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Climbing Trip #1 - Buchaille Etiv Mor, Curved Ridge

Here we are, 13 hours of driving later and we have successfully gone from Cornwall to Glencoe. No matter how many times we seem to drive this, it is always a long slog. Although, the road from Glasgow to Glencoe is still undeniably my favourite. Seriously, it is beautiful. The mountains rise up like Kings of Old, whilst the Lochs are a rigid calm to the storms above. There is not much to love.

First thing we noticed. Midges. Maybe it was true that the Scottish Midges in summer were the devil themselves, feeding nonchantly on our rich and lovely Cornish Blood. We are, of course, delicisious and I blame all the pastys we have eaten and cream teas. I blame those for a lot. However, the Maxxfan deluxe did a fantastic job of sucking the buggers out the fan! So really, it wasn't that bad!

A bit of history on the Buchaille (local history revolving around the two climbers who this particular blog is about). Young and fresh faced, not really battle scarred and Locryn (me) still as fantastically rugged as usual and Andrew looking as he has for the last 15 years; a 45 year old man. Only joking (if you read this I love you brother please don't hurt me). A few years back we decided to climb the Curved Ridge in October. If you have winter climbed you know that climbing in October, in Scotland, you won't get much sun. We knew this.... and still only started at 11am! Oops. Ambitious. So we started, and following the instructions of the topo we started the climb proper.... except we were on the wrong part of the mountain. So we started well. We climbed about 6 pitches on wet, cold and shimmering rock. Have you ever slipped on a wet stone in st ives? Try climbing that.... Wassnae fun! Belaying in -2 degrees centigrade was awesome and I defeinitely was not cold. It was around 4pm when we stopped for a second to look up, figure out a route by which time I had been looking at various spikes of rock that we could use to abseil down on as a recoverable abseil. I knew we could not get up before dark, and we still would have had to find the walk down. It was a no go and we agreed to abseil down. I abbed down first and looked over the edge into a steamy, rolling mist that was silently enveloping the mountain, suffocating the edges like a pillow. On the radio I called up to the boys, "fancy a brew?" There was no point in rushing now so we sat, our feet dangling into the misty abyss whilst drinking a cup of tea and snacking on food. We got down, after a 11 hour day; it was fun. Not to be repeated.

Andy and I discussed our plan whilst getting the rucksacks ready. Given we had never climbed it before we stripped our trad racks to minimalist and took our rope as well. Helmets as always are a must, a loose rock can cause loose fingers and you'd find your way to the floor a helluva lot quicker than if you walked! A near Alpine start (0700) would make sure we had the whole day to figure out any problems or issues. Or so we thought. First thing to remember is even the best laid plans can go wrong almost immediately.

For once, ours didnt! After a small discussion on the topo and significant features around us we quickly found the correct path and the correct start to curved ridge. In the morning sun this was simple and relatively easy to do; although somewhat still misleading! The climb itself was lovely, solid rock mixed with vegetation made us focus. Interestingly, and annoyingly I found, after having only recently led my first HVS this style of climbing should have been easy and with no fan fare with regards to safety or psychology... Except, it has been many weeks since properly climbing and I found that even on the smallest of traverses I struggled to gauge the step. This frustrated me; however climbing upwards before traversing made it much easier, even though technically the climb was more difficult. Andy, on the other hand, smashed it. There was little to no fear in his mind as he scrambled up and over, flamboyantly and with no thought to his own safety scaling the rock like a mountain goat. The only issue with being of one mind like this, you fail to take in the surroundings and potential consequences. On one particular area, Andy began climbing, linking moves well to reach a crux move, following his movements I suggested some beta, even as I moved into a position where effectively I was balanced on a rock and spotting him. If he had fallen, it would not have mattered - we would have bounced off the rocks like a tennis ball before coming to a stop at the foot of the mountain; or next group up. After some time he made the right move and moved up - a visible air of relief from himself and me as he turned and said maybe you should go a seperate way. I had already decided on this and found a chimney climb to explore as I stuck my head out I gave him a look; the reprisal was non verbal and he already agreed that that particular bit was a bit spicy.... The remainder of the route was easy going and enjoyable, exploring different segments of rock that jutted out proudly. We played on some minor scrambles before reaching the summit of Stob Dearg... A total of 2.5 hours from bottom to top,and that is being generous! At 10:15 in the morning we wondered what to do for the rest of teh day... and so decided to walk the route across the Buachaille Etiv Mor and have lunch on Stob na Broige; looking out to Glen etiv.

Following lunch we decided on taking a scenic way down and descended a gully, scrambling down on loose scree before body abseiling and using a method called short roping to traverse across more sketchy parts. A herd of deer paused to watch us before cantering away, a sight often only seen in the highlands, a sight we would see more of!

Back in the van we drove to Clachaig Inn, a fan favourite, where we sampled their burgers, cider before sitting down, hanging our washing out and reading in the sunlight. This was bliss, a moment of tranquility where we savoured our mountain and ridge climb.

Next up.... Aonach Eagach.

By Locryn

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