The Coire of the snows is one of the busiest places to winter climb. It has easy access from the Cairngorm Ski car park. For over 30 years I climbed here and even managed a wee route last year the Runnel . In my early days it was a place of interesting gullies and nowadays it’s a great mixed route venue. On our annual winter course a week was spent here. On my first winter course as a pupil I did 6 routes in a day. Up Red Gully – down Alladins couloir, up Spiral Gully – down Central Gully, up the Runnel – down Alladins Couloir. A grand day out.
Yet this Coire as all do carries dangers. In heavy snow the gullies can be very avalanche prone. I have done many rescues here. There is a Rescue box on the Coire. Also the descent by the Goat track in hard neve can be unforgiving there have been many accidents here. Navigation is key getting of the plateau many have “wandered off into the void” here. Others have made huge navigation errors including me here. Getting up the route is only part of the journey.
Many other days followed great routes like The Mirror Direct my first short ice route. Pygmy ridge and Fingers ridge always provided a good day.
Others include Patey’s route, the original summer Route, Flutted Buttress, Goat Track.
Then the Mess of Pottage opened up with the Haston Line, The Opening Break and Hidden Chimney with lots of harder routes like The Message, No More Blue Skies . It up till then was a forgotten cliff by many ( maybe the name put folk off? ) Some grand mixed climbing nowadays with the better tools and protection providing huge improvements in climbing. I remember climbing Doctors choice thinking I do not think this mixed climbing is for me as my crampons skirted across the slabs. Yet I did enjoy it at times.
It’s a fine cliff and can be sheltered from the weather but you have to prepare for the weather on the plateau to get the full Cairngorm experience. There have been many caught out on the plateau after a route.
On Fiacaill Buttress high on the western sector of the Coire has many superb routes. In my early day Fiacuill Couloir, Invernookie and the Seam. Nowadays there are so many hard technical routes.
Winter Climbing over the years has advanced and I remember watching an ascent of Magic Crack V11/7 on the wonderful Tv series on Scottish winter climbing “The Edge 100 years of Scottish Mountaineering” I would wander in to the Coire and watch some of the new technical routes getting climbed and marvel at the climbers ability. Never forgetting my first foray with a civilian climber in the team Barry Hartshorne in Alladins Couloir thinking I was on a big mountain alpine route. I was just 18 then. Many folk ski the easy routes now. Even the first time on the Mirror Direct after the ice pitch taking you up some steep ground past the lamp to the plateau.
My favourite route was Patey’s route with my old mate Al MacLeod and Gus Tait closely followed by Flutted Buttress Direct with Bill Batson following our pal “Stampy”climbing with one crampon.
I have many memories of dragging a stretcher through the Boulder field below the cliffs with Cairngorm MRT. Losing the path in heavy snow and if lucky trying to reach a helicopter waiting for us. Other drop of in poor weather probing for missing climbers. Other days of blue sky climbing in windless conditions and walking of the plateau at the end of a day. Reaching the spot height 1141 and thinking of that first brew. Meeting many of the names in the Corrie the Glenmore Mafia and many climbers we knew. Winter Mountaineering was a small group in these early days compared with the huge interest it has now. Yet it’s still fun, I cannot race in and when I go in I enjoy seeing the young guns blast by. All on a mission oh to be young again?
Todays tips: beware of loose rocks on the routes especially after a poor winter.
Though an easy walk in at times and these routes are very accessible never underrate them it’s a wild place to be in a storm.
Always read the avalanche reports daily and if planning a trip look at it the days before.
Safe climbing and if you get as much joy from this Corrie you will be a happy person. What’s your favourite climb here.