Donald where's your trousers?

'Shit, I cant find my trousers' The words reverberated in my head and while i walked away from the tent in heavy sleet i accepted the fact that we were making a premature journey east. 

Evening from the shore of Loch Slapin (Rory Brown)

We had planned to climb on Skye that weekend. With a confident forecast from the locals, we had our 
minds set on the mighty Clach Glas traverse and some shorter ridge routes the following day. 

Steve gettin; some trou'
Unfortunately we couldnt find trousers on or near Skye,  and so decided to abort the NW in favour of the reliably cold northern Cairngorms. 

Driving up the ski road

Strath Nethy and Beinn Mheadhoin 

After a detour to Craigdon in Inverness, and a  powder wade from the  lower car park, we stood at the base of the recently developed Creagan a Coire Cha-No late in the morning. I lead Jenga Buttress, which turned out to be quite fun despite the slow going. I think Rory and Steve enjoyed it too.

Steve and Rory on the final steps of Jenga Buttress

We all stayed at mine that night, and decided on the northern Corries again - despite our remote NW intentions (the price of petrol and an earlier start is a highly effective student deterrent .The  deep powder in the Cairngorms limited us to nearby crags and so we opted for a route on  Alladins buttress.

Steve lead the first pitch of the lamp - a technical bridge fest on big hooks - well good fun like min! Rory lead the second, slightly bold and disjointed pitch, with some harder sections. I then spent 20 minutes being drenched in spindrift and feeling very ill after the worst bout of hot aches ive ever experienced. 

A pair on Original Summer Route and Me and Steve on The Lamp (Rory Brown)

Steve hauling ass  (note fancy new breek)s on the first pitch The Lamp (Rory Brown)

We abbed off the top as the light was fading and noticed a few parties aborting routes across the coire. 

Overall, i think we made the best of the situation and managed to get and do something. nUnfortunately the guides blogs are now filling up my facebook news feed with  reports of stunning NW conditons, but hey - its now only a few days until we head in to Lochnagar! 

Fiacail Ridge and an obvious trail up The Seam

So it begins...

I spent friday afternoon gazing out of the window as swathes of snow emptied onto the grass . Rory burst through the door; plastered in wet snow and grinning like an excited puppy. The central heating has broken again and winter seems ever so prominent in Froghall Terrace.

At 5.30 we squeezed into Steve's estate,  wedging ourselves among his bikes and by 9 were standing in Coire an't Sneachda, marvelling at the sparkling white buttresses and pink morning glow. Steve and Rory headed for the Mess of Pottage while Mike and I, considering the approach to Pygmy Ridge a little uncondolidated, made an ascent of the classic mixed line of The Goat Track in order to abseil from the plateau.

We racked up quickly in the cold wind, considering ourselves a well oiled machine but were soon reminded of the neccesasry winter faff as our ropes jammed on the first abseil.. An hour or so later, Mike was wedged into the starting groove, and following a couple thrutchy moves, was well set onto an enjoyable stepped slab. We disregarded leashed axes in favour of knees, fists and  gloves, which made the transition from a summer of trad a little easier. I lead the bouldery ridge to a flat, sheltered belay where i sat out from the strengthening wind and relieved my bladder over the precipice. 

Rory and Steve got stuck into Pot of Gold, apparently cruising the 'juggy hooks' and  finding jammed fists as useful as picks. We counted 10 teams in 'Sneachda alone, including a handful of friends, all climbing lines in apparently great early condition.  They were as delighted as we were, with a good start to what will hopefully be a long season! 

Pics by Michael Cross and Steve Walls.

Autumn and 2nd year.

 Rory just outside the new flat

Iv'e been putting off writing in this for a long time. Not because i have nothing to write about, but because all too often, theres something more interesting and inevitably less urgent that takes my fancy. I am sitting in the library (lecture slides and notebook aside) having just read an article on 'Active Procrastination' and concluding that i would inevitably write something here in the next week (or so).

So without further a due, a quick round up, a couple sentences and a few of photos.

Rory following Bobs Overhang.

Summer is officially over. I spent a cold session on a north facing belay while rory romped up some esoteric Aberdeen classic. The sun was bright in cloudless sky, yet  I shivered and yelped as if i were 800m high on a February morning.  I have therefore decided to curtail my trad climbing stint and focus on bouldering until it gets warmer and i can feel my hands again. After all - trad is about sitting around in the sun as much as it is the climbing, right?

Me - sticking to the  scottish ethics and getting the sun on insect groove

Worth missing a couple lectures for!

Rory on the Hedonist , I'm perched on a ledge, inches from the sun

After recovering from freshers week, the Lairig club drove to Glen Clova. The red crag offers a great range of routes, and the intake of new members included lots of keen climbers. With only 30m of single rope we werent quite spoilt for choice, but managed to despatch some less frequented chimneys and shorter routes. 

'The beanstalk' 

Computer simulated lake district? 

Sam and his crew on red wall

Me fiddling with the gear on witches tooth

Sam giving Cinderella a shot. The sky aptly reflects the intensity...

Glen Coe

A fortnight later,  with a high pressure forecast and a bus full of psyched bodies, we endured the long drive to Blackrock cottage and the foot of the Bhuchaille from which a  weekends boozing and mountaineering ensued. We set off as two teams, both intending on climbing Crypt route - a classic diff.featuring some intense caving and a rather steep approach. We were  soon separated as Rory, Ali and Sarah sped up towards the giant obelisk of Collies Pinnacle and to cut a long story short, we didn't make it much further.

The approach to Church Door Buttress

 Despite good intentions and an early start, Findlay, and I arrived at midnight with a rather knackered Linsday  A first abseil and a long evening descending in the dark certainly brought out the inner comedian, and being greeted by a band of blazing students stumbling out of the Clachaig certainly cheered us up! Needless to say, I have never eaten a tub of cold chilli mince so quickly and feel almost prepared for winter climbing!

Acrocarpous.. megasporangium? (insert Latin phrases)

Findlay looking unimpressed

Pitch 1 of crypt route before abseling from the chockstone..

Sunday morning began with broad sunshine and a delightfully short approach. While scrambling up curved ridge the intricacies of the buttresses are revealed, with towering spires  and deep cut gullys. The routes are generally short and impressively steep, offering momentous views across the  expanse of Rannoch moor.   

He needed no convincing!

Curved Ridge

The perfect collumnar slants of  Agags Groove are some of the best mountain climibing I've done - steep and exposed, with carved nut placements, clean rock and easy climbing. It was a delight to  climb, without fretting about direction or difficulty and feeling totally absorbed in the consistency of the route.

Stevie high on pitch 3

Kascia topping out on her first mountain route!

We topped out on Stob Dearg as the sun set over the western Isles and descended to the prehistoric groan of horny stags reverberating around the coire. The long drive home was split perfectly by a large Punjabi curry and an excellent back massage courtesy of Sarah. 

Sunset from Stob Dearg.

August in the 'gorms

After exploring the pathless expanse of bog lying slightly above the glenmore treeline (intentionally and without the aid of a map, of course..) Marcus and I packed our camping gear and pitched ourselves at Ryvoan bothy. Maell a Bhuachaille made a good evening's ride, with sections of the new path providing steep steps and smooth gravel singletrack. The waterbars were a perfectly 'hoppable' height compared with recent additions in the Cairngorms; often closely spaced and distressingly high -  extended lifespan, plyometric trainer or dare i say it, mountain bike deterrent?! A quick dip in the Green Loch was followed by far too much free bothy tea and an inevitable 4am bladder relief/midge slaughtering.

Swimming with the midges, leeches, and Marcus.

 We set off the next morning with the intention of riding a loop  up and over Braeriach, but quickly convinced each other that the cloud was marginally low and that the sun in the Aviemore basin would make a second breakfast rather more enjoyable. Rory and Sinclair met us at Tesco and, after picking up Stevie who had fallen asleep on his train, we headed for Creag Dubh. 

Creag Dub. 

The imposing walls comprise some of the best schist around - despite lacking in protection, the climbing is secure and postive, following horizontal breaks and 
thin crack's. Fortunatly the intense sun meant it was a bit sweaty so bold, harder routes were avoided.  We spent the day enjoying the vista of pine and dappled sunlight and left later that evening for the elusive 'A9 bothy'.
King Bee direct. I thought the second pitch was rubbish.

I pretended to sleep for another half an hour before stumbling out of my sleeping bag and heating up some stodgy, reduced price soup. Rory had set off for the car while i finished gulping my potato chunks and by 8.30am we were pounding the track into Coire an t'Sneachda - tops off! The hot morning sun illimunated the dewy heather and the tumbling streams were  a glittering silver. Wisps of cloud flickered in and out of Coire Etchachan, and were simultaneously repelled by the streaming sun.The warm, windless plateau had a cool alpine feel.  How often was this boggy, rock tundra so quiet and warm?  

I had visited the Avon basin as a detour on a lonesome bike trip last summer. After dragging my bike along the loch side and up the loose gravel path, outraged at the rough, unridable terrain, i caught glimpses of the beastly crag and shuddered at the thought of climbing its steep faces. Dropping down the newly built path that morning with a pack full of climbing gear felt a little surreal.
Bike trip Sept 11. My helmet neatly cuts off the crag.

The climbing was consistently interesting, with a crux pitch on the lower slabby sections providing the most strenuous part of the day (minus the approach). I was glad Rory had  lead the steep and exposed 4th pitch and the crack for thin fingers was awesome, if a little short lived. We soaked up the panorama of Loch Avon, and the odd looking encampment of the path builders. It seemed we could see 6 parties of Afterthought Arete, including Iain and Gemma from Aberdeen. Reaching rory below pitch 7 and having only led 4b pitches, i felt keen for something more testing. Rory kindly lead through to the base of the needle crack, where i started up the prominent off width corner feature, becoming gradually aware of the intense exposure! 

Me enjoying myself/getting scared on the needle crack. 
Taken from within the needle crack. Note the little encampment by the loch.

The climbing was delicate and well, protected and i felt relieved, having pushed on  through the most exciting mountain pitch i’ve done. After squeezing through the chimney and ‘threading the needle’, i was delighted to see rory’s big grin and sit down on the warm granite. Hungry, and eager to get back to the car, i finished off  my bourbon scraps and banana (could i have taken any less food for a day on the hill?). We were no sooner dispatching a fish supper in Aviemore, parting ways for climbing and in my case, a weekend of retail doom.

Seemed a good idea at the time. Rory said the block moved ...YOLO?

Moray Roast

We left the veil of sea mist behind us as we drove north towards Fraserburgh and the square cut cliffs of Rosehearty. This section of the Moray coast gives a sense of exposure that is less prominent in the hidden inlets south of Aberdeen - the expansive fields meet the cliffs at right angles and the bays are wide and sweeping. 
The only drawback (apart from the drive) is that Roserhearty takes a few days of sun to vapourise the sea grease on its lower sections. We started on the south faces where Callum cruised his 3rd trad route and I lead Nitrox.  We then moved to the smooth, steep seaward faces. Rory had an epic battle on Shapeshifter - having used his only useful gear in the lower section he slowly pushed on with forearms like the incredible hulk and unable to respond to me telling him he'd clipped the wrong rope. The grease eventually got to his head and instead of finishing up on the jugs in front of him he showed us his clock impersonation with a big pendulum - it was awesome on second! Tactfully I had chalked up the lower holds of Afterglow earlier, making the bouldery start marginally less slippy. The climbing was superb, with as much overhead gear as you could want, consistent powerful moves and a vocal commentary from myself - certainly the best route iv'e done in the NE.
Rory trying to rest on Shapeshifter
Me on Afterglow