Despite the rapid thaw, and despite losing my wrist-watch and not waking until 10am, I ended up in Coire nan Lochan today to see if anything was climbable. It was my last chance to climb in 2010, so I wanted to see what I could do.
It was a depressing walk-in today for sure. The last time I'd been there, thick snow and extensive ice had covered the entire corrie down to the road. Today however, muddy slopes, rapidly melting ice-falls and a snow-line at about 800m. The snow is melting and slushy at all levels now, and all the buttresses are fairly black.
So I headed towards NC Gully, one of the great chasms dividing the cliffs of Stob Coire nan Lochan. In mid to late season it is a continuously easy angled snow-slope, but in today's conditions it was far more fun.
An atmospheric NC Gully
There were three nice mixed steps in the gully, all quite lean with the worst ice imaginable. The snow slopes under each step were made from the type of snow that just doesn't take a "bite" from crampons at all, so getting to the top of these rocky steps was quite fun.
The cornice at the top wasn't very big, but was so loose that I had to more or less vertically swim upwards through it. Thankfully it was smaller than the cornice over SC Gully, otherwise I'd not have topped out!
The top mixed step
So although conditions today were awful, the climb was far more worthwhile than it would have been in fatter conditions. There were also climbers on Raeburn's Route, Boomerang Gully, Dorsal Arete and Broad Gully today.
So, my last climb of 2010. It has certainly been a brilliant year! Both Alex and I have had countless memorable days climbing, particularly during the exceptional winter weather that has defined both the start and end of 2010. Between us we've climbed about 50 winter routes in 2010, and I did a fair number of the classic Scottish ridges this summer.
Fingers crossed for 2011 to bring even more fun and adventure!
A very happy new year from Alex and I, and keep safe on the hills in 2011.