Wednesday, 4 October 2017

A Fruitless Endevour - Garbh Choire

As the leaves turn brown and the nights draw in, I am consumed with this feeling of urgency and unrest. Months have passed since the cold crispness of spring loosened winters grip, when lighter evenings and warmer weather were eagerly awaited, like staring into an oven watching a freshly baked pie turn from pale to golden brown. It only feels like yesterday that summer started and now its all over, its packed its bags and headed south leaving nothing but grey. There is still so much I want need to do.

Cycling through the stunning Invercauld Estate near Deeside on our way back from Garbh Choire
The pattern is the same every year though. I seem to go through these cycles of creeping up grades, as early ambition is gradually equaled by confidence and ability until when I feel like I'm starting to make real progress, the weather turns its back on me. Letting me drown in a swathe of low pressure systems which que out in the Atlantic, one by one stalling my ambition until motivation fails.

With a series of commitments occupying most of my weekends in September, a boiling point was reached last weekend. Motivation, ambition and optimism had been gently simmering for a weeks until they were unleashed upon a particularly inclement Saturday.

The forecast was for heavy rain in the west, but much brighter in the east with no rain 'expected east of the A9'. Surely then, eastern Cairngorms, more specifically Garbh Choire of Beinn a'Bhuird would be an ideal choice for a last minute big mountain adventure? Being high on the side of one of Scotland's wildest Munros, over 17km from the nearest road end it was definitely an ambitious choice but it had a reputation for being clean and quick drying..

After a 4am start we drove, we biked and we walked and eventually reached the lip of  Garbh Choire. We approached from the south, cycling up Gleann an-t Slugain (The Fairy Glen) in the early morning gloom, walking the empty glens up past the Taylor Stone. The problem we were met with was thick cloud, a biting freezing wind and heavy rain, which didn't appear until the last 2km of the approach. Wild optimism and the need for some shelter led us down into the upper choire, where we both needed to see with our eyes that the face was soaking so as to settle any rouge doubts that climbing in these conditions was anything other than a fools errand. 

An early start was required. Mainly as we had one of the longest approaches in the UK to combat
The west wall of Mitre Buttress, one of the biggest faces in this part of Scotland and it was indeed running with water. The air was so cold and the wind so biting I think the difference of only a few degrees might have made this a winter day. The huge compact granite face towered up into the cloud, disappearing out of view in the heavens above. Although the crushing sense of disappointment was overwhelming, it was soothed by being stood under such an amazing piece of rock architecture. Seeing the ridge rise up into the storm and hearing the wind roar against its walls,  you can't help but feel in awe and humbled with this mountain. I felt the spell of that place locking onto me, like a ball and chain. I know it will be the first place I go to in spring next year.

Stood under the freezing and sopping west wall of Mitre Ridge, Garbh Choire

The wall looms below in the gloom. We'd traveled 17km to get there, so we were definitely going to have a look...
It wasn't for another 2 hours that eventually the rain stopped. We had walked pretty much all the way back to the bikes before the cloud broke and the promised fine day started to materialize. Too little, too late. From a climbing perspective the outing was a fruitless endevour and its certainly the furthest I've walked with climbing gear and not climbed. None the less, we saved the day slightly by findings the Cairngorms Secret Bothy (and before you ask no I'm not telling where it is!) and also enjoying some sunny climbing over on the cliffs of Ballater. For now, the urgent itch remains unscratched. 

Sods Law says when you call-off a day, the weather improves. If it wasn't for the fact the crag is beyond the horizon we might have gone back...

The days consolation prize was some craggin' at Ballater. This is Caelen seconding Little Cenotaph (HVS 5b)

The Cairngorms Secret Bothy. 

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