Total Pageviews

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Once in a blue moon

Here it is: the ´Once in a blue moon´ buttress taken with a long exposure.

An esoteric, eight pitch gem requiring a long drive and walk in. [Well, that was a bit of a smokescreen because the climb is actually in Glen Esk] Here is the first pitch, a turfy, vegetated ramp.

The second pitch leads up to a corner with a smooth slab on the right and a difficult top out on dry turf under powder. But bashing the vegetation means that after a while it turns into gardener's questiontime!

The third pitch was my turn. A short traverse into an exposed, steep, shallow chimney. The rock was friable and it took ages to place two cams to protect the traverse and to get established in the chimney. At this stage I let my axes dangle on the spring leashes and climbed the steep bit with hands and crampons. A good hold turned out to be a loose block but it was past the point of return and I tried to focus on the job in hand rather than to worry about breaking holds and airmiles. The pump increased but holds just large enough to hang on and just solid enough not to fall out. Finally I got my axes into good turf onto an easier angled slope. Pitch four was a tricky traverse and a short and sharp step up a steep wall and then snowed up heather to a tree belay. Here is the steep, short wall.

Pitch five was a deceptively hard slab. After trying a thin hook I bashed my axe into a tuft of turf on the righ, hooked an arrete with the left axe and bridged over to a small foothold. Still laybacking I found a small hook on the arete that allowed to step up and to find better turf placements to finish the problem. Nice, technical climbing and good to learn from the pros. Here is the belay below the slab which we climbed with headtorches.

The last three pitches were easier climbing under deep powder to the top. We topped out under a blue moon, a 13th full moon in the year. Very grateful for being given the opportunity to be part of this adventure but I am ready for a Lanzarotean deck chair now!


Anonymous said...

very secretive henning. no location and no names of climbers, though i'm sure i know them. good effort! though i must say it all looks a little 'desperate', not the climbing but the conditions! R

Ryan & Henning said...

Hi R, Scotland is seeing the best (or worst for some) winter for many years and so standing at the bottom of almost any buttress in the country with the intention of climbing it should be a fair game:
the turf was well frozen, all the ramps had plenty of powder on it and all watercourses were ice. All the rest depends on where the climb sends you which was a new experience to me and a great adventure. In some locations such as Torridon or Canada rarely gets rimed up and thus there would be almost no climbing in Torridon or Canada if this was a prerequisite. Also if the vegetation is relatively tall (heather, long grass) then the snow on top falls to the ground and it looks much greener once it has been climbed.

So in my view this was a winter ascent but it is just not the same than a Nevis gully. It is more of an Alpine climb where snow, ice, frozen turf, rock all give truly mixed and technical climbing. Your technical tool box is tested much more than on a ´hack, hack, kick, kick´icy climb.

Sonya said...

Aha! I know exactly where your full moon buttress is *and* who you are climbing with. Fecking gutted cos I spotted that route and that it looked amazing and I could have been out with you guys but had other plans, boohoo!

Nice one though :o)