No need to wait any longer: winter has finally arrived and Arno and I decided to combine plenty of hill fitness training with a short climb given the relatively poor forecast and the few hours of daylight. We decided on the Noe Buttress in Coire Chat (Ben Cruachan) which has only seen first ascents after 2000. We left Dundee at 6 am and here is Arno walking near the stream towards the Cruachan reservoir.
There was snow from 200 m upwards making the ascent to the 1126 m high summit of Ben Cruachan the hill fitness exercise that we were looking for.
From the summit the buttress is visible. Descend from the summit and walk maybe for 200 m on the ridge that goes to the West until you find East gully. At the bottom there is a good spot to gear up. It was Baltic with a strong, icy Westerly but the Eastern side of the crag more or less sheltered from the wind.
We decided to climb Tainted Elixir, a short, 70 m V,6*** first climbed by Chris Cartwright and Simon Richardson on the 14th of December 2003. The climbing was physical, technical and sustained and very similar to the best the Northern Corries have to offer. Gear was very good even despite the ice which required scraping and hammering. Here is Arno climbing. The steepness of the crag becomes apparent.
And here he is a bit higher.
I climbed the first two pitches as one and belayed below an overhang. The overhang was climbed with interest as the guidebook says but actually it was easier than it looked with lots of gear and good hooks, very satisfactory. After that some easy climbing to the crest. Because the climbing is so good and sustained the end was disappointing and it would have been nice if there was another pitch. On the other hand there are good looking routes to the left and right and so keen folk can easily climb another route. Here is me on the descent happy about the first route of the season.
At the end a sunrise over St Cyrus nature reserve on my way to Aberdeen. Whenever I get fed up with the dark Scottish winter days like yesterday and vistas like this make me forget all that gloominess.