(Not quite) climbing again

Looking up to the Coire Sputain Dearg cliffs in the Cairngorms

Looking up Coire Sputan Dearg to see the tempting sunshine on the cliffs

It’s far too long since I’ve done any proper climbing and the weekend there seemed like a good chance to put things right.

Only the temperature didn’t cooperate.

Colin and I headed in to Bob Scott’s Bothy on Friday night, finding the path, softened by the thaw, especially heavy going on the bikes.

With little prospect of anything being in condition we took only basic gear to walk in to Coire Sputan Dearg on Saturday morning. The weather, if too warm, at least, made for an enjoyable walk in, with low cloud coming and going, and sunshine in between, although I found the going pretty hard. The best part of a week’s worth of upset stomach maybe wasn’t the best preparation for a return to climbing, but I think perhaps a general lack of fitness was the real problem.

Coire Sputan Dearg in the Cairngorms, shrouded in cloud

The cloud moved in and out, at first, creating some great effects


Cloud in Coire Sputan Dearg, Cairngorms

A mountain appearing out of the mist

Looking south from Coire Sputan Dearg, Cairngorms

Looking back down the glen

By the time we reached the coire the weather had finally decided it wasn’t going to play ball and we just had time to identify the starts of routes before the descending cloud level made it essential to start climbing while we could skills see where we were going.

With only the easy main lines containing any snow (and no ice visible in any quantities) Colin decided to go for Narrow Gully (GradeI), while I listened to my body and opted for Main Spout, which offered a less steep way up and meant I’d be able to stop and collapse for a bit whenever my lack of fitness made itself felt.

Colin in Coire Sputain Dearg, Cairngorms, below Narrow Gully

Colin is just visible in the centre of the picture, heading up towards Narrow Gully, hidden in the mist

Below Narrow Gully, Sputan Dearg, Cairngorms

Colin, just visible as he heads into the cloud and Narrow Gully. The last sighting until he came down the Main Spout to meet me.

It was good to be back amongst cliffs though. Main Spout is by no means difficult, but, even though visibility was very limited, it was good to be between the walls of a gully again kicking up the snow slope, taking in the varying texture of the snow, eyeing up daydream routes up the sidewalls and watching the odd ptarmigan croaking away at the edges of the slope.

After a while I heard a whistle from the mist above and called up to let Colin know he was whistling down the right gully. He even came down to meet me, kicking big bucket steps for me to follow up to the top – a real friend! He said Narrow Gully had steepened a bit in the middle, so I knew I’d made the right choice – I really wasn’t up to much more than I’d done, which I thoroughly enjoyed all the same.

Sun through cloud at the top of the Sputan Dearg cliffs, Cairngorms

As close as the sun came to breaking through, on our way along the tops of the cliffs

Once up on top we had a bite to eat and wandered along the clifftop to the top of Sron Riach. Colin was all for going on to the top of MacDui, so we took a bearing into the mirk and walked into the whiteness until we reached the trig point and the chance to see … well, to see lots more whiteness, for although the sun seemed to be trying to shine through, the cloud hung on determinedly, and it wasn’t until we were on our way back down Sron Riach that we got views, albeit some great views over the ridge of Carn a Mhaim to the Devil’s Point.

Devil's Point, Cairngorms

From Sron Riach. looking over the ridge of Carn a Mhaim to the Devil's Point. (If you zoom in just right of the Devil's Point you can see a ptarmigan standing on a rock)

After a quiet night on Friday, Saturday night was party night at the bothy, with a number of individuals and groups all turning up, and a great night was had with a company including Scots (from a’ the airts) English, Polish, Irish and even a guy from Luxemburg.

Evening in Bob Scott's Bothy, Cairngorms

Saturday night in Bob Scott's

Against expectation, Sunday was a brilliant day: crisp and clear, with blue sky and no wind, and despite hangovers, most folk felt obliged to go up a hill somewhere. The four Glaswegians, as planned, went up MacDui (and no doubt enjoyed better views than Colin and I had), while several of us ambled up Beinn Bhreac, enjoying beautiful views all the way, bith walking through the Derry Woods and up on the hill, with magnificent vistas in every direction, all the major Cairngorm peaks visible save Beinn a Bhuird, with its thin veil of mist.

Sore legs after, but what a day!


Looking across Glen Derry and into Coire Etchachan

Looking across Glen Derry from Beinn Bhreac and into Coire Etchachan

PS: What a day for some. I heard later that one guy had lost his car keys on Beinn Bhreac, while another – one of three who had carried on to Beinn a Chaorainn when Colin and I headed down, broke his ankle on the walk back down Glen Derry.

Hope you get back on your feet soon, Stu. And if anyone finds a set of keys on Beinn Bhreac, get in touch and I can arrange for them to be returned.

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8 Responses to (Not quite) climbing again

  1. Martin Rye says:

    Fab. Glad you had a good time out in the hills.

  2. Cheers Martin. Two good days together, and a good night in between. What more could a body ask?

  3. Tam says:

    Can’t believe it – Neil with a lack of fitness???? s w o o n

    • It’s all relative, Tam. I was walking with a guy who’s about 15 years younger than me and has been out every weekend this winter. I may have been slower than him, but I’d have left most obese one-legged octogenarians behind.

  4. Clayton says:

    Thanks for the plug about the keys Neil. Got the car towed back to aberdeen on Monday and broke into it. The spare key was in the car, so no dramas other than a serious case of being a space cadet. Most likely the key is at 058964 (where I took my jacket off) or 067947 (spot of glissading).

  5. Gav says:

    Really nice photos Neil. I assume you have let Colin get so far ahead for the purpose of the photo. I know the feeling well!

  6. My absolute worst nightmare losing my carkeys on a hill! I nearly always walk alone so it would be a complete disaster – especially when arriving back cold and tired!

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