On Sunday Dunc, Ian & Laura and myself made the A’Chioch traverse, II *** on Beinn Bhan. This is one the ‘must do’ winter mountaineering routes in the Northwest Highlands, if not the whole of the UK. For the four of us it was a delight to be just out as friends and not working. The company, the route and the brilliant conditions made it a memorable day.
Martin Moran wrote a piece about this route in ‘The grand day out’ series for Climber magazine in 2003, it makes for an inspiring read. That along with the first ascent in 1891 by Hinxman then the first winter ascent in 1968 by Brown & Patey gives the route a certain kudos.
Leaving Tornapress after a short drive from my house made me feel very lucky. We quickly reached the buttress of A’Chioch and started the steady traverse up and across to its’ crest. Upon reaching the first flat section the walls of Coire na Feola (corrie of the flesh) and Coire na Poite (the cauldron) rear up and appear impenetrable, even by our easy route. Whether they were on not was soon forgotten as we became involved in the intricacies of the traverse across A’Chioch. Narrow aretes, tricky down climbs and exposed snow slopes called for careful footwork, reading of the conditions and patience.
Ian and Laura took their mittagspause whilst Dunc and I headed up to construct our first belay. Steady grade II ground consisting of short steps, interesting grooves and easy snow slopes soon had us at the foot of the final chimney. Obi Wan made an appearance at this stage to ensure that the four teams at this point on the route all remained safe and in control. Dunc’s lead of this grade III pitch was well protected at the short bulge and the two of us emerged at the top to be welcomed by Ian and Laura.
Even the walk off the hill was magical with that special mixture of sea, snow, mountain and low sunlight. More magical was to have done such a route with friends in such great conditions on such a beautiful day.
A’Chioch traverse, II *** on Beinn Bhan ‘a must do’ winter mountaineering route!
PS. I was supposed to have done this route, then written it up for The Mountaineering Council of Scotland‘s ‘Climb through History’ to celebrate climbing into the Millenium nearly fourteen years ago…