Iced Steall

I am starting to think that one-day mountaineering trips are not worth it, as they are too dependent on the weather. This trip to Fort William is exemplary: while I got a perfect blue sky and nice temperature, the snowfalls of the past weekend were too heavy to allow access to even the most protected routes on Ben Nevis and in the Glencoe range. As I had to rent a pair of shoes because of my lost bag, we were too late for Tower Ridge, but in any case, my guide (whose own report is available here) thought it was inaccessible (although Mike Pescod seemingly managed another ridge on Ben Nevis). So we headed to Glencoe, which somehow works as a magnet for my Scottish mountaineering visits since my first climb of Stob Coire nan Lochan in 1995. Getting there at 10, we headed for Curved Ridge on Buachaille Etive Mor. Buachaille is one of the most beautiful peaks in the range and it stands as a beacon when you are crossing Rannoch Mor towards Glencoe. (Curved Ridge is the most classic climbing route on Buachaille, with only a Grade III difficulty.) After about half an hour of following a track in the snow, we came across Alan Kimber and a couple of clients who had made those tracks and who were going back as the snow was getting too deep to reach the start of the route…

Any other route being too exposed to avalanches, Max Hunter decided to turn back and to go for ice-climbing on Steall falls instead. We thus came back to Fort William and drove down Glen Nevis to reach the parking lot at the end of the glen by noon, half a day already wasted (except for the great views of the Aonach Eagach and the Bidean nam Bian ranges. The path to the Steall horseshoe was well frozen and we were able to cross the Water of Nevis on the thick ice cover, instead of using the cable bridge. This was the third time I was in Steall, after a failed and a successful attempts to complete the ring. The exceptionally nice weather with a cloudless blue sky and a very warm light was the same as last time and made for great views of the south end of Ben Nevis. When we arrived at the frozen Steall fall, it was swarming with climbers, but it happened to be two large groups of people who were lumped together most of the time. Beside sending us ice blocks the whole climb, this was therefore a moderate nuisance. The ice climb itself was very easy, a grade II/III at most, as the fall is quite inclined, and we did the five short pitches in about two hours (with a forced five minute intermission when I dropped my glove and Max had to abseil down 50m to get it). This was the first time I was climbing with ice-picks that had lanyards secured to my belt instead of wrist-leashes and I found the change quite handy, even though it remains to be tested on harder climbs. We abseilled down along with another group and ended back at the car in a beautiful sunset light a bit after 4, which left plenty of time to drop the (very comfy!) boots back at Ellis Bingham. So, in the end, this was not a completely wasted day, but still a far shot from my expected engaged climb of Tower Ridge…

7 Responses to “Iced Steall”

  1. [...] (dis)continuation of a dark series with bag transportation, I hope to hike up Bidean nam Bian in Glencoe (as I did in 1995 upon Peter Green’s recommendation!) and climb Ben Nevis by Tower Ridge or [...]

  2. [...] of the Wasatch mountains being the actual Eastern boundary of the town. I hope to get some ice-climbing done today, as Provo is a great spot for doing [...]

  3. [...] to Scotland… This happened first for the mixture meeting in 2009, costing me an attempt at Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis, then again when I took part in the colloquium celebrating Mike Titterington last May. [...]

  4. [...] I found a nice collection of Scottish climber blogs thanks to a link of Max Hunter who guided me last year up the frozen Steall Fall [...]

  5. [...] there. (I also hope it will be possible to include a picture I took during my trip to Ben Nevis as the cover [...]

  6. [...] A few days before heading to Scotland, I took a trip back in time by visiting my maternal grandfather’s birthplace in Normandy and [...]

  7. [...] the original post: Iced Steall « Xi'an's Og Share and [...]

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