Friday, June 8, 2012

Avoiding Elvis at Glen Nevis

Cavalry Crack Buttress, with Dundee Buttress to its left and Secretaries' Buttress above.
Just back from my first trad climbing trip for years. The last time I climbed a Summer pitch sticking 'they metal hings' in the rock must have been way back in 2008. My mate Andy texted me to say he had obtained a Gold Pass (freedom for an over-nighter) for the June bank holiday weekend. He hadn't been out climbing much recently and his liberation coincided with a good forecast- game on!

The original plan was to go over to Garbh Bheinn and try to get on a few of the classics. However, eagle- eyed Andy noticed that MWIS were forecasting 3 degrees C at 900m, with Northerly winds. The idea of multi-pitch mountain routes started looking a bit masochistic. After some thought we realised both of us hadn't been to Glen Nevis in ages. 10- 15mph winds were forecast, so maybe the midges wouldn't be too bad?

Andy picked me up on Saturday evening driving a courtesy car- a wee Hyundai i10 automatic. Awesome. You can barely get a handbag in the boot of these cars so the seats had to go down to accept our kit laden sacs, tent and midgy repellent. It felt like a pedal car as we buzzed up the A82 and brought back memories of early 90's trips in various tin box Fiat Pandas (the ultimate snow driving car). We arrived outside the Kingshouse Hotel in Glencoe and managed to secure one of the last tent spaces near the road. Tent up quick, we proceeded straight to the busy Climbers' Bar to partake in a few ales and some chat with a couple of lads from Yorkshire who were planning to go up Ben Nevis.

Andy at the top of Secretaries' Direct (S
Next morning the 7am alarm felt like a lie in according to Andy (he has 2 young kids). The sun was out and the Buachaille looked superb, as ever.

I was delighted to feel totally fresh after sticking to a self- imposed 3 pint rule the night before. We got to Fort William only to find that Morrisons didn't open until 9am so we were forced to traipse over to McDonalds. It was my first visit to the ginger- permed population poisoner's emporium in donkey's years, and I really hope it will be my last 'unhappy meal'. I don't need any help getting super- sized, thanks Ron.

 Driving up the Glen, hordes of aspirant Ben summiteers were heading for Tourist Track. We snaked our way up the road and got the last parking spot below Cavalry Crack Buttress.
With both of us being rusty we agreed the best idea would be to get plenty of confidence building mileage as opposed to difficulty on this trip.

Second pitch of Vampire (HS)

First up was Vampire (HS)- a weaving three pitch route on Cavalry Crack Buttress.

The start of the first pitch took a wee bit of finding, and we nearly made the mistake a few folk have done (according to UKC)  in climbing a bold looking direct variation at E1.

After orientating ourselves to the correct start the true first pitch turned out to be a bit scrappy, but suitably amenable for our purposes.

The second pitch is a cracker, with an open book corner widening out into a slanting wall climb, parallel to Storm below.

Next were a couple of single pitch routes on the neighbouring Dundee Buttress. The first one we did was Promises (HS). It was Andy's lead and turned out a great wee route.

Breaking my own intention to stick to easier climbs I was tempted into trying Dundee Weaver (HVS). It looked straightforward from below (don't they all?) but the book warned it had a tricky crux moving into a crack at the top.

Sure enough, the hard moves took a bit of thought and effort to overcome. Unfortunately, during my lead the wind dropped and Andy was forced to stick the midgy hood on while I spent a few minutes getting sorted before going for the top out.

Secretaries' Direct Route (S)

The last and best route of the day was Secretaries Direct (S)-  a superb slab climb positioned high above the glen.

The rock quality on this route is impeccable. It must be one of the best Severes in Scotland?

What an enjoyable route. The starting move into the first corner is the nippiest of them all, then it's just brilliant steady climbing above. We did it in two long pitches rather than the 3 in the book which was fine with half ropes.

I reckon that was my first trip to the Glen this century. It's quite a scary thought to realise it's been over 12 years....

It was a great day out, all objectives were achieved. Got plenty of mileage (7 pitches), stuck bits of gear in and Elvis didn't enter the building once!

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