27 November 2016
It had been wintery all week with enough snow for Cairngorm ski resort to open, so we hatched a plan to head up to the Northern Corries for the first route of the winter… And then the weather changed it’s mind: a thaw set in on Friday and by Saturday evening the ski resort had closed up again. Still, the forecast was for temperatures to drop again from Saturday night, so we stuck with it and headed up on Sunday. If anything had survived the thaw it should freeze nicely for some good climbing. Unfortunately the view from the car park confirmed our worst fears: nothing of note had survived the thaw.
We decided to go lightweight and at least have a scramble up the Fiacaill Ridge. We didn’t realise quite how lightweight we were going until too late.
It was fun scrambling up the ridge but as we got higher the amount of verglass on the rocks increased. For those that don’t know, verglass is the finest covering of ice over a rock that turns it into a frictionless ice rink. As it got steeper we decide to get the rope out and don crampons. It was only now we realised how ‘lightweight’ we’d gone. “Dave, can I get some of your extenders?”, “Er, I don’t have any; I thought you were bringing them!” Luckily we had 4 hexes with enough karibiners to make them all usable and these proved just enough protection to see us safely up the steepest section.
Cloud and a biting wind were blowing around as we reached the plateau so we gave up thoughts of heading any further afield and quickly made our way down the Goat Track, making it back to the car just before it got completely dark: ‘lightweight’ also affected our headtorch count!
- David Matthews and Ephraim Glick