Mac, Sharon and I were out yesterday and looking for a crag that would be East enough to avoid the rain for as long as possible; low enough to be below the worst of the wind and avoiding avalanche prone slopes. We opted for North Craig, near the Mayar Burn gambling that the bouncing freezing levels would have built ice.
We approached from Glen Doll via the Kilbo Path with suprisingly good snow cover from the edge of the forestry. The cloud set in as we climbed out of Glen Doll and was with us for most of the day.
The gamble paid off to a degree as we were able to climb White Sun of the Desert on thin ice and soft snow until the last 10m where both snow and ice became excellent. The ice lower down required a delicate approach and made for bold climbing as it wasn’t thick enough for screws. However, it may well have been less hollow than on the first ascent as we were able to take a direct line up the steep iced groove. A handy thread and threaded wire allowed us to abseil back down the line of the route.
The ice on the steeper lines didn’t look substantial enough, so with the freezing level rising we opted for a easier new Grade II line about 20m to the right as our second route of the day. This was mostly on Grade I snow and ledges, but with a good finish up the icey corner groove on the left hand side of the large pinnacle like feature.
We then retrieved our abseil gear and headed back across the plateau in very poor visibility and with steady rain setting in and falling as rain up to 850m. Plenty of windslab around in sheltered locations and careful route choice/selection required. The rain may have stabilised some of the older windslab, but it looks like we’re due fresh snow on strong winds on Saturday. There’s more information about the routes on this crag on the Scottishwinter.com and Graniteandice blogs; The Cairngorms guidebook only has the summer line of High Plains Drifter.