Monday, 28 December 2009

Clach na Beinn and Clova - 26/27th Dec '09

Firstly, a merry xmas to everyone.  Hope you have all had a wonderful past few days.   D, RB and I certainly have.
Xmas day was spent in a blur of too much food and too much TV.
Boxing day RB was at her Dad's, the weather was clear and bright, so D and I decided to go for a walk up Clach na Beinn.  The trail was broken on the way up as it's such a popular wee hill and I almost regretted not taking my axes up as some of the gullies would have been climbable.  I decided it would be a good idea to come down the hill via the Hill of Edendocher, Cairn of Finglenny and then drop down into Glen Dye.  I'd done that wee circuit a few years back and remember it being pleasant.  Not so that day!  Nobody else had walked these hills of late and we had to break trail all the way through knee deep snow and thigh deep drifts.  After the Cairn of Finglenny we decided to go off path and drop straight down to the track in Glen Dye, rather than follow the path down and round to the bothy.  Bad idea!  The snow here was awful and something I'd never experienced before.   It was sat as a layer on top of the heather and frozen over.  But it wasn't frozen enough to hold your weight and when you broke through the crust there was no snow underneath, only heather.  Lifting your foot high to get back onto the snow, the icy crust would scrape against your shin, not nice!  Think it took us 3 and half hours to get down from Clach na Beinn!

If that wasn't enough, the next day I thought that going up to Clova to check out the cliffs would be a good idea.   All was fine at first, though I was finding the going tough.  I'm convinced I get unfitter each time I go out.  The path up to Corrie Fee is barely up hill and yet I was huffing and puffing like an old man with a 50 a day fag habit!  Don't know if that bout of Bronchitis has effected my lung capacity and on top of that, not being able to do any cardiac work during the week because of this torn meniscus in my knee.   I'm just not as fit as I was last year.
Enterning the coire, the cliffs look well plastered and there were 2 teams heading up to do Look C Gully.   I had my eye set on a new route though and this took us past all the routes and more trail breaking, ugh!  I had the bit between my teeth however and nothing short of an avalanche or a thunderstorm was going to stop me today!  The going was really hard.  Thigh deep snow, falling into chest deep drifts at times.  Poor D, I don't think he realised just what he was getting himself into!  But he coped with it all (I don't think I gave him much choice)  It seemed to take forever, and the original line I had spotted got forgotten about as I simply couldn't face more wading.  Instead, I spotted a nearer, though less good looking line.  But it would do under the circumstances! 
Scrambling up to the base of the route was hard work indeed and on occasion I did think I wouldn't make it up there!  But make it I did.
The route followed an initial turfy groove and oh yes, frozen turf, happy happy!  Woohoo!  I'd forgotten just how gorgeous big clumps of frozen turf are, sexy!   This took us into a wee basin, where the groove followed up more steeply.  I decided that the rope was a good idea here and D was happy to comply, even though he normally doesn't like ropes.  This was the crux of the route, and grade II.  It was fun, though totally gearless!  Thankfully the turf was bomber so it wasn't too much of an ordeal.  I was concerned about not getting a belay at the top of the pitch and either having to bring up D with a body belay or trying to back off the route.
Thankfully, there was a stonking belay and D flew up the pitch with no problems whatsoever.  The next few pitches followed more grooves and turfy slopes.  The wind was picking up and on several occasions I was blinded by spindrift blowing into my face.  Luckily most of the belays I found were tucked into little sheltered niches.
The route was 250m long and finished up on the top crest of A Gully Buttress.  So all that followed was to follow the coire rim round and into Coire Kilbo.  I was knackered though so D broke trail and I had to stop after a while and eat something to perk up my energy levels which were severely flagging!
The path down into Kilbo was completely blown over and we were both falling about all over the shop, wind still blowing spindrift up, it was a battle of wills!
We were down eventually though, and a quick look at the map showed us how to find the path into the forest.  Head torches on, I was mighty glad I hadn't been out on my own, as those woods would have been terrifying!  D laughed that I could climb up these routes and yet be scared of the dark!  There was a loud rustle in the trees about half way down and he teased me about bears, wolves and gruffalos!
The path through the woods seemed never ending, but finally we made it back to the van.  One of the teams who were doing Look C weren't down yet, and I didn't envy them still being up there. 
They were half an hour behind us, having come down the Coire Fee path and said that Look C's top 2 pitches were pretty rotten.
Temps in the corrie were above freezing, around 1.5 degrees but it's uttely baltic today, -6.5 in Aboyne, so these wee freeze/thaws should be good for consolidation of the snow and better ice build up.

No comments: