On January 2nd, Karl, Tom and Sarah L walked up into Stob Coire nan Lochan above Glen Coe to see if we could get some winter climbing done. It had snowed to quite a low level over night, and as we got into the corrie we were wading through two foot drifts, an indication as to just how much snow had fallen higher up. This put paid to our plans of checking out the gullies, as the risk of avalanche would have been too great, and we’ve have had to swim up the gullies, rather than climb them.
Instead we opted for Dorsal Arete, a mixed snow and rock route that it safe from avalanche (except briefly on the approach). We had made an early start from the car park, and were rewarded by being the first on the route (3 days earlier we had come here to do this route and found 13 people on it in front of us).
To make quick progress, we made two 50 pitches on the lower part of the buttress, intertwining short rocky outcrops on easy snow slopes. On the third pitch the route narrowed up into a proper arete, with views down into deep gullies on either side. Here the fins of rock after which the route is named rear up in front of you, giving a short but extremely exposed mixed pitch. It was a precarious position to be in with the wind gusting as it was.
From the top of the third pitch it was only a short scramble to the top, and into the gale force winds that we had been (relatively) sheltered from all day. This was not the place to hang around, so we coiled the ropes quickly and high tailed it out of there, dropping back into the corie 20 minutes later.
Since day light was now fading, we took a directly line back to the path up, which probably didn’t save us any time, as we ended up wading in chest deep snow and catching our crampons on hidden rocks. Thoroughly exhausted, we reached the car park at 6pm, and retired to the Clachaig Inn for a well earned refreshments.