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Monday, 20 February 2012

Dr Noe, VI,6**

Last weekend was forecast to be a cold weekend wedged in-between periods of warm weather. After considering all the options Robbie, Arno and I decided to go again to Ben Cruachan to climb on the North facing crag which is just to the West of the Cruachan summit. The routes are mostly well protected and whilst they are short they put up a fight. The walk in is 3 h. 
Here we just reach the dam of the Cruachan reservoir with Ben Cruachan in the sunlight behind.
The clouds lifted during the approach and few things beat spring-like sun and snow.
Here is Arno on the inital approach.
Higher up was a snow bowl and whilst we were nervous about avalanches it turned out to be perfect neve. So we decided to put the crampons on, get the ice axes out and climb directly to the summit. Fantastic mountaineering...
Here is Arno topping out with the Cruachan horseshoe and the highlands behind him.
From the Ben Cruachan summit the buttress was visible with two climbers on it. They turned out to be Stuart the Postie and French Erick not only of UKC fame but also with impressive winter climbing ability.
It just takes 5-10 min to reach the buttress from the summit.
Our plan A line, Goldfinger VII,7*** was too lean but Dr. Noe, VI,6** to the right had caught plenty of snow during the previous days to justify an ascent. It was first climbed by Simon Richardson and Chris Cartwright in poor weather just before a trip to Patagonia. Here is Robbie, sans helmet (we make forgetting things a bit of a habit these days) demonstrating the 3D climbing that is typical for the Cruachan climbs.
Here he is higher up on pitch one.
Pitch 2 did look OK from below but was a right facing corner with three three steps each time with little for  feet. As a result laybacking and careful footwork is required. Here is step one.
The crux was the third steepening. It involved stepping up onto a small edge with a good hook on the roof and some gear once unearthed. I took me ages but I got a sling around an iced up, small chockstone. The corner was smooth, steep and succumbed to Ninja-like climbing involving a chin up, throwing my foot for a heel hook on the right and then a pull onto the neve above. Very good value tech 6 or maybe harder. Robbie took over again and despatched the last trickier move in style. Instead of walking around the corner he went straight up with good hooks and gear.
On the way down of course some bum glissading, a necessity for these old legs. Here is Robbie finishing a good one...
Cruachan is an excellent venue for those that are fit and enjoy the mountaineering bit of the day as much as the climbing bit. It is especially good for folk that climb V,6 or want to push their grade.

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