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Thursday, 11 January 2018

Climbing Amphitheatre Chimney!

Abseiling down for winter climbing on Cnap Coire na Spreidhe Cairngorms

Abseiling down for winter climbing on Cnap Coire na Spreidhe Cairngorms

Dawn abseil for winter climbing on Cnap Coire na Spreidhe Cairngorms

Grande Gendarme winter climbing on Cnap Coire na Spreidhe Cairngorms

Early dawn start for winter climbing on Cnap Coire na Spreidhe Cairngorms


A great weather forecast, great snow cover and a brief thaw freeze gave me the chance to climb a line I'd looked at well over a year ago as Fi and I had walked in from the Strath Nethy to climb Rampline.

Later that winter I'd descended with Chris by six abseils to look at another line to the left and then later found another easier route to the right which joined Rampline and continued up Itsy Bitsy Spider.

Abseil into Cnap Coire na Spreidhe Cairngorms

Abseiling into Amphitheatre Chimney Cnap Coire na Spreidhe Cairngorms

A happy Scott Flett Winter climbing on Cnap Coire na Spreidhe Cairngorms

Winter climbing on Cnap Coire na Spreidhe Cairngorms

Winter climbing on Cnap Coire na Spreidhe Cairngorms

The route we abseiled past looked too steep to try but this time as we abbed past I noticed the protection was good before the crux moves so decided to give it a try with Scott.

Conditions were good though still quite powdery but the turf was frozen and with plenty of good hooks, threads, wires and hexes at the chimney chockstones.

I'm not brave and not an idiot, it was strenuous but fairly safe and we could always lower off!

Winter climbing on Cnap Coire na Spreidhe Cairngorms

Scott Fett winter climbing on Cnap Coire na Spreidhe Cairngorms

Winter climbing on Cnap Coire na Spreidhe Cairngorms

Winter climbing on Cnap Coire na Spreidhe Cairngorms

Winter climbing on Cnap Coire na Spreidhe Cairngorms

Ron winter climbing on Cnap Coire na Spreidhe Cairngorms

Scott winter climbing on Cnap Coire na Spreidhe Cairngorms

I quickly realised that it was steeper than I'd thought but after a arm heaving struggle and short fall, which annoyed me, I managed to overcome the first crux moves and wedged myself into the narrow off width body jam chimney above.

Further up I found a belay then brought Scott up, though he did seem to like the full body jam in the chimney and seemed reluctant to leave!!!

The next direct pitch had looked steep from below and was up and was over some more chockstones. It was foreshortened so actually turned out to be even steeper and longer than we first thought :-(

Fortunately a few reassuring bits of gear made me realise that I needed to take the alternative rib to the right if we didn't want to spend the night insitu or on retreat. Time was the essence and a desperate struggle involving jammed axes and dodgy snagged gear ensued and huge relief to get back up to the rap anchor I'd left on the descent and onto easier ground.

Scott bravely followed despite draining strength, light and by using every technique and every word in the book and quite a few that aren't!

Amphitheatre Chimney Cnap Coire na Spreidhe Cairngorms

Amphitheatre Chimney Cnap Coire na Spreidhe Cairngorms

By this time it was getting dark and we'd only completed four pitches of 150 metres, including the two 25 metre crux pitches but as it was a 300 metre cliff we had another 150 metres to go!

Topo of Amphitheatre Chimney Cnap Coire na Spreidhe Cairngorms

Fortunately we were on my home ground, my Itsy Bitsy playground, so flew up the remaining 150 metres by headtorch taking the easiest zig zag line.

Both of us were pretty knackered by a truly alpine day and route but really happy having had the place to ourselves for yet another true alpine adventure.

As for the route name and grade, well Amphitheatre Chimney seems appropriate, it's cruxy but safe,  the grade probably somewhat harder than tech 5, though I don't normally struggle and fall off at 5 and I know the ground like the back of my hand!!!

Topo of the Amphitheatre Chimney crux pitches above and full topo some time in the future ;-)
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