winter day on blaven

Sun, Nov 23, 2008

There was a short break in the weather forecast, with winds easing during the day before all hell breaking loose around 3pm on Saturday, so I hastily packed the sac and headed up Blaven for a play in the snow which was down to around 300m. I was the only person in the car park apart from a local with a trailer, out gathering wood from the forestry clearing that’s going on. Although it was gusting quite strong and very cold, it was a strange day of complete calm except where the gullies abutted the main ridge and I took a few wee detours to get some icy scrambling, one of which is a shortcut onto the main path that nips up a sporting crack with a tricky exit onto the path.

Looking down the intial scramble onto the main path

I hadn’t been up the main path in years, Christmas day a few years ago in fact so it was a fresh approach to an old friend with fantastic views of Marsco.

Marsco from Blaven

The troll-like towers of Sgurr nan Gillean were really impressive:

Sgurr nan Gillean from Blaven

and there was a stiff cold wind on the summit which froze the water in my bottle. Very refreshing although there was plenty shelter behind the big cairn. From there I nipped across to the south summit via the access chimney which was quite sporting getting past the granny stopper and clearing the slippy holds of loose snow and hail.

The south summit from the main summit

In the picture above, the access chimney is the snaking line just left of the main ridge. It’s basically a grade 1 scramble or grade I winter route, although very short and has a tricky entry as if you slide off the main block that bars entry to the chimney you’re likely to bounce quite far down the main gully. “A cheval” it’s easy though. Just watch that pole on the overhang above your head as you wriggle into the chimney. Superb ground for playing around. At the top you can keep going straight up onto easier ground or hang a sharp right for an awkward gaining of the summit which continues the grade but encounters a rather interesting small slabby corner. Great stuff!

Although the main route up was free of ice and just had loose snow, the ridge down from the south summit was treacherous. I didn’t have crampons, just an axe and it was painstaking working my way down through the vertical bands of thick ice. The picture below shows a small part of the route but it was like that all the way down from the summit:

Looking back up the ridge to the south summit

In fact the most difficult part was the last few feet onto the bealach. It wouldn’t have been out of place on a Grade III ice climb! Just shows the difference between walking in summer and it becoming mountaineering in winter. Wonderful!

You can see all the pics here.

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