Monday, 10 May 2010

ARDGOUR - 8th/9th May '10

I have always wanted to visit the Ardgour peninsula and climb on Garbh Beinn and go cragging in Ardnamurchan and this weekend the weather looked decent enough over on the West coast and D was keen to go scrambling.  I've always had an inkling to climb the Great Ridge, with Direct Start at Severe, on Garbh Beinn but that would involve ropes and gear and therefore wasn't an option for this weekend.  So we settled on doing Pinnacle Ridge which is another route that took my fancy and one that both of us would be happy to scramble up without ropes.
We set off from Dundee around 7.30 ish after RB and I had been training at the wall and drove over to Onich via Glencoe.  We slept in the van at the Coran Ferry terminal and caught the ferry the next morning, arriving at the parking spot for Ardgour around 9ish and setting off at 9.30am.
The walk into Garbh Beinn is nice and easy, flat all the way, if not a bit boggy.  But my legs wern't playing ball today at all.  They felt sluggish and weak and I still can't decide whether it's to do with the myelopathy or not.  In any case it feels akin to walking through mud, like I'm fighting resistance every step of the way.  Got there in the end though!  The first glimpses of Pinnacle Ridge you are seeing it face on and it looks steep and intimidating!
'Can that really go at Moderate?'
But as you approach and the angle changes, then the incline changes to a more favourable prospect and I'm much less intimidated.  The views over to The Great Ridge are superb!  Now that looks just as I thought it would, utterly utterly superb!  A steep tower of wonder, clean rock that just begs to be climbed.  But not today though.
The first pinnacle on the ridge is artificial.  You can either tug your way up steep grassy rakes and slopes, choosing to avoid the rock, or you can scramble your way up the rocky sections, nothing ever difficult, hopping from grass to rock as you go.  The first section reminded me of the buttress on Stuic a'Chroin in the Southern Highlands.  Once above the first pinnacle, the fun begins!  You are met with a sharp, knife edge arete, followed by a hugely sharp pinnacle.  I'm dubious about the pinnacle, it's very exposed and I'm thinking I'm more happy to clamber around it.  D thinks it looks okay though, so I give it a go and it poses no problems at all and is good fun!  You have to climb up a steep groove in the pinnacle with not much for your feet, bar jamming them into the crack that runs up the groove.  I've never done foot jamming with big boots on before and I'm a bit hesitant but my big boots wedge into the crack quite nicely and upward progress is made easy.
Above the pinnacle is a steep tower where the guidebook says to follow an arete on the right hand side.  Umm, what arete!?  We can't see an arete anywhere on the right.  On the right there is a ledged wall, which leads up to a corner and slab and this seems like the line of least resistance so we pick our way up the ledges to the bottom of the slab.  D goes a different way to me choosing to ignore the slab and come in from the right above it.  I prefer the look of the slab as it's easy angled.  Now me and slabs don't usually mix but this one, although deviod of massive holds, has plenty of knobbles and bumps and the friction is superb.  There are a couple of thin moves and I'm faced with a short chimney.  Hmmm, adrenaline is pumping a bit now!  I'm not going to kill myself if I fall off but I'm high up enough that it's gonna hurt!  There is a massive hold at the top of the chimney but short ass me can't bloomin' well reach it!  There is a small block wedged into the chimney and I have to lean off that to get my foot up high, onto a small ledge on the outside of the chimney.  I can then rock over onto that foot and grab the big hold.  Done!  Phew!  Then there is a steep corner to top out but the holds are plentiful and the moves are easy.  That's it, Pinnacle Ridge in the bag, wonderful!  I don't want the scrambling to end.  I love this sort of route, a fine line between hard scrambling and easy rock climbing, no rope and just the sheer freedom of movement with a little excitment added in!
We head up to the summit of Garbh Beinn and begin the walk back down the spur, stopping to take photos of the South Wall of the Great Ridge, home to Butterknife, a VS route that I'd love to do soon.  We stop for a doze in the sun half way down as it's baking hot and far too enjoyable to end the day so soon.  As the day cools we head back to the van and move to a different spot for a well deserved bottle of wine.

The next day we went hillwalking to bag the one Corbett in the area that D hadn't done, Beinn na h-Uamha.  Now, at 761m, this hill only just makes Corbett status but don't be deceived by it's lack of height as it's a monster of a hill!  Ardgour is very reminiscant of Knoydart, ie it's rough and hard going!   There is a good track for around 3miles, but one must leave the track and cross rivers and bogs (which were thankfully dry!) to come to the SE spur.  Glen Gour is beautiful, I love it here, so peaceful and serene and the sunshine helps.  I can hear the buzzing of crickets and have heard my 1st Cuckoo of the year.  Late this year, but finally heralding the start of spring!  There is no easy way up this hill and no path to speak of.  Just rough grass and heather and steep, grassy rakes, unrelenting!  Once above the first knobble, there is another steepening and poles have to be put away and hands put to use as it's quite rocky.  I had thought that this steeping would lead to the top of the hill but I groaned when D checked his altemeter and we were only just over half way up!  It was a steep slog all the way and I was really gritting my teeth and enduring the calf and thigh burn in my push up to the summit.
We decided on a different approach for the way down as neither of us was keen to reverse the scrambling we'd done on the lower steep section.  The map showed steep, grassy slopes on the South side of the hill and this would take us back into Glen Gour and finally back to the track.  The going was really tough and my quads were feeling the strain but we'd zoomed down 500m in around 40minutes so progress was quick!  So quick infact that we had time to stop at the river for a paddle and a bit to eat.  I stripped off for a swim, but getting thigh deep had a change of heart when I realised how icy the water still was, giving me a dose of the hot aches when the blood rushed back into my legs!
We were back in Dundee for 9pm to pick up RB who'd been doing a training session with Neil Gresham in preparation for the Scottish and British Youth Climbing finals.

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