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    Browsing Posts tagged Bidean nan Bian

    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.”