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Thursday 23rd 10 2008 12:00:00 AM

Pictures and words by Andy Main

Dark Souls

With ice on our minds we had planned to head west and sample the delights of Beinn Udlaidh, however reports of insufficient build up and a bad weather forecast convinced us to head for the east.

We based our self’s in gals-alt shiel bothy, tagged onto the lodge at the side of Loch Muick, it's a wee cracker, with a great fire and loads of space.
The next day we headed for Lochnagar, it was decent weather with blue skies and a fresh breeze. Very impressive corie, so good when you get to the rescue box and it opens out in front of you. Ended up doing Central buttress, it was short and pretty scowered, a good option I reckoned as all the other buttress looked loaded with unconsolidated snow.

Was pretty easy and busy though so planned something a bit more exciting and out the way the next day, settled on “souls on fire” a IV,5 on the SE buttress of Dubh Loch.

We headed for our planned route nice and early, really easy from the bothy perhaps an hour up a steady gradient. The loch had a few feet of ice on it, so wandered across it to the base of the cliff.

We headed towards the buttress, however another line had caught my eye!
It starts just right of “Dogleg” up a left facing corner, mixed moves on turf and rock lead to a snow platform were good gear can finally be had, a better protected mixed chimney was then followed to the belay bellow the “SOF” crux chimney.

We tried this first but it didn’t go on Marks initial foray, I got further but backed off after the ice started falling down, a lot of faff with us both up then down climbing.

Another chimney 10m to the right proved to be the solution. It starts as a mixed gully, but quickly gets interesting, changing into a steep awakened grove with ice on one side and unconsolidated snow with a few bits of useful rock and turf on the other. The pitch culminates in an overhanging chimney, below this I had to bash about a meter cube of snow down to make a platform, I then contorted onto this and managed to clean out a muddy crack getting a pretty good bulldog. With some allright gear I got the balls to make the crux moves; a very tenuous hook was used to get up and lean out. Once standing, two good placements in solid turf were had at full stretch, with only air for feet a thrucky sequence of ice axe pull ups and lock offs was required to get established. The feet can then be swung up and with some crazy wide chimneying bridging and egyptians the difficulties are soon over. After another few moves on steep turf the chimney can be exited on rope stretch to a nice belay, what a brill pitch!

Luckily the route joins south west buttress at this point and we raced up the easy snow slopes in the half light.
By the time we topped out it was nice and dark, I had lost my head torch a few weeks back and mark couldn’t find his. So we descended carefully, plunging thro the crusty snow into holes, up to Marks head on one occasion. Finally got to the loch and as we wondered back over the ice, the moon appeared to guide us back to the bothy.

So great weekend seen two new venues seen and a first ascent done, awesome.

Here the details of the route Hopefully get it submitted to the SMC soon;

Thanks to Mike C for the Photo of SEB

Dark Souls 160m IV,4 *. A.Main, M.Jarvie. 20-Jan-2008

A nice winter line up mixed groves and chimneys. Start just below and right of Dogleg; below a left facing groove, next to a small tree.

1. 50m Climb the groove to a snow platform and good gear, follow the chimney and exit right, to belay were the route crosses "Souls on fire".

2. 50m Continue rightwards to the next chimney and follow this with increasing difficulty to an overhang bulge(crux) , surmount this and belay in an obvious cave above.

3. and 4. 60m Join SE Buttress and follow easy ground to the top.

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