2021 Winter Catch Up

One of the highlights of the 2021 season – Tim Miller climbing pitch 1 of Mongoose Direct (VIII,8) on Sgurr Mhiccoinnich during the first winter ascent. Icy mixed conditions were particularly good on Skye in mid February. (Photo Jamie Skelton)

Now that winter is over, and lockdown largely behind us, I have summarised activity from January 4 until the end of the season.

The Cuillin: Big news from Skye was the first winter ascent of Mongoose Direct (VIII,8) on Sgurr Mhiccoinnich by Jamie Skelton and Tim Miller. Their ascent was based on the summer line and took advantage of useful ice on the first pitch. On Blaven, Ian Hall and Katharina Lenz climbed Vaccination (IV,4), the good-looking corner in the buttress above Escape from Colditz.

Northern Highlands: On the Bonaidh Dhonn, Rob Giddy, Tim Miller and Callum Johnson climbed South by South-East (V,6), a winter only line taking the obvious corner on the left side of the crag between Netsky and North by North-West. James Thompsett, Doug Bartholemew also added Turfific (V,6) to the cliff, but exact details are not yet known. On Creag Ruadh’s North-East Face, John Mackenzie and Ian Douglas had a good late season discovery with Triple Decker Buttress (III,4), on the face right of Creag Ruadh Corner. Further west on Beinn Alligin, Adrian Gaughan and John Higham added Salt n Pepper (III), a companion route to Saltire Gully Right to Left.

Cairngorms: Cameron Richardson and Will Attridge made a couple of additions to Lochnagar. Cac Spout (IV,4) takes an icy mixed line on the left wall of The Black Spout. This is thought to be right of the icefall of The White Spout but the lines may partly coincide. On the The Stuic they were joined by Jamie Greig for Deesider (II/III), the gully left of Stegosaurus Rib.

Central Highlands: Robin Clothier and Simon Richardson made several first ascents on Ben Nevis whilst checking routes for the new winter guidebook. Mavericks (V,5) takes a varied line crossing Raeburn’s Arête, and Badlands (VI,5) follows the line of icy grooves between Italian Right-Hand and Bydand. They also climbed That Untravelled World (IV,4) right of The Chute, the icefall Shangri La (V,5) left of Poseidon Groove, and The Last Ridge (IV,4), the well-defined right edge of the gully of La Petite. Richardson also teamed up with Mark Robson for Into The Wild (V,5), a companion route to That Untravelled World, Richard Bentley for Lost Horizon (III,4) left of Shangri La, and Helen Rennard for Midnight Blue (V,5), a direct line up the front face of the buttress left of Red Gully.

Ice conditions became good in early March. Wojciech Polkowski and Damian Goncerz climbed a Direct Start (VI,6) to Never-Never Land, and Will Rowland and Jim Cooper found the spectacular Auf Wiedersein Pet Variation (VI,5) to Stringfellow.

Interestingly, there was renewed interest in some of the less frequented corries on The Ben. Will Rowland continued his exploration of Coire Eoghainn with Strike While The Iron Is Hot (IV,4) with Jim Cooper. Helen Rennard and Simon Richardson also visited the corrie and added a fine IV,4 left of The German Night Prowler. Richardson and Robson visited Coire Ghaimhnean, coming away with the excellent Paradox Buttress (III,4), which lies right of the Five Finger Gully Right Fork. The same pair also added the first routes to Sloc nan Uan, the shallow corrie on the east flank of the mountain.

In the Mamores, James Laing and Aidan Robinson made an interesting discovery with Kinlochfossen (V,5), a superb adventure up the deep chasm on the North side of Mam na Gualainn. The route was similar in character to Rapunzel on Beinn Fhionnlaidh. In Coire Dearg on Mullach nan Coirean, Steve Kennedy and Andy MacDonald climbed Bondage (III), the gully left of the slabby buttress containing Kick Start. On the West Face of An Garbhanach, Will Rowland and Jim Cooper climbed the steep West Ridge (III). Simon Richardson later ascended the long curling Grade III ridge to its left. Rowland and Cooper also visited the North Spur of An Gearanach where they added Hand Me the Drift (V,5). Rowland returned a few days later to climb Plan B (IV,4), a line to the left.

Glen Coe: The most impressive achievement in Glen Coe took place on March 12 when Jamie Skelton and Tim Miller climbed the three classic grade VIIs on each of Bidean nam Bian’s big cliffs in a day – Neanderthal, Un Poco Loco and Central Grooves. They took 15hrs 30mins car to car.

On Buachaille Etive Mor’s Blackmount Wall, Alistair Docherty and Matt Rowbottom climbed the excellent Froth Corner (VI,7), which lies immediately right of the ‘undercut cave’ on The Chasm to Crowberry Traverse. They also added Lockdown X (IV,6), the gully just to the left. On Central Buttress, Jamie Skelton and Nicky Brierley made the first winter ascent of Appauling (VI,7). Unlike summer, the turfy nature of the climb made it a rather good winter route.

Across on the West Face of Aonah Dubh, Mike Mason and Huw Scott climbed H5N8 (IV,5), the deep straight gully near the right side of No.3 Gully Buttress. This route makes a fine companion to two Mike Pescod Routes – C3PO (V,6) climbed with Ali Rose in December and R2D2 (V,6), the chimney at the left side of the buttress first climbed in February 2018. Also on Aonach Dubh, Will Rowland and Peter Staves found Midnight Express (VI,6), a direct version of Midnight Cowboy.

There was considerable activity in Ardgour. On the South Wall of Garbh Bheinn, Bayonet (V,6), Sala (VIII,9) The Peeler (VII,8), Menghini (VII,8) and Chib (VI,6) saw their first winter ascents courtesy of Jamie Skelton partnered variously by Nicky Brierley, Helen Rennard, Tim Miller and Morag Eagleson. On the neighbouring Bealach Buttress, Will Rowland and Jim Cooper found Cold in the Tadger (IV,4). Also on Garbh Bheinn, Robin Clothier and Simon Richardson climbed the excellent Dogs of War (VI,7) on Pinnacle Buttress, and on North-East Buttress, Al Matthewson and A.Veitch succeeded on Open Secret (III/IV), the right bounding corner of the slabby section on the Second Tier. Further right, Steve Kennedy and Andy MacDonald added Hidden Agenda (IV,4) and Troll Gate (II). Nearby on Stob Coir a’Chearcaill, Will Rowland and Garry Campbell climbed Twelve Pointer (VI,6), a direct version of Charcoal Buttress.

Adams explored Jacobite Buttress on Sgurr Ghiubsachan with Kevin Hall and came away with The Uprising (IV,5) and The Young Pretender. Ali Rose visited a month later and added White Rose (III) and Flora (II). Adams also climbed Chasing Wild Geese (III) , the slim gully on the North-North-West Face of the mountain with Helen Rennard.

Heavy snow throughout January prompted the development of the low-lying Mad Man’s Crag in Coire nan Frithalt on Maol Odhar. Robin Clothier and Simon Richardson were first on the scene climbing six 150m-long routes – All the President’s Men (V,4), Mad Men Wandering (III,4), Electroshock (V,5), Jaws of Doom (VI,6), Lobotomy Essential (IV,5) and Wild Woman (IV,4). Steve Kennedy and Andy MacDonald added Black Sabbath (II), the ridge bounding the left side of the cliff and Blood Rites (III,4), which may coincide in part with Mad Men Wandering and Lobotomy Essential. Kennedy and MacDonald continued their development of the Zeppelin Face on the nearby Creach Bheinn with two good routes. Good Times Bad Times (IV,5) takes the slab left of Bring it on Home (IV,5), and Kashmir follows the slim corner to the left.

Southern Highlands: Lockdown restrictions resulted in enthusiastic exploration of the Southern Highlands. On Cruach Ardrain, Marco Limonci, Danny Church and Orazio Lo Tauro found The Sicilian (IV,4), an icefall on the southern end of Meall Dhamh. On Ben Vorlich’s South Face, Sebastian Wolfrum, Douglas Fransson Lee discovered End of The Rope (III,4), which lies left of Central Rib. In Coire Cruinn on Meall Dubh, Duncan Helm and Alex Urquhart-Taylor found First Ice (III/IV), the prominent icefall on the short wall left of the previous routes.

Glen Lyon was popular. In Coire Laoghain on Meall Ghaordaidh, Willie Jeffrey and Anne Craig climbed Yellow Peril (II), the gully left of The Lyons in Winter. Jeffrey also teamed up with Paul Morris to add W.H.O Han Whiewash (II) left of A Wee One, and Desmond’s Dilemna (III) on the buttress at the head of the corrie. Nearby on the North Face of Creag an Tulabhain, Freddie Crowley ascended V Gully East (II) and V Gully West (II) in the company of Jamie Grant and Zoe Thornton. On Stuc an Lochan, Craig Gudmondsson and Jim MacFarlane climbed the prominent left -leaning Cat Gully (I), and Duncan Helm and Alex Urquhart-Taylor found Vaccinator (IV,4), the icefall on the gully’s right wall. The same pair also climbed The Cat’s Rake (III) the icefall 40m to the right.

Lowland Outcrops: The cold weather in mid February brought several low lying venues into condition. Jacob Davies found Standamile Gully (I/II) on Carleatheran in the Campsie Fells, and Craig Gudmundsson, Alex Urquhart-Taylor made an enterprising night time first ascent of Escaping The Queen (III), a groove-line on Benarty Hill in Fife.

Full descriptions for all the above routes will be published in the SMC Journal this autumn.

About Simon Richardson

Simon Richardson is a passionate Scottish winter climber
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