Fantastic Scottish winter adventure on the super remote Beinn a Bhuird on Wednesday! I left Doune on Tuesday evening and got to the car park at Braemar at about 2230 where I met Joris and Matthew, had 5 hours sleep in the van and set off towards the Garbh Corrie at 4am. The approach to Mitre Ridge is about 15km and the first 7km or so is on a good land rover track so we managed to cycle most of this before the snow got too deep. The final 8km approach was hard going and by the time we had reached the Shneck the wind was howling through the col at a steady 60mph...not looking great for climbing!
We decided that having come all this way and knowing that the forecast was for the weather to slowly improve as the day progressed we descended to the foot of Mitre Ridge. It took us over 5 hours to get to this point but we decided that we should at least give the first pitch a go and re-assess after that! Having read on Andy Kirkpatrick's blog that the route is soft for the grade I confidently set off on the first pitch - I'll not be trusting his opinion on grades again! The first pitch seemed pretty sustained to me, up a chimney and past a large bulge with good gear and axe placements but thin for the feet. It was fun climbing but certainly not the fastest lead in history!
Joris was up for the next pitch, which went up an awkward deep cut chimney and then in to an easy gully to the crest of the ridge. The next pitch was said to be the technical crux up a short but steep wall (felt slightly overhanging!) but it turned out not to be as bad as it looked!
This then took us to the splintered chimney which starts off with an insecure traverse across snow covered slabs, an awkward move round a corner and then an unprotected snow slope to the foot of another corner system. This corner looked straight forward but turned out to be fairly un-protected - a very good lead from Joris!
By this point we were just one short pitch to the horizontal ground that would lead us to the plateau but the light was fading fast...we were all shattered and Joris stepped up to the plate to quickly get up the last of the difficulties...again the climbing was harder than it looked and with the light going so quickly we made the call to abb the route to the corrie floor rather than risk someone falling and being injured in a very difficult location!
Four abbs got us off the route and then it was the long slog to the top of the corrie, 8km back to the bikes and then a fairly quick cycle to the vans!
All in all an epic day out! Little sad not to completely finish the route but some good climbing in an incredible location! Once I forget how much effort the approach and walk out was I'll head back to this crag!
My wonderful girlfriend; Mairi, also pointed out that Alex Honnold and Colin Haley traversed the whole Torre ridge in Patagonia in the same amount of time as this took us!