On December 16, 2015 by Tim Neill

4 well timed days in the Cairngorms started after work last Friday with a long drive from Wales to Braemar over a snowy Glenshee. Arriving about 2am we made a coffee and packed the bags and hopped on our mountain bikes for a snowy cycle to the Slugain ruin. Mark Walker and I then broke trail up Glen Quoich to the Sneck and arrived at the foot of the Mitre Ridge on a perfect morning some 5 or so hours later….quite an approach.

Mitre Ridge buttress, Beinn a Bhuird

Mitre Ridge buttress, Beinn a Bhuird

Our chosen climb was the Über Classic Cumming-Crofton line up a series of snowy chimneys and corners to the right of the ridge itself.

Cruxy ramp on P2

Cruxy ramp on P2

Finishing the sloping wall P2...

Finishing the sloping wall P2…

Looking up P3...

Looking up P3…


Topping out early afternoon gave us time to retrace our boot track in a couple of hours to reach the bikes by dusk and a sketchy snowy and icey ride back to the car.

Sunrise on the walk in to Lochnagar

Sunrise on the walk in to Lochnagar


Next morning we headed into the nearby Lochnagar with heavy legs. We made a rapid ascent of the early season bet of Bell’s Route on Shadow Buttress B. We were treated to an amazing view as far as the Lochaber mountains out west from the top. The climb was superb and has a very exciting section swinging out on a hopefully well glued flake…..this being the short hard crux with enjoyable mountaineering above and below. As ever the walk in and out was enhanced by the wonderful varied scenery and wildlife there.

We met up with Keith and Matt at the end of the day in Aviemore to plan a change of scene to the northern Cairngorms for the next day. With plenty of snow forecast that evening we all headed up to the ski carpark to ensure an early start next morning. With a recent success on Citadel, Matt and Keith were bound for Postern on the Shelterstone. We planned to go to Carn Etchachan. In the morning it was a bit of a pea soup on the plateau and after some reasonably time consuming navigating to the top of the upper tier of the crag we opted instead for a descent of Pinacle gully and something more obvious on the Shelterstone.

Mark's photo looking down on crux pitch of Imposter.

Mark’s photo looking down on crux pitch of Imposter.

We did a rarely climbed route called The Imposter just right of the Clach Dhian chimney…whilst a lot of the route is simple mountaineering it has 2 really superb pitches…well worth seeking out. It’s first ascent was made 30yrs ago by our friend Mark Charlton….which added a certain charm to the route.

Another nice evening walk home...Keith , Matt and Mark chatting away.

Another nice evening walk home…Keith , Matt and Mark chatting away.

Finally with a collapsing forecast (and our legs ) we had a morning climb in the Northern Corries. We opted for an intriguing route on the Fiacaill Buttress called Smokestack Lightnin’. For the corries it’s a nice long route with a good mountaineering feel…and also with a number of desperate well protected sections for the grade!

Pitch 2 on Smokestack...where the climbing starts.

Pitch 2 on Smokestack…where the climbing starts.

Fiacaill Buttress.

Fiacaill Buttress.

As we regained the corrie floor we were met with the approaching warm spell of weather. With the first  wave of drizzle we simultaneously said ” time to go home”. So after the essential afternoon coffee and cake at Kirsten’s mountain cafe in Aviemore we bailed South. Thanks Mark for a very productive first outing of the season. I’ll be back up mid January after a long trip to Spain….



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