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    Browsing Posts tagged Bidean nan Bian

    Tom Livingstone following Un Poco Loco (VII,7) on Bidean nam Bian in Glen Coe. Together with Dave Almond, Tom climbed three excellent routes in a period of very windy and stormy weather in the middle of January. (Photo Dave Almond)

    Tom Livingstone following Un Poco Loco (VII,7) on Bidean nan Bian in Glen Coe. Together with Dave Almond, Tom climbed three excellent routes in a period of very windy and stormy weather in the middle of January. (Photo Dave Almond)

    Tom Livingstone and Dave Almond had a very successful four days climbing in Glen Coe and on the Ben earlier in January. The weather was particularly wild that week, but even so, they succeeded on Un Poco Loco (VII,7 – January 13), Strident Edge (VI,7 – January 14) and Centurion (VIII,8 – January 16). Tom has written a full version of their trip on his blog, and a concise version follows below:

     

    The Beat

    Dave looked up, scoping out the climbing above. He tilted his head and, without warning, his orange helmet rolled backwards, falling straight off. It bounced onto the steep slab and then tumbled out of sight. We were both speechless – how had that just happened? His head torch was still attached and we were on the fifth pitch of Centurion, a classic VIII,8 on the Ben. It would be dark in 90 minutes and we still had over 100 metres of climbing left. ‘This just got interesting!’ I thought.

    ***

    We walked up to Church Door Buttress on Tuesday, seeking refuge from a fresh storm ploughing off the Atlantic. Dave’s new toys were put to good use: his new 19 million lumen headtorch is capable of lighting up the entire mountain, and the GPS watch performed well. We left a breadcrumb trail as we zigzagged up; ‘Water,’ ‘Camp 1,’ ‘Meadow.’

    Un Poco Loco is a fantastic four-pitch route taking an improbable line up the centre of the buttress. A giant, shattered arch hung overhead as I scrabbled around, trying to find my feet. Dave hunkered on the belay below, his feet going stamp, stamp, stamp, trying to ward off the cold. I found tenuous hooks and laybacked off parallel cracks. Howling winds, waves of spindrift, verglas: this certainly was fun. Pulling onto the belay ledge brought relief and the internal chatter began to quieten.

    ***

    The following morning we walked into the Ben with Centurion in mind. Within 50 metres of the CIC hut my boot sank through a snowdrift and plunged into a stream, soaking my foot. The only consolation was that Carn Dearg Buttress looked black, and we wouldn’t be going anywhere near Centurion. We scratched around for an alternative objective. Coire nan Ciste was too avalanche-prone, the lower buttresses were black, a storm was due to slam into Scotland at 6pm that evening and it was already 10.30am… how many lemons does it take for an epic?

    We settled for Strident Edge on the Trident Buttress with Dave Keogh coming along for the ride (an Irishman staying at the CIC). We avoided triggering any slides on the wade up and I started climbing the main pitch around 1pm. The climbing flowed by, and I pulled into the belay groove some time later.

    We topped out in darkness with worsening weather. By the time we were down-climbing back into the Ciste the winds were horrific – blowing us about like puppets, making us hunch over ice axes. The straightforward descent turned into a bit of a Weston-Super-Mare. Irish Dave dropped his head torch but we found it 100 metres lower – lucky man. After a long walk back to the hut (why isn’t there an outside light that comes on at night?) we finally re-packed and headed down to Fort William. I don’t think Irish Dave knew what he was letting himself in for, but hats off for rolling with it and staying strong when the storm hit!

    ***

    Friday morning and we were stood beneath Centurion again, this time lucky enough to have it in decent winter conditions. Dave climbed the first pitch by headtorch, dispatching the tricky and technical moves in style. He was obviously on some weight-loss mission as a Scotch egg and Twix bar flew past my head when he got to the belay I launched into the second pitch – an impressive overhanging corner system with nearly 40 metres of climbing. As it says in the guidebook, the holds just keep coming and the gear keeps on giving. It felt amazing to be stemming wide with loads of air beneath my feet, the belay in sight and the beat of Centurion pulsing through my arms.

    I belayed Dave using a large hex for a belay plate, since he’d forgotten his. I had a smile on my face and we cruised, mellow, floating on the high. I barely needed to swing my arms to keep warm, and we flowed through the route until pitch five When Dave’s helmet fell off his head, I definitely skipped a beat. It’s certainly one of the least expected things to happen to your partner as they climb. He had loosened the straps to make it more comfortable, but perhaps a bit too much.

    Thankfully, Dave’s head is pretty hard and he led the pitch fine, sans helmet and headtorch. When I reached his belay, at the junction with Route II, I figured it would be dark in an hour, we still had 100m of climbing to go and we didn’t know how hard it was. However, Dave wanted to continue, so I obliged and we sprinted for the top.

    We pulled it off just in time, topping out in near-darkness and descending Ledge Route in a giddy, schoolboy ‘just-got-away-with-it’ haze.

    Thanks for a great week Dave, and for choosing ‘up.’

    Donald King battling up the fierce crux section of Angels (VIII,9), a new route on the front face of Church Door Buttress on Bidean nam Bian. “Going climbing with Donald means I'm going to have sore arms at the end of the day!” Mike Pescod said afterwards. (Photo Mike Pescod)

    Donald King battling up the fierce crux section of Angels (VIII,9), a new route on the front face of Church Door Buttress on Bidean nam Bian. “Going climbing with Donald means I’m going to have sore arms at the end of the day!” Mike Pescod said afterwards. (Photo Mike Pescod)

    Donald King, Mike Pescod and Andy Nelson made the first ascent of Angels (VIII,9), an excellent new mixed route on the front face of Church Door Buttress on Bidean nam Bian in Glen Coe on January 13. Conditions were good with light winds, and the rock was well rimed up and had quite a few bits of usable ice with clean rock underneath for placing protection. Donald takes up the story:

    “The first pitch follows a line of pick-width cracks straight up the front face of the massive flake on Flake Route. The first half is very positive and good for the feet, but as I started up the top half of the pitch things got a bit more exciting! There is a 10mm wide crack running up the next section, but halfway up the footholds disappeared and I had to pull up some more protection on the rope as I needed a medium Hex. I battled with the Hex trying to get it seated, but I never got it quite right, so I also placed two cams beside it. Unfortunately, they slid out of the icy crack each time I pulled them, but it was now or never to continue up, or go down.

    There was a ledge ten to twelve feet above me and the next few minutes went by in a state of fear with my hands nearly letting go of my ice axes. I think there was three or four total lock offs with nothing for my feet apart from smearing into the corner. At the ledge the crack ran out, and I only just managed to get onto it without falling and testing the gear.

    Mike and Andy followed up with very tight ropes. Mike led a wee link pitch to below a groove, and then Andy led us up the groove to the Arch. My arms where still pumped by the time we got back to the car. As with many of these routes its very hard to put a grade on them, but we all thought VIII,9 is about right, but who knows?”

    Andy Hogarth on the first ascent of Dairy Mik (IV,5) in Stob Coire nam Beith. This corrie, which lies high on the north-east side of Bidean in Glen Coe, is normally less crowded than neighbouring venues, and there is plenty of scope for variation for those enjoying mountaineering style routes. (Photo Andy Nelson)

    Andy Hogarth on the first ascent of Dairy Milk (IV,5) in Stob Coire nam Beith. This corrie, which lies high on the north-east side of Bidean in Glen Coe, is normally less crowded than neighbouring venues, and there is plenty of scope for variation for those enjoying mountaineering style routes. (Photo Andy Nelson)

    On Saturday (February 2), Andy Nelson, Andy Hogarth and Dave Brown made the first ascent of Dairy Milk (IV,5), which takes a line between  No.2 Buttress” and “Left Wall in Stob Coire nam Beith.

    “It was a pleasant mixed line giving around 200m of climbing in the alpine idiom,” Andy explained. “The route links snow terraces/ramps via short walls and corners on turfy rock, starting at the V-shaped slab immediately right of Arch Gully, and provided a fine journey with great scenery.

    Conditions in the corrie were a little tricky, with unconsolidated snow on buttresses, but the turf margins were frozen with ice forming quite readily. The going was very slow for teams on Diamond Buttress due to loose snow, but Sunday’s thaw should settle things down somewhat.”

    High on Bidean

    Brian Davison on the first ascent of The Pash (VI,6) – a new route on the West Top of Bidean nam Bian in Glen Coe climbed with Andy Nisbet. The same pair also added Incision (VI,7) to the crag the same day. (Photo Andy Nisbet)

    “In 2001, Brian Davison made the first ascent of St. Peter’s Well on the West Top of Bidean nam Bian with Steve Kennedy and Dave Wilkinson.’” Andy Nisbet writes. “He did say there was more scope, but I didn’t remember until the preparation of the Scottish Winter Climbs guidebook when Steve sent me a picture of the crag. A steep unclimbed rib right of the chimney called The Gash caught my eye, although I didn’t realise how steep it was. A few summers ago, Brian was up [in Scotland] to rock climb but it had been raining for a few days and mountain routes would be wet, so we went for a walk up Bidean and just happened to look at the crag. In November 2010 the freezing level was high, and high new routes are rare, so I hoped Brian would forgive me going up there with John Lyall and Jonathan Preston. Despite the plan to look at the rib, it was very steep and deeply plastered, and we had a hard enough time climbing an easier line to the right (Stramash IV,4).

    So time to call back Brian. There had been a thaw, actually a much bigger one than expected. “Where’s all the snow” said Brian when he arrived at Lagangarbh, admittedly in the dark. “There’s plenty up high”, said I optimistically, but at least we were going to the highest cliff in Glen Coe. It was a bit worrying when the steep walls on Church Door Buttress were black, but we were going even higher, and sure enough it was fine.

    [On December 12] we soloed up to the base of The Gash’s chimney and thought we ought to try the wall on its left. It was distinctly less steep than the rib, so I volunteered, Brian conceded that he would lead the rib and I set off. Ten metres up and with only one poor runner, I wasn’t sure my deal was working out. There was a wide shallow verglassed crack below what was obviously the crux. So I put in a Friend runner and went up to look at the crux. I didn’t like it so came back down and put in another dubious runner. This procedure went on for about an hour until there were four dubious runners and I still didn’t like it. But I knew deep down I’d just have to get on with it. A strenuous pull over a bulge followed by a struggle to stay in balance with placements too low, did finally work. Then it was easier but still not enough protection to reach a big flake, which I knew, would be the end of the difficulties. I called it The Pash (VI,6) although there was more fear than love involved.

    Now it was Brian’s turn. It was obviously steep and the crack went through two clearly overhanging sections, but at least it was a crack and we’d taken an excessively large rack. Brian’s claim it was very early season was ignored by me since he’d just been involved with Paddy Cave and a route with a high grade called 1984 [a new IX,9 on Flat Crags in Langdale]. I think Brian took less time on the whole route than I had on one move on The Pash, but it was still pretty strenuous so speed probably helped. Brian was using old axes with leashes and had the last laugh when my curly modern ones had the wrong curve to reach a chockstone deep in the crack; with failing strength I pulled on a runner. The route Incision has been graded VI,7 and despite my protests, I couldn’t think of another grade which worked. Technical 7 was just about right, by that I mean it wasn’t really 8, and it was too short and well protected for anything else. At least no-one will ever say it’s a soft touch.”