Needing to head high for something suitably snowy to do with lack of the white stuff ruling out a half-planned Torridon weekend, some Friday-night consideration of a Nevis easy gully fest with further WML practice soon gave way to thoughts of a similar excursion up Bidean nam Bian and Stob Coire nan Lochan. So that’s what I set out for today, starting with Central Gully on Bidean by both of its variants (right-to-left at Grade I and left-to-right at Grade II), descending from the bealach before the West Top between the two. And both were good, with the Grade I line straightforward but unforgiving on iron-hard neve, but an awkwardly committing rock step (which I’m guessing might sometimes bank out) low down on the Grade II version making this briefly good value for the grade. A pity the mist didn’t clear for me to take a shot looking back down the gully to Collie’s Pinnacle (seen between the ‘Diamond’ and ‘Church Door’ buttresses in the first pic below) because that’s really quite an attractive feature of an atmospheric wee route, but the sun was breaking through brightly as I made my way over to Stob Coire nan Lochan (fourth pic).
Now it might not be far from Bidean to Stob Coire nan Lochan, but the latter is clearly getting so much more climbing traffic that the easy routes are completely stepped out where Bidean’s were pristine and I’d say both Broad (my descent at barely I) and NC Gullies (nominally I/II, but feeling like easy I) were very much easier today than either variant of Central Gully, with the II on Bidean being the only thing I got out my second (‘just in case’) axe for. And many, many routes were getting done on SCNL, with a team (Simon and Charlie?) I’d already spied on the first pitch of Crest Route tackling the second as I made my way down past them towards Aonach Dubh. So I stopped to watch, take photos and practise digging bucket seats and bollards before leaving (just after Gillian and team, who’d done a lean-looking SC) with a descent back to Achnambeithach by Dinnertime Buttress in mind. Which looked OK (as in below the snowline), but proved quite awkward in the end with some icing in the crucial chimney/crack thing down the rock band leaving limited options for feet after removing my crampons on the summit of Aonach Dubh. So don’t think I’d recommend it as a winter descent, although I was rewarded in this case by the Aonach Eagach briefly lit up to a stunning red glow as I made my way down the easier lower slopes.