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Pygmy Ridge and Afterthought Arete

posted 18 Aug 2016, 12:24 by Dominic Williams   [ updated 19 Aug 2016, 05:26 by Allan McCulloch ]
16 August 2016 

A 5.30am rise in both Aberdeen and St. Andrews saw us both catch a blurry eyed sun rise before we hit the road to catch up in Cairngorm carpark at rendezvous for 8.30am . Justyna arrived on the second of 8.30am – European promptness. A mid-week adventure was ordered for a perfect weather forecast – two easy climbs (Pygmy Ridge and Afterthought Arete) and a bit of walk around the Northern Cairngorm. The gear sort was quick as we got monstered by midges. And we were off for Coire an t-Sneachda. A bit of a southerly breeze, but the sun was shining and the sky was blue!

A couple of early birds were roping up for another climb, and after a wee squiz at the guide we sorted our approach over the slabs to the bottom of Pygmy Ridge – a 95m moderate rock climb. From the carpark we’d reached the base of the climb in 90 mins, and roped up for the first pitch. It looked straightforward, but it had been a while since either of us had been on rock – so here goes… A delicate balance move about 5m off the ground with no gear produced a moment of thought, but things improved, and Markus was soon at the top of a 30m pitch. Justyna’s turn! A loose block shortly after starting the 2nd pitch produced another moment of thought, but the rope kept paying out fast enough, and we were soon at the final tower. Having climbed in the shade, we were a bit chilled and enjoyed the sun if not the wind as we headed for the plateau. Calls were a little tricky on the last pitch. On the plateau we were looking forward to some decent sunshine, which we got as we made our way towards Loch A’an and the Shelter Stone.

In fact it was positively tropical as we dropped below the plateau and headed into the bottom for some lunch. So, where’s the next climb? Another squiz at the guide didn’t produce an obvious answer. A bit more looking, and a bit more thinking and we thought we had it. A group high on the hill side heading for something in the same place looked promising. That must be it! Following a bit of heather bashing, and a bit of a steep approach – which Justyna just loved (not!), we were there ready to rope up again as we joined a rope of three. Afterthought Arete provides a 150m moderate climb. We’d been going just on 4hrs 30 mins. Justyna took the first pitch, and we were soon riding the arête proper – quite exposed, but well laid back on good dry warm rock with plenty of holds and gear – we were enjoying it. We soon left behind the other party, as we leap frogged each other in 30m stints. We topped out after another couple of hours, and enjoyed the sun and a bite to eat on top of Stag Rocks, sorted gear, and headed for the carpark. The drive home didn’t feel so bad after feeling full of ourselves for stealing a mid-week couple of trad climbs in the atmosphere of the big hills on a bluebird day with few about. What more could you want?

Markus & Justyna