Curved Ridge, Buachaille Etive Mor

With Anna still feeling unwell we decided to make the last day an easy one. It was a choice of either returning to Aonach Mor to try something of similar difficulty to yesterday, or do something longer and easier. The conditions on Aonach Mor hadn't been that inspiring to warrant a return. With blue skies expected, Curved Ridge on Buachaille Etive Mor sounded a far more enjoyable outing. Its four star rating would no doubt offer a fine day in the mountains and would of course provide broader experiences compared to simply returning to the same crag as yesterday to climb a second route.

The foreshortened view of Curved Ridge

Being a classic route, and a Saturday, the route was not surprisingly busy. Not too busy to cause major queues however. We opted to take in alpine coils and move together for most of the route in order to improve efficiency. We set 20m between us, which would provide enough rope to place runners through harder sections whilst minimising rope drag. It didn't gain us any advantage in hindsight because we would repeatedly meet with a party in front of us and be forced to make a premature belay. As a result we weren't moving much more than a rope length between belays anyway. Taking an independent line was actually quite difficult as well. Not only because the technical difficulties increased but also because we left the main passage of packed down snow and brushed rock in exchange for deeper, more unconsolidated snow. The net result was that there was no gain to be made and it was better just to get in line. 

Anna climbing the start of Curved Ridge

The climbing was largely straightforward with the exception of a short interesting tech 3 corner halfway up the route. Without doubt though the best thing about Curved Ridge was the awesome, expansive views across Rannoch Moor to the south. Beyond the ridge the ground quickly dropped away to the broad plateau below, giving the ridge a real lofty feel. It was good to climb the route on such a clear day to fully appreciate this, although the gusty, biting wind reminded us that this was still Scottish winter and not Norway.

The crux corner

Not far from the top

Belaying close to the top

Last time I had climbed on Buachaille Etive Mor I had finished at 11pm after a somewhat dramatic day on the North Buttress, or at least somewhere in that vague vicinity. On this occasion it was just 1pm, which allowed plenty of time to linger on the summit and eat some lunch.

A short traverse across the high ground brought us to the col at the top of Coire na Tulaich, which we would use to descend to the base of the mountain. The descent was just as enjoyable as the climb in fact, involving a long bum side from the col to what felt like halfway down. My bum sliding abilities felt a little rusty at first, particularly now that I use axes without an adze, but after a cautious start I worried less about trying to stay in control and sat up as though on a water slide. The numerous bum sliders that had preceeded me meant that a well defined ass-sized halfpipe had formed, making the descent surprisingly controlled given the speed.

View back to the summit

The start of the descent

The epic bum slide down Coire na Tulaich, starting from the col in the back of the picture

View from the gully

Curved Ridge was an excellent choice of route today and fitting finale to the trip. Easy and enjoyable. I even made it to the pub for 4pm to watch the English beat the Welsh in the Six Nations rugby. All things considered, five routes is definitely a successful trip. We could have more done with better health but equally we could have got nothing done - based on the lack of conditions in the run up to our trip. Already I'm already about a return next year. So many supurb winter routes that I still need to climb in this lifetime. 

Buachaille Etive Mor


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