Blue skies, good snow (ok that wasn't totally true) and great company - If Carlsberg made Winter Weekends then ....

Waayyy way back in March we held our annual Winter trip. Aviemore SYHA was the base and it was great to see roughly a dozen members old and new as we started to exit COVID restrictions. As ever the more experienced shared their knowledge and were buoyed by the huge enthusiasm of the newer. A large group climbed Cairngorm itself, many as an intro to mountains in the snow, and that was a challenge enough in very strong wind conditions, whilst another team or two headed for the N'orries and some climbing. Conditions were their usual fickle self and its fair to say that everyone was a tad cautious after 2 of our most experienced members had been avalanched on the Friday, both ok but battered and bruised.

The following write up is by Tom Bennett (who btw also works as Thanks Tom. The Honda Jazz is now the official club transport.

How many climbers can travel to Scotland in a Honda Jazz, i hear you ask?

An uncomfortable four is the answer. Unbeknown to Gavin, Laura and myself, we didn’t expect Sam to turn up at our doorsteps with such a tiny car, but we squeezed in, faces pressed against boots and axes, and set off for Scotland with high-spirits in Sam’s new low-rider. We arrived in Aviemore just past 5pm and settled into our dorm, waiting for the rest of YMC to arrive. Late in the evening, we discussed possible groups for the morning, and set about Plan A’s, B’s and C’s - the weather looked good, but a potential warm night loomed over us, and avalanche risks were set to moderate in the Northern Corries. Whilst others planned a mountain day walking up Cairn Gorm, John, Paul, Ed and myself decided we’d wake up early, walk into Sneachda and make a rolling risk assessment based on the ground conditions.

As we walked into the corrie with blue skies above, we were the only ones out. For a Saturday morning, it was eerily quiet on the approach - why was noone else climbing? We headed for Mess of Pottage, knowing it would stay in the shade for longer than Alladins and Fiacall, and determined the best route to take was Jacobs Edge, a nice 1* Grade II route looming over Jacobs Ladder gully. We went as two teams on single ropes - John taking the initial pitch from the start of the Slant, before dog-legging back over right before Hidden Chimney. The conditions were good, but the route was vague - allowing us to get distracted by some twinkling crag-swag that sat 5m above our desired line. I led a short pitch (my first ever winter pitch!) to a more secure belay stance, at which point Ed and Paul overtook us on the true line. Once they had passed, John led a nice traverse out right, back onto the route with our bounty (red cam, sling, locking krab and a gold hex) secured. The top was, to everyone's relief, sans cornice, allowing both parties to top-out quickly with a simple body-belay stance on top. The time was just past 12:00.

For a day that we assumed we were just going to be taking our kit for a walk, we were all well chuffed. We had the top to ourselves and we ticked a climb - it always pays off to check ground conditions on the day! We called it quits and went to celebrate at the Old Bridge Inn for lunchtime Cullen Skink’s and pints. In the sun. In March. Once we had all regathered as a club after our respective days out, we went for a club evening meal at the local curry house, Tamanna, where we may or may not have seen the northern lights (that were probably just wispy clouds) but we all took distinctively average photos and assumed the Aurora Borealis had graced us with its presence.

Day two was another early start, and knowing the ground conditions from the previous day, and a below-freezing night, we only had to contend with the wind, gusting 60-70mph but easing off as the morning drew on. We decided on hitting Fiacaills Ridge, meeting the small group of Sterling Uni students gearing up just below the ridgeline. We skirted round them on the right hand side, skipping the ridge but protected from the winds, short-roping the stepped out but exposed grade I terrain to the top; John, Laura, Gavin, Ed and myself victorious, and an ideal end to the Winter season and the Club Winter Weekend.

The Author, Tom, tops out
Day 2 some of the party opted to walk to a local bothy
Climbing icy routes and then beers in the blistering sunshine !
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