Juggling Crampons on The Jester

Oliver Skeoch almost at the top The Jester (V,7) on Stob Coire nan Lochan in Glen Coe. The difficult exit right from the overhanging crack was subsequently overcome by Ryan Balharry resulting in the first winter ascent. The route was chosen because a broken crampon prevented climbing a longer route. (Photo Ryan Balharry)

On December 9, Oliver Skeoch and Ryan Balharry made the first winter ascent of The Jester (V,7) on Stob Coire nan Lochan. This small but impressive pinnacle lies at the foot of Pinnacle Buttress and is well seen on the approach to the corrie. It was first climbed in summer by Ian Clough and Geoff Arkless in June 1966 and graded Severe.

“We had walked up and were planning to climb Chimney Route,” Ollie told me. “Spirits were high as I’d been climbing in the corrie the day before and knew that conditions were pretty good. As we got to the base of the route Ryan over-enthusiastically kicked his crampon and the front bail snapped, leaving it dangling from his boot. With the main plan of the day scuppered (and a lesson learned about repair kits), we decided to have a wander and see if there was anything that we fancied climbing with one crampon.

This was Ryan’s first trip into the corrie in winter and he had seen the pinnacle of The Jester on the approach. I mentioned that it had a route on it in summer and we ended up stood at its base looking up at an overhanging crack that looked too feasible not to be tried.

As the working crampons were mine the first attempt fell to me. I climbed the overhanging crack, doing a fair bit of digging in the rimed-up cracks to place gear. A huge move off one axe to gain a higher thin crack led to a stuck axe and a hasty retreat to the last bit of gear. After a rest I went back up to retrieve the axe but couldn’t commit to the moves round the corner to the ledge. I lowered off and we pulled the ropes and we exchanged leads.

Ryan swiftly dispatched the crack but again struggled to commit to the moves round the corner. He rested on the gear and then managed to place a bulldog where I had got my axe stuck and with this he managed to climb to the ledge. He arranged gear and assessed the final moves to the top.

A heinous pull and heel-hook-come-bum-straddle led to the mantel onto the top. He lowered the crampon down and I sent the bag up to him. After fitting the crampon I blasted up the route and joined him on the top. We took some photos and then rigged an abseil around the top of the pinnacle. I abseiled first and we did a test pull after which Ryan readjusted the ropes and joined me at the base.

We celebrated with chips and hot chocolates at the Clachaig!”

About Simon Richardson

Simon Richardson is a passionate Scottish winter climber
This entry was posted in New Routes and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.