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.
Interesting to see all the new activity in Glen Clova, particularly in Corrie Farchal. Back in the 60’s & early 70’s there was also a lot of exploration activity in and around the Glen, in Winter Corrie, Corrie Farchal, Corrie Bonhard, Craig Maud etc and of course Corrie Fee (both Summer & Winter). Many of these climbs were never officially recorded as the lines were generally relatively short and broken but never the less quite technical and sporting. This was really due to the fact that Clova was not considered a major climbing area, it was considered more for training and a good day out. Clova was also easily accessible from the east and Dundee in particular. For example, a good day out in Clova in the late 60’s was “Look C, & B Gully Chimney”. That gave about 250m of good sustained III-IV ice (Often on fragile ice conditions).
Keep having fun…….
Hi Graeme – Many thanks for your comment. I think everyone playing this game implicitly understands that any ‘first ascent’ can only ever be a ‘first recorded ascent’. This is particularly so in Glen Clova where there is clearly a lot of unrecorded activity. I have occasionally come across old pegs off the beaten track in the Angus glens (but none in Corrie Farchal so far) so I know Dundee climbers range far and wide, but it would be fascinating to know more! It would great to record anything we know before it is completely lost. Best Wishes Simon
Thanks for the report, Simon. I wonder if Over The Hill would still be IV,4 if the undercut slot that you led so nicely didn’t have a snow-cone underneath it??
Almost certainly technically harder I would have thought. If you remember, I was very gentle with that snow cone as I didn’t want it to get any shorter!
I didn’t want it to get any shorter either, given I was going third on it 🙂
Interesting to hear more about some of the history of climbing in Clova, and as Dundonian also good to see I am very small part of a long tradition!
Hummmm, I can’t imagine a frugal Dundonian leaving any gear, must have been pre-Chouinard gear! Clova antics have been overlooked for many years, perhaps we should have an amnesty and own up to all the unrecorded routes. Personally, I had a policy of not recording anything under ±30m (Rock or Ice), unless it was of exceptional quality, and that was rare.
Hi Graeme. That’s great!I suggest you send in any unrecorded routes to Andy Nisbet for publication in the next SMC Journal. Best Wishes Simon