Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Creag an Dubh Loch - South East Buttress 3rd Feb 2016

With the weather looking decent for Wednesday and climbing conditions starting to shape up nicely I was keen to get out. My climbing partner fell through late on Tuesday evening and I was unable to find anyone else so I was going solo. Near the end of last year I had battled waist and even neck deep snow drifts trying to walk the long approch into Creag an Dubh Loch only to find I couldn't get over the River that flows out of the Dubh Loch's south eastern end, so I figured I would go in there to have a look at the route I had hoped to do over a month ago.
Loch Muick and Broad Cairn

I decided to come in a different way for a couple of reasons, mainly to avoid the river crossing although I was also fed up of the track on the north shore of Lock Muick which I had traveled the length of three times within three days last month. I followed the south side of the Loch and took the track that heads up onto the plateu about halfway along then followed round to near the summit of Broad Cairn before skirting down north west to the southern shore of the Dubh Loch. This took longer than the already long normal approach but I had started early so had plenty of time.
The Dubh Loch and it's impressive crag

It was a decent day although there was some snow showers throughout the day supported by a moderate wind. when I got higher I was please to find that the snow conditions were excellent and considerable ice had formed. 
Creag an Dubh Loch

When I reached the side of the Dubh Loch, the biggest cliff in the Cairngorm's towered impressively above me. I was aiming for South East buttress, a grade II to the left of the gully with the same name. it was easy to identify so I began working my way up the lower slopes until the bottom of the snow slopes were I stopped to gear up. the snow slopes were in great condition and I made short work of them, feeling the strain in my calf's initially. I left the gully a few meters after it had started and worked by way up semi frozen turf covered in powder snow to a corner. I climbed into the corner and up until at the base of a slab. the slab had only the thinnest smear of ice and I didnt feel comfortable trying to solo it. luckily there was a nut and krab in a crack so i clipped into that and got out my rope.

South East Buttress with my taken route marked in red
My plan was to tie off on both ends of the rope with enough paid out to allow me to the top of the slab, the loose rope would be clipped into the nut and I would be able to retrieve the rope by untying one end and pulling through. Even with the rope I didn't feel confident on the smear so I backed off to below the corner and traversed round left to have a look. I seen some steeper ground that was in better condition so I elected to give that a try. through a series of corners and chimneys filled with various quantity's of loose snow, semi frozen turf and thankfully solid rock I made upwards progress eventually gaining the crest at around a third height of the buttress, the final chimney felt nearer grade III so I was happy with the effort.

Looking down from near the top of the Buttress
From here I stayed mainly to the right of the crest where large patches of perfect neve had formed between rocky outcrops making further progress a joy. some friends had done the route a few years ago and they seemed to have encountered the complete opposite conditions to me, the lower corners being banked out and it being very hard to find protection. It wasn't long until I was at the top of the buttress from where I chose to go over Broad Cairn and then down the Coire Chash path.