Arran’s Capuil Ridge

The upper section of Capuil Ridge (I) on Bheinn Bharrain in Arran. This remote ridge in the Western Hills may not have seen a winter ascent before this December. (Photo Kris Lennox)

Kris Lennox sent me details of an enterprising outing on Arran on December 9 when he made a winter ascent of the South-East Ridge of Bheinn Bharrain in the Pirnmill Hills. Kris doesn’t think this very remote feature has been ascended in winter before and proposes the name Capuil Ridge and rates it ‘mild Grade I’.

Kris who describes himself as a ‘runner first and climber a very distant second’ approached from the north up Glen Catacoul – a 12km-long run with half the distance over rough trackless terrain. He carried a sack with ice tools and changed from running kit into winter climbing mode below the route.

“The real fun of the ridge is tackling all outcrops on the rocky lower section,” Kris explained. “The central section is little more than a walk. And near the top there’s a nice little exit gully, finishing directly on the summit. Views, as can be expected, are spectacular!“

Kris has documented his ascent on his blog, which is devoted to long distance running in the Ayrshire and Arran hills. After his brief foray with winter climbing, Kris is now fully back into his running again:

“It’s been a busy month of hard training and fast runs, from setting a new course record of 4hrs 27min 21sec on the Three Lochs Way to running a tough trail marathon on Arran a few days later (one I had planned for a long time, tying together all the northern glens), to the Capuil ridge (relatively tame and short day by comparison), to exploration of Arran’s remotest regions over some of the island’s roughest terrain. Weekly running mileage is c.100-140 miles, with around 50 of those in the mountains. I have a very committing solo winter mountain ultra planned that I need to be at my peak for – if it goes wrong, It’ll likely be the end of me. Hence doing everything in my power to (hopefully) make it a success!”

Posted in New Routes | Tagged , | Comments Off on Arran’s Capuil Ridge

Hot Ice

Andy Nisbet making the opportunistic first ascent of Hot Dog (IV,4) on Lurcher’s Crag on the west side of Cairn Gorm. The thaw held off to snatch a route in the East on Monday morning, but you had to be quick! (Photo Sandy Allan)

“What a great spell of weather, for winter climbers anyway,” Andy Nisbet writes. “ And frozen turf on crags near the road, crags suitable for the ‘older climber’. But now on Monday December 18, the cold spell was ending, with temperatures forecast to go up to plus 7 on top of Cairn Gorm. Ah well, time for a rest.

But not for Sandy Allan. He wouldn’t let it go. ‘It’s only going above freezing at 8am, so if we get up early…’ That was forgetting it had already thawed on the 17th. But it had been cold for nearly three weeks, so slowly I came round to the idea that some ice might have survived. And there were a couple of potential ice lines on Lurcher’s Crag (my days of getting up at midnight and reaching some remote crag at first light are long gone). So in the afternoon, I drove up to the Cairngorm car park to see what snow was left, and to choose between the approaches via Chalamain Gap or South Gully. The Northern Corries were still snowy and so were the boulders in the Chalamain Gap, so South Gully it was.

At 7.30am it was still dark and very quiet in the car park. It actually turned out that several keen teams had already left, and we did see head torches high up on the hill. Walking conditions were lumpy on the path from yesterday’s footprints but at least the snow was frozen and we reached South Gully with little stress. The descent was fine too, but then the traverse along the cliff base to the far end was tedious. Would Chalamain have been quicker?

At least traversing the base showed us that there was lots of ice. Diamond Gully (wrongly described as Window Gully in the last guide) was in particularly fine nick, complete with misleading window. So we were in with a chance. Central Gully looked great but we were going further to a potential ice line spotted last year between Ultramontane and Akita (the SMC will produce an app sometime soon). Both of these routes were climbed in deep snow, and we were dreaming that the smears between them could make a good route. As we continued down the crag, the amount of ice was decreasing and I was looking ahead to easier ice at the end of the crag (climbed many times before). Then Sandy said, “What’s that ice up there? I looked up and realised that I’d walked past our potential line. The ice looked thin but the line was complete.

I took the first pitch, up a smear on a slab leading to an iced bulge. The bulge was only about head height and took a solid ice screw. But reaching above it and swinging the axe detached about a metre of ice, which slid off and revealed a blank slab. The only option was to come in from the side, and here was a stroke of luck, an excellent placement in normally unhelpful rock allowed a delicate move over the bulge. A rock barrier above was easily bypassed and the pitch was completed under an icy chimney.

Sandy took this on with another good ice screw runner (thank goodness we took the ice screw, a close decision), and soon we reached the easier upper section. Soloing from here eventually gained the finishes of the other routes, all which finish up a ridge climbed in the 1950s but never named. It was still a long way to the top of Creag a’ Leth-choin and by now it was so warm we didn’t even need gloves.

With the dog theme of the crag, Sandy suggested the name Hot Dog. I thought IV,4 but there’s no doubt it would be III if thickly iced. Whether that happens during this predicted cold winter, we’ll see.”

Posted in New Routes | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Hot Ice

Red Rag Repeated

Erick Baillot setting off up the first pitch of Red Rag (VII,7) on Beinn Dearg in the Torridon Mountains. This intriguing route on one of the area’s least visited cliffs waited 17 years for its second ascent. (Photo Karl Atherton)

Dave Kerr, Erick Baillot and Karl Atherton notched up a significant ascent in the Torridon area on December 16 when they made the second ascent of Red Rag (VII,7) on Beinn Dearg. This route was first climbed by Roger Webb and Neil Wilson in December 2000, takes the steep icy groove that descends from the apex of the triangular cliff at the head of Choire Mhoir.

“We thought thinking it was going to be a fairly short outing,” Erick explained. “From the 1:50000 map, it looks like the crag lies just over 5km from the car park near Torridon House. Red Rag has been on our radar for a number of years, and low lying snow, a good freeze and wanting a mellow day (work has been a bit busy) ticked all my boxes.

We rolled up on Friday night with the van (I bivvied outside as the van only sleeps two comfortably) and set off around 6am. Not knowing the place particularly well, we decided that approaching from the southern slope in a rising traverse east to the dip in the ridge was the way forward… and it was the wrong call. Thigh deep to waist deep floundering, via dodgy snow slopes and worrying steps led us in 3 hrs 30 min to the crag. No official climbing had happened yet, but we were donning helmets, crampons and using two axes by the time the forced lined had brought us to within 50m of the summit of Beinn Dearg. None of us fancied crossing those gullies and slopes with such deep snow.

The climbing was short, but good, with one 25m pitch of Tech 7 leading to a ledge (gear high for the belay). The crag was very iced up and all the cracks were choked with ice making protection difficult and time consuming to arrange, so I will take the Grade VII tick. If the cracks were dry, the grade could go down to VI,7. Dave led the second pitch that had a 5m step of Tech 5 climbed using ice before 20m of easy ground and a last steeper step of 5m.

The way out was long as we decided to follow the ridge to the bealach west of Carn na Feola and drop into the glen of Coire Mhic Nobuil near Lochan a’Chaorainn and the long trudge back to the car park. Thankfully we had brought our secret weapon for the day ‘Dave The Plough Kerr’ who fresh from a summer of running, forged ahead regardless of snow depth.

Regardless, it gave a great new perspective to Torridon Mountains and the views north towards Beinn an Eoin were fabulous when it wasn’t snowing. We never saw anybody else other than the head torches of people walking the long way into Beinn Eighe and the rescue helicopter seemingly exercising and going around all the local corries. It was a great long day with plenty of solitude.”

Posted in New Routes | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

New Grade VIII for The Cobbler

The spectacular South Peak of the Cobbler with the line of Punter’s Crack (VIII,9) shown in red. The dashed line shows the section that is shared with the modern classic Deadman’s Groove (VII,7). (Photo Martin McKenna)

Tim Miller and Martin McKenna created a new Southern Highlands test-piece on December 15 when they climbed Punter’s Crack (VIII,9) on the South Peak. This was a winter ascent of their 2016 summer addition ‘Davie Taenails’, but the route has been renamed because it is a far better winter climb than a summer one.

“It’s the first new winter route for both of us, so we are rather pleased,” Martin told me. “I’d spotted the line in 2016 while climbing North Wall Traverse, and then later that February, Tim and I climbed Deadman’s Groove, a route which Punters Crack rejoins in it’s upper half. Three months later in May, we were up on The Cobbler with a friend. Between us we had done a lot of the routes, so in a moment of idiocy, we decided to climb the line in summer, which was a moss induced nightmare.

We’d seen the weather was going to be good on Friday, and decided to go and have a look in winter, which it tuned out was a good call. The line is obvious from below. It climbs the initial turfy corner shared with North Wall Groove before continuing up on turf to below a horizontal roof. Tim managed to fiddle in some gear under this before committing to feet-off moves through the roof and then up the wall above. We belayed on a small ledge at the junction with Deadman’s Groove, and then I finished up the traverse and corner of Deadman’s groove to the top.

We’ve not done much around this grade so don’t have much to draw on, but we both reckoned around VIII,9.”

Posted in New Routes | Tagged , , | Comments Off on New Grade VIII for The Cobbler

The Orphan – First Winter Ascent

Steve Holmes leading The Orphan (VII,8) on Buachaille Etive Mor in Glen Coe. Heavy snow conditions meant that accessing the route via Curved Ridge was a mini expedition in itself. (Photo Duncan Curry)

On December 14, Steve Holmes, Duncan Curry and Hannah Evans made the first winter ascent of The Orphan (VII,8) on the North-East Face of Crowberry Ridge on The Buachaille. This summer VS, which was first climbed by Messrs. Read, Jones and Swainbank in September 2000, lies on the steep wall cut by cracks and corners to the right of Engineer’s Crack and Crowberry Ridge, Direct Route.

“It was a proper full-on wade to gain the foot of the chimney that accesses the platform under the main pitch,” Steve told me. “But we battled on accepting it was going to be a long day. Hannah dug her way up Curved Ridge, Duncan got us up the awkward chimney and I got the main pitch.

It’s super sustained, steep and really good climbing and easily worth VII,8. The gear is excellent but all kinds of hand jams, knee bars along with flat hooks were needed to gain upward movement. I took a small fall on the crux which I am really disappointed with, but I managed to get straight back on finding a better sequence second time round.”

Posted in New Routes | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Tried and Tested Repeated in Glen Coe

Steve Holmes enjoying the exposure on Tried and Tested (VII,7) on Stob Coire nan Lochan in Glen Coe. This steep and sustained route is thought to be at the upper end of its grade. (Photo Duncan Curry)

Duncan Curry and Steve Holmes repeated Tried and Tested (VII,7) on Stob Coire nan Lochan in Glen Coe on December 12. Their ascent is most probably the second ascent of this steep line that takes the chimney-corner formed by the spur of Central Buttress and the wall of Satyr.

Tried and Tested was first climbed by Andy Nelson, Kenny Grant and Keith Ball in December 2014 and was described it as being ‘at the sporty end of its grade.’

“It’s an excellent route, each pitch physical yet really well protected,” Steve told me. “It deserves more attention and is certainly worth two stars!”

Stob Coire nan Lochan has proved popular in recent days with ascents of the classic lines of Tilt (VI,7), Intruder (VI,7), Evening Citizen (V,7), Crest Route (V,6), Scabbard Chimney (V,6) and Raeburn’s Route (IV,4) together with the test-piece Unicorn (VIII,8) by Dave Almond and Helen Rennard.

Posted in Repeats | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Tried and Tested Repeated in Glen Coe

Fionn Coiren Exploration

Jon Foden contemplates the first pitch of Fox Gully (III,4) on Ben Lui. This was the start of an excellent day that entailad 400m of ice climbing. (Photo Jon Foden)

Jon (Nettle) Foden had an enterprising day climbing and exploring Fionn Coirien on the north side of the Ben Lui group on December 11.

“Yesterday I was in Glen Lochy and my plan was Munro bagging with Beinn Chleibh in mind,” Jon explained. “But I always like to take in summits in a different way so I took a pair of tools and a helmet just in case. The map indicated a steep north-facing corrie and the picture in the SMC Munro guide suggested that there might be easy gullies leading to the top. From the car park there appeared to be some early season ice around… worth a punt. The result was two possible new routes – Fox Gully (III,4) is a bit of esoteria, quite low, but subsequently with a short walk in. Shift Work (IV,4) is more of an outing with a finish close to the summit of Beinn Chleibh.

The 150m-long Fox Gully is actually on the western flank of Ben Lui and follows a gully which sweeps around the right‐hand side of a rocky buttress. It’s currently a lovely, icy outing, but will probably bank out a bit as the snow comes in. Even with the cold of the last few days the water is running and it’s a bit chewy. But here’s plenty of solid ice and turf, which made a fun ascent. As I approached, a fox ran out of the gully, hence the name.

Coming into Fionn Coiren from this height I was rewarded with a great view of the cliffs below Beinn Chleibh. There were about six obvious icy lines, which could each give a rewarding expedition. However, several of them sit below bowls that would no doubt be an avalanche danger as snow builds, although this isn’t a concern in current conditions. Shift Work (IV,4) had a 250m continuous line of ice to within a few feet of the top, and I topped out close to the summit. It was a belter! This makes me think it may well have been climbed before, but I can’t find any accounts of anything at all in the corrie. The line is less likely to be affected by avalanche, and the name relates to the reason why I’m out climbing on my own on a Monday!”

Posted in New Routes | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Fionn Coiren Exploration

New Glen Coe Test-Piece

Guy Robertson leads the final pitch of Lost Arrow Winter Variation (X,10) by headlamp. This major addition, one of the most difficult mixed routes ever climbed in Scotland, lies on Church Door Buttress in Glen Coe. (Photo Greg Boswell)

Greg Boswell and Guy Robertson added another test-piece to the collection of hard winter routes on Bidean nam Bian’s Church Door Buttress when they climbed a winter version of Lost Arrow on December 11. The route was first climbed by Gary Latter and Paul Thorburn and is rated E3,6a in summer. Greg and Guy’s five-pitch winter version is called Lost Arrow Winter Variation and weighs in at a hefty X,10. The pair attempted the route last week but darkness forced a retreat. This time, an early start and a torchlight lead by Guy of the final pitch, resulted in success.

“I’ve been wanting to do a route based around Lost Arrow for a while now,” Greg told me. “The big curving corner littered with roofs was just shouting out to be tried! The route is a variation on Lost Arrow. It takes the first pitch of that route, then climbs the wall between Lost Arrow and Kingpin before moving back left to belay on the small ledge of Lost Arrow. We then climbed the steep turfy crack to the left of the main Lost Arrow crack and continued direct to the belay, instead of going right to climb the rib as for Lost Arrow.

The next pitch was climbed direct through the very hard and technical chimney straight above the belay to eventually gain a stance below the smaller of the two roofs. The last pitch was a ‘go for glory’ into the darkness over the last roof. World class!

The route was very sustained with multiple tech 9 and 10 pitches found throughout. The crux was probably the second pitch through the first big roofed area, and then everything above was still very hard and sustained, with the final roof being crazy hard regardless of the amount of climbing already done to get there!”

Lost Arrow Winter Variation is a significant addition, and the highest graded winter new route to be climbed in Scotland since Greg’s ascents of Intravenous Fly Trap and Banana Wall in Coire an Lochain in February 2017 and 2015. Earlier in the 2015 winter, Greg and Guy had made Scottish winter climbing history with a hat trick of new Grade X routes – The Greatest Show on Earth, Range War and The Messiah – all climbed on sight and over a 15 day period.

Posted in New Routes | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

From Our Derbyshire Correspondent

The south-east face of Mam Tor in the Peak District. Blue John Rib (III), which follows the left edge of the central buttress, has seen several ascents over the last few days. (Photo Jeremy Windsor)

This blog is primarily about Scottish winter climbing, but occasionally news comes in from other areas that is just too good not to share. Scottish winter enthusiast Jeremy Windsor, who lives in Matlock in Derbyshire writes:

“Just letting you that Derbyshire’s premier mixed climbing venue has been ’in’ these last few days. Known as the ‘Shaking Mountain’, on account of its poor rock, shale and mud strata, the routes on Mam Tor rarely come into condition. And when they do, their south-east aspect means that they’re stripped by the weakest of sunlight.

Nevertheless this week, the standout route of the area – Blue John Rib (III) – saw ascents by a handful of enthusiastic teams. So impressed by its three nerve-racking pitches, I followed up a night ascent with a quick repeat the next morning (December 11). Could it be, as I struck frozen mud and shale for the second time in twelve hours, that I’d found a route worthy of inclusion in, ‘Chasing the Ephemeral Vol II’?

NB – Please note that a Derbyshire Grade III means that the route is never easier than III and in reality will be considerably harder!”

Posted in Commentary | Tagged , , | Comments Off on From Our Derbyshire Correspondent

Following in Tom Weir’s Footsteps

Roger Webb negotiating a steep step during the first winter ascent of the South Rib (III) of Arkle in the far North-West. This prominent feature was first climbed by Tom Weir and Arthur Macpherson in May 1951. (Photo Simon Richardson)

Neil Wilson had long admired Tom Weir and Arthur Macpherson’s route up the 280m-high South Rib of Arkle, the Corbett just south of Foinaven. Weir and Macpherson were amongst the first to explore the climbing potential of the Foinaven group in the Far North, and their line on Arkle takes a very prominent line visible from the A838 road at the west end of Lock Stack. Neil thought it would make a good winter route, but facing south-west with a starting level of 300m, it was going to require some very specific conditions.

The requisite recipe of cold temperatures, heavy snow blown on a northerly wind, and a cloudy forecast to prevent the route stripping in the sun all came together on Sunday December 10. Neil, recruited Roger Webb and I for the project, and we enjoyed an excellent six-pitch climb up the rib that is defined by a deep gully to its left.

Unfortunately the cloudy weather was more continuous snowfall at times, but it did not detract from the fun of climbing a classic mountaineering Grade III in an unusual location. And rather surprisingly, our ascent may well be the first winter route to be recorded on this very distinctive peak.

Posted in New Routes | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Following in Tom Weir’s Footsteps
Drug Synthroid Online (Levothyroxine) is used for treating low thyroid hormone levels and certain types of goiters. Abilify (Aripiprazole) is used for treating agitation caused by schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, depression. Click to see full text here: