Sunday, 8 January 2012

Hells Lum

Yesterday saw me visit the Cairngorms for the first time in 2012. I was going to go for a walk to look at Creagan Cha-No, a newly developed crag at the top of coire ciste. More details on the crag can be found on Simon Richardson's blog. Like the past few days I was climbing on igneous rocks, but this time of plutonic origin. Cairngorms granite is nice and pink and form lots of rounded breaks, which look useful but really aren't.
Have I ever told you that I dont like chimneys? Well I dont, I think they are the devils work. In light of this Tom, me and Dougal, Toms friend from school, headed over to Hells Lum to climb Deep Cut Chimney. Deep Cut Chimney classic IV 5 and is pretty famous for having some pure back and footing moves at the top.
Ive only ever been to Hells Lum, and the Loch Avon basin, a couple of times all of which being in the summer. The long walk in always put me off. We managed to get to the bottom of the route in about 2 hours, which is hardly a long walk in. Maybe the lure of Coire and t'schneada has always been too great for me.
A very black looking coire an t'schneada. The bit in cloud at the top is pygmy ridge and Alladins mirror is the snowy ramp on the right

We walked from the coire cas car park and up over the goat track onto the plateau. The wind was pretty strong and we were almost blown up the track. The plateau was in pretty much a white out but we followed our noses to the gully bettween Hells Lum and Stag Rocks. Ive heard of this slope being prone to avalanche, and it was being loaded with fresh powder from the plateau thanks to the Northerly winds. Some of the snow did seem abit dodgey so we hopped across exposed turf and boulders before traversing into the base of the route.
The MWIS forecast I saw said that it would be bettween -1 and -3 degrees at 900m, but we were at 1000m so surely it would be all nice and frozen. Well no it wasn't. The icicles on the boulder infront of us were dripping and there was lots of rubbish turf around. We decided to go for it anyway and Dougal took the first pitch. It was mostly just a snow slope, but the snow wasn't very good which made it interesting.
Tom took the second pitch which seemed to be taking him a long time. When me and dougal followed we found out why. There was lots of unfrozen turf and bad ice around, which made every move feel sketchy, even on second. Me and Dougal agreed that we would probably have backed off if we'd been on lead. We congrigated at the belay and sorted the ropes out so that I could lead the next pitch. Switching leads in a three doesn't work very well as theres a lot of faff with the ropes.
Tom starting up the 2nd pitch, Dougal is belaying

The third pitch started up some ever improving snow. There was a reasonable amount of gear too, which was nice as I didn't really trust anything I was standing or pulling on. I continued up into the depths of the chimney. I knew I was going to have to bridge somewhere, but where exactly? After excevating a massive hole in the snow just before where I wanted to bridge I decided that I would manufactre a belay and bring the other two up so they could try the last little bit. I managed to squeeze two nuts and a surprisingly good bull dog into a crack and brought them up. It was starting to get dark so I got my head torch out with the last bits of light.
Tom was in the best postion so it was his head torch lighted lead. After clearing snow he found some nice ledges and back and footed his way out into space and onto the chockstone in the top of the chimney. From the chock stone we hauled the bags, as they would make climbing very difficult, and he set off to the top. Dougal was first to follow and made short work of it, despite being shorter than Tom, and so had a bit more of a fight with the bridge. I was last and bridged most of it but I gained one of the steep walls, which had some good hooks on it, to get onto the chock stone. A small snow ramp saw me at the top, greated by Toms "bombproof" bucket seat belay.
Bridge for victory!

The route had been out of the wind all day, and thanks to the roof of chockstone at the top had been free from spin drift. The top out showed us what we had been missing all day. 
The white out conditions were no match for my two MIA climbing partners and we were quickly back to the goat track and then another 45 minute walk back to the car. I would probably have got lost without them, I must learn to navigate properly.
Walking out in the dark

We stopped at the chippy in Aviemore on the way home for some artery clogging goodness.
Tom has a write up on his blog.

1 comment:

  1. Great account, sounds like you had an interesting day out. This was mine a few days later: