Right Edge, Lost Valley Minor Buttress
Bidean nam Bian (1151m)

Friday 10th February 2017

Weather/Conditions: Weather wasn't too bad on the whole, rather grey. The freezing level was low enough to get us out and up there, unfortunately not low enough for long enough.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 8.3km / 900m / 7h 05m
Accompanying: Oliver

You win some, you lose some. Such is the nature of winter climbing.

On reflection we could have gone to even higher altitude and had more success, but that's only on reflection. Oliver and I formed a plan to head for Lost Valley Minor Buttress, which has a good range of Grade III and IV's. On paper it was a good one , and we walked in on an overcast morning.

I was excited to get my climbing on the go after a pretty stop-start, lean season. It's been a winter season of ridges (climbable under any conditions really) or harder buttresses. The genre of mid-grade ice and mixed routes that would be most appropriate for me haven’t been abundant.

Mist closed in as we approached Lost Valley Minor Buttress. It's positioned right at the head of the Lost Valley, so it’s a long walk by Glen Coe standards. It's also a relatively gentle walk; Stob Coire is more of a ball-buster.

After negotiating wind slab at the cliff base, we got engaged with the climbing. I started climbing first. Everything was covered in loose powder, so the start of the pitch really was an 'exercise in archaeology', as I thought at the time. Physically it was hard work, and I was shovelling out reams of powder. I was also pretty motivated to get climbing.

The start hadn't been generous in gear, and I was 15 or 20 metres out by the time I reached the chockstone, a cam and some respite from the flaring Glen Coe microcracks. The chockstone was quality winter clambering, followed by a short wall above. It was clear to me that things were in ‘ok’, but not ‘great’ condition. Five or 10 metres above the chockstone, an ice bulge stopped me dead in my tracks. I'd been hacking around the hollow snow-ice until there was little left but bare rock, and it was clear this was simply not in condition. it was time to lower off. An old in-situ sling beside me connected someone’s nut and a peg together. I backed the nut up with another, added a backup sling, biner, then lowered back off back to Oliver.

At least I'd got some climbing in - he'd done nothing but stand and belay. I'd been some time on that pitch (a long time excavating, really), and with the defeat our drive had flattened off a bit. After a bite to eat and a think, we opted just to head down.

Not a bad day really, all in, but not the best for getting stuff done, either.

Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 8.05am Glen Coe parking
(3.15) 11.20am Starting
(4.35) 12.40pm Abseil
(5.10) 1.15pm Descending
(7.05) 3.10pm Glen Coe parking

Written: 2017-03-13