Monday, 19 May 2014

Craggin' Season

Unlike the rest of the UK the big mountain craggin' season of climbing the bigger rock route hasn't quite started in the Cairngorms yet. Until now the remnants of this winters massive amount of snow has had the crags in lock-down either be it from low down pitches being buried or persistent cornices selfishly remaining atop draping water down over all the routes!

A lot of this snow will persist through the summer this year but we thought we'd go and get a good tick early in the season anyway. The route we chose was The Magic Crack (HVS 5a) on Alladin's Buttress in Coire an t'Sneachda.

It started well, I mean it only took us 40mins to get established above the 'first icefield' on a snowy ledge balanced between a bottom less bergshrund and the steep slope down to the scree slope. Of course we had to kick steps up in trainers using the ever versatile nut keys as an axe! We threw the bags back down the ice and almost as soon as they crashed into the rocks Caelen realized he'd just thrown off his shoes and helmet, all adding to the adventure of course! It was starting to feel like we were tackling some kind of alpine north face not a summer trad route! 

Caelen led the first detritus covered 4b pitch. The gods of the crag clearly liked our 'cow boy' approach as he then found a BD C4 micro cam! Lucky git! I led the next 5a pitch up a thin crack finishing with an interesting mantle move to finish (interesting mainly because it was so cold you couldn't feel if you had hold of the rock or not!). After that is THE pitch of the route. A mega 40m pitch up a sublime finer crack and through a thin and awkward overhang. It was cold and lightly raining. We decided to split the pitch in two.

Pitch 2 of The Magic Crack HVS 5a

Good old guide mode helping provide a confidence boaster for the seconds!

Scott leading the superb 'crack' pitch
Scott did a cracking lead up the absolutely amazing finger crack (which just eats gear apparently!) but only takes the tips of your fingers. There aren't moves any harder than 5a its just all 5a! After that I led up the bulge which uses finger locks and an invisible foot hold which gains the tops slab and finally the lower-off. Victory! 

Looking back down the crack from the 3rd belay

Caelan seconding the last bit of the top pitch

Just before the ropes got stuck!

Definably an unusual descent...
In the bag! We abbed off to a spike above the ice. Pulled the ropes. Rope stuck. No longer in the bag. Starts to rain. We free ropes. Abseil down over the ice. Freedom!  It was actually a very profitable climb - we found a cam, a screwgate, a snap link and a quick draw! Pro climbers don't even get paid that much! 

The line of Magic crack taken the next day.

A cracking day had by all!
 Went for a wander the next day to scope out some more of the remote crags.

The last hurdle. Some climbers fording the icey river.

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