Deep snow for a solo of Hidden Chimney (II/III*), Coire an-t Sneachda
One day last July all my attitudes towards Coire an-t Sneachda changed in just a couple of hours. I'd always been put off by how busy it gets, but that morning the corrie was deserted as I spent a beautiful dawn soloing Finger's Ridge with only the pig-squeal calls of the ptarmigans to break the silence.
I've become far more fond of the place since that day. At dawn this morning I found myself standing underneath the Mess of Pottage without a single other climber in sight, the ptarmigans squealing overhead and the crags looking beautiful under huge amounts of snow.
The Mess of Pottage - buried.
Last night's frost felt like a god-send - the sheer amount of snow lying in some of the corries is pretty impressive for the time of year, but it was in real need of a freeze to make it more stable. This morning was my opportunity but I only had a few hours as I needed to be back home for midday - so I headed straight towards the classic Hidden Chimney.
Hidden Chimney can just be seen a the top right of the photo.
The route is barely recognisable from its usual leaner self, heavily banked out in the lower section with most of the rocky steps buried. I found a mix of great nevé and useless crud but I made quick progress up to the chockstone, which was almost hidden by a bulge of snow. I couldn't find any hooks for my axes around the chockstone but thankfully there was some really firm snow above so a wide bridging move and solid axe placements had me above the crux and into the battering wind of the top-out.
Looking up towards the chimney
Lots of firm snow about but still areas of windslab and instability on route top-outs and gully rims.