Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Never the less we had a fun trip, climbing the easier angled Kitchen Garden routes (D5-D7) and then I surprised myself by hollering my way up Jaz a steep D9 (although I suspect pretty soft at the grade). Dry tooling in some people's minds is about as low as climbing can go, but Ive found it to be fun and the perfect option to get the guns reloaded for when conditions kick in again up North.
There's more info on White Goods here http://www.ukclimbing.com/logbook/crag.php?id=3826 and here http://www.drytooling.co.uk/articles/files.display-4.html. I think its a very worthwhile venue and certainly more enjoyable climbing than Birnam, the other major UK dry tooling venue, which is almost entirely drilled.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
They're of a couple of friends Pete Benson and Guy Robertson climbing a new route The God Delusion grade IX on Beinn Bhan in Applecross. They had the perfect adventurous journey to get up this thing. Guy had been in several times before, including once with myself to catch conditions on what he'd dubbed "The Eiger Project" (the face looks a little like the North Face of The Eiger). A few days before success the pair had made an attempt, reaching about half height where Guy took a lob when a massive block in which both his axes and pro were in broke free. On the return visit Pete and Guy left the car at 1am, in warm wet drizzle. Infact it was so poor they considered turning around. Luckily they persevered as within touching distance of the climb's start the rain turned to snow. They started climbed at 5am repeating in the dark their previous pitches. It was lucky they started so early as the climbing was so involved the final pitches were climbed by headtorch. Again fortune was on their side as it was a clear night and their was a big bright moon. The night shots in particular show what a magical voyage this was. Add into the equation that its a winter only route and you have something super special.
The title of this post is obviously hyperbole as there are many different versions of the way forward in Scottish winter climbing. But I hope any youngsters getting into winter climbing will realise that even though routes like this don't have the very biggest of grades, their length committment and style of approach make them world class efforts.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
A plastered Central Buttress with the long groove of Unicorn in the center a route that both Andy and I had both done previously.
We opted for the Duel IX,9 a route that took Cubby and Rab Anderson 7 seperate visits to heroically establish. Me on the wall pitch as the weather deteriorates, note the plume of spindrift above my head. Loads of verglass led to even thinner climbing than normal, with the crux for me high on this pitch just beneath the roofs. Unable to get at the rock hooks I had to chip 5mm edges into the ice to pull up with awful footholds 10ft above a cluster of dodgy gear. All in all I must have spent close to 3 hours on this pitch.
Andy making much quicker work of the 3rd pitch off width. We took 11 cams in all including two size 6s but due to the vergalss didn't place a single one. Superb route though, one I've been wanting to do for quite a while. Great to climb with Andy though, who gave me much needed confidence as I was fighting the demons of my last trip. Luckily the arm and back held out OK, although it was a very tattered Parnell who hobbled down to the road at the end of the day.
Throughout the afternoon a thaw set in which seems to be building further today. So even if we get the car sorted we will probably head home. Jon I think might be looking for psychological help after the run of luck he's had.
Monday, December 8, 2008
As well as explaining what exactly is "British Style" and showing how Sir Ranulph Fiennes tried to kill me, I'll be giving the full story behind my war wounds picked up in Scotland. Hopefully see some of you there.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Thursday, December 4, 2008
The West Central Wall, for me the future of Scottish winter climbing. We attempted something new, climbing 60m before blank rock and gathering darkness nessitated running away. I'd love to go back and try again but the horror of what ensued on the descent will have to fade.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Sunday, November 9, 2008
OK with the rain washing away conditions here's some more psyche up for the winter conditions. This is my mini winter version of Jon Read's superb Grit List http://www.geocities.com/Yosemite/4755/climbing/gritlist/gritlist.html detailing all the routes (I can remember!) at grade IX and above in the UK. Elitest, of course it is, but hopefully inspiring. (Note the M grades are largely my guess)
Don't Die of Ignorance XI,11 Ben Nevis f.a Andy Cave, Simon Yates 1987. f.f.a Dave Macleod, Joe French 2008 repeats none.
Scotland's latest super route. 8 pitches in total but its really all about the first. A long overhanging well protected traverse culminating in desperate moves away from gear. The first free ascent took 6 attempts by Macleod who stuck to figuring out the sequences ground up despite a sizeable fall. In the region of M10. To get a real flavour of what's involved here's Macleod from his blog "The axe slid and jerked a centimetre. My heart missed a beat and the jolt nearly made me fall, my hand sliding down the upside down axe to the head and rolling onto three fingers. I dynamic match and kung fu allowed one foot to swing onto the wall to the right and up to the peg I got in on Friday. The vertical wall above was climbed in an utterly ‘go for broke’ style, axes ripping , dropping onto one hand and gasping with pump and shrieking for slack. All a bit full on."
The Hurting XI,11 Coire an T-Sneachdaf.a Dave Macleod 2005 repeats none
A summer E4 (supposedly very hard for the grade). Climbed in winter after abseil inspection, a scary fall from near the top on the first lead attempt, then further abseil inspection? before the successful lead. A very insecure vertical wall with rounded hooks and minimal gear leads to a flake and then a steeper finish with poor turf. The crucial gear is a rock zero. M9+/10 with possible ground fall and claimed as the worldest hardest winter trad route at the time. An onsight ascent would be a tour de force.
The Cathedral X,11 The Cobbler
f.a Dave Macleod 2004 repeats none
Scotland's steepest winter route, emerging from the cave left of Lobby Dosser. Multiple can opener moves and overhead heel toe jams seem to be the key to success, oh and a reasonable level of fitness. It's worth remembering that the first ascensionist was fresh from a repeat of the Swiss M12 Vertical Limit. One 30m pitch with good pro and perhaps M9/9+.
Frozen Sorrow X,10 Lochnagar
f.a Alan Mullin, Steve Lynch 2002 repeats none
Unsurprisingly considering who did the first ascent this climb proved pretty controversial. There were rumours of summer pre practice with ice axes and of the climb not being properly wintery enough (latter disproved when photos were published) and finally the route wasn't included in the latest guidebook as the route finishes in the middle of the wall. Nevertheless it looks an amazing piece of climbing. Running paralell to Mort on the Tough Brown Face with a wild crux section of roof climbing followed by thin ice and mixed. Given E3 6a in summer. A full ascent linking into Rolling Thunder awaits.
The Steeple IX,9 Shelter Stone
f.a Alan Mullin, Steve Paget 2 aid points 1999. repeats 1 f.f.a and f.o Pete Benson and Guy Robertson 2006
Tour de force first ascent by Mullin and the under-rated Paget named "Dawn to Dusk" and climbed in a 24 hour single push (much of that at night). Mullin used 2 nuts for aid starting the Steeple corner. The summer line was largely followed except for a variation around pitch 4. The second ascent was made entirely onsight in 12 hours although the first pitches of Postern and then the Needle were used as this was felt to be the most logical winter line - one of the best winter performances in Scotland to date.
Pic n' Mix IX,9 Coire an Lochain
f.a Tim Emmett, Ian Parnell 2006 repeats none
Climbed late in the season but with the tower heavily hoared. Filmed for the DVD Hard XS. On the first attempt, Emmett tokk a fall on pitch 1, and Parnell hampered by lots of digging took two falls and failed to finish the crux. The pair returned the following day with Parnell cleanly clibing pitch 1 and Emmett fighting through rope drag and high winds just managed the second pitch. Pitch 1 is VII 8/9 with one thin tough section, whilst the second crux pitch involves steep laybacking to a very technical and bold exit (a 40 footer if you muff the top). Filmed for the DVD Hard XS. M8.
Happy Tyroleans IX,10 Coire an Lochain
f.a Schranz, Netzer, Heinz Zak 2001 repeats 2 Dave Macleod, Tim Emmett
Climbed during one of the international meets after Alan Mullin pointed out his project to the Tyroleans. A couple of days later it wasn't his project anymore. Initially graded VII,9 probably because the visitors weren't too familiar with Scottish grades. Upgraded by Macleod, who came close to an onsight (falling off one of the last moves of the first pitch) although he still needed several more visits before he could make the coveted second ascent. Emmett's ascent was made on his second go after a slip halfway up the first pitch, and he linked the two pitches together. He reckoned a similar grade overall to Pic n' Mix. Perhaps M8 or M8+? Amazingly, considering its position, that it is well protected and that it's in condition regularly, it still awaits an onsight.Demon Direct IX,9 Coire an Lochain
f.a Alan Mullin, Steve Paget 2001 repeats 1 Dave Macleod (f.o)
Mullin returned shortly after the international meet of that year, where one of his projects had been nabbed to become Happy Tyroleans. This paralell line based on the summer E2 The Demon shares the same top pitch but with a bolder start that took Mullin several days of attempts. Macleod's onsight repeat came on a season where he climbed 3 grade IXs. The peg protecting the crux roof is rumoured to be in deteriorating condition. Prob M8.
Mort IX,9 Lochnagar
f.a Brian Davison, Dave McGimpsey, Andy Nisbet 2000 repeats none
A well known last great problem finally climbed by one of the UK's strongest and darkest horses. The history of attempts includes an extraordinary effort by Colin Maclean in 1985 who reached within 15m of easy ground. Attempts since had seen some monster falls Davison took a 20m fall on one attempt) and even one of Scotland's toughest campaigners reduced to tears in-extremis. Very run out, technical as well as strenuous Mort is felt to be the definitive grade IX. 2000 was an exceptionally icy season and conditions have never been close since, an onsight repeat remains probably the most coveted ascent in Scotland.
The Scent IX,8 Beinn a Bhuird
f.a Rich Cross, Guy Robertson 2007 repeats none
Two attempts were needed, the first retreating from nest of poor gear beneath a very thin ramp on pitch 2. Robertson "manned up" on the return describing the crux as "hard - very precarious, blind and rounded seams - and it didn't yield any pro at all for maybe 20ft....amongst the most committuing bits of climbing I've ever done." Gulp!
The Duel IX,9 Stob Coire nan Lochanf.a Rab Anderson, Dave Cuthbertson 1999 repeats 1 Dave Macleod, Alan Mullin (f.o)
Incredible perseverence by Anderson and Cuthbertson with over 7 attempts over several seasons before the successful ascent. Perhaps Scotland's first grade IX? A side runner was used on the initial bold section of the crux second pitch, although this was elminated on the onsight second ascent by Macleod. This pitch has also been onsighted by Es Tressider although the third pitch a grade 8 offwidth (big cams needed) wasn't climbed.
The Secret IX,9 Ben Nevisf.a Andy Turner, Steve Ashworth, Viv Scott 2007 (f.o). repeats 2 Ian Parnell, Mark Garthwaite, Guy Robertson. and Blair Fyffe and Tony Stone.
This much eyed crack-line fell to a very psyched Turner in thick early season hoar with very sustained can opener moves needed on the second cux pitch. Initially given X,10 and claimed as the hardest onsight first ascent in Scottish winter climbing. The repeat just over a month later in easier conditions brought the grade down a notch but the first ascent effort still rates amongst the best around. Good protection but thin, technical and strenuous on the crux. Probably M7+.
Defenders of the Faith IX,9 Creag Coire an Dothaidh
f.a Dave Macleod, Fiona Murray 2006 (f.o) repeats none
The first grade IX to be established ground up with a clean onsight. The long crux pitch involves a bold start leading to a roof and overhanging headwall. Needs turf to be frozen, thought to be M8+. One of Macleod's most impressive winter efforts.
Slochd Wall IX,9 Beinn a Bhuird
f.a Pete Benson, Guy Robertson 2008 repeats none
Latest addition by this powerful team. Climbs a summer HVS with a particularly bold lead required on the second pitch. Benson initially rested to excavate a crucial runner before lowering and and reclimbing the pitch to make the big runout through the crux overhang.
Guerdon Grooves IX,8 Glen Coe
f.a Dave Cubby Cuthbertson, Arthur Paul 1984 repeats none
Initially attempted by Al Rouse, then Cuthbertson and Paul, the latter pair returned to make a gripping ascent of this summer HVS in icy conditions. Serious with long runouts. Initially graded VII after several terrifying attempted repeats the current grade is a modern guessed re-assessment. Time will tell if this really was the first grade IX in Scotland by 15 years!
The Tempest M9 (X,9/10?) Stob Coire nan Lochan
f.a Neil Gresham 2001 repeats 1 Innes Deans
Logical Progression M9 (X,10?) Loch Vorlich
f.a Mark Garthwaite 1999 repeats 1 Dave Macleod
The first Scottish route to "overtly" use red point tactics in winter. As a result no traditional grade was given. This gently overhanging crack was worked with Neil Gresham who fell off some of the final moves on his best attempt. The gear was placed on abseil on the first ascent although on Macleod's repeat he placed the gear on lead (I think?).
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
The following day, Wednesday 29th there were a couple of parties heading in the Sneachda but we were alone again in Coire an Lochain. I had my eye on the incredible grooves of Number 1 buttress shared by Big Daddy (VII,8) and Daddy Longlegs (VIII,9). Perhaps it was early season wobbles but I managed to first drop my axe and then take a lob battling with a frozen friend and icy crack on the final roof of pitch 1. A brief attempt on the deeply hoared top cracks of Daddy Longlegs ended after only a few feet as my arm locked bent with cramp so I opted for the offwidth finish of Big Daddy. Thankfully easier than it looked. Incredible route but this must be the hardest grade VII in Scotland (it used to be g8iven VIII). Whilst things have warmed up a touch there should be plenty more fun to be had over the weekend and I imagine many other higher areas are also in good nick.
Jon at the top of Pitch 1 of Big Daddy.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Also worth mentioning is a show of mine this Saturday (1 nov) at Theatr Hafren in Newtown
More details here http://www.theatrhafren.com/whatson.htm
This will be much more expanded than my recent Vertigo shows with twice as many expeditions, images, stories, films, dirty bivis, falls, breaks and laughter. Should be good hopefully see some of you there at 7.45.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Dream conditions (2003 I think?) on Liathach, here's hoping this year....
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Andy Kirkpatrick on Fall Out Corner VI,7 one of the most lusted after mixed VIs.
Pete Benson knee barring his way up the first pitch of the Link Direct VIII,7 Lochnagar.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Babylon VII,8 high on Number 4 Gully walls is proving to be a pretty popular mixed challenge on Ben Nevis. It's probably had a dozen or more repeats now and combines the superb Gargoyle crux cracks with a delicate bold wall, an exciting overlap and a great top chimney. Highly recommended. This is a little more obscure. 30 minutes from the car Applecross's Sgurr a Chaorachain has a couple of excellent icefalls including this one Blade Runner IV,5. After this first pitch theres a very entertaining squeeze cave to finish. Thought I'd put this in as it captures that weary "that's the nth time Ive been dumped on with a load of spindrift" look. One that most winter climbers know all too well. Luckily its usually replaced after the climb with big grins especially when you get views like the following shot from close gto the summit of the Ben.