Iain Small and Uisdean Hawthorn pulled off the ascent of the season so far on December 14 with the first winter ascent of Shadhavar (VIII,9) on Stob Coire nan Lochan in Glen Coe.
“After missing the good weather at the weekend I was able to get out on the Monday with Uisdean for a rather belated first route of the season,” Iain told me. “There had been a considerable dump of new snow overnight so it was a wade into SCNL with rain to start the walk-in with. Not my preferred start to the day or the season!
Anyway, we had some weird snow conditions with a fair amount of debris from the gullies and a slide out of Twisting Gully just before we crossed over. I fancied something technical but safe to kick start the winter, so Ian Taylor and Tess Fryer’s new line from the glorious summer of 2013 was in my mind. Taking the smooth right wall of the Unicorn main corner, it takes a laser-thin crack that Ian mischievously commented on as ‘perfect pick width’.
Uisdean had a swim to the initial flared groove of Unicorn which was a struggle under powder. The meat of the route then begins from the first belay of Unicorn. After climbing the corner for a few metres you swing out right to gain the crack and begin some wonderfully technical moves with sometimes poor footholds but reassuring protection. You eventually rejoin the corner to top out onto the big girdling ledge, avoiding loose blocks on the right. It’s essentially a long single pitch variation to Unicorn pitches 2 and 3 but gives fantastic technical wall climbing, not as bold as its neighbour Scansor but sustained. It’s probably hard VIII, 9 if you consider Unicorn as a benchmark VIII,8.”