All The World’s A Stage

Forrest Templeton on the crux pitch of All The World’s A Stage (VI,6) in Glen Clova’s Corrie Farchal on the first ascent. The route climbs over the icicle-draped roof with bold climbing on blank powder-covered slabs above. (Photo Simon Richardson)

On Sunday February 6, Forrest Templeton and I visited Glen Clova. It had been warm during the week, but we had a hunch that it was just cold enough to freeze the turf above 700m or so, and Corrie Farchal would be white with new snow blown over the plateau. The gamble paid off and the cliff was in good condition. We were not the only people with the same idea – a pair from Edinburgh was also in the corrie climbing Silver Threads Among the Gold.

Our plan was to attempt the two-tiered buttress left of Seven Ages of Man on the left side of the cliff. The first tier provided fun climbing up a curling chimney cutting deep into the mountain, but the second tier is a vertical wall capped by a long overlap. This was always going to provide the main challenge of the route and Forrest takes up the story:

“Although the line through the second tier was inviting, we could not tell if there was a way out at the top. Potentially an exit looked possible at the top of the initial groove, but the alternative was a long rightwards rising traverse towards a break in the overlap on the right.

I started climbing the initial groove which had a long reach for a boss of turf. Fortunately, there was a good runner because my axes ripped, and I was able to test it effectively! Progress to the top of the groove was okay but there was a distinct lack of runners due to the slabby nature of the rock. The top exit was impractical given that my last last runner was a sling round a wee icicle, and it looked hard very hard above, so I moved rightwards eventually reaching what we thought would be the crux – pulling through the overlap onto a frozen turfy ledge.

Fortunately, there were a couple of good gear placements on the lip, but fear turned to terror when I surmounted the overlap and my hammer bounced straight back off a steep slab instead of turf! There was over a foot of snow stuck to the slab and I desperately cleared it left and right looking for that elusive placement. I felt as if I was on the roof of the Duomo in Florence but amazingly a vague crack appeared which allowed me to progress using side pulls with my axes. The crack petered out at a small, rounded convex ledge and then without warning, gravity took over and my hammer skelped off. Before I knew it, I was heading for the streets of Florence.

I’m still getting used to leashless axes and their stretchy lanyards and I know they aren’t designed to shock load. Fortunately, I was able to disprove this theory and ended up dangling with my legs back over the overlap. It turned out that the hammer had hooked itself on the axe which had amazingly stayed in place!

I went back up and passed my high point. Although the slab was now not quite as steep, it was still holdless and I was conscious I was getting further and further away from my runners on the lip. The slab ended at an overlap with a big, jammed flake that was just out of reach. I popped a hex on the end of my hammer and reached up to slot it in the crack. Now I knew any fall would be less impressive, and after a couple of steep steps and a short section of snow, I reached a belay at full stretch of the rope.

At the top of the pitch, I discovered the trigger had slid right down my hammer shaft so I couldn’t get hold the handle properly. I figured this unexpected movement had caused the hammer to pop off the rounded convex ledge!”

It had been a brave and forceful lead by Forrest and was at least VII,7 on the day. In keeping with the Shakespeare theme, we called the route All the World’s A Stage, and assuming that in better conditions ice would form on the crux slab, we settled on a grade of VI,6.

About Simon Richardson

Simon Richardson is a passionate Scottish winter climber
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