Scotland, Coire an t’Sneachda

So I have not seen Mike since we were in the Alps the summer 13′ but as he lives up north he makes the perfect winter climbing partner, apart from the fact that he had never done any winter climbing before, however that was all to change!

After a long coach journey up to Aberdeen, I was more than happy to just crash out and sleep, as I knew an early start was in order as we planned to get to Aviermore in the morning. We set off in good time but the drive was an hour longer than it said on the sat nav so we were already behind time, not to worry though!

We got to the car park and after sorting out the kit took the trail to Coire an t’Sneachda where we were going to have a look at Aladdin’s Buttress, as we had been keeping up with scattered winter reports online from local climbers. I could see from my previous trip a month before that winter was leaving and had taken much of the snow with it. Once the buttress was in sight lines could be seen going up to a few routes and me and Mike set out and got the gear ready for our first belay. We decided on Aladdin’s Mirror (I) due to how easy the grade was, and the obvious belay spots, I led the first pitch which proved to be soft snow with little purchase, enough to hold but was not filling me with confidence. After setting up the first belay I brought Mike up and he quickly set off on the second pitch, the climbing at no point got harder or easier as we toiled on through the route. I was hoping to do it in 4 pitches but I was at the full extent of the ropes, so had to belay a mere 5-10 meters from the top. Mike led this over what was left of the cornices that I saw on my last trip and we had topped out and Mike had ticked off his first winter climb!

We made our way back to the car a little weary as it was a long day, but were keen to come back if the weather permitted for a second winter route of the trip. The weather was fine in Aberdeen, but the closer we came to the mountains the more the wind was picking up and the rain was coming. We did the same approach as the day before but after leading the first pitch of central left hand, mike shouted that he was not happy with the weather conditions, so to my slight annoyance I down climbed back to the belay. Its always tough when your buddy does not fancy it whether it be for weather or drive or just a lack of confidence, at the time I usually feel aggrieved or annoyed that the opportunity was taken away from me, however later on I’m able to process the situation and understand the decision as I’m sure I have called time on a climb or activity and others have had no choice but to agree and follow.

The weather for the 3rd day was worse of all in the mountains so we took a short trip south and went to a sport climbing venue called Kirrie Hill, where I had one of my most successful days on a sport crag leading a few 6a’s, a 6a+ and even a 6b onsight. The routes were quite short but still had a fantastic day out.

Altogether a good last attempt at bagging a couple more winter routes, we only managed to get one in the bag but the trip was helped by a fun days sport climbing that was unexpected on this trip, also great to catch up and climb with Mike again after a long time.

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