When Guy Robertson texted me earlier this week asking for Henning Wackerhage’s contact details, I knew it could be to ask about only one thing. The heavy snowfall last week, followed by the weekend’s mini thaw, had set up Creag an Dubh Loch beautifully for winter climbing, and two seasons ago Henning had uncovered a potential spectacular finish to the ultra-classic Vertigo Wall.
Guy visited the cliff with Greg Boswell on December 11, and the result was Vapouriser (VIII,8), a stunning five-pitch icy mixed line cutting up directly through Vertigo Wall, taking part of Henning’s More Vertigo Finish, before finishing up the obvious right-trending slot above the headwall.
“We had slept in and we were late,” Guy explains on his blog.” On snouting the mouth of the Dubh Loch’s Central Gully we saw a team of three climbers ensconsed directly below our target. One of them was racked up and already setting to work. But closer inspection revealed they were not for exploring the scintillating trail of overhanging ice vapours swirling upwards behind them. And at that very moment our hearts skipped, the air around us crackled with anticipation and the wheels of fate ground slowly into motion.
Eight hours later, perched high on a little diving board platform, 100m of perfectly still dark vapour space sat silent below me. As Greg cleared away deep snow for the final belay, putting the finishing touches to one of Scotland’s great routes, my torch light illuminated a steady plume of sparkling spindrift diamonds falling away out into the night behind me.”
Make no mistake – first ascents of Scottish ice routes of this quality and difficulty are extremely rare. “Suffice to say that I’d put this up there with routes like Minus One Direct and Extasy for sheer quality,” Guy told me. “It is undoubtedly one of the best icy mixed routes in Scotland. The climbing was an exquisite combination of thin ice and steep rock, with a distinctly cerebral element throughout – there simply are not enough adjectives to describe how good this route is – the exposure on the top pitch was quite ludicrous!