Winter Routes | Curved Ridge - Glencoe
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Buachaille Etive Mòr via Curved Ridge in Winter Conditions
First off, you must consider if you have the skills and experience to undertake Curved Ridge in winter, as the ridge is a totally different beast in winter as opposed to summer.
So now that that disclaimer is out of the way it must be said that a winter ascent of Curved Ridge is like no other, with views stretching wide and far (if the visibility allows of course).
From the roadside carpark cross the raised wooden bridge to cross the stream. Quickly pick up the trail heading past the small white cottage.
At the trailhead there is a split. For Curved Ridge take the left fork which works with the contours around to the main rocky face visible from the roadway.
Once at the end of this trail a large scree basin is reached, which runs off from the main gullies and buttresses. Steadily climb this escalator taking care not to dislodge any lose rock.
Once at the top of this feature one will look up and note a small tree towards what appears to be the middle ridge. Head for this feature. Whilst ascending one must take care not to be drawn to D-Gully Buttress which is slightly left of Curved Ridge proper.
"Curved Ridge is a different beast in the Winter as opposed to Summer"
Once the start of the ridge is located you will note a short steeper pitch which contains plenty of foot and hand holds. If conditions allow technical axes can be stowed over the shoulder at this point in favour of hands and feet. Towards the top of this pitch one should traverse rightwards to gain a helpful ledge with a handy rock spike to belay from. The position of this belay is awesome with views back down the gully and the looming presence of Rannoch Wall, above.
Once joined by your respective climbing partner the next pitch contains a series of sloping blocks which require the leader to move rightward along the ledge before eventually transitioning left and upwards, until a wide open platform is reached.
Third Pitch & Crux:
Depending on experience the next section of the climb can be accomplished by moving together over some blocky steps until a steep wall is reached from a secondary platform.
You should ascend this utilising a series of narrow ledges, which resemble sloping steps. Good hooks can be found by driving the axes towards the rear of these ledges.
Eventually a small platform is gained, revealing the right angled chimney crux.
Very good belay protection can be found to the left hand side of this feature, with an obvious bulge and fracture line allowing for good nut placements.
If feeling a wee bit nervous before attempting the crux a small/medium nut can be place on the left hand wall of the chimney, without leaving the ground (if you’re tall enough that is).
The short crux then leads to a large block for protection where the climber can choose to belay and support their second from, or can continue on to another wide platform.
You owe yourself a beer.
From this the main difficulties have been achieved.
Some short roping will then take climbers over another small pinnacle where the ridge eventually skirts the top of the main gully and a tower can be viewed above. This is Crowberry Tower.
Enter and ascend the large forked gully, before opting for the right hand fork which climbs upwards behind the tower.
Once in this fork it will appear as if you’re looking through a ‘window’ as both rock features meet at the top of the gully.
Once at the top of this ‘window’ a series of leftward ledges can be used to gain Crowberry Tower, where the views and exposed position are out of this world.
Next, descend back into the ‘window’ where you will notice a small steep gully leading towards the summit flanks on the immediate right. Climb this to gain an easing wide slope, before reaching the summit of Stob Dearg (1022m).
From the summit descent into the top plateau area of Coire na Tulaich.
A word of caution. This particular coire is notorious for avalanches and was the site of a number of deaths some years ago. To that end, please be extremely careful if utilising this as a descent route.
The top of the coire headwall can be extremely steep and/or overhanging with cornices.
When tackling this you may wish to set a snow anchor and/or belay their partner down, until a safe position is reached.
After about 10-15m this slope becomes manageable as it descends back down the mountain.
You’ve just ticked off one of a handful of 4* Rated Scottish climbs. A real classic winter ascent graded II/III.
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