Echo Crack – First Winter Ascent

Stuart McFarlane making the first winter ascent of Echo Crack (VI,7) on the North Peak of The Cobbler. This 40m-long summer Hard Severe is situated halfway up North Peak, and similar to other winter routes on this south-facing cliff, it needs to be climbed when conditions are cloudy or before the sun starts to strip the cliff completely of snow. (Photo John Williams)

Conditions on Friday December 7 were challenging across the Scottish Highlands with deep snow making approaches to many cliffs difficult and potentially dangerous. Stuart McFarlane and John Williams seized the opportunity of the snowy conditions however, to make a brilliantly timed first winter ascent of Echo Crack on The Cobbler.

“We started up pitch one of Incubator (via the winter variation) and belayed on a large ledge at the base of the second pitch of Incubator and Echo Crack,” Stuart told me.

“We started climbing at 8am when the sun was low in the sky and behind a band of clouds. I knew that the pitch above would strip fast, as soon as the sun hit it, so speed was the essence. I started up Echo Crack as the sun was starting to strip Whether Wall.  The last wide crack provided the crux of the route complete with hand jams, arm bars, can-opener torques, pulling out onto frozen turf and a thank god deep crack! We stood on top the North Peak, in a biting wind at 12pm.

I had tried this route previously with Ian Dempter (about 5 years ago), on an overcast and lightly snowing day. The route was completely hoared in a strong SE Wind, but I gained the base of the wide crack, with no suitably sized gear. After much searching, I [reluctantly] finished out and left up Ramshead Gully. Not to mention, I had to pick my boys up from child-minder in Saltcoats at 4pm!”

About Simon Richardson

Simon Richardson is a passionate Scottish winter climber
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