Cairngorm Calling

Iain Small on the first ascent of Smooth as Silk (VII,7), Cairngorm. The route follows the curving crack to the roof, then pulls into the snowy offwidth crack up and right. (Photo Simon Richardson)

It was a tricky call this weekend. Freezing levels were dropping on Sunday, but last week’s thaw had stripped the many of the buttresses in the West. This ruled out technical climbing on The Ben, but how about the Cairngorms? Approaches here were clearly going to be an issue with deep snow down to low levels.

After a bit of humming and hawing, Iain Small and I decided to visit Creagan Coire Cha-no on Cairngorm on Sunday December 12. The snow soon crusted up on the approach, which in the event didn’t take any longer than normal. We started off with a IV,5 gully line to the right of Arch Wall. Iain who has been unable to get out much this season so far, was all ‘fingers and thumbs’ whilst leading the crux, but when pointed at the big wall to left, which is cut be a burly undercut offwidth, his lead was as smooth as silk. Our day finished with a steep V,5 up the front face of the tower on the right. We just squeezed through the final tight chimney as it became dark before running back down to the car.

About Simon Richardson

Simon Richardson is a passionate Scottish winter climber
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