Babes in the Wood – Second Ascent

Will Sim looking across Aladdin’s Couloir to the line of Babes in the Wood (VIII,8) after making the second winter ascent. The route breaks through a roof bottom right, before following the thin crack which peters out into a thin technical slab - the meat of the route. (Photo Greg Boswell)

Will Sim looking across Aladdin’s Couloir in Coire an t-Sneachda to the line of Babes in the Wood (VIII,8) after making the second winter ascent. The route breaks through a roof bottom centre, before following the thin diagonal crack which peters out into a thin technical slab – the meat of the route. (Photo Greg Boswell)

On Tuesday December 17, Will Sim and Greg Boswell made the second winter ascent of Babes in the Wood (VIII,8) in Coire an t-Sneachda. This 30m-long summer E2 follows a slanting crack-line on the left flank of Aladdin’s Buttress and provides a very sustained winter pitch with a thin crux at the top. The route was first climbed in winter by Dave MacLeod and Scott Muir in December 2004. It was a well-known winter problem at the time, and the pair only succeeded on their second attempt, after the first ended with a fall for Dave near the top of the route,

“We didn’t really know much about it apart from that it was grade VIII,8,” Will told me. “It was my lead yesterday and it went on sight. Fun steep moves through a roof low down led to brilliant technical climbing up a seamed slab for another 25 or so metres. The gear was just good enough, but it definitely felt bold in places. Although it’s only one pitch, we both thought it was fantastic and worth noting, as VIII,8 is a grade Sneachda doesn’t do particularly well. It’s also a great line and quick to get to!”

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Avenging Angel, Alternative Start

Iain Small leading the new Alternative Start to Avenging Angel on Ben Nevis. This perplexing area of overhanging grooves at the left end of Creag Coire na Ciste has yielded a number of excellent routes and variations in recent seasons. (Photo Tony Stone)

Iain Small leading the new Alternative Start to Avenging Angel on Ben Nevis. This perplexing area of overhanging grooves at the left end of Creag Coire na Ciste has yielded a number of excellent routes and variations in recent seasons. (Photo Tony Stone)

Although this year’s December weather is proving to be unusually mild, there was a brief burst of cold air at the end of last week which produced a flurry of activity on Ben Nevis. Three notable ascents took place on December 6 – an early repeat of The Knuckleduster (VIII,9) on Number Three Gully Buttress by the powerhouse team of Martin Moran and Pete Macpherson, a possible second ascent of The Sorcerer (VII,8) on Creag Coire na Ciste by Keith Ball, Kenny Grant and Guy Stephen, and a new start to Avenging Angel Direct.

The Sorcerer takes an unlikely line through the steep wall below the exit gully of Lost the Place, and to the best of my knowledge, it had not been repeated. Steve Ashworth and Nils Nielsen from Norway made the first ascent during a memorable day on the 2007 International Winter Meet. They climbed Darth Vader (VII,8) in the morning, followed by The Sorcerer, before racing up Thompson’s Route to warm down!

The third important event was the addition of a new Alternative Start to Avenging Angel Direct (VIII,8) on Creag Coire na Ciste by Iain Small and Tony Stone. The sustained Tech 7+ pitch follows a parallel corner line to the left of Angels with Dirty Faces (VIII,8) – a Small-Stone addition from February 2011.

“Friday turned out a nice day,” Iain explained. “There was no wind which was a relief as it was pretty cold. We headed up to the Ben for a look, and as usual, it delivered. Unfortunately the keener (and earlier) team of Moran and Macpherson were already on Knuckleduster so we headed over to the Archangel area. After the recent interest in Avenging Angel Direct, it reignited my regrets over not continuing up that finish when we climbed Angels with Dirty Faces. So this time we started up a different lower pitch between Archangel and Angels with Dirty Faces to reach the top two pitches of Avenging Angel. It was satisfying to finish up that route eventually!

Reading your recent post, and the opinions generated, regarding the recording of lower grade routes, it left me wondering how to treat our alternative (but less direct) than the Direct Start to AA! It was a fun pitch, but perhaps left until someone can incorporate it into a line cutting through the headwall? On balance though, I feel it should it be recorded as an alternative start – I guess the same agreements and principles apply to routes at all grades in the end.”

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Aonach Beag (We Hope)

Dave McGimpsey high on the West Face of Aonach Beag during the first winter ascent of North Buttress (III). The Mamores are in the background. (Photo Andy Nisbet)

Dave McGimpsey high on the West Face of Aonach Beag during the first winter ascent of North Buttress (III). The Mamores are in the background. (Photo Andy Nisbet)

“I never thought I’d go to Aonach Beag from Glen Nevis,” Andy Nisbet writes. “I had it in my head it was such a long way. And Simon and Helen going there the day after last year’s SMC dinner didn’t encourage me; Simon does like the long walks. But I was watching a DVD while wondering where to go with Dave McGimpsey the next day, and suddenly this helicopter flew across the cliffs of Aonach Beag, high and west facing. Just the perfect aspect after a big storm from the west had brought a sudden drop in temperatures. West facing should be frozen and east facing buried and insulated.

Only one snag, how do you reverse the DVD and stop at the right point? Now there aren’t many climbers who find this is as hard a task as finding a new line; in fact I might be unique. But I finally succeeded and the new line was quickly spotted. Now for the next problem, how to note it down. Quick thinking, or so I thought; photograph the TV screen, transfer to the computer and print it out. Later Dave said, “why didn’t you just play the DVD on the computer?”

So back to the mundane tasks, how to persuade Dave to get up at 5am, how to drive on icy roads to Glen Nevis and would we have to wade up to the crag? Much to my amazement, you can actually see the West Face of Aonach Beag when driving up Glen Nevis, and my worry that the new line might just be a walk on grass (it did look very green on the DVD) suddenly changed to how steep and rocky it looked, and would it be possible. Mental note: look at crags from a helicopter as the lines look easier.

It turned out the crag isn’t nearly as far as I thought but it is a long way up, and that equates to steep. And the buttress we’d chosen, the one left of a prominent gully, was steep too. But there was a nice deep groove with quite a lot of ice (conditions were surprisingly icy, but it had been a sudden freeze) and a big flat chockstone, which would have been awkward without the good placements in the ice. This lead on to an easy ramp out left to the crest of the buttress. Dave’s pitch had a smooth start on slabby rock but then turned easier, and soon we were on top, unexpectedly quickly and wondering how to get down for another route. We gambled on the bottom end of the crag first and that didn’t work, so it was annoyingly back up to try the top end. There was an easier slope here but it was further, even without our detour.

The next potential line was the buttress right of the prominent gully. It did look smooth at the bottom but a sneak round the corner showed up some big rock crevasses and a likely way up. It was easy to get into the crevasses, although we did have to jump into one, but not so easy to get out. Still these tricky moves weren’t exposed so we soloed up until we reached the upper slab. A crack-line on its right side proved more awkward than it looked, with a bulge and the crack closing above, so it was lucky we roped up. It was still cold and windy on top but even the Ben had cleared and we admired great views all round. And there was time to return by the longer Glen Nevis meadows and still make the car in daylight.

Now exactly what we did is not so easy, as the crag is only summarised in Simon’s Ben Nevis guidebook. There’s little doubt that the buttresses we climbed were the ones holding the original summer routes; the crevasses and the final slab of ‘Crevassed Rib’ were a giveaway. We graded North Buttress (the left route) III and Crevassed Rib IV,5; both about 100m long.”

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The Demon – First Winter Ascent

Greg Boswell making the first winter ascent of The Demon (IX,9) in Coire an Lochain in the Northern Corries. The route starts from the lower left corner of the wall, whilst the winter line of Demon Direct, first climbed by Alan Mullin in 2001, takes the right-facing corner just to the right. Both routes then continue up the same upper crack system. (Photo Stewart Whiting)

Greg Boswell making the first winter ascent of The Demon (IX,9) in Coire an Lochain in the Northern Corries. The route starts from the lower left corner of the wall, whilst the winter-only line of Demon Direct, first climbed by Alan Mullin in 2001, takes the right-facing corner just to the right. Both routes then continue up the same upper crack system. (Photo Stewart Whiting)

Greg Boswell and Dougie Russell scored a notable coup in the Northern Corries on Saturday December 7 with the first winter ascent of The Demon on No.3 Buttress in Coire an Lochain. This rarely visited summer E2 was first climbed by Brian Davison and Andy Nisbet in August 1983, and takes a thin right-trending line up the steep front face of the buttress. This wall was already home to three of Scotland’s most well known winter test-pieces. Happy Tyroleans (IX,10) was first ascended by Austrians Florian Schranz, Heinz Zak and Egon Netzer during the 2001 International Winter Meet, and two weeks later Alan Mullin added Demon Direct (IX,9) with Steve Paget. In January 2012, a third winter route was added to the wall when Charly Fritzer and Matthias Wurzer’s climbed Pfugga-lule (VIII,9).

It was Alan Mullin who made the first serious winter attempts at climbing The Demon in 1998, but he was soon diverted onto the impressive direct line of Demon Direct that leads straight up into the upper crack system. In a world of two-point crampons and leashed tools, this was a futuristic vision, and Alan only succeeded on his fifth attempt three years later, after being spurred on by the Austrian ascent of Happy Tyroleans. Alan’s willingness to push the ethical boundaries on some of his new routes, and his straightforward honesty in describing them, earned him the title of ‘enfant terrible’ of Scottish climbing, but Demon Direct stood out as a landmark ascent in his career. Not only was it one of his finest technical achievements, but Alan’s determination to climb it ground up set the ethical standard for this style of route.

Standards have of course moved on over the intervening 12 years, but even so, Greg’s on sight ascent of the true summer line was no pushover. “It was a really fun route with some super technical climbing and a fairly intense lower section away from the gear,” Greg told me. “The upper crux was some of the thinnest climbing I’ve done in the Cairngorms on those granite rounded ledges that we know and love so much!”

Greg finished the first pitch by making a hard traverse right to the belay ledge of Demon Direct and Happy Tyroleans, as he knew there was no places above for a belay. Dougie then led off to gain the main crack system shared with Demon Direct.

“The Demon was probably around IX,9 and definitely deserved three stars,” Greg enthused. “It’s one of the best routes in the corrie that I’ve done to date!”

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High Cairngorms Exploration

Roger Webb on the first ascent of Moonflower, a new Grade III in Coire nan Clach on Braeriach. Along with the mixed climbs high on Ben Nevis, the remote high corries of the Cairngorms are invariably the first areas to come into condition every season. (Photo Simon Richardson)

Roger Webb on the first ascent of Moonflower, a new Grade III in Coire nan Clach on Braeriach. Along with the mixed climbs high on Ben Nevis, the remote high corries of the Cairngorms are invariably the first areas to come into condition every season. (Photo Simon Richardson)

Autumn is a great time to explore the high Cairngorms. The north-west facing Northern Corries rime up quickly with the first snows of the season, but it is the likes of Braeriach and Beinn a’Bhuird that truly hold the cold during early season temperature variations and thaw. The climate in the corries cutting deep into the Cairngorm plateau is different to the front line crags on the northern flanks of the massif.

Aspect is important too. The west-facing Coire nan Clach on Braeriach yielded a couple of new lines to Roger Everett, Roger Webb and myself after the first blast of winter westerlies in early November. Moonflower (III) on Alaska Buttress, and RRS Rib (II) up the ridge to the right, were a good opportunity to blow away the summer cobwebs. The following weekend, all north and west-facing crags had been stripped bare by warm south-west winds, but a sharp freeze had transformed the vertical-stepped corner cutting through the buttress left of Powerpoint in the sheltered east-facing Coire Bhrochain. This gave Roger Everett and I Petzl Buttress, a good III,4 climbed on well-frozen turf, new squeaky ice and hard re-frozen snow.

On the last Sunday in November, Roger Webb and I teamed up to visit the obscure East Meur Gorm Craig on Ben Avon. The Sheep, The Sheep (III,4) and Sheep of Destiny (III,4) are probably the best winter lines on a largely disappointing crag comprised of massive exfoliating granite, but nevertheless we had the dubious satisfaction of adding the first (recorded) winter routes to the mountain.

Earlier in the month, The Stuic on Lochnagar – the most accessible high venue in the Eastern Cairngorms – gave a good four pitch V,5 to Roger Everett and myself up the series of steep corners to the left of Millennium Buttress.

These routes will likely only be of interest to a small handful of climbers, and will be quickly lost in the back pages of the SMC Journal. They will almost certainly never merit full descriptions in upcoming guidebooks, but they do demonstrate the exploratory fun that can be had by looking around a new corner or two!

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New Lochain Route

Lee Harrison moving up to the foot of Snuffleupagus (IV,6) in Coire an Lochain in the Northern Corries. The route follows the line of corners directly above Lee’s head. (Photo Michael Barnard)

Lee Harrison moving up to the foot of Snuffleupagus (IV,6) in Coire an Lochain in the Northern Corries. The route follows the line of corners directly above Lee’s head. (Photo Michael Barnard)

On November 23, Michael Barnard and Lee Harrison climbed Snuffleupagus (IV,6), a new two-pitch line in Coire an Lochain on the very left side of No.4 Buttress. “It starts up grooves and corners parallel to and left of Oesophagus,” Michael told me. “It then moves leftwards to finish near a route called Sarcophagus which I chanced upon a couple of years ago. That had been done on the solo so the bleak name seemed justified, but this time we decided to go for something more upbeat!”

Given the active and constructive recent discussion about the recording of routes on popular cliffs, I asked Andy Nisbet’s opinion on Lee and Michael’s route. “Snuffleupagus is different,” Andy explained. “I’m guessing a bit without going there, but I suspect it wouldn’t have been considered as a route until recently. But nowadays folk treat cliffs like crags – every feature can be climbed and claimed as a new route. Creagan Cha-no is like that and folk are liking it. So perhaps the old school like me should just go with the times… it will go in the Journal, although hopefully I’ll get a chance to look at it first!”

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New Route Recording – A Conundrum

The right side of No.4 Buttress in Coire an Lochain on Cairn Gorm showing the line of Torquing to Myself. 1. Torquing Heads (VII,7), 2. Western Slant (IV,5), 3. Cut Adrift (III,4), 3a. Cut Adrift RH Start, 4. Torquing To Myself (III,4). (Photo and Topo Simon Yearsley)

The right side of No.4 Buttress in Coire an Lochain on Cairn Gorm showing the line of Torquing to Myself. 1. Torquing Heads (VII,7), 2. Western Slant (IV,5), 3. Cut Adrift (III,4), 3a. Cut Adrift RH Start, 4. Torquing To Myself (III,4). (Photo and Topo Simon Yearsley)

Simon Yearsley had an enjoyable day in the Northern Corries on November 25, coming away with a possible first ascent on No.4 Buttress in Coire an Lochain. His climb raises some interesting aspects about the recording of new routes.

“I was due to climb with Helen Rennard again on Monday,” Simon explains, “but she was pretty tired after two days on the Ben – one new route and one VIII,8, so she gave her (very understandable) apologies. The forecast was excellent, so I pottered up to Coire an Lochain by myself to check out the far right hand side of the crag. It’s probably fair to say that 99.9% of the Northern Corries have been well and truly explored by several generations of keen instructors from Glenmore Lodge. However, given that there’s always the chance of finding the 0.1%, and also that I’d been giving a talk recently, extolling the virtues of new routing in Scotland and encouraging folk to look at existing venues with “New Route Eyes”… so I thought it appropriate to check out this wee area. It looked like the ground immediately right of “Cut Adrift” could hold give a short route, and at a grade I hoped I’d be able to solo.

I found it a bit nerve racking starting out to solo a route, but things quickly settled down and progressed quite quickly to a fine blocky ledge below the steep final wall. A flaky crack lead out left, but I must admit it took a couple of nervous attempts to start the crack. Once committed it was of course much easier than contemplation, and I was soon standing on the plateau. Coire an Lochain doesn’t have too many reasonable IIIs, so, whilst the route is fairly minor, it is a useful addition, especially as it makes a good early season line. I must admit to chuckling about the name – I’d stood on the blocky ledge for a good ten minutes, muttering to myself about I should start the final flake crack… seeing as the route lies close to Torquing Heads and Torquing West… ‘Torquing To Myself’ seems appropriate.”

Simon sent his account to Andy Nisbet, editor of the highly authoritative New Routes section in the SMC Journal, who was quick to respond. “It’s unlikely that Torquing to Myself hasn’t been done before,” he wrote. “Glenmore Lodge instructors including me, have taken folk up routes in that area, but it’s difficult to be precise about exactly where we went.”

I pushed Andy a little further, and asked whether Torquing to Myself would be recorded in next year’s SMCJ.

“It’s difficult to know what to do with this route,” Andy replied. “It took some persuading to include [the nearby] Cut Adrift (in the SMCJ) but I actually went and did it myself. And it was good, and not what I’d done before (but others might have). But Simon Y’s line has been climbed before, or roughly so, because it’s less steep than Cut Adrift and does bank out a lot, in fact in mid-season is Grade II. But it’s a bit like Sneachda and the routes that were regular Glenmore Lodge routes but never recorded (like the ribs between the Trident Gullies). After several attempts to claim them, Allen Fyffe did put them in the last guide, and rightly so. The area on the right side of Fiacaill Buttress is another area used by instructors. I’ve had a couple of claims, but I know the routes have been done hundreds of times and have refused; again maybe they should be in the next guide. The “twin ribs” are another instructor area that perhaps should be in the guide, as they are good fun if rather trivial to more experienced folk.

But that’s not a reason why they shouldn’t be recorded because, as Simon points out, he enjoyed the day and if he felt it worthwhile, then so will others. So I think I’ll put it in the SMCJ as a first recorded ascent. I don’t actually know what I did [in this area] – you just took your two students and soloed up ahead of them leading, pointed out runner placements and generally supervised, not thinking about where you went or recording it; there was enough to worry about. Glenmore Lodge have stopped that sort of instruction these days.”

“I’m pretty relaxed about all of this, “Simon responded, “but if I had to choose, I think I’d come down on the side of recording all routes, and if this means that we document some routes as first recorded ascents, then that seems in my view to be a positive thing. I think we’ve moved on a long way from the days of ‘don’t record’.”

So the conundrum – should we record good and accessible lines in popular areas that are known to have unlisted ascents (such as the Northern Corries), or avoid any possible ambiguity by purely focusing on new routes (typically very hard) that are more certain to be breaking new ground?

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Day of The Doctor

Helen Rennard climbing pitch two of Day of The Doctor (IV,5) on Ben Nevis during the first ascent. The route was repeated next day by Robin Clothier and Pat Ingram taking a more direct line on the final pitch, (Photo Simon Yearsley)

Helen Rennard climbing pitch two of Day of The Doctor (IV,5) on Ben Nevis during the first ascent. The route was repeated next day by Robin Clothier and Pat Ingram taking a more direct line on the final pitch. (Photo Simon Yearsley)

On Saturday November 23, Simon Yearsley and Helen Rennard added a new route to North Trident Buttress on Ben Nevis. Simon takes up the story:

“Over the weekend, freezing levels seemed hard to predict, with anything from 900m to 1100m for the West, depending which forecast you chose. So Helen and I banked on going high, and headed over to the Ben. We were in a new route mood, so we headed up to North Trident Buttress to look at the buttress tucked between Nereid Gully and Left-Hand Ridge. The buttress is fairly small, but does have a very obvious and very fine looking ramp line on its right hand side. From below, the ramp looked to be about grade III, but, as is often the case with features like this, as soon as you set off, the climbing proved to be a bit harder. Short steep steps with not so great gear lead upwards… but I then decided to head rapidly downwards in a silly 7m fall when an axe ripped. The rope caught in my crampon, spinning me into an inelegant upside down clattering fall. A peg just below me ripped, but a lower sling (and Helen’s belaying!) caught me.

I’ve taken very few leader fall in winter, and was a wee bit shaken… but with Helen’s encouragement, and few giggles at the daft position of me being lowered back to the belay with my leg high above my head, I dusted myself down, and I set off again. The ramp is a very fine feature and gave two great pitches before joining Left-Hand Ridge above its crux. We followed the excellent horizontal arête of Left-Hand Ridge for one pitch, and then spotted a series of turfy grooves immediately right of the crest of the buttress between Jubilee Climb and Nereid Gully. This gave a final 50m pitch before the angle kicked back and we sauntered to the top.

Thinking about a name for the climb is always a fun part of new-routing. Chatting through different ideas, we realised that over 10 million people across the UK were going to be glued to their TV screens later than evening watching a 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who. So, the name was easy – Day of The Doctor.”

The route was repeated next day by Robin Clothier and Pat Ingram. “Robin and Pat climbed a slightly better final pitch,” Simon told me. “Above the flat section of left-hand ridge, where we climbed turfy grooves on the right of the arête, they climbed the deep groove in the arête itself. We’d looked at this but time was pressing, but it’s probably a better finish at the same overall grade.”

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All Eyes on The Ben

Tony Stone making the third ascent of Arthur (VIII,8) on Number Three Gully Buttress, Ben Nevis. The first winter ascent of this imposing line was made by Bruce Poll and Tony Shepherd in 2004 and was the third Grade VIII to be climbed on the mountain. (Photo Iain Small)

Tony Stone making the third ascent of Arthur (VIII,8) on Number Three Gully Buttress, Ben Nevis. The first winter ascent of this imposing line was made by Bruce Poll and Tony Shepherd in 2004 and was the third Grade VIII to be climbed on the mountain. (Photo Iain Small)

If last weekend’s activity is anything to go by, Ben Nevis has taken over from the Northern Corries as the venue of choice for high standard early season mixed. Harry Holmes and Dan Tait set the tone on Thursday November 21 with an ascent of the steep corner-line of Cornucopia (VII,8) on the left flank of Creag Coire na Ciste. This route has become something of a modern test-piece, but it can be even more challenging early in the season when the tricky entry pitch is not banked out by tens of metres of snow in Number Three Gully.

The following day was forecast to be a little warmer, but Iain Small and Tony Stone decided to take a chance and head up to the Ben to take a look. “Luckily the freezing level kicked in below the Number Three Gully Buttress area,” Iain told me. “The snow pack is pretty impressive for this time of year, so no struggling up snow-covered scree! Conditions were pretty icy with some neve even on bigger ledges and the rock was getting rimed and verglassed in the damp mist. We climbed Storm Trooper (VIII,8) by the original start up the flake-crack and finished up the final chimney of Cornucopia. It was very good route, which deserves to be climbed more often. Somehow, it seems to have been overlooked compared with other surrounding lines.”

On Saturday November 23 there were plenty of strong teams in action on the high cliffs of Coire na Ciste. Andy Inglis and Neil Adams made an ascent of The Secret (VIII,9), whilst nearby, Blair Fyffe, Richard Bentley and Robin Clothier made an early repeat of Archangel (VII,7). Across on Number Three Gully Buttress, Iain Small and Tony Stone made the third ascent of Arthur (VIII,8). This steep and rarely climbed summer HVS was first climbed in winter by Bruce Poll and Tony Shepherd in January 2004, and was repeated by Ian Parnell and North American ace Kelly Cordes during the 2005 BMC international Meet.

The following day (November 24), Pete Macpherson and Erick Baillot visited the Archangel area and made the second ascent of Avenging Angel Direct (VIII,8). Direct, steep and uncompromising, this is one of the finest mixed lines on the mountain and was only first climbed in its entirety by Neil Adams and Jim Higgins last February.

Neil Adams and Andy Inglis made it a memorable weekend with an early repeat of Apache (VIII,9), the steep crack-line to the right of Sioux wall on Number Three Gully Buttress. Next door, Harry Holmes and Helen Rennard made a smooth ascent of the modern classic Sioux Wall (VIII,8). “It was brilliant and really enjoyable,” Helen told me. “There were some amazing hooks, and it was never that hard. We started late and finished in the dark but it was still clear with an amazing starry night.”

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New Winter Season Kicks Off

Simon Yearsley making an ascent of Savage Slit (V,6) in Coire an Lochain on Cairn Gorm. Savage Slit reliably comes into condition with the first snows of the winter and is a popular early season choice. (Photo Helen Rennard)

Simon Yearsley making an ascent of Savage Slit (V,6) in Coire an Lochain on Cairn Gorm. Savage Slit reliably comes into condition with the first snows of the winter and is a popular early season choice. (Photo Helen Rennard)

Strong westerlies brought the first real snows of the 2013/214 Scottish winter season during the last days of October. There are rumours of an ascent of Fingers Ridge (IV,4) in Coire an t-Sneachda during the first snowfalls last week, but the first batch of this season’s winter routes were climbed over the weekend and Monday.

Blustery conditions and poorly frozen turf, meant that many folk climbing in the Northern Corries went away empty handed over the weekend, but further west, parties were more successful on the mountaineering classics suxh as the Aonach Eagach and Ledge Route on Ben Nevis.

Yesterday (November 4), Duncan Hodgson and Mark Chadwick visited the Northern Corries and climbed the modern classic Hookers Corner (VI,6). Next door on No.4 Buttress, Helen Rennard and Simon Yearsley made an ascent of Savage Slit (V,6).

“Sensible route choices are always important, but none more so than with the first snows of the winter,” Simon told me. “It’s tempting to rush out to “grab the white stuff”, but it was pretty obvious that from following the forecasts that no turf would be frozen by Monday (as Helen found out the day before when she’d taken a walk into Coire na Ciste on the Ben to check out conditions), so it was all about routes which can be climbed in a good coating of snow but don’t rely at all on turf. Routes like Fingers Ridge, Crest Route, Crypt Route, Hookers Corner Savage Slit and Mess Of Pottage are good objectives, and yesterday was no exception!

Helen and I walked into Coire an Lochain with deep snow in the boulders around the eponymous lochan and the cliffs plastered with rime and heavy snow. Savage Slit was beautifully white, with lots of effort needed to uncover the cracks for gear, and coupled with the wind it was a full-on reintroduction to Scottish winter! Mark Chadwick and Duncan Hodgson found similar conditions on Hookers Corner, and later in the day we also bumped into Lou and her partner after they’d done a route on Mess of Pottage, and also heard later that Andy Nisbet and Dave McGimpsey enjoyed a fun (and possibly slightly more sheltered) day out on Fingers Ridge. I must admit I did feel pretty tired after the Ice Factor Festival of Ice Comp on Saturday, but walking back down to the car park, we both agreed that it felt wonderful to be back in the swing of things… here’s to more white stuff!”

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