, forecasts are repeatedly checked, hoping for signs of snow. But which crag to go to first?

The answer for me, more often than not, was which crags, as the Northern Corries of Cairngorm - Coire an t'Sneachda and Coire an Lochain - present two obvious choices. Each has the benefit of coming into condition quickly, intertwining the mixed benefits of both elevation and aspect, which present the perfect partnership for an early-season hit.

Owen Barnicott on Auricle (VI, 7)  © Rob Greenwood - UKC
Owen Barnicott on Auricle (VI, 7)
© Rob Greenwood - UKC

The author on Ventricle (VII, 8)  © Rob Greenwood - UKC
The author on Ventricle (VII, 8)
© Rob Greenwood - UKC

Adam Booth on The Migrant (VI, 7)  © Rob Greenwood - UKC
Adam Booth on The Migrant (VI, 7)
© Rob Greenwood - UKC

t'Sneachda is arguably the more benign, but that isn't to say that it is lacking in opportunity for excitement. Its large basin sprawls, so much so that in spite of being a somewhat unmissable target, individual buttresses are easily missed - particularly by those who are a little too keen to get going. I have memories along each one, all of which bring me back to a point in my life that now feels long gone, but for which I am grateful. Closing my eyes, I can still feel those torques flexing into place on Magic Crack, the hooks sinking deep into perfect placements on Pot of Gold, and the clunk of a pick sticking into styrofoam on Aladdin's Mirror Direct. Sounds and sensations, outside of the white noise of wind, are jagged and rasping.

Lochain has a more serious feel, partly as a result of its notoriously avalanche-prone 'Great Slab', but also because each route there has meant something to me: Savage Slit, Fallout Corner, The Hoarmaster, The Migrant, Ventricle, Bulgy. Each numbered buttress features an array of columnar classics, which to many - including me - represent the ultimate aspiration. I remember topping out on Savage Slit and thinking "This is it, I've made it".

I was exactly where I wanted to be…

Content in what was - at the time - my element.  © Rob Greenwood - UKC
Content in what was - at the time - my element.
© Rob Greenwood - UKC

Support UKC

As climbers we strive to make UKClimbing the kind of website we would love to visit, with the most up-to-date news, diverse and interesting articles, comprehensive gear reviews, breathtaking photographs and a vast and useful logbook system. As a result, an incredible community has formed around the site - we’ve provided the framework but it’s you who make the website what it is today. If you appreciate the content we offer then you can help us by becoming an official UKC Supporter. This can be a one-off single annual payment or a more substantial payment paid monthly or yearly which includes full access to Rockfax Digital and discounts on Rockfax print publications.

If you appreciate UKClimbing then please help us by becoming a UKC Supporter.

UKC Supporter

  • Support the website we all know and love
  • Access to a year's subscription to Rockfax Digital.
  • Plus 30% off Rockfax guidebooks
  • Plus Show your support - UKC Supporter badge on your profile and forum posts
UKC/UKH/Rockfax logo

This is your comeback year Rob. Grab those axes and strap the crampons on. Let's go have an epic! :)

Ha, nobody was more surprised than me when I wrote this - I didn't even know I had it in me anymore!!

29 Oct, 2020

Bet you've got hot aches already just in anticipation.

30 Oct, 2020

Don't worry, there will be f*ck all winter climbing to do this year due to Covid restrictions. I've been saying this since the summer but people don't seem to believe me. Yet.

30 Oct, 2020

And theres me thinking it was going to be about scoring coke!

Loading Notifications...
Facebook Twitter Copy Email