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    Andy Turner at the hanging belay below the final pitch of Bruised Violet on Beinn Eighe (yellow) with the top pitch of the new line Crème de Violette (IX,9) marked in red. “I spent over an hour climbing rightwards to come close to Nick's line but was put off by the gear and ended up down climbing and then having to head up in an exhausted state on the top pitch,” Parnell recounted afterwards. (Topo Ian Parnell)

    Andy Turner at the hanging belay below the final pitch of Bruised Violet on Beinn Eighe (yellow) with the top pitch of the new line Crème de Violette (IX,9) marked in red. “I spent over an hour climbing rightwards to come close to Nick’s line but was put off by the gear and ended up down climbing and then having to head up in an exhausted state on the top pitch,” Parnell recounted afterwards. (Topo Ian Parnell)

    With an excellent weather forecast for the North-West on Friday January 7, Nick Bullock and Tim Neill headed up to Beinn Eighe with the intention of repeating Bruised Violet (VIII,8) on West Central Wall. Bruised Violet was the brainchild of Ian Parnell, who made four attempts before he finally succeeded with Andy Turner in March 2009. The name is a reference to the injuries sustained from an avalanche in Fuselage Gully after one of the failed attempts, and later, Ian wrote a gripping article in Alpinist describing the story of the route.

    Nick and Tim’s ascent was demanding and engrossing, and after finishing the ascent Nick declared it one of the finest five winter routes he had ever climbed in Scotland. After chatting with Ian over the phone, it turned out that they hadn’t followed the original line but had taken a direct version of pitch two and then a parallel line to the right of the third pitch. The resulting new route – Crème de Violette – is solid IX,9 and another outstanding addition to the awe-inspiring West Central Wall. Crème de Violette covers similar ground to Bruised Violet, so it’s likely that Ian and Andy’s route may be a little undergraded too.

    “The actual climbing shared with Bruised Violet is actually very little,” Nick explained. “After pulling through the overhang into what Ian called the committing groove, I soon reached the in-situ Pecker where Ian went hard right. I continued up the groove placing a Bulldog into ice just beneath a roof that caps the groove. Moving right around the roof to reach a steep groove above was really absorbing, especially given the lack of protection! The steep groove moves were very technical, one-tooth placements in a shallow crack while my front points were placed on very small flat edges. After the groove, the gear improved but the climbing was still sustained following a wide crack that bulged. Eventually, I reached a belay after about 40m.

    The second new pitch climbed direct until beneath a bottomless corner which overhung dramatically. Pulling into this corner and climbing it to the top was the second crux of the climb. Once committed to the corner placing any more gear was impossible. At the top of the corner a few moves right using axe shaft torques in a horizontal crack led to a wide crack and a steep pull onto a snow ledge. A final overhang led to the top. I told Ian that I thought it was one of the best routes I had ever experienced in Scotland, and for me, it is certainly the route of the winter so far!”

    It was a busy day on Beinn Eighe on February 7, with ascents of Eastern Promise and Blood, Sweat and Frozen Tears, and Andy Inglis and Duncan Hodgson nipped in for another early repeat of the highly-prized West Central Gully.

    The great soaring groove of Last Orders (VII,8) cutting through the right side of Major Rib in Glas Tholl on An Teallach. This superlative line was takes one of the most compelling features in the Northern Highlands. The broad gully on the right is the Alley (II). (Photo Neil Adams)

    The great soaring groove of Last Orders (VII,8) cutting through the right side of Major Rib in Glas Tholl on An Teallach. This superlative line was takes one of the most compelling features in the Northern Highlands. The broad gully on the right is the Alley (II). (Photo Neil Adams)

    One of the real highlights of the recent BMC Winter Meet took place on the last day (February 1) when Neil Adams and Kenro Nakajima from Japan made the first ascent of Last Orders (VII,8) on An Teallach. This striking groove line slices through the right side of Major Rib, and is characterised by a remarkably steep and monolithic section that is cut by a roof at half-height. The pair approached the route by starting about 50m up The Alley at an icy corner where The Alley curves rightwards.

    “We walked in with the intention of doing Haystack,” Neil told me. “The weather was good and we spotted this obvious line that wasn’t in the guidebook. Kenro was up for an adventure, so we went for it. He put in a great lead on the crux pitch (pitch 3) to make the hard, strenuous moves up to and past the roof in fading light. He did take a short rest on gear – the first free ascent is still there for the taking – but that was at least partly due to cumulative fatigue from climbing six days in a row!”

    Iain Small on the first ascent of the Year f the Horse (IX,9). This is the second Grade IX that Small has added to cliffs of Stob Coire nan Lochan in as many weeks. (Photo Richard Bentley)

    Iain Small climbing the wall above the double roofs on the first ascent of the Year of the Horse (IX,9). This is the second Grade IX that Iain has added to cliffs of Stob Coire nan Lochan in as many weeks. (Photo Richard Bentley)

    On Thursday January 30, Iain Small and Blair Fyffe made a major addition to Glen Coe. “After climbing Sundance on Beinn Eighe with Murdo [Jamieson], I headed down to The Fort that evening to get out with Blair on Thursday,” Iain told me. “We hedged our bets and headed up for Stob Coire nan Lochan and a broken trail. The amount of snow is prodigious, and as we passed Central Grooves you could reach up and touch the peg (it must be 15ft up the groove normally)!

    I had in mind a soaring V-groove capped with a double overhang and headwall that takes the imposing wall to the left of East Face Route. It gave a real winter-only treat of turf, dirty cracks and suspect blocks. A steep wall and grooves on the second pitch led to a large girdling ledge. We finished up the cracked wall to the right of East Face Direct Direct with my arms cramping up and blinding spindrift racing up the crag.

    We called it Year of The Horse (the new Chinese Year ) and it might be IX 9. It provided a nice foil to Scansor for the style of climbing. The route was a full on winter tussle entailing plenty of physicality and even knee bars through the double roof, so different to the delicate technical walls of Scansor. Even after the roofs I was unsure of whether the wall above would go, with cramping arms and choked cracks, but a ledge was in sight and even some neve to haul onto!”

    Greg Boswell on the first ascent of Making the Cut (VIII,8) on Beinn Eighe. The route climbs through the stepped roofs before taking the soaring crack line to the left of West Central Gully. (Photo Nick Bullock)

    Greg Boswell on the first ascent of Making the Cut (VIII,8) on Beinn Eighe. This stupendous route climbs through stepped roofs before taking the soaring crack line to the left of West Central Gully. (Photo Nick Bullock)

    The gales that raged throughout the BMC Winter Meet prompted many team to visit the North-West Highlands to seek some shelter from the South-East winds. This proved to be an unexpected bonus, as the Torridon Mountains were in excellent winter condition.

    Beinn Eighe, with its high north-facing cliffs was the initial venue of choice, and the classic lines of Fuselage Gully, East Buttress, West Buttress and Central Buttress soon saw ascents. On Wednesday January 29, Will Sim and Michelle Kadatz from Canada made the fourth ascent of the fabled West Central Gully (VII,8), arguably the most difficult gully climb in Scotland. Will came back raving about the climb, mightily impressed that Mick Fowler and Mike Morrison climbed this steep route way back in 1986. Also on Wednesday, Neil Adams and Nejc Marcic (Slovenia) made a possible second ascent of second ascent of  Sting (VII,7) , Andy Inglis and Martin Zumer (Slovenia) made the third ascent of Hydroconicum (VIII,8), and Dave Almond and Michal Sabovcik (Slovakia) climbed the now classic Blood, Sweat and Frozen Tears (VIII,8).

    The following day (January 30), the pace stepped up another notch when Nick Bullock, Jon Walsh (Canada) and Greg Boswell made the first ascent of Making the Cut (VIII,8), a major new line taking the soaring crack-line left of West Central Gully. Will Sim and Olov Isaksson (Sweden) also added Crazy Eyes (VII,9), another very strong line taking the left-facing corner, roof crack and offwidth corner above Hydroponicum. (The name is a tribute to Magnus Kastengren who represented Sweden at the last BMC Winter Meet and died recently after an accident when skiing on Mount Cook). Will and Olov climbed their new route so fast that they had time to nip up the classic West Buttress later that day. Andy Inglis made a return visit with Piotr Sulowski (Poland) and climbed the brilliant Sundance (VIII,8), and Simon Frost and partner made an early repeat of West Buttress Directissima (VII,8).

    The last day of the week (Saturday, February 1) saw something of a North-West showdown. Beinn Eighe continued to stay popular with more ascents of Central Buttress, Shang High, Kami-kaze and another ascent of Sundance by Dave Almond and Gustav Mellgren (Sweden), but the centre of the activity transferred to Beinn Bhan where there were four teams in action in the stupendous Coire nan Fhamair. Nick Wallis and Tito Arosio (Italy) climbed Gully of the Gods (VI,6) and Adam Booth and Slovenian climbers Nejc Marcic and Martin Zumer made an early repeat of Great Overhanging Gully (VI,7). Genesis (VII,7) saw its fourth ascent in the hands of Andy Inglis and Piotr Solowski (Poland), and Will Sim and Olov Isaksson (Sweden) also made the fourth ascent of The Godfather (VIII,8).

    Nearby in Coire na Poite, Neil Silver and Kenshi Imai from Japan pulled off the long-awaited second ascent of the 370m-long Realisation (VI,6). “It was a top quality route with sustained interest throughout,” Neil told me. “It’s at the top end of the grade and a harder outing than Central Buttress on Beinn Eighe.”

    The easily accessible winter cliffs on Meall Gorm proved popular. Gwilym Lynn and Felix Sattelberger (Germany) added a Direct Start (IV,4) to Cobalt Buttress, and Ian Parnell and Michelle Kadatz made a variation to The Blue Lamppost taking Grade VI vegetated grooves in the lower section before finishing up the final chimney to give a good VII,8. Just to the right, Rattlesnake (V,7) also saw an ascent. Elsewhere in the Torridon area, George (III,4), Poacher’s Fall (V,5) and Headless Gully (V,5) on Liathach were climbed in good icy conditions, and further south on Fuar Tholl, Right-End Buttress (III) was enjoyed by at least two parties.

    The most impressive achievement on the final day however, was the first ascent of Last Orders (VII,8) on An Teallach by Neil Adams and Kenro Nakajima (Japan). This magnificent groove-line, which cuts through the right side Major Rib, was one of the most significant routes of the week.

    Nick Bullock climbing Extasy (VIII,8) on Creag Meagaidh. The third ascent of this legendary route on the second day of the BMC Winter Meet set the tone for the rest of the week. Despite poor weather, more new routes and high standard repeats were achieved than ever before. (Photo Jon Walsh)

    Nick Bullock climbing Extasy (VIII,8) on Creag Meagaidh. The third ascent of this legendary route on the second day of the BMC Winter Meet set the tone for the rest of the week. Despite poor weather, more new routes and high standard repeats were achieved than ever before. (Photo Jon Walsh)

    The BMC Winter International Meet took place between January 27 and February 1. The meet was based at Glenmore Lodge, and 44 guests from 26 countries paired up with UK hosts to experience the delights of Scottish winter climbing. Despite the challenging weather and almost continuous gale force easterly winds, the meet was an outstanding success with over a dozen new routes and a significant number of repeats. Once again, Becky McGovern and Nick Colton from the BMC did a superb job keeping everyone teamed up with appropriate partners and staying cool and calm whilst fixing innumerable logistical issues.

    The big route from the early part of the meet was the third ascent of Extasy (VIII,8) on Creag Meagaidh by Nick Bullock with Canadian climber Jon Walsh on January 28. This long, serious and poorly protected route, which was first climbed during the 2005 Winter Meet by Bruno Sourzac and Dave Hesleden, has only been repeated once. Nick and Jon encountered difficult thin and ‘cruddy’ ice conditions. “Even Jon, who has done more hard Rockies alpine routes than most, was slowed down by the first pitch,” said Nick afterwards. In general, the snow was too heavy for good climbing on Meagaidh, although one determined team succeeded on Staghorn Gully.

    Ian Parnell and Michelle Kadatz from Canada took advantage of a very snowy Ben Nevis to make the fourth winter ascent of Centurion (VIII,8) on Carn Dearg Buttress. Although this route was first climbed in winter 28 years ago, it has maintained its reputation as one of the more difficult Scottish Grade VIIIs. This ascent rounded off an exceptional three days for Michelle who had already made the third ascent of Slenderhead (VIII,8) on Stob Coire nan Lochan and the fourth ascent of West Central Gully (VII,8) on Beinn Eighe.

    In Coire Ciste, Greg Boswell and Mirko Breckner from Germany made the second ascent of Heidbanger (VIII,8) on Central Trident Buttress. This challenging winter climb is graded E1 in summer and was first climbed by Rich Cross and Andy Benson in 2007. Nearby on South Trident Buttress, Fiona Murray and Siw Ornhaug from Norway repeated Gallifrey Groove (IV,5).

    Tower Ridge saw multiple ascents and was a wise choice in the conditions, but the low snow level also brought The Douglas Boulder into play. The classic South-West Ridge, Cutlass and Militant Chimney saw ascents, and on January 28, Neil Silver and Kenshi Imai from Japan climbed Nutless and added the Arete Variation (VI,6). The weather was wild the following day (January 29), but Rose Pearson from New Zealand and myself followed the summer line of East Ridge (IV,5). Rather surprisingly, I can find no record of a winter ascent of this short and accessible climb, which proved to be a good route for a stormy day. I returned again on January 30 with Stefan Jacobsen from Denmark to climb Alaska Highway (IV,4), the crest of the buttress taken by Lower East Wall Route before finishing up Tower Ridge.

    Dave Almond and Gustav Mellgren from Sweden braved the higher slopes of Coire na Ciste to climb Sidewinder adding the Unwound Finish (VI,6) which climbs up directly rather than traversing left into the exit gully as per the original route. The rarely climbed 1944 Route also saw an ascent by Ian Bryant and Pawel Wojdyga (Poland), and lower down on Carn Dearg Buttress Kenton Cool and Corne Brouwer from the Netherlands climbed Route One. Nearby on Am Bodach in the Mamores, Andy Nisbet and Ricardo Guerra from Portugal made the first ascent of the 350m-high South Buttress (II).

    Further South, Stob Coire nan Lochan was in superb icy condition and ascents were made of Scabbard Chimney, Sceptre, Raeburn’s Route, SC Gully, Moonshadow, Tilt, Chimney Route, Crest Route, Para Andy and Central Grooves.

    Greg Boswell and Mirko Breckner and Andy Inglis and Martin Zumer (Slovenia) made early repeats of Central Buttress with the Starting Blocks Start (VII,8), and Slenderhead (VIII,8) saw second and third ascents by Will Sim and Michelle Kadatz (Canada) and Ian Parnell and Olov Isaksson (Sweden). The finest performance in the corrie came from Harry Holmes and Polish climber Piotr Sulowski who made an ascent of Unicorn (VIII,8). Not only was Harry recently back from the Ice World Cup, but Piotr’s ascent of the difficult second pitch was his first ever Scottish winter lead!

    Andy Bain on the first pitch of Ardgarten Arete on The Cobbler. The new line of Ardgarten Blended (V,6) continues up the line on the right wall. (Photo Andy Bain Collection)

    Andy Bain on the first pitch of Ardgarten Arete on The Cobbler. The new line of Ardgarten Blended (V,6) continues up the prominent line on the right wall. (Photo Jake Thackrey)

    Jake Thackrey, Dougie Beck and Andy Bain made a good addition to The Cobbler on January 30 with the first ascent of Ardgarten Blended (V,6) on the South Peak. They followed the summer line (pitch 1) of Ardgartan Arete, before continuing up grooves and cracks on the right wall.

    “We were sat in the car park at Arrochar with a great forecast but the temperature was reading 5deg in the car so we were pondering whether to head up The Cobbler or go for the better bet of Stob Coire nan Lochan,” Andy explained. “Jake said that he had been eyeing up a unclimbed line and sold the decision with ‘if it stays clagged up we might get something new done.’

    It was only when we had crossed the corrie from the tourist path that we got our first glimpse of the South Peak covered in white hoar. This lifted our spirits after half an hour of knee-high snow plodding. We stayed on the Ardgartan Arête for the first pitch proper then trended up right and up a turfy crack to a ledge under the summer crux. This pitch was sensational and well-protected and well worth the effort and the gamble paid off big time. We also met two climbers from Leeds who were enjoying the awesome conditions on the South-East Ridge.”

    Guy Robertson following the ice section on the bold second pitch of One Step Beyond (IX,9) during the first ascent. The combination of steep technical mixed with thin vertical ice, makes this route one of the most challenging winter climbs in Scotland. (Photo Pete Macpherson)

    Guy Robertson following the vertical ice section on the bold second pitch of One Step Beyond (IX,9) on Beinn Eighe during the first ascent. The combination of steep technical mixed with thin vertical ice, makes this route one of the most challenging winter climbs in Scotland. (Photo Pete Macpherson)

    Pete Macpherson and Guy Robertson made a highly significant addition to Beinn Eighe’s Far East Wall on January 29. One Step Beyond (IX,9) takes the line left of King of the Swingers, and is based on an unusual hanging ice smear that oozes from a seep half way up the wall.

    “We’ve never seen anything like this anywhere else in Scotland,” Pete told me. “I think it’s quite unique. We’ve been to Far East Wall numerous times over the years but have never seen ice form so abundantly around this area before. We spotted the ice just before New Year when we had to make a hasty retreat off another line due to the onset of bad weather.

    Conditions and weather were great last Wednesday, so we thought we’d have a look. To be honest I had reservations as to whether it would go, and after succeeding on only three routes this season with three failures due to poor weather, I was keen for success. Guy headed up the first pitch that starts below the big corner of King of the Swingers and belayed below the impending grooved arête to the right of the ice feature. Gaining the niche below the groove on pitch two involved some intricate moves, but when I was standing below it I was taken aback by the steepness of the groove above.

    The groove was extremely strenuous tech 9 with absolutely no rest in sight, so I just kept climbing until I pulled round onto the ice into a wee icy niche, pumped out of my mind and ‘one step beyond’. I was way above my last gear (a small peg only half in), so I stood perched on the ice for an hour and half, scared out of my wits, as there was no more gear. Guy reassured me that there was nothing below me if I fell off – nice one, cheers for that Mr Robertson! Eventually I plucked up the courage to climb up to a bomber hanging belay at the top of the ice.

    A thin crack system sprouts from the top of the ice. It looked utterly desperate, but appeared to be well protected by small nuts. Guy headed up the crack (solid tech 9), but unfortunately dropped our small wires at the start of the pitch. Gutted but not deterred, Guy pulled out a cracker of a lead, especially so when one of the cracks petered out over a bulge forcing him instinctively out onto the arête.

    The next pitch is common to King of the Swingers and is solid VII,7, but I really struggled with it as I was so wrecked and it was getting dark. I stopped about two metres from the top below a steep tech 6 corner as both my arms kept cramping up. Guy nailed the last corner on failing arms and that was that. We could hardly untie from the ropes we were so exhausted.

    Climbing One Step Beyond on sight is the stuff of dreams for me. The route is definitely my hardest on sight to date, and we thought it top end IX,9. It most definitely deserves four stars. This morning, four days after our ascent, I received a text from Guy which says it all – ‘Still high as a kite, dude!’”

    North Craig in Glen Prosen in the Southern Cairngorms with the existing lines shown. Red - White Plains Drifter (IV,5 45m); Yellow - Whitewash (IV,5 50m); Blue - White Sun of the Desert (III,4 45m). The new III,4 variation to White Sun of the Desert is marked in green. (Photo Henning Wackerhage)

    North Craig in Glen Prosen in the Southern Cairngorms with the existing lines shown. Red – White Plains Drifter (IV,5 45m); Yellow – Whitewash (IV,5 50m); Blue – White Sun of the Desert (III,4 45m). The new III,4 variation to White Sun of the Desert is marked in green. (Photo Henning Wackerhage)

    On Friday January 24, Ian McIntosh, Sharon Wright and Martin (Wilf) Holland decided to visit North Craig in Glen Prosen. “We were looking for somewhere East and low to avoid the worst of the weather and preferably with a southerly aspect,” Wilf explained. “None of us had been there before and I was gambling that the bouncing freezing levels had built some ice on the crag. Also, forecasts differed quite widely on freezing level with some saying freezing above 500m all day and others saying the freezing level would rise to above the summits in the afternoon.

    We approached from Glen Doll. There was more snow around than I’d expected and less ice than I’d hoped for when we got to the crag. The steeper lines of White Plains Drifter and Whitewash weren’t in, but we did climb the line of White Sun of The Desert. The ice was thin and a delicate approach was required. However, I think the ice may have been more solid than on the first ascent as we were able to take a more direct line up the steep section by an icy corner and groove. It’s essentially the same line and grade and I think the route taken will vary with conditions.

    With the freezing level rising we opted for a quick second route, which I’d guess is new. It was mostly Grade I ground, but had a good finish up an icy corner. Unforgiven (II) climbs a series of ramps to finish up a corner-groove defining the left side of a pinnacle-like feature can be seen 20m right of White Sun of the Desert at the top of the crag.”

    Robin McAllister on the first ascent of The Water Margin (E2) on Portobello. Robin made a significant contribution to Scottish climbing during the 1990s, and is best remembered for his challenging additions to the Southern Highlands, his series of difficult winter repeats and for developing the Galloway sea cliffs. (Photo Andrew Fraser)

    Robin McAllister on the first ascent of The Water Margin (E2) on Portobello. Robin made a significant contribution to Scottish climbing during the 1990s, and is best remembered for his challenging additions to the Southern Highlands, his series of difficult winter repeats and for developing the Galloway sea cliffs. (Photo Andrew Fraser)

    A few days ago, the terrible news broke that Robin McAllister had died at the young age of 47. Robin was based in Ayrshire and was one of the driving forces in Scottish winter climbing during the 1990s. He spectacularly emerged on the scene in January 1995 when he made the first winter ascent of Direct Direct on The Cobbler with Dave McGimpsey. The winter ascent of this fierce summer HVS took Southern Highlands climbing up a full notch and has seen very few repeats. Originally graded VI,8, it was repeated by Dave MacLeod six years afterwards, and was later upgraded to VII,9 in the guidebook. It is still considered to be one of the most challenging winter outings on the mountain.

    That winter, the McAllister-McGimpsey team also made the second ascent of Rab Anderson’s excellent, but intimidating, Deadman’s Groove (VII,7) on the Cobbler’s South Peak. This set a theme for Robin’s climbing. Over the next three seasons he made second ascents of The Screaming (VIII,8) on Beinn an Dothaidh, Inclination (VII,8) on Stob Coire nan Lochan, Vertigo Wall (VII,7 – second free ascent) on Creag an Dubh Loch, Prore (VIII,8) in Coire an Lochain and The Cardinal (VIII,8) on Beinn a’Bhuird.

    “By today’s standards these routes might not seem particularly impressive,” Dave McGimpsey recalls. “But gear has improved so much since then, and Robin was one of very few climbers in Scotland at the time actually trying to repeat these routes. If he’d maintained his momentum I think he would have progressed on to repeating the big VIIIs in places like the Shelter Stone and Creag an Dubh Loch – he was certainly strong and bold enough. High magazine published a list of all the Grade VIIIs at the time, which Robin obsessed over for a good while, but sadly he suddenly stopped climbing and it was never to be.”

    Robin also left his mark with dozens of new winter routes across the Highlands, but it was in the Southern Highlands that he scored his greatest successes. He was most proud of the first ascents of Interstellar Overdraft (V/VI) on Merrick with Stuart Mearns, and Resolution (VI,7), which follows a peerless line taking the full challenge of the great central wall on The Brack, with Dave McGimpsey and Andrew Fraser.

    In summer, Robin climbed many of the big routes across Scotland up to about E5, but it was in Galloway where he left his mark. “This was not just in terms of his 150 or so new routes,” Andrew Fraser remembers, “but in being the driving force behind almost all of the hard routes and development of the Rhinns peninsula. Routes which spring to mind are Behind the Mask (E1) on Mullwharchar, Spectacular Bid (E6) on Meikle Ross, Edge of the Abyss (E4) on Finnarts Point, Sweaty Trembler (E5) at Portobello, Zero Tolerance ( E5) at Laggantalluch Head, and the development of the Kiln o’ the Fuffock and Crammag Head. In fact, almost every single hard route in the South-West is a McAllister creation. Elsewhere, The Blundecral, True Finish (E5) and Gulliver’s Travels (E2) on the Meadow Face on Arran, and Tales of the Old Days (E5) on Creag Ghlas were Robin routes. All these climbs were done in a ten-year climbing span from 1990 to 2000.”

    Scott Muir recalls that Robin took him up his first ever winter climb – North Wall Groove on the Cobbler with Dave McGimpsey – when Scott was fifteen years old. “It was his drive and enthusiasm for new routing, and climbing with him on the sea cliffs of Stranraer and around Ayrshire and the Southern Highlands, that set me on course for a life of climbing and exploration. He was a massive inspiration, role model and mentor – his passion for climbing and the mountains was infectious.”

    Although Robin or I never climbed together, I came to know Robin quite well. It seems strange to say it now, but the 1990s was a pre-Internet age, and climbing information was shared by word of mouth, journals and magazines. I often had long conversations with Robin on the phone when he would describe his latest adventures, and quiz me for details of routes he aspired to do. I was intrigued that he wanted to repeat some of my climbs, but more importantly, I was struck by his infectious enthusiasm, boundless energy and plain love for the sport.

    Rest in peace Robin – you will be sadly missed.

    (Thanks to Andew Fraser, Dave McGimpsey and Scott Muir for their help in compiling this tribute).

    Dave McGimpsey on the first ascent of Strike 3 (III) in Coire na Caime on Liathach. This was the last unclimbed gully on No.2 Buttress in the corrie. (Photo Andy Nisbet)

    Dave McGimpsey on the first ascent of Strike 3 (III) in Coire na Caime on Liathach. This was the last unclimbed gully on No.2 Buttress in the corrie. (Photo Andy Nisbet)

    “So said Dave McGimpsey when we got back to the car,” Andy Nisbet recounts. “Which seemed a bit mean; better than being pulverised by gales and spindrift in the East, I thought. Thanks should first go to James Roddie for blogging pictures of Coire na Caime (Liathach), showing the best conditions since 1994. Although it has to be said this was only in the high east corner of the corrie and much of the rest was bare except for the easy gullies. I immediately picked out an icefall on the buttress between Gullies 2 and 3, and not one I remembered seeing before. This corner of the corrie, lying under the summit of the mountain, is rarely visited, largely I think because it’s the hardest to reach, and clean slabby rock is not much of a temptation either. The weather has been unusual this year with snow in Torridon on a south-easterly wind when normally that direction would be dry; so it had drifted on to that face.

    Dave, Sandy Allan and I set off on Monday (January 20) to climb the icefall, although not having been to the corrie for some ten years, I forgot that the traditional approach up Coire Dubh is not the best. After three hours, I had remembered many times! But now we were there, and the icefall was looking good, if a bit wet and thin in the middle section; the freezing level was 200m higher than the monk had predicted. But the ice was soft, never brittle and actually continuous over three long pitches. The thin section seemed to justify a grade of V,4 given that the ice would rarely be thicker and the belay wasn’t the best. And being No.2 Buttress, the name of Two Faced seemed to fit.

    Conditions were so good on the buttress that, even though time was getting on, we felt we should try a gully line to the right. And it went well, again continuous snow and ice, and quite steep for a couple of steps (Strike 2; III,4). If the approach was long, so was the descent over the summit and we reached the car well after dark.

    With more routes to do, it was a case of keeping very quiet. Which is quite difficult when folk ask you for recommendations for venues in this unpredictable season. But you know that information nowadays spreads so fast. After an essential rest day, the forecast wasn’t great for Wednesday (January 22) but we knew from last time that gales in the Cairngorms and heavy rain in Lochaber meant that it might be fine in Torridon (given a southerly wind). Sandy was busy, so Dave and I returned to Coire na Caime, this time approaching over the top. We were in good form when we stood under No.1 Buttress, which has one ice route from 1994 on its right side. I had always been put off a return by slabby rock, but this time it was white of unknown quality. With no runners on Two Faced and little prospect of any on a route up the centre of this buttress, we had gone light with a 60m half rope and a small rack.

    It soon turned out that the white stuff on ledges and any grooves was in fact neve, and there was a continuous line of snow and ice leading up to a smooth barrier wall. The rope did run out, but a brief moving together gained a prefect belay of two large nuts. The barrier wall had to be passed by a line of ice on the right, leading to a second and bigger barrier wall. The existing route was moving towards us at this point, so we agreed to try a line up steeper white grooves near the left arete of the face. Dave headed along a ledge and was soon delighted that the smooth grooves were filled with neve and not powder. Another long pitch gained easy ground. First Foot was quite hard to grade; it felt a bit like a Ben Nevis open face (although not so steep) and we decided on IV,4. You could have argued for IV,3 or V,4 also.

    After 230m of climbing, time was again getting on, but the last gully line on No. 2 Buttress was too hard to resist. We decided just to dump the gear and solo it. Again the ice was good and we knew it was less steep than the others, so we climbed it without any heart fluttering and actually made it back to the car without torches. The gully is joined at the very top by the easier option of No.3 (Pinnacle) Gully, so the name of Strike 3 does at least for now (Grade III). I should say before anyone rushes up there, that Coire Dubh Beag was pretty black, and even Coire Dubh Mor was poor with Poachers Fall probably not quite doable. And the steeper icefalls on Am Fasarinen were also too thin.”