Monday, February 4, 2013

Gangnam Style

Went up Beinn Ime again, this time with Andy Clark. I've climbed there 3 times in the last 2 weeks!
It's a good crag, rarely visited (despite it only being a 45 min drive from Glasgow) but definitely worthwhile if the conditions allow.

Andy on the descent to Fan Gully Buttress
There's been quite a bit of snow over the Highlands recently. After reading various reports of unstable snow further North we decided to keep it as safe we we could. Arrochar seemed the best bet- so we took that gamble, hoping that the altitude of Beinn Ime's crags would have kept the turf solid after a week of rollercoaster temperatures. Most importantly, we crossed our fingers that the Westerlies hadn't turned Ime's East facing slopes into death traps.

When we stopped at the gearing up stone near the summit, we realised something was different from the usual suffering- we were comfortable while adding the layers. It was feckin' boiling- which was a bit of a conundrum. The air temperature was probably minus 4, but an unusually strong Scottish Winter sun was warming us. Anyway, we geared up as normal and trepidatiously descended a gully, to arrive sweating below the routes. The snow had been stable enough to walk down without avalanching on us but our prospects didn't look good. We were hot and bothered and the snow was melting off anything exposed to the sun.

A quick brainstorm came up with three options-
1/ Hanging Groove (IV,5) (in the shade).
2/ the recently recorded Gangnam Style- at the proposed grade of (V,7) (also in the shade).
3/ go home (we'd rather have gone to the pub).

Both the routes were in the shade. These could be our salvation and the pub could wait. I'd already done Hanging Groove with Jim Hall,  so I couldn't resist the temptation of a bit of Gangnam Style, especially with the Mediterranean style sunshine. We could be in San Antonio....

Andy Clark starting the crux pitch of Gangnam Style
I plodded up some horrific knee to thigh deep porridge and entered the shade to do the first pitch. Thankfully the snow firmed up in the cold, and a short tech 4 corner led to a turfy buttress. From a shared belay, Gangnam runs parallel and on the right of Hanging Groove. Andy seconded that first pitch while a Paraffin Budgie buzzed around in the background, presumably doing Mountain Rescue training near Ben Vane.

Andy made short work of the 1st hard pitch. I arrived at his belay after a decent (but enjoyable) tech 6 struggle. I looked up and very quickly decided it would be time for some 'block leading' on Andy's part. My Spidysense had detected difficulty...<Translation- I thought, 'F That', and sent the ropegun up there!>
Crux pitch of Gangnam Style
Good call- the next pitch really was a good bit harder than the last one and I needed a pretty tight rope seconding a horribly footless slabby section around mid-way, before another hard bit. After that I had to work hard to make the long step right to a turfy rib where the pitch eventually eased off. This pitch was very sustained and tricky. It was much harder than the last pitch- which would be worth V,6 in itself. A cracking lead on Andy's part.

We finished up around 70m of grade II buttress ground, avoiding a steep wall that had been climbed on the first ascent. It was as black as the ace of spades and we didn't have the time to do it. As we walked off into the sunset the views were clear for 40 miles down the Firth of Clyde. Another stunning day in the Alps- the Arrochar Alps!

The Cobbler, The Brack and the Firth of Clyde from Beinn Ime

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