North Buttress, Buachaille Etive Mor

Today myself and Lena headed for Glen Coe due to the slightly better avalanche forecast.  We walked in to the mountain in the early morning light and to the base of North Buttress (IV,4).  This is a route that I had done a few years ago and was keen to do it again as it gives great value for money in summer and winter.  We made our way from the path and up to the base of the climbing past the 2 perched boulders.  I led off and dispatched the first two chimneys in a long pitch.  The axe placements were good and solid with frozen turf, but there is a lot of powder over everything that is still not consolidated with a thick icy crust in places.  So some of the small gulleys turned into caves when the snow was moved.

Looking up at the buttress in the morning light

I then led up again on a short pitch, which I felt was probably the crux today.  I climbed the thin chimney on the right with a large detached block on the left with the larger chimney left again.  Once the snow was removed from the back of the chimney I made my way up again having to trust blind axe placements but everything was solid.  Through out the day, due to the amount of powder, gear was sparse on the whole route and I think on the two long 60m pitches that I led I maybe only placed 4 or 5 pieces.

Lena then led a short pitch to the base of the last chimney which true to form only had 2 bits of gear and I lead up and over the short iced wall and then carried on direct instead of breaking out right onto easier ground and that short chimney probably gave the most interesting climbing at around a hard technical grade 4 or maybe 5.

Lena ab'ing down

With the snow falling and the weather closing in we planned to absail off instead of walking round.  So once we found an appropriate block, down we went.  On the way up there are 3 handy, new in situ ab points at 60m each.  So once we reached the first it was a bit if a sideways ab to the next and then back to the start of the climb where we abed again to get down the snow slope quicker.

The first pitch

It would have been a simple case of just walking back down to the path had it not been for the thick icy crust on top of the powder which either held your weight or didn’t.  So with a few small slips from Lena and 2 ice axe arrests from me (one feet first and the next head first) we made it to the path just as it was getting dark.

So with 5 pitches and 4 abs it confirmed my thoughts as a really good route, a very good day all round.

Looking north to Ben Nevis and the MamoresDawn over Rannoch Mor

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