Let me tell you a story. Craig, Jonny and I used to work in West Coast Outdoor Leisure in Fort William but Craig was planning to leave in the near future. So he managed to get a pair of Black Diamond carbon fibre ice axes into stock which nobody would buy because they were far too expensive. Instead, after Craig dropped many hints, they were presented to him as a leaving present for his work in the shop. When we all climbed Fallout Corner, Craig got the big corner pitch above the crux and managed to get one of his axes so well stuck in the crack that he could not retrieve it. Neither Jonny nor I could retrieve it on the second so we did the only decent thing and left it in the climb!
This was more than ten years ago so when I got to climb it again on Tuesday of last week I could claim the on-sight again (that's the rule). Donald and I chose Fallout Corner since the Cairngorms were better rimed than crags on the west and it's a nice size of day for the first winter climb for us both. I told Donald the story of the stuck ice axe on the walk in so I was very disappointed to do exactly the same with my ice axe leading the big corner! My calves were burning by the time I had pulled up one of Donald's axes to use to retrieve mine and get it back down to him. It's a great pitch though with positive climbing and good protection and we abseiled off before the storm, looking round the corner at Dave Almond climbing Prore in some substantial gusts of wind.
The storm was due to a weather front moving slowly east across Scotland so we decided to go west and pop out the other side of it the following day. This worked a treat and we enjoyed a brilliant day on Beinn Eighe with a good coating of fresh snow. Donald and I have done very little climbing this far north so we went for the excellent East Buttress to get a good look at the Triple Buttress. It's a wonderful place with steep quartzite offering positive cracks and ledges to climb in a wonderful position. The climb itself is quite reasonable and we found the small patches of turf on the crag were frozen well enough for climbing. At IV,5 it's not as long or as difficult as NE Buttress on Ben Nevis but it certainly matches it for character and position.
Now, the crags are not as snowy as they are in these images. We had further falls of snow on the west coast all last week which built up to quite a good covering. Today was warmer though with a thaw to above the summits. The rime fell off the crags but the snow has certainly not all melted away. It looks like we will have a few warmer days but it might then get colder before next weekend. What ever happens, it's been a great start to the winter.
Self reliance is a fundamental principle of mountaineering. By participating we accept this and take responsibility for the decisions we make. These blog posts and conditions reports are intended to help you make good decisions. They do not remove the need for you to make your own judgements when out in the hills.