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    Greg Boswell on the crux pitch of Range War (X,10) on Creag and Dubh Loch. This was the second on-sight Grade X led by Greg in the space of four days and is a significant event in the history of Scottish winter climbing. (Photo Guy Robertson)

    Greg Boswell on the crux pitch of Range War (X,10) on Creag and Dubh Loch. This was the second on-sight Grade X led by Greg in the space of four days and is a significant event in the history of Scottish winter climbing. (Photo Guy Robertson)

    The 100m-high Broad Terrace Wall on Creag an Dubh Loch is one of the most awe-inspiring cliffs in Scotland. It is situated above a steep lower wall and all the routes are sensationally exposed. It overhangs for much of its height, but the angle tips back considerably the wrong side of vertical between the lines of Sword of Damocles and Culloden. In summer this section is breached by two mythical climbs – Flodden (E6) and Range War (E4). Both routes are rarely climbed, but Flodden is slightly cleaner and sees occasional ascents when the cliff is dry. Range War is the steepest line, but unfortunately the first pitch is very vegetated and the route has only been visited a handful of times since its first ascent by Kenny Spence and Duncan McCallum in July 1983. It had been noted however as a possible futuristic winter line.

    Over the last three seasons Greg Bowell made a winter ascent of Range War one of his prime objectives. He made the long approach into Dubh Loch seven times to recce or attempt the route, but it was only in condition on one of these occasions, and then it was thawing fast. Finally on January 22 the stars aligned, and Greg and Guy Robertson made a tough approach through deep crusty snow to find the cliff hoared up and dripping with icicles and frozen turf.

    The pair decided to climb an alternative start to the left of original summer line, so Guy led a long and sustained pitch up steep turf and a series of overhanging capped corners to the Grass Balcony, a welcome ledge in a sea of overhanging rock. (This pitch was climbed last season by Doug and Uisdean Hawthorn). Greg then prepared himself for the daunting 35m-long overhanging crux pitch that is graded 6a in summer. After his outstanding lead of The Greatest Show on Earth just three days before, Greg was initially unsure whether he had the physical and mental strength to make the lead.

    “I started up with every move nudging my thoughts into the correct headspace, and found myself enjoying every second of the experience’” Greg wrote on his blog. “I composed myself and tried not to let the technical torques and moves get one arm more pumped than the other. I continued up and then the pump started to sneak in. I was shaking and looking for the next move, shaking and looking, this process went on until I decided to charge for the niche that looked like it would be home to a nice comfortable rest. Unfortunately this wasn’t to be. The route’s steepness was deceptive and although the niche wasn’t as steep as the lower wall, it was still very overhanging. I fought to get some gear in and try and de-pump my now burning forearms. Deep Egyptians and contortions were tried to relieve my arms, and finally, once I had scoped what looked like the way to sanctuary, I powered on through the steep capping roof of the niche to gain a wild and astonishingly exposed position on the overhanging arête. Hundreds of meters of cliff dropping away below me with nothing but air between me and the corrie floor. This is a memory that will last a lifetime!”

    Greg had climbed the crux, but the pitch was still far from over.

    “After that it was out onto and over the ice-capped overlap and into a position below another steep ice smothered bulge. At this point the head games had returned, I really didn’t want to blow it at this point, but the next section of climbing was not too hard but very off balance. With only a turf hook half hammered into the capping ice, as there wasn’t enough for screws (which we did remember this time), I had thoughts of fluffing it and taking the ride into the exposure in the back of my head as I committed. Eventually I gained easier ground and the comfort of the ice cave where I belayed and took in the exposure in a more comfortable state.”

    Guy followed and led the top pitch on thick bulging alpine style ice to the top.

    Greg contacted me the following day. “Scotland has gone and worked its magic again,” he said. “Another outstanding route went down yesterday. Three years I’ve been wanting this one, and it was worth waiting for and all the unsuccessful walk-ins. Breath-taking and possibly up there as one of the best pitches I’ve ever done!”

    Greg and Guy gave Range War (Winter Variation) the same grade as The Greatest Show on Earth at X,10. Two new Grade Xs in the space of four days significantly raises the bar, and in response, the small but tight-knit world of Scottish winter climbing world has collectively gasped in astonishment.

    Guy Robertson leading the first pitch of The Greatest Show on Earth (X,10) on Cul Mor during the first ascent. The route continues up the wall above starting from the small ice smear up and left of Guy’s head. The route goes into Scottish winter climbing history as the first on sight of a new Grade X. (Photo Greg Boswell)

    Guy Robertson leading the first pitch of The Greatest Show on Earth (X,10) on Cul Mor during the first ascent. The route continues up the wall above starting from the small ice smear up and left of Guy’s head. The route goes into Scottish winter climbing history as the first on sight of a new Grade X. (Photo Greg Boswell)

    Greg Boswell and Guy Robertson pulled off a remarkable coup yesterday (January 19) when they made the first ascent The Greatest Show on Earth (X,10). This awe-inspiring route takes the huge blank wall on the right side of Coire Gorm on the north face of Cul Mor in Coigach. North-West climbers had been eyeing up this imposing wall for the last 20 years, but defended by a large overhang and plum vertical above, it was clearly a route for the next generation.

    Guy led the first pitch, a steep icefall leading to a small terrace below the overhang, before handing over to Greg who then pulled out the lead of his life. Greg is no stranger to big and bold leads but this pitch stretched Greg to the max. A vertical ice pillar led to the start of the roof that was protected by a couple of inverted Bulldogs and a poor cam. After several attempts Greg pulled through the roof and set off up the impending wall above, climbing further and further above his poor protection.

    “Once I was fully committed and beyond the point of no return, the big fall and dodgy gear left my thoughts completely,” Greg explained on his blog. “I got a little flustered when I couldn’t see a way above the roof and my only axe placement in a thin smear started to slip, but I was committed now, so I had to force myself to calm down. I looked around, took some deep breaths and opted for some very powerful and dynamic moves to get myself out of that situation. Unfortunately all it did was take me further away from my so-called gear and into some of the boldest and most technically difficult moves on marginal placements that I’ve done… I rocked up over the lip of the roof on the tiniest of footholds, praying that it didn’t blow off, and eventually found myself in a semi rest but very off balance position. I struggled to hammer in and clip a turf hook, which surprisingly felt like I’d just clipped a bolt, as long as I didn’t rip the turf off the wall… After composing myself again, I slowly teetered upwards and finally felt the addictive rush of joy you get when you know you’ve basically just gone all or nothing and managed to scrape through by the skin of your teeth!”

    Above, a couple of easier but excellent icy mixed pitches, led to 100m of easier ground that the pair soloed to the top. The Greatest Show on Earth was graded X,10 and put to bed a well-known Northern Highlands last great problem. But more significantly, this was the first time a new Grade X had been climbed on sight. Nick Bullock’s lead of the crux pitch of Nevermore in 2013 hinted that this breakthrough was not far away, and Greg’s outstanding performance on Cul Mor has now made it a reality.

    The Greatest Show on Earth is a milestone in the development of Scottish winter climbing. I suggested to Greg that his feet could have hardly left the ground since climbing the route. “You’re right there mate,” Greg replied. “Apart from feeling a little tired, I’m on Cloud Nine!”

    Looking north-east to Slioch with Atlantic Wall forming the left skyline. The wall itself is 250m high and the adjoining ridge a further 200m. Over 450m elevation gain is required to reach the summit making the winter routes on Slioch amongst the longest in the British Isles. (Photo Simon Richardson)

    Looking north-east to Slioch with the impressive Atlantic Wall forming the left skyline. The wall itself is 250m high and the adjoining ridge a further 200m. Over 450m elevation gain is required to reach the summit (the most feasible descent) making the winter routes on Slioch amongst the longest in the British Isles. (Photo Simon Richardson)

    When Cold Climbs was published in 1983, the first two chapters on Beinn Bhan and the Fainnaichs were a revelation. These areas were terra incognita for most Scottish climbers at the time, and they launched a multitude of dreams as keen winter climbers began to expand their horizons from Ben Nevis, Glen Coe and the Cairngorms.

    Thirty years on and the publication of The Great Mountain Crags of Scotland is having a similar effect. Roger Webb’s inspiring chapter on Slioch’s Atlantic Wall has intrigued many, and it was clearly not going to be long before the cliff saw some attention this winter. Before this season, Skyline Highway was the only winter route on the wall to have seen a repeat.

    On Saturday January 17, Erick Baillot and Rob Bryniarski repeated The Sea, The Sea (VII,7) the plum line up the centre of the face. This Roger Webb-Neil Wilson creation stems back to March 1996.

    “These were the best conditions I’ve ever seen on a sandstone crag,” Erick told me. “The turf was frozen solid, there was ice forming in lots of places and there was a solid blanket of snow from 400m. We linked a lot of pitches. I led pitches 2, 3 and 4, and linked pitch 6 and the 40m groove above to give a full 60m. Rob led on and we climbed 80m of easier mixed ground moving together and we still finished [the lower wall] in the dark. By then a strong south-westerly wind had picked up and we were battered by graupel. We went up to the summit via the incredibly long upper ridge and descended by the bealach between the two summits. The crag is amazing and I will go back to it despite being such a big day (we were 15 hours car to car).”

    I think Erick and Rob’s ascent was impressively quick. When I last climbed on Atlantic Wall Roger and I arrived back at the car after a 16-hour trip and Roger commented that this was the first time he’d ever climbed on Slioch and returned the same day he set off!

    Twerking

    Jonathan Preston on the first ascent of Twerk (V,5) in Coire nan Eun deep in the Fannaichs. This little known cliff on the north side of An Coileachan has probably been visited only half a dozen times. (Photo Andy Nisbet)

    Jonathan Preston on the first ascent of Twerk (V,5) in Coire nan Eun deep in the Fannaichs. This little known cliff on the north side of An Coileachan has probably been visited only half a dozen times. (Photo Andy Nisbet)

    The continuous run of stormy weather this winter has made choosing a venue and selecting an appropriate route particularly challenging. As ever, Andy Nisbet has consistently demonstrated the knack of being in the right place at the right time. Take this recent example from the Fannaichs:

    “The winter of 1994 was one of the great ice years that regularly happen every seven or eight years (1979, 1986, 1994, 2002, 2010, 2017),” Andy writes. “I climbed a lot in Coire Ghranda (Beinn Dearg) that year and returning to the car, I kept seeing white streaks on a distant cliff in the Fannaichs. On the last weekend before the weather turned mild, I decided to visit and approached along the route I had been watching, a long way from the Ullapool road. One reason for going that way is that I wasn’t really sure where the cliff was, so it seemed to make sense keeping it in view on the approach. For once the white streaks did turn out to be ice, and I had a great day (in retrospect) scaring myself on routes I shouldn’t really have soloed, the justification being that the ice was a once in a lifetime chance.

    I didn’t really expect anyone else to go there, but several parties did, culminating in what must have been a great day when Erik Brunskill and Dafydd Morris climbed the hard and serious Slam (VI,6) and followed it with Feral Buttress, one of the steepest Grade IIIs in Scotland. There is my speculation that they did it after Slam and were on such a high that they didn’t notice the hard bits. They also cycled in from Grudie, which did seem much more sensible.

    Twenty years after my first visit, the feeling that any day there would be an anti-climax had worn off, so I walked under the cliff on a Fannaichs Munro bagging trip. It’s not very big, but turfy, north facing and with a couple of possible lines all fitted the bill for a visit. Sandy Allan and I sat in the layby on a warmish day in February 2014, hummed and hawed for a while, then decided to go home. Much later in the year (December 28), Jonathan Preston and I were thinking of somewhere to go, and it seemed to fit the bill.

    The cycling road turned out to be quite icy and the weather turned out to be mistier than the forecast had said. It’s not the easiest cliff to approach, with a narrow terrace across a very steep hillside only being shown on the 1:25000 map and not on the 1:50000, and it was very white up there. I cursed not setting my altimeter when we ended up wading around in deep snow on a small ledge, which ended in nothing. Some backtracking and a second attempt higher up luckily turned out to be correct.

    The cliff was rather plastered in snow but we still decided to try the harder line on the far right. We soon found out that the snow had rather insulated the turf, and as I struggled up the first pitch, I began to remember that Erik had tried a line somewhere near and backed off due to lack of gear. I presume we were trying an easier line because I did reach a big ledge below some very steep and smooth ground. Jonathan was tempted to give it a go, but I persuaded him to climb a turfy ramp off to the right. It clearly wasn’t easy as he disappeared out of sight, but then reappeared directly above my head waving with enthusiasm; obviously he’d cracked it. The last pitch turned out to be much easier than it looked from below, helped by the turf being exposed and well frozen. We called it Twerk (V,5), nothing to do with Jonathan’s climbing style.

    A week later (January 4) it was warmer but the turf had been frozen on Lurcher’s Crag the day before. The temptation of a clear road was enough for a return to the easier line. This time Jonathan took his GPS to find the approach terrace and we reached the crag quickly. This line was on the left of the East Buttress and the ice on the first pitch was much thicker than on the first visit. It was still a bit smeary and ended in bottomless soggy sphagnum moss. Jonathan’s pitch was more technical and took a slightly twisting line up steep turfy ground. The weather was warming all the time so the descent was very boggy, but we even got home in daylight. The route was named Twist (III,4).”

    Shangri-La

    Jonathan Preston moving along the horizontal section at the top of El Dorado (III,5) on Lurcher’s Crag on Cairn Gorm during the first ascent. The great defile of the Larig Ghru and the cliffs of Sron na Lairige can be seen behind. (Photo Andy Nisbet)

    Jonathan Preston moving along the horizontal section at the top of El Dorado (III,5) on Lurcher’s Crag on Cairn Gorm during the first ascent. The great defile of the Lairig Ghru and the cliffs of Sron na Lairige can be seen behind. (Photo Andy Nisbet)

    “Shangri-La might be overstating it a bit, but an overlooked section of crag on a very accessible cliff is my idea of a revelation’” Andy Nisbet writes. “One wild and warm day in December (there were a few of those!), I was after some exercise and looked at a picture of Lurcher’s Crag. All the good lines had been done but I was only after some exercise, so what about the upper crag left of Central Gully? No routes, so why not go there?

    Arriving at the Cairn Gorm car park mid-morning, the weather was as unpleasant as I had thought. But there was only me, so I could just go as far as I wanted. The advantage of being late is that there was a trail through deep wet snow to ‘Lurcher’s Ridge’, and then it wasn’t far to the crag. The wind was a howling westerly but there was the usual shelter in the vortex on the summit. And there wasn’t any snow on the crag, or even in Central Gully. But once you’ve left the car, turning back is a waste of effort, so I put crampons on and descended into the maelstrom. The aim was to get back up as quickly as possible so I took the first ledge on to the crag and zigzagged my way up to reach the top with some relief. Back out of the gale, I actually thought the climbing was OK and it would make a reasonable winter route.

    Forwarding a month or so to January 3, the weather had just turned cold but had still to settle down (will it ever?) so I suggested the crag to Jonathan Preston as a handy place to go, and he agreed with surprising enthusiasm. Even as we descended into Central Gully with the usual upward gale, then traversed out to the start of the route, he still continued enthusiastically out to a crest beyond and told me there was loads of turfy crag below. This did rather puzzle me, but I was focussed on the line above, so I called him back and set off. Now with a rope, I took an overlap direct and on the second pitch, Jonathan climbed a direct groove to very much improve the line (it was Grade III,4).

    That was quick, so why not investigate the turfy ground below, and try to link up with the crest on the left. This time we had to descend further and bypass the crux pitch of Central Gully (which you can do on the left, looking down). Coming back under the pitch, it was surprisingly icy, certainly thick enough to climb and nicely soft with water trickling down, but I doubt wet ice screws would have held. Fortunately we didn’t have to decide, but needed to investigate a lot of rock beneath our first route. Our first excited impression of ice smeared crack-lines soon mellowed when reality kicked in and actually they were steep, smooth and blind.

    We moved on to an icy corner which looked more reasonable, and then a deep V-groove which was hidden until underneath and looked quite easy. It turned out to be much better and steeper than it looked. The back was well iced but squeezed in there with your axes in the ice, it turned out to be very hard to step up or even see your feet (not helped by snow blowing up your nostrils and me being long-sighted anyway). Pulling harder than permitted by good style seemed to work and led to easy ground with another slabby tier above, this time with blobs of turf and definitely no hard pulling. Jonathan soon reached his footsteps from the earlier recce and continued up the crest for a long pitch. The finish was easier but we decided on IV,4 overall. We called it Shangri-La, and the first route Beyul.

    We couldn’t leave when there was another line, this time right of our first route and overlooking the top of Central Gully. The first pitch was fairly easy but the second had two short overhanging sections, both on amazing hooks round chokestones, finishing on a horizontal crest (III,5). We called it the last on the theme, El Dorado.

    The nice thing about local climbing is that you get down in daylight, and without a rush.”

    Jenny Hill climbing the chimney on the first ascent of Age is Only a Number (III,4) in Corrie Farchal. There are now over a dozen routes in this esily accessible corrie in Glen Clova. (Photo Alex Thomson)

    Jenny Hill climbing the spectacular chimney on the first ascent of Age is Only a Number (III,4) in Corrie Farchal. There are now over a dozen routes in this easily accessible corrie in Glen Clova. (Photo Alex Thomson)

    When I enquired about Bonhard Buttress in Glen Clova last month, Alex (Tam) Thomson replied to me with details about the first ascent. I was delighted to hear from Tam, as he is something of a Glen Clova pioneer and made the first ascent of Farchal Gully in February 1980 with Ian Shepherd. For nearly 30 years this was the only (recorded) route in Corrie Farchal, but the crux runs over blank slabs and is rarely iced. I’d been watching the route myself for the past ten seasons or so and finally climbed it in March 2013. Corrie Farchal has been unusually snowy this year, and Farchal Gully received another ascent in December. I doubt it has seen many other visits despite being such a prominent line.

    Tam visited Corrie Farchal on January 4 with Jenny Hill made the first ascent the steep buttress high on the right side of the cliff. Age is Only a Number (III,4) takes a ramp and chimney and finishes with a exposed traverse and a steep corner. Tam first spotted the line March 2012. “I’d just climbed Central Gully in Winter Corrie and thought I would pop over and have a look at Farchal Gully and the possibilities for new lines,” Tam told me. “Farchal was a bit thin for soloing so I followed the ramp line up right, and that’s when I spotted the corner and chimney. I skirted further right and followed the snow line up, then back left onto the flat area to look down on the line. I could see the chimney exit and the line coming up to where I stood. The wall above with its leftward lines, looked like the best way to finish the route. So a mental note was made to come back and do it. Hearing that there was activity in the corrie was nagging at me to get back and do the route, but it still took nearly three years to get there!”

    Elsewhere in the corrie, Sophie Grace Chappell, Ben Richardson and myself added Over the Hill (IV,4) on December 28. This route takes the natural line of weakness between Brains Before Brawn and Elder Crack Buttress, and is notable for an undercut slot that was considerably eased with a good coating of ice and a convenient snow cone at its base. Rarely is nature so accommodating!

    Finally, on January 3, Martin Holland Ian McIntosh added another Direct Start to Silver Threads Among The Gold. “It’s short and the difficulties are in the first few moves, but it’s much more in keeping with the climbing above,” Martin explained. “We had the usual grade debate and settled on IV,6.” Wilf and Mac then continued up Pearls Before Swine before finishing up the headwall of Silver Threads Among the Gold, which they had missed the previous time when they made the fourth ascent.

    Roger Webb finishing the crux pitch of Tenterhooks (VII,8) on Ben Nevis during the first ascent. This steep icy mixed climb takes the steep wall between Central Rib Direct and Tinkerbell Direct of Creag Coire na Ciase. (Photo Simon Richardson)

    Roger Webb nearing the top of the crux pitch of Tenterhooks (VII,8) on Ben Nevis during the first ascent. This steep icy mixed climb takes the wall between Central Rib Direct and Tinkerbell Direct on Creag Coire na Ciste. (Photo Simon Richardson)

    Choosing where to climb this weekend was a tough call after the devastating New Year thaw. With temperatures only dropping on Friday, it was difficult to figure out how much it had snowed, and where, and whether the turf had re-frozen. In the end, Roger Webb and I opted for the failsafe option and visited Ben Nevis on Saturday January 3. We were hoping that the thaw had left sufficient snow on ledges and flat holds to bring in an icy mixed possibility in the Tinkerbell area of Creag Coire na Ciste.

    We were second into the corrie following behind the welcome footsteps of James Richardson, Andy Munro and Helen Rennard who were heading for The Comb. As the daylight broke it was clear that high up, the mountain was icy and frozen hard, and tell-tale streaks and blobs of white on our objective looked encouraging. An pleasant icy gully leading through the lower tier warmed us up for the first pitch that climbed a mixed wall before joining the upper section of the intial icy groove of Tinkerbell.

    Our line then went left onto the impressive wall to the right of Central Rib. This wall overhangs for much of its height but is cut by a tapering ramp that leads into its centre. Unfortunately the ramp disappears and the way is blocked by an undercut monolithic block. The plan was climb the ramp, hand traverse the block and then climb the vertical groove above that leads into a parallel ice line left of Tinkerbell.

    The ramp was reassuringly icy, but it was clear that hand traversing the monolithic block was going to be a non-starter (for me at least). After a lot of hesitation I hooked a high flat hold on the wall above, stepped up on a small rounded nick and precariously stood on top of the block. The wall above was overhanging and pushing me out and the only way to get back into balance was to kneel on the block. I urgently needed a placement to lower myself down but there was nothing. I contemplated falling and catching the block as I went past, but eventually I found the tiniest of hooks and lowered myself down, first one knee and then two.

    I could now see round the block and into the groove but the view was not good. A steep overhanging wall barred entry to the groove and there was no protection in sight. Eventually I dropped down to the left, changed feet on the tiniest of footholds, hooked a poor edge and bridged up sloping icy dimples to gain the foot of the groove. I was now a long way above my last gear, and my tools were starting to rip. There was nothing for it but make, one, two, three, four, five moves on the most tenuous of placements. One slip and I would have been off. Eventually my right tool sank into a centimetre-deep crack and vibrated. My heart sang. One final pull took me out of the groove onto easier ground.

    By the time Roger came up it was dark, but he made short work of the final icy groove and led all the way to the top. The plateau was bathed in beautiful moonlight. It felt late but was only about 6pm, and made all the more sociable by bumping into James, Andy and Helen after their fine ascent of Tower Face of the Comb.

    Pete Macpherson on the first ascent of Imperturbable (IV,5) on the South-West Face of Cona Mheall in the North-West Highlands. Cona Mheall is the mild-mannered cliff facing the steep and demanding Upper Crag of Beinn Dearg on the west side of Coire Ghranda. (Photo Roger Webb)

    Pete Macpherson on the first ascent of Imperturbable (IV,6) on the South-West Face of Cona Mheall in the North-West Highlands. This the mild-mannered cliff faces the steep and demanding Upper Crag of Beinn Dearg on the west side of Coire Ghranda. (Photo Roger Webb)

    Roger Webb, Neil Wilson and Pete Macpherson visited Cona Mheall on December 28. “It’s a good looking crag, but none of us had been there before,” Roger explained. “It was cold and overcast, so despite being south facing we thought it would probably be in condition. Neil broke trail, Pete led the hard bits and I supervised. The crag lived up to expectations, but the weather did not, being more grisly than forecast.

    We did a rather good 100m-long IV,6 that we called Imperturbable after Neil’s total lack of reaction to being avalanched on the way in. Pete and I were very perturbed watching him go but Neil simply continued the ongoing conversation some 50m or so lower down the hill. This crag is a very good place to go to see the wilds of Coire Ghranda without the grim foreboding (route name for you Guy) of the Beinn Dearg side. The existing routes (all three of them) look excellent. In particular Twisted Rib III,4 (Robertson brothers and Jason Currie 1998) should be on the list of anyone who is looking for a great but not too desperate day in a spectacular and lonely spot.”

    The line of Tried and Tested (VII,7) on Stob Coire nan Lochan in Glen Coe. This sustained three-pitch route was described at being “at the sporty end of its grade.” (Photo Andy Nelson)

    The line of Tried and Tested (VII,7) on Stob Coire nan Lochan in Glen Coe. This sustained three-pitch route was described at being “at the sporty end of its grade.” (Photo Andy Nelson)

    Andy Nelson, Kenny Grant and Keith Ball added an excellent mixed route to Central Buttress on Stob Coire nan Lochan on December 29. “We climbed the chimney-corner formed by the spur of Central Buttress and the wall of Satyr at VII,7,” Andy told me.

    “Steep turf led to cracks and thence a squeeze chimney. The chimney was brilliant thrutchy fare after the strenuous, technical climbing up the initial corner. The chimney will certainly present an impasse to the larger gentleman (or lady for that matter)! The second pitch worked left to gain the steep hanging groove by a tricky move across a wall. The groove was excellent and airy, with some burly pulling! The third pitch climbed a short steep wall to trend right to join Central Buttress, Ordinary Route. We think it deserves a couple of stars for the excellent and varied climbing.”

    Andy can lay claim to being something of a guru on this part of Stob Coire as he made the first winter ascent of Satyr (IX,9) with Donald King in December 2010. Four years on, this still rates as one of the most difficult winter routes in Glen Coe.

    Uisdean Hawthorn and Murdoch Jamieson making the second ascent of Boggle (VIII,8) on Beinn Eighe’s Eastern Ramparts. (Photo Mairi Ri Hawthorn)

    Uisdean Hawthorn and Murdoch Jamieson making the second ascent of Boggle (VIII,8) on Beinn Eighe’s Eastern Ramparts. (Photo Mairi Ri Hawthorn)

    When I saw Mairi Ri’s beautiful photo of Uisdean Hawthorn and Murdoch Jamieson repeating Boggle (VIII,8) on December 26 I wanted to put it on scottishwinter.com as soon as possible. But Uisdean has been so busy on the hill I only caught up with him today. Boggle only saw its first winter ascent in the hands of Martin Moran and Robin Thomas less than two weeks before, so this is an unusually quick repeat of a major route.

    “Boggle is a really good route, particularly the top two pitches,” Uisdean told me. “It’s steep and sustained, but positive climbing and good gear. I can see it becoming really popular. We even managed to get back to the car just before darkness. Thanks to Murdo dispatching the long hard middle pitch in under an hour!”

    Uisdean drove home to Glenelg that night, and next day he linked up with Callum Johnson and climbed Point Five Gully on the Ben. Uisdean’s father Doug was also on Ben Nevis that day, and back at the CIC Hut he showed the pair some misty photos of the Little Brenva Face that showed that the icefall of Super G (VI,6) was possibly formed. This ephemeral route has probably not had a second ascent since it was first climbed by Hannah Burrows-Smith and Dave McGimpsey in March 2002. “So on Sunday morning (December 28) we took the chance of soloing up to the bottom to see if it was in,” Uisdean explained. “When we got there we thought it looked thin but just climbable so we climbed it in two fantastic 60 metre ice pitches leaving us grinning from ear to ear at the top of North-East Buttress. We climbed Zero Gully this morning as Callum had to catch the ferry to Arran, to finish a fantastic four days climbing!”