Saturday, 16 August 2008

3 star Cairngorm classic!

Sat 16th Aug 2008:

Cairngorm Classic!!!!!

I'm just in from a big day in the cairngorms, and am knackered but felt i should write this whilst the memory is still sharp.

Neil picked me up this morning at 0700hrs, and we headed up the A9 to the Northern corries for a day out, with the intention for the day being to tackle the 3 star cairngorm classic, Savage Slit (Sev). Only me an Neil made it, with others calling off, heading down south for better weather, or family commitments, but despite this, i was keen to give it a go.

The weather forecast promised clear skies by the afternoon, improving as the day went on, and with the weather at the ski car park upon our arrival, i was hopeful for an accurate forecast, as the clouds were low, and the wind gusting.

Despite that, we made our way into Coire an Lochain, and followed the well worn path along to the locahns in the bottom of the corrie, all the way in, watched over by the imposing and seemingly overhanging cliffs, guarding the south end of the corrie.
The imposing cliffs of coire an Lochain.

It was at this time, that Neil was having second thoughts about letting me drag him 100 miles up the country for what seemed a crazy and committing climb on some serious territory. He did well not to let me know what he was thinking, but internally i was having doubts about the climb as well, possibly a mix of the imposing nature of the climb, and the less than ideal weather (gusting up to 50mph at that point of the approach).

Despite this, we made our way past the lochs, and sat down in a sheltered spot to have lunch and recce the rest of the corrie, our noses buried in the guide book. After lunch, we decided that as we had already come this far, we might as well head up the hill and look the climb straight in the eye.

Once at the bottom of Savage slit, it is an imposing, but highly attractive natural line up the slightly less than vertical east facing wall of No 4 buttress. At this point, we were joined by two other keen climbers with the same route in mind.

Savage Slit follows the dark crack on the left of the corner line.

I lead up first, with cold and stiff hands, not entirely convinced about the less than brilliant hand holds, but impressed by the high friction of the rough pink granite. I continued up, finding nice ledges for feet, but little good holds for hands (that were frozen by then!), and at one point got a rather alarming case of the hot aches as i shook my hands out and blew warm air onto them. Never a good thing on a route with amazing exposure. At this point, i was seriously asking what i had got myself into. I was only 20 m up the 100 or so metres of the route, and i was already having second thoughts. The only thing that drove me on was the sight of the belay stance (a lovely large ledge). Easy climbing lead up to it, and before he knew it, Neil was on belay and i was shouting for him to climb.
My belay after first pitch, with 2nd pitch behind me (eeek!)

Little did he tell me, but at this point he was starting to ask him self what I had got him into (seems to be a recurring theme with my climbing buds!)

Neil just of ground on pitch 1, thinking "what am i doing here?!!!"

After 10 mins, neil was up at the belay and my well laid out stance helped us to transfer the gear and switch belay in record time. Upwards and onwards, through the chimney, then back onto the face, with slightly more confidence, and some better hand holds, i was beginning to revel in the exposure, and soaked up the experience. The sun made a welcome appearance, boosting my confidence as the wind dropped and the clouds parted to give an awe inspiring view down the corrie and off to Glenmore and Loch Morlich.

Soon enough i was at the end of pitch two, and with some sadness realised that the best of the climbing was over, with only a crappy scramble to the top. Neil came up with relative ease, and posed at the large ledge for an amazing photo op. Well done that man!Neil topping out on pitch 2 (with No 3 buttress behind)

We sat for 5 minutes and enjoyed the views, seeing cairngorm, the ptarmigan, the fiaccl ridge, the ski centre, and loch morlich surrounded by glenmore forest, and recalled our favourite bits of the climb. What an experience!

All that was left was to head up to the summit and bring Neil up through the grotty and lose gulley. Not a fitting end to such an amazing climb!

We stood on the summit and soaked in the views, and watched the patchy clouds scud past only feet above our heads. After a few stops to enjoy the views, we made our way down the fiaccl ridge, and rejoined the path in t'sneachda before racing down to the car, making it in record time.

The view from the top.

The short ride into Glenmore Lodge was a welcome stop for a pint, then off to Aviemore for some food. All in all an amazing day, and both of us freely admit that we went way outside of our relative comfort zones, but we both dealt with the pressure and the exposure well, and came out of it better for the experience.

Thanks Neil, it's a day i know i wont forget in a while, hope you won't either...

1 comment:

Alan said...

scary stuff, well done :-)