Pygmy Ridge and Afterthought Arete (Aug 2016)

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.

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