On the evening of Sunday January 22, Iain Small and I were planning to be at Glenmore Lodge for 7pm for the start of the BMC International Meet, so we were looking for a suitable nearby winter venue. Unfortunately the crags in the Northern Cairngorms were rumoured to be rather lean and black, so we wondered about venues further west. It had been warm in Glen Coe on Saturday, but at least it had snowed a little, so we settled on Meagaidh as a compromise somewhere in the middle that may have held on to a little of the cold as well as catching a little snow.
The weather was awful on Saturday night and the car was rocked by the wind, and by morning it was raining and not looking very hopeful. But you never know with the Scottish winter game, so we shouldered our packs and headed off towards the Inner Corrie. I hadn’t climbed up there for years, but I remembered an unclimbed wall and the possibility of a new mixed climb.
Two hours later we were peering up through the blowing snow at the impending right wall of Crescent Gully. It looked far more difficult than I remembered, but with nothing to lose, I started leading up the steep first pitch. The protection was spaced, the climbing was steeper than it appeared from below, and before too long the ropes were hanging free below me. But at least it was classic turfy winter climbing and after 50m I was at the halfway ledge staring up at a crack that pierced the centre of the headwall through multiple overhangs.
Even Iain hummed and hawed when he came up to the stance and studied the pitch, but once he set off, both hooks and runners kept appearing. After a pumpy wall, the crux roof entailed a huge bridge to the only foothold far on the left. Soon it was my turn, and I struggled through the crux with the sack tugging behind me, leaving a straightforward mixed pitch up the crest of the upper buttress to the plateau.
I first noticed this line nearly 20 years ago when I was taking crag photos for the 1994 Ben Nevis guide. I noted the possibility of the route at the time and wrote, “Two hard pitches. Looks steep. Probably Grade V.” Two decades later, with the route finally in the bag, we felt VII,8 was a more realistic estimate!