As Callum sorted himself out and regrouped in his head, (he’d put in a good fight on the first route attempt), I moved around the base of the crag and looked for a plan B.
As I stood below a ludicrously steep barrel shaped wall, I could see that if I was able to make it through the first mental looking section, I might be able to forge my way up to what looked like a hanging cave and then we could potentially breach the headwall and follow this to easier terrain. We agreed this looked like a worthwhile objective for the time we had left.
Once I pulled onto the steep lower wall however, I realised things might be about to get a little more serious than originally thought. The rock was very compact, and even though I could see spaced hooks to yard between, there would be minimal gear placements and I’d have to race through the energy sapping steepness without protection from decking out. I eventually committed to the climbing and found myself making slow but reassuring upwards progress. It wasn’t too long before I was sat in the super cramped cave and clipped to a safe but semi-questionable belay bringing Callum up to my position. All the while trying to stretch out my cramping biceps from the physical climbing below.
Thankfully the next pitch was tricky off the belay but swiftly eased in difficulty and Callum made his way up to the top of the buttress with only the odd grunt and groan, that any winter pitch that’s worth its salt definitely deserves!
After we’d both topped out and started to make our way back down the gully to our bags, it was apparent that I’d considerably underestimated the actual steepness of the barrel wall from below and seeing it side-on in profile made me feel a little better about why my biceps were feeling like they’d been well and truly used.
We gained our bags at the base of the route and regrouped with Hamish, who had been taking photos from different locations around the Coire.
It’s always a good feeling to walk out from the mountains in winter having actually succeeded on a route. Especially when it’s a new route as fun and technical as what we’d just done.