I’d made tentative arrangements to go winter climbing with Malcolm Smith (who’s also retired) some time in the next few days if it got colder. I was surprised to get a text from Adrian on Monday evening saying he was taking Wednesday off work to go climbing. Various organisational messages saw us all heading northward from my house at 5:30 on Wednesday morning. Given the high temperature forecast we’d decided to go high to get the best conditions, and that the Northern Corries of Cairngorm would give us easiest access.
The drive north was mostly beneath a blanket of cloud, but at Drumochter we were aware that sunshine was not far above the cloud layer. On the ski road up to Cairngorm we burst out above the cloud into classic temperature inversion weather.
As I headed up the original route on increasingly slushy snow, I stopped to place a good rock runner on the right wall of the gully. As I returned the krab of nuts to a harness loop I somehow managed to dislodge a nut which disappeared down the gully. It was Malcolm’s, and I thought he’d consider me an incompetent ass for my butterfingered fumble. I climbed on, but didn’t quite reach the top, so belayed within a few metres of the plateau.
The others lead through on their half-ropes, and soon we were sitting in the sun, eating sandwiches and drinking from our flasks watched by snow bunting. It was an idyllic Alpine scene.