Sunday, 1 January 2012

West Coast gnarl

A wet pants walk in!
Soggy snow and big burns
Andy and Glencoe gnarl
A sheltered belay stance at last!
Run away!
We sat for 15 minutes in the car below Stob Coire na Lochan hoping that the rain would ease a little. If anything it tried a little harder to blow through the window seals...
Walking in was a properly wet experience. We were both experiencing serious gore-tex failure by the time we crossed the stream and the precipitation turned to heavy snow. There is a huge snow bridge many feet thick across the gorge below the waterfall- evidence of how much snow has come and gone with our wild winter weather so far this year.
The Coire was looking generally quite white as a lot of snow obviously fell last night but it did fall onto saturated ground insulating the turf. We headed up the bottom of Boomerang Gully and onto the long rambling Grade III Boomerang Arete. This needed care as the soft snow hid quite a bit of loose rock. We were soggy and shivering as we geared up and the strong gusts and spindrift only added to the fun (misery... fun... its a fine line, normally determined by whether your hands in saturated gloves are numb or experiencing the hot aches at that precise moment). We both climbed as quickly as we could to minimise the standing around. Andy described it as his toughest day on the hill ever... he cruised the climbing but if it wasn't for sufficient changes of gloves I don't think either of us would have coped with belaying and gear!
We topped out and tagged the cairn before hurrying (cautiously) down Broad Gully. This was filling with snow but it was quite damp and was adhering to the old moist firm stuff beneath well. I dug a few trenches on the way down and failed to get a layer to slide at all.
As we stripped our climbing gear off Andy came up trumps with a hipflask of Balvenie and we chatted with a few others on the hill (Donald and Scott were out with Warwick University doing some winter skills, a party had traversed the rim of the Coire from E-W and 2 or 3 teams did Dorsal Arete) and headed down back into the rain.
We also met quite a few 'tourists' on the way up (well after 3pm) in plastic bag waterproofs who were unaware of what time it would get dark at this time of year and exactly how awkward coming down the path without a torch would be.... they followed the advice and turned around.
A gnarly stormy day and a good long thrutchy climb. And a little crag swag too! A grand way to start the year!

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