A New Route in Coire an Lochain

There was plenty of activity in Coire an Lochain on Saturday with teams on many of the classics. Plan 'A' had been The Hoarmaster but there were climbers already gearing up at its base. Instead we turned our attention to a line left of Oesophagus that was missing from the guidebook. It looked a strong enough line with a clean corner distinguishing the first pitch. Too good not to try we thought.

The route climbs the system of cracks and corners just left of the centre of the photo
My partner Michael led the first pitch up parallel grooves with sparse protection. Some strong pulls on turf at the top of the grooves confirmed that it was totally frozen solid. Then the left-facing corner, which offered up plenty of bomber hooks and gear. A further short step brought Michael to the belay above an excellent first pitch.

Michael climbing the groove at the start of the first pitch
I led the second pitch, which continued up an obvious off-width crack. I considered that maybe I had a potential fight on my hands were it able to fit my girth. 'Fortunately' this was not the case and I managed to largely bridge my way around the wide crack with the occasional jammed chock stone to facilitate. I managed to lace the base of the crack with gear but this quickly dried up. Steep hooks up the right wall needed some awkward footwork to counterbalance. Finally a sound nut placement five metres above the last piece. Then some delicate moves back left to exit the crack to the belay.

The base of the crack
Photo credit - Michael Barnard
Near the top
Photo credit - Michael Barnard
Top of the second pitch (my camera was having a hard time by this point)
We reckon the route to be about IV,5 despite a couple of run-out sections. The pitches were about 45m and 25m in length and both were around tech 5. The second pitch was the crux (maybe tech 6?) but it is easily escapable so arguably as committing as you want to make it. You could argue on this basis that the first pitch was the crux. It was certainly a good way to start the winter season and demonstrates even at the most frequented of crags that new routes are still possible. We've provisionally named the route Snuffaluffagus.

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