“Winter and one of the high corries of Beinn a’Bhuird is a combination which promises solitude,” Simon Yearsley writes. “And away from the Cold Climbs lure of Mitre Ridge, it practically guarantees it. The secret to climbing in these magnificent corries isn’t knowing whether the ice is formed, the buttresses white, or the wind is in a friendly direction, it is all about the travel. It’s a long way: a 30km round trip to Coire nan Clach, and further to Garbh Choire. Mountain bikes ease the journey, but the lower glen tracks need to be snow-free for this to add any value. Above the Fairy Glen, the walking is long, and the ideal conditions of wind-scoured hard-packed snow are surprisingly uncommon. Big boulder fields protect the approaches to nearly all the cliffs, so a good covering is needed, but again, if it’s not hard-packed, the going can be torturous.
Just before “The Beast From The East” bared its teeth, Malcolm Bass and I knew the conditions in the west and north-west were looking promising, but so was the travel into Beinn a’Bhuird. A choice between probable company or the solitude of Beinn a’Bhuird. On February 26 we chose the latter. It was a good choice. Bikes carried us to just below Slugain Howff, then perfect walking along the Quoich Water, before heading left to Coire nan Clach. We knew it was going to be cold, but were surprised by how cold our kitting up spot was – very cold air temperature and the first icy breath of The Beast giving formidable wind-chill. We climbed the whole route in our belay jackets, searching for sheltered belay stances. Only later in the day did the wind relax.
Descending perfect neve on the return to our sacks at the end of the route gave views into the majestic Coire an Dubh Lochain. How long ago did the glacier disappear from here? Was it last week, or the week before? Darkness fell, but serene moonlight lit the way back to the campervan. Tea, vodka and smiles. A long day, but a wonderful, fun, atmospheric day with just the two of us.
Oh, and the climbing: we’d gone in planning something bigger, but ended up with a pleasant addition to Dividing Buttress – Outpost Route at IV,6 gave a fun, non-serious line between Dividend Route and Sentinel Buttress.