We drove up to Scotland on the Friday afternoon and arrived late that night, hit the hay and were ready for our 6am start.


We got into the Ski Resort Car Park at about 7:45am and were at the crag by first light; Mike and I struggling to keep up with Andy with his new Black Diamond Distance FL poles. These clever poles are incredibly light and collapse to just 37cm meaning they fit perfectly inside your pack making them ideal for climbing. There was very little snow and after walking to the base of Coire an t-Sneachda we decided that Coire an Lochain might offer better conditions.


We arrived at Lochain to find it also pretty bare, the great slab actually on display with no snow cover. However this did mean that a route Andy had wanted to do for a few years was in reasonable condition: Savagae Slit. This is a grade 5 mixed route although it is predominantly dry tooling and is said to come into condition with the first snowfall. With three of us on the route it took a little while getting up with a lot of shuffling round on belay ledges but we all got up with no problem. I was very impressed with my new Black Diamond Viper Axes (recommended by Andy and the same ones he uses). The angle and swing seemed perfect. Andy was leading and found that his Petzl Reverso belay plate (in guide mode) made life a lot easier and quicker as he could bring Mike and I both up at the same time.


So new years eve and time to party!!! Yeah right, after the long drive the night before and all day on the mountain we were in bed by 10:30! Oh well!


Next day conditions were better with some actual snowfall and T-Schechda was in better condition. We decided to climb Patey’s Route (grade 4). Again it was mostly dry tooling and turf bashing but there was some ice and a reasonable amount of snow. Andy found the Black Diamond Pegs came in handy for a couple of placements. It was also getting pretty cold as we were spending a lot of time on belay and Andy noted that he was glad he had tried a different layering system, swapping his Patagonia Capalene 3 base layer for the Patagonia R1 Pullover instead. 


Mike was very pleased with his brand new Petzl Lynx Crampons. These have modular front points and can either be set up as mono or duo points. Mike had them set in mono mode for uber accurate toe placement.


On day three the weather really came in, strong winds and heavy snow was piling the powder up on the slopes on Lochain and the walk in was more like swimming in the waist deep powder! We got to the bottom of the crag and met a couple of guys backing off the route we were planning on doing: Oesophagus. There was a big cornice piling up on the top, which didn’t look particularly stable. Another group were backing off Savage Slit as the spindrift pouring off the top was so intense and the avalanche risk was increasing too. We decided to traverse across the top of the slope and downclimb the left hand side. 


We’ve mentioned a few of our favourite bits of kit that we used on the trip in this blog but for a more in depth review of Scottish Winter gear check out Andy’s Clothing Video and Gear Video on Up and Under TV.

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