UKH

/ Buachaille Etive Mor/Coire na Tulaich Route?

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timparkin - on 31 May 2018

Walked up Buachaille Etive Mor on Sunday and found the Coire na Tulaich too exposed/scrabbly for one of our party and we made the call to finish at the end of the pink route (especially as descent of what we had done was unnerving them). We also found it difficult to find what should be the 'normal' route. I climbed up the blue route to take a look but stopped before I could see where it topped out as it was obviously too much for our party. I also had to be really careful not to knock down any rocks on the descent of this section. 

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The holiday crowd were traipsing up with children as young as four and a few dogs running around (great for your confidence). 

We talked to one gentleman who had done Curved Ridge and then returned down the red path and said it was worse than any section of his climb. 

The following day we did Gearr Aonach ZigZags and it was a pleasant walk in comparison but classed as a scramble. 

Any thoughts on the main route (where is it?), alternatives and general safety of a non-winter ascent and descent and how often do 'walks' really end up scarier than grade 3 scrambles?

Mal Grey - on 31 May 2018
In reply to timparkin:

I believe the normal route follows the main gully below the vertical bit of your green line after traversing in maybe a little lower? Normally poor scree, but covered in snow for you. Understandably, people are finding alternatives if they don't have winter equipment with them. Instead, folk are straying onto steep ground that is loose and unsecure, which isn't ideal either! 

I doubt it was technically harder by the easiest line than Curved Ridge, but I can imagine it felt much less secure/safe.

Walks are not normally scarier than grade 3 scrambles, but the normal line can sometimes been lost, so navigation is key.

Hope you had a good day out otherwise!

 

Post edited at 12:28
MarkJH - on 31 May 2018
In reply to timparkin:

As I recall, the Coire na Tulaich Route is always loose and horrible (unless there is good snow cover). 

An alternative is the ridge on the right (looking up) which you have to join not far from the Lagangarbh hut.  Route finding is a bit more involved, but the ground is much easier relative to the 'normal 'route.

StuDoig - on 31 May 2018
In reply to timparkin:

There is (or was - couple of years since I've been there) a route marked by a couple of cairns at the corrie rim / break of angle approximating to the red route you've shown that I've come down many times and found substantially better than the gully (buried under snow on you pic.).  A bit rocky and lose but not technical.  could feel exposed if you're not used to that type of ground though.  The line is easier to find on descent that ascent as the screes tend to break up any obvious path to the foot of the rockier section.

I'd have to check, but I think most modern guides send folk up that way rather than by the gully which used to be listed as the normal route.

Alternative is to descent the ridge on the right (recommended in iffy or uncertain avalanche conditions over the corrie head wall) and cut into the corrie lower down.  This needs a bit more routefinding though as not nearly as well trodden.

Cheers,

Stu

skog on 31 May 2018
In reply to StuDoig:

What StuDoig said.

I think the main route approximates to the one you've marked red, but continuing a little bit further down, before traversing across onto the big scree slope underneath (down and left of) where you've marked a blue route, and descending that.

It's actually pretty obvious when you're on it, on descent at least (I've been down it many many times, most recently last Autumn - but I'd always be going up a different route, scrambling or climbing) - but there a couple of short scrambly steps which might be damp with the snowmelt, and might be a little unnerving to someone who doesn't normally scramble at all. Also, the very top will be partially obscured by the snow just now.

 
timparkin - on 31 May 2018
In reply to Mal Grey:

> I believe the normal route follows the main gully below the vertical bit of your green line after traversing in maybe a little lower? Normally poor scree, but covered in snow for you. Understandably, people are finding alternatives if they don't have winter equipment with them. Instead, folk are straying onto steep ground that is loose and unsecure, which isn't ideal either! 

> I doubt it was technically harder by the easiest line than Curved Ridge, but I can imagine it felt much less secure/safe.

Indeed - it was particularly technical, just a bit of a crapshoot. Thanks for the reply!

 

timparkin - on 31 May 2018
In reply to MarkJH:

> An alternative is the ridge on the right (looking up) which you have to join not far from the Lagangarbh hut.  Route finding is a bit more involved, but the ground is much easier relative to the 'normal 'route.

Definitely my next route

 

Flinticus - on 31 May 2018
In reply to timparkin:

Hard to answer some of your questions. Experiences on a grade 3 scramble Vs the main route will be highly personal and seasonal / weather dependent. I find going up a scramble, with good hand holds (three, at least two, points of contact most of the time) less scary than descending steep (but not technical) ground, one point of contact with each step, on potentially loose ground: a tumble could see you go a long way.

Last time I was up, I took Curved Ridge and came down the main route. No snow but mist / a bit of clag. Didn't have any issues with descending. I would say the old snow was the cause of your problem, narrowing your ascent options.

timparkin - on 31 May 2018
In reply to StuDoig:

> There is (or was - couple of years since I've been there) a route marked by a couple of cairns at the corrie rim / break of angle approximating to the red route you've shown that I've come down many times and found substantially better than the gully (buried under snow on you pic.).  A bit rocky and lose but not technical.  could feel exposed if you're not used to that type of ground though.  The line is easier to find on descent that ascent as the screes tend to break up any obvious path to the foot of the rockier section.

Yes it was simple to see from the photograph and from where I was at the higher part of the blue line but not as clear on the ground

> I'd have to check, but I think most modern guides send folk up that way rather than by the gully which used to be listed as the normal route.

Seems to be a mix of directions so a sensible pick based on who you're taking out and what they're confident with is important I think.

> Alternative is to descent the ridge on the right (recommended in iffy or uncertain avalanche conditions over the corrie head wall) and cut into the corrie lower down.  This needs a bit more routefinding though as not nearly as well trodden.

I'll make sure to check out all of the options I think (Curved Ridge, Broad Buttress, Great Gully Buttress and North Buttress)

timparkin - on 31 May 2018
In reply to skog:

Thanks skog! 

Martin W on 31 May 2018
In reply to MarkJH:

> As I recall, the Coire na Tulaich Route is always loose and horrible (unless there is good snow cover).

And when there is good snow cover, it is all too often a high avalanche risk (three folks died in the coire in the winter of 2009).

I'd agree with Mal Grey that the 'normal' route pretty much follows the gully, but that knowledge would be of little help given the conditions you found.

I'm pretty sure that the last time I came down through the coire we went that way, and it was straightforward with no scrambling required.  That was in August, though.

colinakmc - on 31 May 2018
In reply to timparkin:

Never been up Coire an Tulaich, always descend that way though. From memory you go well down the gully then pick up a good path (still steep though) going off to the left, a fair bit lower than your green line..

Emphatically a walk, once you’re off the snow. Once watched a couple of folk jump off the col, miss their footing, and cartwheel about 200m towards us. So the top bit is quite serious!

Andy Nisbet - on 31 May 2018
In reply to timparkin:

I came down the ridge on the right (looking up) about a week ago, to avoid snow. There was about 10ft of easy scrambling not exposed, otherwise steep grass. Probably the best way up if the snow hasn't melted.

Wayne - on 10 Jun 2018
In reply to timparkin:

Sorry to reply to this thread late but I've taken groups up and down this route three or four times each year for at least twenty years and whilst most have been in winter conditions, as most know in spring time there is generally the greatest snow depth.

Read the guide books, there is a path but as always use your own mountaineering judgement based on the conditions of the day. This route is a black spot in winter and deserves similar respect in summer-however saying this-it is a grand day out.


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