Coire an t'Sneachda is one of Britain's best known winter climbing venues and with good reason, for it is home to many superb quality low to mid grade ice and mixed routes.
Hidden Chimney (Grade III) is one such route. It takes a meandering line up the Coire's eastern crag, Mess of Pottage, taking in some great positions and great scenery. The route has a further and less quantifiable asset; Mess of Pottage is quieter than Coire an t'Sneachda's more popular crags, namely Aladdin's and Fluted Buttresses, and is no harder to reach. It is therefore not only an excellent objective in its own right, it is also an excellent objective for those visiting on a busy day.
Conveniently, Coire an t'Sneachda is an easy walk from the Coire Cas car park, which offers free parking and easy access to the café in the Cairngorm Mountain ski centre. Consequently, it fills up quickly and so you have another good reason to get an early start. The main reason of course being the desperately short days of the Scottish winter.
Park at the Coire Cas car park (NH 989 060) and take the path path that traverses around Fiacaill a’ Choire Chais. Within about 200m of the car park the path splits (NH 986 056). Take the left hand path and follow it for just under 1km. Here the path splits again (NH 987 047) and again you should take the left hand path.
After about 1km the path terminates (NH 992 035) just before a boulder field which surrounds the Coire's lochans. The easiest route through the boulder field is to trend left, which takes you to the Coire's first aid box just beyond the lochans. You are now standing in the centre of Coire an t'Sneachda (NH 993 032).
Mess of Pottage is located on Coire an t'Sneachda's left hand side and can be identified by it's position to the left of the obvious and hopefully snow filled gully of Jacob's Ladder (Grade I). Hidden Chimney's normal start starts in this gully (see the topo below).
Pitch 1: The route starts in the gully of Jacob's Ladder (Grade I) but breaks off leftwards at a bay where a diagonal fault leads up and left. Follow this across easy ground to the base of wide chimney that defines the right side of the steeper upper buttress. Belay here.
Pitch 2: Climb the chimney, overcoming a chokestone to a widening cone shaped recess. Climb this directly to the top.
Direct Start (Grade IV, 5): An alternative start to the route can be made by climbing the right-facing corner just to the left of Jacob's Ladder. It's well protected, strenuous and can be thin on it's upper reaches in lean conditions. It is a worthwhile pitch in its own right and is often done as such with climbers abseiling off a spike at the top of the corner.
The best descent is to walk east and follow the edge of the Mess of Pottage back down to its base. Alternatively you could walk west along the edge of Coire an t'Sneachda and back into it via the Goat Track. This will allow you to easily bag further routes on Aladdin's and Fluted Buttresses. If this is your last route of the day then the best descent is to walk off eastwards and take the Fiacaill a' Choire Chais which will take you directly back to the Coire Cas car park.
For a quick descent, those with the skills may wish to down climb Jacob's Ladder (Grade I), though this may be a poor option on busy days as the gully is a popular route and passing people on the way down can be both rude and dangerous.
Ice tools, rigid crampons and a helmet are all of course a necessity and double ropes may be more favourable than a single one as they reduce the risk of rope drag. A small rack of nuts and hexes will be probably be enough to protect the route in most conditions, though ice screws may prove useful; short to medium length screws would be best. A Deadman snow anchor or equivalent may also be useful for constructing snow belays should they prove necessary.
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| Scottish Mountaineering Club: The Cairngorms by Andy Nisbet, Allen Fyffe, Simon Richardson, Wilson Moir and John Lyall |
A beautiful and lavish guide from the SMC, containing details of summer and winter climbing in the Cairngorms.
| Scottish Mountaineering Club: Scottish Winter Climbs by Andy Nisbet, Rab Anderson and Simon Richardson |
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| Winter Climbs in the Cairngorms by Allen Fyffe and Blair Ffyffe |
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