Petestack Blog

6 June 2009

Solo in Glen Coe

Filed under: Climbing — admin @ 11:53 pm

Short of a climbing partner but keen to do something, I took the van to Glen Coe this afternoon and nearly took it straight home again as it started to spit with rain just as I got myself parked. But fortunately I decided that it was still worth a look and set off at a brisk pace for the East Face of Aonach Dubh, where in 1947 the great W.H.Murray had discovered ‘simple and modestly difficult routes [that] all men may climb.’ It was here in 1983 that I’d done my first ever lead (Quiver Rib) and here, the last time I’d set foot on it (a shocking eighteen years ago!), that I’d taken my cousin Eileen up Archer Ridge. So it was clearly high time I got myself back on it and, with the rain conveniently stopping not that long after my arrival and three teams already on the rock, chose the Bowstring (Diff), which follows a faint chimney line up the full 150m height of the face and was the original Murray/McIntyre route from the May 1947 day that also produced Quiver Rib, Rowan Tree Wall and Archer Ridge. And it proved to be a great choice (NB it turns out that I had climbed it before… in 1983!), with some short, steep sections and interesting situations but festooned with superb holds everywhere, although sadly also less attractively adorned on this occasion with some, um, waste and paper poking out from below a stone where it crosses the left extremity of the terrace that leads to Quiver Rib and Archer Ridge… (Note to the culprit: your ‘toilet’ is a route and people climb it!)

Having finished the Bowstring, I was keen to continue to Dorsal Arete on Stob Coire nan Lochan, which Noel Williams had told me was still a worthwhile summer scramble. And so it was, once I’d got myself up the tedious scree below without dislodging any of the larger blocks that might have taken me straight back down with them. It was spitting with rain again, but not enough to put me off, and I was quickly up at the exciting crux fin. While obviously still every bit as exposed as it is in winter, the couple of big steps needed to take this direct went so easily (it’s certainly no more then Mod) compared to the awkward, strenuous and undignified moves I remember in crampons that I’d describe it as delightful rather than daunting. For sure, the rock (being somewhat ‘blocky’ in a way that’s not so immediately apparent when well frozen) both here and lower down requires care, and it’s never quite the classic it becomes under snow and ice, but it’s still a good, fun way to the top of Stob Coire nan Lochan. Which is exactly where I went next, before jogging most of the way back to the road through a slightly heavier shower to complete a great afternoon out. :-)

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