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    Scottish winter climbing news
    James Wheater on the first ascent of Icefall of Doom (V,5) on Creag an Dubh Loch. This steep two-pitch route lies on the right wall of North-West Gully on the far right-hand side of the cliff. (Photo Steve Addy)

    James Wheater on the first ascent of Icefall of Doom (V,5) on Creag an Dubh Loch. This steep two-pitch route lies on the right wall of North-West Gully on the far right-hand side of the cliff. (Photo Steve Addy)

    On March 2, Steve Addy and James Wheater visited Creag an Dubh Loch and made the first ascent of the striking blue icefall halfway up the right side of North-West Gully. It lies up and left of the icefall of Blizzard Nightmare and the summer routes such as The Strumpet, and rather surprisingly for such a prominent feature, it had not been climbed before. Steve takes up the story:

    “Last February I soloed up North-West Gully and spotted the icefall but it wasn’t quite complete. I didn’t think any more about it, but fast-forward to February 16 this year when James and I were skiing over the frozen Dubh Loch. We were struck by the monstrous cornices, the amount of snow build-up and the tantalising streaks of ice on the cliffs. Then James spotted the obvious icefall, and we both thought it looked good and guessed that it was probably unclimbed.

    So on Sunday past (March 2), we trudged up to the Dubh Loch with vague plans of looking at this icefall, Bower Buttress or trying a route on the Central Slabs if the snow had consolidated. The cornices were still huge and the snow didn’t feel great, so we decided to have a look at the icefall. It was good to salvage the day with this route, which although short, was good fun! We called the route (with tongue in cheek) Icefall of Doom and graded it V,5.”

    Also on March 2, Jason Currie and Neil Morrison took advantage of good, but slightly thawing ice conditions, to make the third winter ascent of Sword of Damocles on the nearby Broad Terrace Wall.

    Olov Isaksson on the first ascent of Eggäschpili (IX,9) in Stob Core nan Lochan. This demanding route taking a series of slim corners on the left wall of SC Gully is one of the hardest Scottish winter first ascents ever climbed by an overseas team. (Photo Karin Zgraggen)

    Olov Isaksson on the first ascent of Eggäschpili (IX,9) in Stob Coire nan Lochan. This demanding route taking a series of slim corners on the left wall of SC Gully is one of the most difficult Scottish winter first ascents ever climbed by an overseas team. (Photo Karin Zgraggen)

    Olov Isaksson from Sweden and Karin Zgraggen from Switzerland pulled off a significant accomplishment on February 28 when they made the first ascent of Eggäschpili (IX,9) on Stob Coire nan Lochan in Glen Coe.

    “I had such an amazing time on the BMC Winter Meet that I decided to return,” Olov told me. “We (Karin Zgraggen and I) started off by climbing Magic Crack on Thursday (February 27). It was very iced up but still brilliant. This was Karin’s first Scottish climb and she definitely shared my enthusiasm!

    When Ian Parnell Will Sim and I were climbing Slenderhead in Stob Coire nan Lochan during the Winter Meet, we were ogling a steep corner on the opposite side of the gully. It looked like a great line and I really wanted to get a closer look. So, on Friday (Febrauary 28) Karin and I went back up and we managed to climb it (after putting up a big fight).

    The first pitch (20m, crux) starts in a left-facing corner. Technical and sustained climbing (not great protection) led to a system of cracks. We climbed these to a ledge and moved right into another left-facing corner (belay). The second pitch (15m) climbs the corner, which is still sustained, but has better protection. We belayed on a small slanting ledge. The third pitch climbs five more metres of steep terrain followed by 10m of easier climbing. (The pitch looked straightforward so I changed to a warmer pair of gloves, which was a big mistake as I got incredibly pumped and was very close to falling off). The third pitch ends on a big slanting ledge. After this one can follow easy ground to the top, but we choose to abseil off from here, as Karin was getting hypothermic and refrained from climbing the third pitch.

    Since this was my sixth Scottish climb, I don’t really think that I’m qualified to give it a grade. All I can say is that it felt a lot harder than the other Grade VIIIs that I’ve climbed (Slenderhead, Crazy Eyes and Godfather). So maybe its Grade IX, but I’d prefer to wait for someone more experienced to give it a repeat. For a route name we agreed on Eggäschpili – this means something like ‘corner games’ in Karin’s local Swiss dialect (Canton of Uri).

    On Saturday morning my arms were still cramping as I picked up my backpack and started the hike up to the Ben. Will had suggested that we try Centurion, but it felt like a better idea to use the legs rather than the arms. So after chatting with some locals at the CIC Hut we headed up Tower Ridge and had another great day out!”

    From a history writer’s perspective, Eggäschpili is arguably the most important new route of the 2014 winter season (so far). Very few overseas parties have succeeded on adding cutting edge new Scottish winter routes, and Olov and Karin’s remarkable ascent joins a very short list that includes Raven’s Gully Direct Finish (Chouinard-Tompkins 1970), French Connection (Damilano-Lewale 1995), Happy Tyroleans (Schranz-Zak-Netzer, 2001) and Bavarinthia (Papert-Fritzer 2011).

    Sandy Allan climbing through the cornice on the first ascent of Risk of Ice (V,4) in Coire na Feola on Ben Wyvis. Current mountain hazards include large cornices, avalanche-prone slopes, warmer than forecast temperatures, and huge amounts of snow. (Photo Andy Nisbet)

    Sandy Allan climbing through the cornice on the first ascent of Risk of Ice (V,4) in Coire na Feola on Ben Wyvis. Current mountain hazards include large cornices, avalanche-prone slopes, warmer than forecast temperatures, and huge amounts of snow. (Photo Andy Nisbet)

    “John Mackenzie used to talk with awe about the cornices above Coire na Feola of Ben Wyvis,” Andy Nisbet writes. “Also the great central icefall, which one day would form, and he hoped he would be there. But John Lyall saw it and climbed it in 2012. In prime conditions, this is one of Scotland’s great icy cliffs. So most of the attention had been on the ice lines and the buttress left of the central icefall was unclimbed.

    In February 2013 I was driving south from Ben Hope. It was very warm, 15 degrees in Inverness, but the ice had been great on Ben Hope so I just wondered if it had survived the thaw and that buttress might be iced. Wet ice is great to climb and cornices that year were small. When I got down to the corrie, the line was bare but Gael Force Grooves was fat ice top to bottom. It looked very steep for Grade IV but I had walked a long way and it was too tempting. So I scared myself and climbed what seemed on the day, one of the best Grade V’s I’d ever climbed (it gets one star).

    But the buttress was still waiting and I finally decided the walking conditions were good enough. Jonathan Preston didn’t need much persuasion and we headed in on Friday (February 28). The forecast was clear and cold so it was a bit disappointing when the mist began to form as we approached the top of An Cabar. The plateau was totally white but the mist thin and it was easy to follow the crest line. I had a picture of the map in my head so just legged it, waiting for a descent, after which we would traverse to the north and descend into the corrie. It did seem a long way, and then a cornice appeared on the right, so I knew we’d gone too far (this descent was totally in my imagination). But where actually were we?

    We backtracked a bit and then started to descend; by this time we hadn’t seen anything other than white for an hour. As it steepened we put crampons on. Jonathan was quicker and went ahead. Suddenly the ground ahead cracked open and slid off into space. I’ve never seen Jonathan run so fast back uphill. Despite us walking on neve, the vibration of his footsteps (he is a big lad) had set off a small slab avalanche that had given us warning of an imminent cornice edge. We jibbered for a bit but quickly decided to come back the following day (March 1) when it was supposed to be clear.

    Sandy Allan joined us and sure enough it was clear, but only just. This time we each had a map, and I had even printed out a very large-scale version of the plateau. The light was good enough for us to see where we were going, but not good enough to see if the convex slope suddenly dropped off. Also it had snowed overnight and the slope ahead was the worst aspect. So between Jonathan and I still being nervous about cornices, and Sandy being nervous about avalanches (working for SAIS does seem to do that to you), we dithered a lot before finding our way down the slope into a corrie filled with avalanche debris.

    It wasn’t freezing down in the corrie bottom so the walking suddenly became hard work and there were serious doubts about the turf being frozen. Which turned out to be true for the small bits, so the planned line didn’t work. Well, I was trying to pluck up courage when Jonathan walked in above me and pointed out that his way was easier. So we all walked in, and then I was trying to pluck up courage for the next bit when Sandy suggested that a ledge on the right might just lead somewhere useful. So I went that way and he was right, and the turf even began to improve.

    Jonathan led the next pitch on steeper but properly frozen turf, and then we alternated up towards the top. A huge cornice appeared at times out of the mist but we tried to ignore it and assume we’d find a solution; a part of which was me doing a ten metre pitch and sending Jonathan up. The cornice was huge but at its right end was a snow pinnacle and he just wondered if you could bridge up and reach over. Appearances are deceptive, especially to cornice pessimists like me, and a couple of things happened when he reached it. First of all the pinnacle fell off when he hit it, but more encouragingly it wasn’t as big at the right end as my imagination had thought. So he dug his way through in a few minutes and there was great relief, at least from my end.

    We agreed easily on technical 4 but the overall grade wasn’t easy. It was quite a scary route so perhaps V,4 was fair, although cover the route with neve and it would have been a doddle. Driving home, Sandy’s car came up with a warning on the dashboard, “Risk of Ice”. That will be the first we’ve seen today then, was the general thought, but it seemed an appropriate route name!”

    Will Sim climbing the crux pitch of Open Heart (VIII,9) in Coire an Lochain during the third ascent. The very heavy snow conditions this season mean that few teams have ventured on to the higher buttresses of the Northern Corries in recent weeks, and only the very steepest routes have escaped the huge amounts of snow. Massive cornices overhanging significant portions of the cliff are another major hazard. (Photo Mark Chadwick)

    Will Sim climbing the crux pitch of Open Heart (VIII,9) in Coire an Lochain during the third ascent. The very heavy snow conditions this season mean that few teams have ventured onto the higher buttresses of the Northern Corries in recent weeks, and only the very steepest routes have escaped the huge amounts of snow. Massive cornices overhanging significant portions of the cliff are another major hazard. (Photo Mark Chadwick)

    Will Sim and Adam Booth visited Coire an Lochain in the Northern Corries on February 24, and made the probable third ascent of Open Heart (VIII,9). This very steep test-piece, which takes a direct line up to the crux of Ventriloquist, was first climbed by Ian Parnell and Guy Robertson in April 2006. It saw a second ascent by Dave Almond and Simon Frost in December 2011.

    “It’s a cool route and a good line,” Will told me.” It felt a bit necky in its current icy state, but it was still just about protectable. It was interesting to head in to Lochain for the first time since early December, as its been “out of bounds” most of the season due to being totally buried. The amount of snow at the bottom is insane, and the peg that protects the tricky traverse on the first pitch of Ventricle (normally eight metres up) is now at ankle height when you gear up, and a glacier is in full flow over the Great Slab!”

    Craig Lamb leading the crux section of K9 (IV,4) on Lurcher’s Crag on Sunday February 16 – one of four teams to climb the route that day. Or is this route Window Gully? (Photo Simon Richardson)

    A leader on the crux section of K9 (IV,4) on Lurcher’s Crag on Sunday February 16 – one of four teams to climb the route that day. Or is this route Window Gully? (Photo Simon Richardson)

    Roger Everett and I were rather confused when were climbing on Lurcher’s Crag on February 16. It was our first visit to the cliff, and the folks climbing the attractive icefall to our left had told us that they were climbing K9, yet the team we met on the top said they had just done Window Gully. We both suspected a case of mistaken identity, because the icefall crux, which involves cutting a window from behind the icefall and stepping on to the front face, reminded us of a famous John Cleare photo of Bill March making the first ascent of Window Gully in March 1972. It’s interesting that we both remember that photo, but we’re both of an age that when we started climbing front pointing was just being developed, and Bill March was one of the stars of the show.

    As if by chance, a couple of days later I received an email from John Lyall that Andy Nisbet forwarded onto me, which helped to explain our confusion:

    “I’ve been puzzled by the description of Window Gully and its position on the crag for a long time,” John wrote. “So when I was on the crag last week I took my camera to sort things out. I was climbing K9, and my photo shows the lower icefall going through the big roof, the rock features behind and the snowdrift all fitting with the first ascent photo of Window Gully.

    I think the confusion goes back to the Bill March 1973 guidebook, where only North Gully is described, but South Gully is mentioned. When Window Gully is described in the next guide (1985), it is described as being between North and South Gullies, but it should have said North and Central Gullies, as Central had now been climbed. The Window Gully icefall presently in the guide is not far enough up the crag, nor is there a position to get a photo like this.

    In 2010, the outside of this icefall was climbed by a few teams up the steepest right hand section, at V,6. Stuart Carter was one of the folk, but he had followed tracks.

    The Bill March guide also mentions summer ascents of what are now Drystane Ridge and Collies Ridge, both at Moderate in the current guidebook. He also names Southern Ridge, which is now called Deerhound Ridge, and grades it Mod. He also describes a route up the buttress to the left of North Gully, giving a grade of Mod and listing the first ascensionists. I feel a bit like Robin Campbell delving into the archives!”

    Allen Fyffe, who made the first ascent of K9 with his son Blair in March 1996, agrees with John’s assessment that the icefall is the same, but it’s not quite as simple as that because Allen and Blair linked in an impressive upper icefall during their ascent. This second icefall is up and left of the main line, so is not always climbed as a follow-on from the lower ‘window’ icefall, and for sure, it was not climbed by Bill March in 1972.

    So if this unravels the history behind K9, what about the route now known as Window Gully which lies a hundred metres further right? Andy Nisbet made an ascent in February 1984 – are there any earlier takers?

    Iain Small leading the opening pitch of Vishnu (VII,7) on Beinn Eighe’s Far East Wall during the second ascent. This prominent line, first climbed by Andy Nisbet and Andy Cunningham in February 1988, has waited over 25 years for a repeat. (Photo Murdoch Jamieson)

    Iain Small leading the opening pitch of Vishnu (VII,7) on Beinn Eighe’s Far East Wall during the second ascent. This prominent line, first climbed by Andy Nisbet and Andy Cunningham in February 1988, has waited over 25 years for a repeat. (Photo Murdoch Jamieson)

    There are two absolutely classic-looking traditional winter lines on the stupendous Far East Wall on Beinn Eighe – Kami-kaze and Vishnu. Both routes were climbed by Andy Nisbet in the 1980s during the initial winter exploration of the crag. The steep and well-protected Kami-kaze (VI,7) is now approaching modern classic status, and has already seen several ascents this season.

    Vishnu is a different story however, and although it is 26 years since its first ascent, it had not seen a repeat. It requires icy conditions, and was discussed as a possibility during the BMC International Meet in January, but nobody took up the challenge until February 16 when an enterprising three-man team made a spirited attempt that was foiled by deteriorating conditions after the leader had climbed the crucial ice pitch in the middle of the route.

    The long-awaited second ascent fell three days later to the crack team of Murdoch Jamieson and Iain Small on February 19. Murdoch, fresh from his success on The Root of All Evil, takes up the story:

    “On Wednesday Iain and I returned to the crag. Our first option was not a goer so we settled on doing Vishnu. I felt slightly intimidated with the grade and knowing that a team had bailed on Sunday. Iain linked the first two pitches, and I then set off up pitch three, where with a bit of digging, I uncovered some good wires. Iain did the top pitch, which certainly felt a bit more like real climbing, and was tricky. He managed to get wires on the right before stepping left onto the ice. Overall VII,7? I don’t know – that first pitch is pretty serious but not technically that hard.”

    Iain swithered about the grade too, but eventually both Murdoch and Iain settled on a grade of VII,7. (The route has been graded VII,6 up to now, but was first climbed before the two-tier grading system was in place). The fact that two such talented climbers were unsure of the grade speaks volumes – it would be safe to assume that Vishnu is at the upper end of the Grade VII category!

    Roger Everett on the crux pitch of Impulse Grooves, a new VI,7 on the Arctic Monkeys buttress on Lurchers Crag on Cairn Gorm. Snow conditions were so heavy that it was impossible to distinguish between blank slabs and turfy ground, making route finding challenging. (Photo Simon Richardson)

    Roger Everett on the crux pitch of Impulse Grooves, a new VI,7 on the Arctic Monkey buttress on Lurcher’s Crag on Cairn Gorm. Snow conditions were so heavy that it was impossible to distinguish between blank slabs and turfy ground, making route finding both exciting and challenging. (Photo Simon Richardson)

    Roger Everett and I were wrong-footed by logistics, weather forecasts, blocked roads and avalanche-prone slopes throughout the previous weekend. We ended up visiting Lurcher’s Crag on Sunday February 16, which I think was our Plan D!

    The weather was good, but neither of us had been to the cliff before, and our guidebook only listed a handful of routes. The crag had a nice friendly feel with lots of people about, the scenery was magnificent and with our plans in disarray we didn’t really care what we did, as long as we climbed something. Roger fancied The Shepherd, but there were two teams ahead of us, so we went to look at K9. When we got there, we found we were fourth in line, so we thought we’d carry our ice screws up a mixed line on the (Arctic Monkey) buttress to the right. We ended up following a logical sequence of grooves straight up the front face to arrive on the apex of the lower buttress before finishing up the left flank of the easy ridge above. We had no intention of climbing a new route and fully expected it had all been climbed before.

    When I arrived home, I saw a Facebook post from Andy Nisbet saying that he had climbed the face right of K9 with Susan Jensen two days before, and a look at the SMC Journal revealed three more of Andy’s routes on the buttress. I’ve been (inadvertently) following Andy’s footsteps quite a lot this winter, so I put this down to another dose of fate, but I emailed Andy anyway, to find out the relationship of our climb to his recent route, and the other climbs on the buttress.

    About twenty emails and six topos later, we all finally unravelled the relationship between the routes on the buttress. Remarkably they are all independent, although a couple do cross each other. Starting from the left, Andy and Susan’s line from February 14 is called Tetradecaphobia (V,5). It takes the right end of the roof system down which the icicles of K9 form, before climbing the grooves and corners to gain the crest of the upper buttress.

    The route climbed by Roger and I two days later starts about 30m to the right of Tetradecaphobia, and climbs four pitches up corners and grooves to the top of the lower buttress before continuing easier mixed ground to the left of the crest to the top. Roger made a fine lead of the crux third pitch, a bold and technical overlap leading on to smooth slabs, and given the spur of the moment route choice, he suggested we call our climb Impulse Grooves (VI,7). The remaining three routes all start a long way away at the right end of the buttress, although Overdraft takes a natural rising left traverse line, crossing Impulse Grooves on its second pitch, before climbing near Tetradecaphobia and finishing up a set of grooves to the right.

    Overall, given the unusually heavy snow conditions, Lurchers was a good choice on February 16. We saw teams on Left Icefall, Right Icefall, The Shepherd, North Gully, K9, Arctic Monkey and Dotterel.

    Murdoch Jamieson making the first winter ascent of The Route of All Evil (IX,8) on Beinn Eighe. The description of this summer E2 in the SMC Northern Highlands South guidebook makes it sound perfect modern mixed climbing territory - ‘Typical Coire Mhic Fearchair; sustained, overhanging, excellent holds and protection, but slow to dry.’ (Photo John Orr)

    Murdoch Jamieson making the first winter ascent of The Route of All Evil (IX,8) on Beinn Eighe. The description of this summer E2 in the SMC Northern Highlands South guidebook makes it sound perfect modern mixed climbing territory – ‘Typical Coire Mhic Fearchair; sustained, overhanging, excellent holds and protection, but slow to dry.’ (Photo John Orr)

    Murdoch Jamieson and John Orr pulled off a magnificent climb on February 16 when they made the first winter ascent of The Root of All Evil (IX,8) on Beinn Eighe’s Far East Wall. This summer E2 was first climbed by Andy Nisbet and J.Allott in June 1996.

    We planned to have a mellow day on something like Kami-kazi or Rampart Wall,” Murdoch told me. “However on first sight of Far East Wall, John asked what the obvious big left-facing corner was. I told him it was The Root of All Evil, and no, it hadn’t seen a winter ascent. We took a walk along to look at Vishnu as that was another option, but after looking at that, John said he was keener to experience some steep Beinn Eighe mixed. The deal was he would do the initial pitch and I would do the 5b and 5c pitches.

    John did a good job in despatching the first pitch, which was much trickier than it looked. I set off up the 5b pitch. From the word go, it was a pretty sustained and pumpy affair. The only rest was on a small ledge before the traverse left into the main corner. The guidebook talked about belaying three metres below the roof, so I was expecting a half decent ledge. There was none, just a slight slopey foothold and a few small edges – a full-on hanging belay!

    John seconded the pitch and felt a bit overwhelmed by the steepness of the whole thing. He set up a belay just below me and I set off for the 5c roof. This looked mental and harder than I thought, but I was keen to have a look. There were only a few tiny edges for the feet but enough. The whole thing was really strenuous. Then moving back right proved much trickier than I thought, as there were just a few tiny hooks for the tools. Pulling round the arete to join Hydroponicum was pretty hard, and the belay was not the most inspiring either. There were two old pegs linked by some tired slings. So I managed to get another peg half in, a Pecker and a small stopper – great!

    Once again, John did a brilliant job seconding as he had been strapped to the hanging belay for a wee while. Having not really read the guide properly, I thought we just had the top pitch of Hydroponicum to do. I remember Andy Inglis saying it was VII 7, so I thought John could quickly nip up it. But on closer inspection at the guide what loomed above was the crux of Hydroponicum. Time was marching on, a few words were said, but I couldn’t not have a look. Anyway, this went fine, as it felt easier than the previous two pitches. I linked the top pitch to get to the top just before darkness fell. John joined me a short while later and we were both buzzing with how cool the whole thing was.”

    Murdoch was undecided about the grade, and initially settled on VIII,8, but a day later he wrote to me again.

    “There has been a mad exchange in emails and chat about the grade. I’m beginning to think IX,8. It’s just that it’s pretty sustained. It has good kit, but the belay is not ideal at the end of pitch three. I think there is a lot of tech 8 all on top of each other. I’ve only done the occasional tech 9 move so it’s hard to compare. I don’t think there is a stopper move of 9 in it… but it needs a second ascent to confirm.”

    Binnein Shuas in the Central Highlands, with the three climbs comprising the North-West Ridge Integrale marked as follows: A. Location, Location, Location (55m III, 4), B. Laggan Fantasy (30m IV,5), C. Summit North-West Buttress (40m II). (Photo Masa Sakano)

    Binnein Shuas in the Central Highlands, with the three climbs comprising the North-West Ridge Integrale marked as follows: A. Location, Location, Location (55m III, 4), B. Laggan Fantasy (30m IV,5), C. Summit North-West Buttress (40m II). (Photo Masa Sakano)

    Masa and Yuki Sakano visited Binnein Shuas on February 16, and had an excellent mountaineering day following the crest of the North-West Ridge. Their ascent linked together three short routes with walking sections imbetweeen. The foot of the lowest buttresses is at the altitude of 560m, and near the summit, there are two tiers of the Summit North-West Buttress. Although this may not be a conventional Scottish winter route, and lacks the commitment of a longer climb on a big cliff, it demonstrates a novel approach when many of the higher peaks have been out of bounds due to the recent heavy snow conditions.

    Location, Location, Location (55m III, 4) begins at the recess at the foot of the lowest buttress a few metres left of a cave, climbs a turfy and icy groove, and then follows steep grooves to the top of the buttress. Laggan Fantasy (30m IV,5) starts below the centre of the lower tier of the Summit North-West Buttress, and climbs rocky steps for a few metres, followed by the steep thinly-iced groove in the centre of the buttress. Summit North-West Buttress (40m II) climbs the most obvious zig-zag snow line at the centre of the upper tier to finish on the summit ridge about 80m West of the summit.

    “As you know, Binnein Shuas is a very eye-catching hill from A86,” Masa told me. “I’m jolly glad we made it, but conditions must be now gone, at least for the lowest part, as it has warmed up since. Yuki is my sister, who lives in Japan, but is now visiting me for a couple of weeks. We’re going to Patagonia in a few days time, so this year’s stormy Scottish weather has turned out to be ideal training…”

    Catherine Hendrie on the second pitch of The S Word (V,5), a new ice route on the West Face of Beinn Dearg. “We told each other to not mention the 'S' word, because it had been snowing during the morning, and every time Cat said 'spindrift' we got drenched in it!” (Photo Ian Bryant)

    Catherine Hendrie on the second pitch of The S Word (V,5), a new ice route on the West Face of Beinn Dearg. “We told each other to not mention the ‘S’ word, because it had been snowing during the morning, and every time Cat said ‘spindrift’ we got drenched in it!” (Photo Ian Bryant)

    On February 7, Ian Bryant and Catherine Hendrie added a good new route to Beinn Dearg in the Northern Highlands. “After backing off Penguin Gully as it was just horrible soft snow, we packed everything away and decided to just go for a walk towards the summit ridge, but we then spotted a good ice line,” Ian told me. “We climbed the ice in two 40m pitches (the first was about tech 5 the second about tech 4) and then continued on a meandering line to the summit ridge at around Grade III. Overall the route was about 250 metres long.”

    When Ian contacted me, I was unsure whether the line had been climbed before, so I passed on the details to Andy Nisbet, who confirmed that not only was it new, but he had had his eye on it as well.

    “We can’t believe little old us beat the legendary Andy Nisbet to a new route!” Ian exclaimed when he heard the news. Andy was quick with a tongue-in-cheek riposte – “Beating me to a new route isn’t that rare as I know them all!”

    And to prove the point (and before he knew of Ian and Catherine’s ascent), Andy added two new routes to the West Face of Beinn Dearg himself, on February 16. Climbing solo, Andy climbed Drumcree (IV,4) the steeper grooved section of buttress between Garvachy Road and White Settlers Gully, and Redskin (II), which starts as for Drumcree up an icy step, but then trends left to reach the left-hand of three grooves.