Silver Threads Among The Gold

Henning Wackerhage moving up to the turfy headwall of Silver Threads Among The Gold (IV,5) on the first ascent. This four-pitch mixed route is located in Coire Farchal which lies just east of Winter Corrie on Driesh. (Archive Photo Simon Richardson)

Henning Wackerhage moving up to the turfy headwall of Silver Threads Among the Gold (IV,5) on the first ascent. This 150m-long mixed route is located in Coire Farchal which lies just south of Winter Corrie on Driesh. (Archive Photo Simon Richardson)

Last week’s thaw never made it as far as the North-East of Scotland. I know this only too well as I fell off my bike twice whilst cycling to work on icy roads. As a result, Glen Clova was a good choice on Saturday December 20, and the cliffs were surprisingly wintry and white with fresh snow.

The most significant event was the first Wackerhage-free ascent of Silver Threads Among the Gold (IV,5) in Coire Farchal by Martin Holland, Ian McIntosh and Sharon Wright. Henning Wackerhage has climbed this route twice since making the first ascent in March 2013, and has established it as a good early season option. “There are plenty of chimneys, technical walls, a cave and some variation,” Henning recounted on his blog after this season’s ascent. “It is arguably the best buttress climb in the Angus Glens.” The route certainly has one of the most evocative names in the area, courtesy of fellow first ascensionist Tim Chappell.

Martin, Ian and Sharon added an alternative start up the short corner directly below the cliff, but were unable to climb the headwall due to an unusually deep layer of crusty snow, so they sensibly traversed right and finished up the top section of Pearls Before Swine.

The same day, I climbed a short Grade III buttress in Coire Bonhard with my son Ben. Recording of routes in this corrie has been a little haphazard over the years, but even so, I was a little surprised to find a skilfully placed knotted sling and karabiner at the top of our first pitch that looked as though it had been used for retreat. It was possibly a relic from the first ascent of Bonhard Buttress (IV,4) by S.Cameron and A.Thomson in 1992, but their description in SMCJ 2008 is rather vague. Andy Nisbet helpfully sent me the photo that accompanied the description, but I’ve had difficulty in relating it to the crag itself.

So if anyone knows the origin of the knotted sling, or the location of Bonhard Buttress, then please get in touch.

About Simon Richardson

Simon Richardson is a passionate Scottish winter climber
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6 Responses to Silver Threads Among The Gold

  1. Sophie G. says:

    Wow. I didn’t know it was actually possible to climb this route without Henning. Certainly I’ve never tried 🙂

  2. graeme gatherer says:

    I know Tam (A.Thomson). Will give him a shout and maybe he can shed some light…

  3. Alex (TAM) Thomson says:

    Hi Simon
    I was on the first winter ascent off Bonhard Buttress. We climbed the buttress to the right of the gully called Choke-stone Gully, in 2 pitches. We didn’t leave any gear on the ascent. A few of us from Forfar have climbed various lines futher right grades varing from II to III. Was also interested in the line in Farchal as I was on the first ascent of the obvious gully line in the center. Farchal Gully, we were trying out snow holing in the corrie befor we climbed it. I have a picture of Bonhard buttress line somewhere. Would be interested in seeing a topo of the lines in Farchal I’ve got a line in mind but may have been done in recent spate of activity. There are still some good lines in Clova to be done.

    • Simon Richardson says:

      Many thanks Tam. I know exactly where Bonhard Buttress goes now and can relate it to the photo (yours) that Andy sent me. It looks a good steep route up a nice feature. Sorry, I’d forgotten that you made the first ascent of Farchal Gully. I climbed it a couple of winters ago and really enjoyed it. I was very pleased to do it as I’d been watching it for ten years or so and had never seen it form over the barrier slabs. It’s certainly the line of the corrie. There are ten routes there now – and yes, I must draw a topo – coming soon! Thanks again for your help. Best Wishes Simon

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