Beinn Eighe - East Buttress

After a routeless day on Sgurr Alasdair with the weather not being as promised and reports coming in of a perfect day out East Dave and myself were badly in need of a successful day out. Half checking the forecast and deciding to go big or go home, we headed to Torridon to try our luck with the giants. Our goal was the famous triple buttress of Beinn Eighe's Coire Mhic Fhearchair, perhaps the finest mountain feature in Scotland and to hillwalkers and climbers alike it needs no introduction. A massive Trident of Quartzite thrusting out from the mountainside and dominating the corrie. Our Planned route was East Buttress, the first on the left. It involves a traverse along a snow ledge above the lower sandstone tier to get to the base of the route which is then 4 to 5 pitches of climbing.

Dave looking up at Sgurr Mhic Connoch

Since we walked in through darkness I didn't get a picture of the buttress so I've used an old photo of my Dad's which was taken in Spring 1989 (when I was 2 months old!). The route in the photo is obviously in summer condition unlike yesterday but it's the only photo I have available to me. East Buttress is the one on the left.

Corie Mhic Fhearchair in spring 1989 (photo Lindsay Wyllie)

We left the car park at 0500 and started the 3 hour walk in. The path was a bit icy and the snow often deep once we reached the corrie but we made good time and were gearing up at the start of the traverse ledge while the morning alpenglow was gracing Sail Mhor. It was very clear, street lights in the outer Hebrides could be seen once we gained some height. A couple of other climbers had come in directly over the hill. This is far shorter but also involves a lot of ascent. They were looking for some other climbs but they weren't in condition so they went for East Buttress as well.

Gearing up before the ledge

We traversed in along the ledge and set up a belay at the foot of a chimney where the other two climbers were already about to start up. In hindsight this was probably left of the normal start to the route and it felt sustained and poorly protected for a IV,5. A good lead by Dave and through subsequent investigation could be the first pitch of the Left hand variant (V,5).

The Traverse

Spindrift on the first pitch

My first pitch was a series of easy steps with a steep but well protected wall and shattered overhanging chimney mid-way. The 3rd pitch was mainly easy ground and Dave made swift progress placing only a single nut before bringing me up to below a tight looking corner. The corner was fantastic but short lived and soon I was running the rope out through the upper reaches of the buttress until the drag became too much so I brought up Dave who led through to the plateau.

Second Belay

Above the corner

It was now approaching Sunset and the arctic sky that accompanied us for the descent was nothing short of stunning. To the west the bright spectrum of the sky beyond the black and white bulk of a wintry Liathach. To the east the alpenglow on the snowy face of Spidean Coire nan Clach. unfortunately the 60mph winds which we had been sheltered from until we topped out made keeping the camera steady for a decent shutter speed impossible and most of the photos I took have come out blurred.


You need a day as perfect as this every once in a while, helps the 'enjoyable' suffering through cold, frustration and fear that winter climbing brings make sense.


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