Happy Days on Skye

Francis Blunt reaching the lowest of the key hooks on the crux of Happy Go Lucky Route (VII,7) in Coireachan Ruadha, Skye. “There were three lovely positive hooks on the right wall followed by a wonderful shallow smear of ice on the left,” his partner Mike Lates explained. (Photo Mike Lates)

On November 30, Mike Lates and Francis Blunt had a brilliant adventure on Skye. “Francis is on the night watchman scheme at Glenmore Lodge and he gave me quite an education on a hard new mixed line on Bealach Buttress, “ Mike explained. The pair set off to make the first winter ascent of Lost Arrow (VS) in Coireachan Ruadha, but similar to other routes in the coire that day, it looked rather black so they followed the nearest available line of ice. This led to a thin crack-line past a couple of roofs which Francis “dispensed with a minimum fuss.”

“It was dark by the time I eventually joined him and the improvising continued,” Mike explained on his blog. ”Brief relocation was managed at a huge pinnacle on Pinnacle Face before a yawning cleft (Hourglass Crack) cut up through the cliff above. Initially I thought I’d climbed to a dead-end at a huge roof but a break in the right wall allowed us to escape. We got down at half nine in the end, and safely negotiated the snowy road back out of Glen Brittle. Happy Go Lucky Route (VII,7) seemed to fit the laid back way we approached the whole day.”

The following day (December 1), the pair visited The Storr and made the second ascent of Storvegan (VI,8), first climbed by Martin Moran and Martin Welch in January this year. “Storvegan was a route I had tried ten years ago and backed off when bombed by debris from above,” Mike told me. “With Francis in such good form it was a must. Conditions were ideal once we got onto the roof section with ice, consolidated snow and frozen turf. Francis polished off the crux without much hassle and even I stayed on! The line is superb because of its position, and although the climbing is imbalanced technically, I thought it was well worth three stars!”

About Simon Richardson

Simon Richardson is a passionate Scottish winter climber
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