Wednesday 16 February 2011

Dorsal Arete, Monday 14th February 2011.

After his unexpected rest day on Sunday, Iain was back at work with three paying clients Neil, Paul and Dave.

These three are part of a bunch of mates who make an annual pilgrimage to Scotland every February from Pontefract to partake in some winter climbing and Iain had worked with them the previous winter. This time, the goals for the guys were to learn techniques to climber harder grades and look at abseiling techniques if needing to "back off" a route and how to negotiate corniced exits.

Iain had decided that Dorsal Arete in Coire An Lochan, Glencoe, would be an ideal teaching venue for the party - interesting - as they tend to climb as a party of three. The weather forecast was not great and the avalanche risk considerable, but, as we discovered on the approach to Dorsal Arete, whilst there was a fair amount of fresh snow, there had been some consolidation overnight and after a few snow tests, Iain concluded that the risk was not so great after all.

Photo one shows the guys in Coire An Lochan with the foot of Dorsal Arete in the middle distance. In photo two, Paul (left) has just brought up Dave (middle) and Neil up to the first belay.

Managing two seconds whilst climbing is a tricky business. First of all you have to build a belay consisting of not less than two anchors and make sure there is enough room to "park" your seconds. Then you have to make sure that you park them in order so that you all leave the stance in that pre-arranged order and that the ropes are correctly "back coiled" and arranged so that they do not get tangled or slide off down the slope.

In photo three, we have had a change of leader and Neil is now in charge. Dave chose to be the middle man on this day although he was the lead climber for the whole of Sron Na Lairig the following day. At this point, we were fast approaching the crux section of Dorsal Arete - the knife edge just below the top of the route; and of course - all three of the party wanted to traverse it!

After the previous photo, Neil led one further pitch up to the start of the narrow crux and at this point Iain ceased to solo alongside everyone and put a top rope on Neil for the final two pitches as well as arranging running belays - one cannot expose paying clients to too much risk!

Iain climbed the arete and then brought Neil up to a secure belay just below the top of the route from which he could belay Dave and Paul. In photo four, Dave and paul have climbed the tricky part of the arete and are now stood on its snowy crest - an exposed place indeed and not a place for timid people as once the "runners" have been removed from the crest - there is no way of stopping seconds from taking a swing if they fall off here. So, after this very quick shot, Dave & Paul got across on to the final ramp and up to Neil where they were again, secured.

Finally, Dave and Paul "top out" on Dorsal Arete after Iain had belayed Neil up to the end of the route.

The snowy crux crest of the route can be seen behind they guys and at this point it had clouded in again and there was a bitter wind blowing across the top.

Our original plan had been to descend above the buttresses to the NW and back in to Coire an Lochan to avoid the avalanche risk, but everyone else had been descending Broad Gully without incident, so we decided to do likewise as it is the quickest way back in to the corrie.

After a "bum slide" down Broad Gully followed by a short one down in to the lower corrie, we were well on our way back to the vehicles in Glen Coe. Despite the forecast, the weather and conditions had been kind to us. Another great day out!

The next post will be about Iain's adventure with the team on Sron Na Lairig the following day. This will not be posted until next weekend by which time Iain will have had further adventures with two chaps on The Ben and possibly again in Glen Coe - look out for these! In the meantime, you can view the rest of the pictures taken on Monday and Tuesday here.


Woodland Solutions said...

That last photo is fantastic Iain, what a great day out for your clients!

Iain Gallagher said...

Cheers Matt - they thoroughly enjoyed themselves - and so did I!

Unknown said...

Fantastic day out, the combination of route and your teaching skills meant we all learnt a lot and had an adventure at the same time.