Andy Inglis and Iain Small filled a notable gap on Ben Nevis on February 7 when they made the first winter ascent of Teufel Grooves (IX,9). This steep HVS was first climbed by Dave Bathgate and John Porteus in September 1969 and takes the hanging corner on the right flank of the steep lower section of Raeburn’s Buttress that is split by the prominent line of The Crack.
“After a quick day with Murdoch on Friday doing The Shield Direct he got a text from Andy while we were enjoying the sun descending Ledge Route. A few texts later and Andy and I had agreed to meet up for Saturday on the Ben.
The morning walk was less frosty, but after the CIC everything firmed up and we headed under Carn Dearg on a well-trodden path – not something you ever see in this usually quiet spot on mountain. We ignored the ice of The Shroud and headed up towards Raeburn’s Buttress and some mixed fun. With the grand ice conditions at that level I reckoned there would be a devious direct entry pitch to the super-steep looking Teufel Grooves that hugs the exposed right arete of the buttress.
This winter variation start gave a fun pitch of balancy ice climbing, gradually working up and left on sloping shelves to reach the ledge, which the summer route gains from pitch 1 of The Crack. The next pitch looked steep and intimidating, but with some resolve Andy probed one start then another and committed to the wall. It looked all but blank to me but he hung in, found a bulldog then boldly headed towards the hanging corner and a hopeful crack. The dirty, mossy crack gave up some gear but required strenuous torquing with sloping footholds that were sapping his energy. By the time Andy reached the top of the corner the crack was swallowing the whole shaft of the axes while he laybacked up. Relief came with a fist crack and big hexes for a belay hanging on the edge!
I climbed up looking at the angle of the ropes hanging free. Yeah, it was steep! The next two pitches gave excellent technical corners but nothing as steep as the second pitch and we merged with the original line of Raeburn’s Buttress on the crest.
Overall, after a fair bit of thinking, we decided on IX,9 but low in the grade.”