Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Eagle Ridge, Lochnagar

The Scottish heat wave was temporarily over, and the weekend forcast looked unreliable, but after scanning the weather channels daily it eventually looked good on Sunday in the East Cairngorms.

wheels or feet

There she blows
We decided on climbing Eagle Ridge, a long classic rock route that I have always fancied doing. The plan was hatched to drive over on the wet day and sleep in the carpark at the Spittal of Glenmuick. It would be another trip in Hamish the van, and Jack and Jenna would be sleeping in the back of his discreet (bright yellow) Honda Jazz with the front seats pulled forward (hehe).

Eagle - distinctive ridge above the furthest left snow patch

Avalanche probes ready for action (notorious spot)

Jack getting excited
They rocked up much later than me, in fact I was asleep when they arrived. The guide said a 2 hour walk in (more like 3 to the base of the walk) so we decided on 7am alarms.

The first pitch

I'm a light sleeper and cars were arriving from 5.30am, and when I saw firstly a piper in a kilt, and then a car of 3 unloading climbing gear and ropes at 6am enough was enough I got us up. Jack and Jenna looked a little perturbed by me peering into their car window and informing them that its time to go!

The 3 climbers were German, and set off 45 minutes ahead of us, we presumed heading for Eagle Ridge as its the most obvious option in these hills.

Jack trying to enter the sentry box - no room!

more exposure
I had my secret weapon, a mountain bike with me, and we all set off together but I quickly left them behind, stashing it about 3-4 miles up the trail.

bringing Jack up to the last belay
The weather was great and we quickly arrived in the cirque. Strangely the 3 Germans were walking up the path to the summit, so I was confused as to why they had helmets and harnesses. I brought back lots of memories of the last time I was here with Huw in the dead of winter when we climbed the Tough-Brown, IV route which was long and absorbing. We topped out that day just before the sun was setting. Interestingly not many people log this particular route on UKC, I guess due to its length, and surrounded by more famous neighbours.

now give me my gear back and lets get out of here
The climb started well, and increased slightly in difficulty and exposure the higher we got. The rock was clean and dry. The whole route I was thinking would I want to climb this in winter, and after the
first easy pitch I concluded - no! Grade VI winter routes are above my pay grade and I think that it would be pretty hard.

Where did the sun go
Higher up on the main ridge it feels very airy and exposed, and the 'sentry box' belay is excellent, but a bit of a squash for 3. Each pitch had a definite crux, and mine on the top pitch I found hard for 4b!

And where's my bike
But we made it to the top without incident, a bit slower than anticipated, but happy. We timed it well as the cloud and light rain swirled in just as we topped out. The weather was initially wild, but soon improved as we lost height. Having the bike for the last 3-4 mile roll to the van was a dream! I was back 30-40 minutes before them, just time to get the kettle on! A great adventure.

back in the glen

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