Sunday, 21 December 2014

Glencoe's Secret Mountain

We found ourselves in Glencoe yesterday with an unpromising avalanche forecast and a tight weather window. Plan A had been climbing, but with gale force winds not easing until lunchtime,  a relatively high freezing level, and of course, that avalanche forecast, we opted for Plan B. Plan B is often a good idea and in this case it didn't disappoint.

An enjoyable glen walk to the foot of the mountain.
 We braved a walk in which was advertised as long, but was a doddle by Arran standards, and went for a recce of Sgor na h-Ulaidh.  If you haven't heard of it, thats not surprising.  Virtually invisible from the road, and lacking in the stardust of Glencoe's other peaks, it doesn't see much traffic.

Northern face of Sgor na h'Ulaidh

Despite being often overlooked, it sports an impressive northern aspect with quite a few recorded routes.  These start at around 650m, so with the freezing level above 800m conditions were a bit mild for climbing here yesterday, but it was good to get the lie of the land.  We traversed under the face and up to the western bealach, from where we climbed steep turf to the ridge.

Approaching the summit of Sgor na h-Ulaidh
Despite the improving weather, it was wild on the ridge. We didn't hang about on the top, but dropped down the north eastern side where we were pleased to find some scoured neve (despite the av forecast) to descend. Avoiding the windslab took us in to exciting ground and this was the first proper workout for my front points this season (and my head).  Even non-climbing Plan B days are mountaineering in winter! Finally, our route off the hill took us over a second snowy top, beyond which were were able to drop down in to the glen.

Lots of scoured surfaces, and fresh deposits in the strong winds.
Looking east from the shoulder of Sgor na h-Ulaidh

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