/ Suggestions for winter grade II - Fort William
My friend and I are returning to Scotland (Glencoe / Fort William) for our fourth winter excursion. We've done some winter skills courses and had several days with an instructor doing up to grade II climbs.
I think we're happy with the basic techniques, but would welcome some suggestions for areas where we can go practice, and then some possibly more interesting areas as we progress. Ultimately we're more interested in the mountaineering side / ridges than full-on climbs. Our end goal would be something like the Aonach Eagach if the conditions are right.
Any good areas to go? (our instructor took us to the west face of Aonach Mor which seemed good)
We've got a 30m rope and rack. Would be helpful if you said whether 30m would be sufficient for any suggestions. My reading suggests it *should* be ok for Aonach Eagach, where it's sometimes used for an abseil. We can get a longer rope, but given we're still quite new to winter climbing (our experience is mostly indoor), I wonder if the sorts of routes we'd go to won't need it.
Scrambly ridge walks:
Beinn Fhada ridge to Stob Coire Sgreamhach (short section of I) /Bidean/SCnanL.
Beinn Bheithir (E ridge of Sgurr Ban has short sections of I)
Stob Ban N ridge (short section of I)
Devil's Ridge, Sgurr a' Mhaim (longer section of I, full Ring of Steall has another section of I)
Easier mixed climbs (Grade I/II):
E ridge of Beinn a' Chaorainn
Ledge Route, Ben Nevis
E ridge of Carn Dearg Mheadonach
Sron na Lairig
Golden Oldy (you maybe did this with your instructor)
Central Gully on Bidean (I or II depending on the choice of route)
Broad Gully (I), Boomerang (I/II) and NC (I/II) on SCnanL.
Central Gully (I/II) on Creise
South Gully (I) on Stob Ban.
Tower and No.s 2, 3, 5 on the Ben.
A 30m rope is OK for the easier stuff, but it will start to be a pain if you want to pitch most of a route.
Many thanks! Lots to look through these and research.
Looking at the photos, we didn't do Golden Oldy before. I suspect the guide took an easier line so he could show us stuff.
As it happens we descended the north ridge of Stob Ban on our last trip - was certainly *interesting* with lots of powder! I suspect it would be much easier going up than down.
We've got 5 days from mid next week. My thinking is we'll mostly do ridges (CMD, Ring of Steall, Stob Coire Sgreamhach, etc) but if the weather's not great we can also go for something with more grade II lower down to practice. My hope is that 30m is enough for practicing and perhaps getting out of a tricky situation.
We'd love to do the Aonach Eagach, but it sounds like a fair step up - at least in terms of exposure over an extended period of time. So my thinking is to see how we fair on the CMD and consider then.
Nice list, Mark.
RedTar, note that the crux of Dorsal Arete is probably technically harder than anything on the Aonach Eagach, and there can be an awkward rock step low down on the Grade II variant of Bidean's Central Gully if it's not smoothed out.
I'd also want a longer rope for pitching some of these.
Thanks! We actually did the Zig Zags with our instructor as a starting point.
@petestack - thanks for letting us know. Suggestions for which you think 30m would be to little? We could try to borrow a longer rope, but since we'll mostly be doing ridges or otherwise practicing (no big climbs), my thoughts were it might not be needed.
For Golden Oldy, a 30m rope would be a nuisance - it has about 200m of sustained climbing, which would take you at least 7 pitches instead of usual 4-ish. A longer rope would also be preferable for Sron na Lairig and Dorsal Arete, as well as for many of the gullies if you were intending to pitch them rather than solo them, as good belays tend to be relatively infrequent. (Don't be tempted to move roped together on terrain with no runners - it's arguably more dangerous than soloing.) For the easier stuff, you should be OK with the 30m.
> My hope is that 30m is enough for practicing
Depends what you're practising. It's not much for practising gullies or snow slopes with infrequent belays.
> and perhaps getting out of a tricky situation.
Which might typically involve doubling the rope to abseil, in which case you've got 15m.
In reply to Mark Bull:
> (Don't be tempted to move roped together on terrain with no runners - it's arguably more dangerous than soloing.)
This. Absolutely this!
Many thanks for suggestions!
yesterday we did the Ledge route, descending via CMD.
Today we’re going for the Ring of Steall.
Tomorrow looks rather more windy. Any suggestions for more sheltered areas to visit?
Sheltered is always nice but sometimes you just can't avoid the wind. On those days, winter or summer, I find it's best to ascend with the wind at my back and descend towards it. That usually means ascending in a northeasterly direction (not aspect). Fortunately, on the west coast, that's not hard to arrange. It makes quite a difference to the overall effort over the course of a windy day.
Looks like the weather is really going to crap out in the afternoon - a short day might be in order. Maybe Garbh Bheinn near Kinlochleven up the W ridge?
Curved Ridge - early start would mean down before wind picks up, 30m rope perfect for this.
I would leave Curved Ridge (and the normal descent) alone in the current avalanche conditions.
We ended up takin a rest day - Ring of Steall wiped us out. Only got 3/4 round it with some tricky conditions. Had some lovely sun on the Devil’s ridge.
Tomorrow’s looking low wind so considering the Aonach Eagach ridge. Will the warm conditions likely present any issues? Can I check 30m is enough for the abseil at the start? I think the approach and decent seem to mostly avoid avalanche prone aspects, though am cautious about the descent west.
30m is fine for the awkward step down.
> 30m is fine for the awkward step down.
Really? I did it with a 50m recently and was thinking a 30m wouldn't quite have made it. Fiona's post would corroborate that.
Re Aonach Eagach, if you've not yet had lots of experience at grade II, I'd suggest avoiding it unless it's going to be nice firm neve on the crest (and therefore easy!) To get it done before nightfall you need to solo most of it, or start ridiculous early, or be proficient at moving together over such terrain.
In terms of other things you could aim at, the "Ring of Gabhalach" looks very promising, in a similar vein to Ring of Steall, though with a longer approach. (Am waiting for a solo day with good camera weather to try it myself!) Start same place as RoS, but head further up the Water of Nevis so as to ascend the NE Ridge of Binnein Mor (good grade I/II fun, apparently). From there, over Na Gruagaichean and then to Stob Coire a'Chairn before turning north for the right-hand arm of RoS, bringing you back to Steall. In fact, I'm willing to bet it's an even better route than RoS as it misses out the purgatorial descent of Sgurr a'Mhaim! Plus it's a bit more remote.
Great suggestions by many others.
The best route at this grade IMHO is the Aonach Eagach. In good conditions, I had one of my best ever days out on the hill. Another vote for Dorsal Arete from me too. Summit Gully is another good route at this grade, although long (good idea to solo the lowest bit and move together/pitch harder bits). Also No. 2 Gully on the Ben.
Curved Ridge is hard for a II, even by the easiest ways up it. Golden Oldy can also be tough for the grade in unhelpful conditions.
P.S. in good conditions, a rope is not required for the initial downwards step on the Aonach Eagach. We downclimbed - it was fine.
Couple of years ago with 30m iceline Easy climb down to platform with a large block. Then (just) enough to get you round to flat ground. Have uploaded a photo. We didn't use the rope after that, but the ridge can vary a lot....
> Couple of years ago with 30m iceline Easy climb down to platform with a large block. Then (just) enough to get you round to flat ground. Have uploaded a photo. We didn't use the rope after that, but the ridge can vary a lot....
Thanks: worth knowing for next time!
Ah, we just abseiled the whole section in one go. http://prog99.com/Climbing%20in%20Scotland/2014/Aonach%20Eagach%20-%20February%202014/slides/IMG_6867.html
We got to the downclimb and one party were stuck/having a bit of a moment half way down with another 8 or so folks waiting so I dug around for the boulder set up the rope and absconded thus jumping ahead to the second team on the route that day.
Ah, what I must have done too!
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