Creise - 1100m
Clach Leathad - 1099m
Meall a' Bhuiridh - 1108m
Saturday 15th May 2010
Weather/Conditions: Sunny up Sron na Creise, then wind and hail on Creise. Cloud base always above summits. Got warmer once on the Creise-Meall a' Bhuiridh ridge, but cold again on Bhuiridh summit. Rain/sun on the the way down.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 12.8km / 1200m / 6h 30m
Accompanying: Bealach MC - Colin
The weather forecasters had predicted a disappointment today but the weather was looking superb when we got up, with blue skies dominating. Yet we knew it would be a mixture of the sun and showers and we headed up to the ski centre car park to find the path across to Creise. The ski centre was bustling with the mountain biking, but we left the car park and headed onto the moorland. We found a clear (though boggy) path scored onto the grass and we followed it out from the car park. Ahead, the Buachaille looked awesome and the sun was out. I was completely happy, although didn't hold too high a pace at this point. I was just out the tail end of a virus so I wasn't all gun's blazing yet...
Then as we approached Creise, Colin asked what I thought about climbing Sron na Creise. It's a Grade 3 scramble, and superbly exposed - I knew that by looking at it. I didn't know how I'd perform, although the possibility filled me with apprehension and excitement. Two guys were above us climbing onto it, and it wasn't long before we were climbing up behind them.
Sron na Creise
We crossed the grassy slopes and got onto the ridge, closing the gap between us and the other group. A vague path was worm into the ridge which made the going easier and we followed it upwards in the correct direction. The crags up high looked impressive, and unclimbable, but I thought I would think about that later. Exposure in most cases doesn't usually bother me, but it did on these lower slopes. Maybe I was aware of what lay above? But I felt that unease all the way up the mountain, although I acknowledged it and tried to explain away. It wouldn't go away, and never does when you want it to. I was going to have to deal with it.
We followed the ridge up beside the crags, generally staying on the left hand side of the ridge, the slopes continuing to climb at a 45° angle. We passed the other guys, exchanged some brief conversation before heading up into a sort of gully. A rock wall closed in on the left hand side and scree poured down: large boulders, angular, poised and ready to go. I'd been in the lead, but Colin took over since I'd become hesitant to climb. If I stepped on these boulders, I'd send them crashing onto the guys below. And here onwards marked a change in my mind. I climbed while occupied about stepping carefully. I stopped thinking about the exposure and had to think about where I was. Above the scree was the first tough move of the scramble. It was a couple of moves but I was putting hand to rock, pulling myself up with the the most mental void beneath me.
The anxiety of the exposure disappeared but in many ways was still present. I was above a point of no return but felt fine about it. I'd broken through a barrier, felt my confidence rise through the roof and now whatever terrain lay ahead would be dealt with and risen above. I was a good climber without the exposure paralysing me, I thought. My mind turned crazed with the adrenaline, and now I was feeling this route, channelling the adrenaline into something positive. I couldn't pull the smile from my face.
Much of the upper section of the route is a blur in my mind, but the final moves at the top of the route stick out for the mind bending drop they're placed above. I was in such a cool place and I could really enjoy it. The final moves really are hands on - place hand, place other hand, get foot up, look for next foothold and lift up! We did this a couple of times and then came out onto flatter ground. The last part of the climb was a rock knoll, made easier by lack of an immediate drop below. But I was high on adrenaline and nerves and I realised a path bypassed this obstacle on the left-hand side. My resolve and state of mind left me when I was given the alternative and Colin climbed over the top of the last bump alone. I followed the path around onto the top of Sron na Creise and reverted back to 'hill walker' as quickly as I'd turned into 'scrambler'.
Creise and two Munro Tops
Walking is always dull once you've come off the high of climbing, but I was happy enough to be on the flat, so Colin and I continued across Stob a' Ghlais Choire to Creise with a wind blasting from the west. On Creise, the cloud briefly closed in and the horizontal hailstones stung pretty bad. On Creise we detoured across to Clach Leathad, wind still blowing hard. Than back and to the ridge across to Meall a' Bhuiridh, the second Munro today and my Munro #80. But the entire time I thought about climbing, getting off the high and trying to recollect the insane confidence I'd gained on it. It was just too amazing. A lot of climbers seem to say the following, and I almost feel like it's a cliché saying it, but I'd overcome my fears. I've done a lot of scrambling, but it's never felt like it did on Sron na Creise. The exposure and difficulty level (and the difficulty level in relation to the exposure) were pitched right to expand my abilities but not enough to overstretch as to make me reach 'shit myself' point.
Meall a' Bhuiridh and Descent
Meall a' Bhuiridh is a big hill and it's a big slog, especially since I was feeling tired. But the west ridge is just boulders was not bad ground for an ascent. For the record, the descent off Creise was easy - only a bit of snow left in the way with big granite blocks for holds on the steepest part. We slogged up Meall a' Bhuiridh, I gathered remaining energy together to the sound of Tool's album AEnema (I'm really into this music thing, when the mood suits) and completed the final slopes to the top.
After a few cold minutes on the summit, we headed off Meall a' Bhuiridh down what seems the most boring slope in Scotland. Good thing then that someone should think to spice it up a little with a ski centre. The descent was a little punishing until we reached the last of the winter snowfields and ran down, losing 300m in about ten minutes. But a painful walk back down past the mountain bike trail (thronged with bikers - quite entertaining) brought us back to the car park and ten minutes later to the cottage for a fire, warmth, and food.
Meall a' Bhuiridh
(0.00) 10.30am Blackrock Cottage
(2.15) 12.45pm Top of Sron na Creise (990m)
(2.30) 1.00pm Stob a' Ghlais Choire
(3.00) 1.30pm Creise
(3.30) 2.00pm Clach Leathad
(4.40) 3.10pm Meall a' Bhuiridh
(6.00) 4.30pm Blackrock Cottage