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    Teufel Grooves

    Andy Inglis on the first pitch of Teufel Grooves (IX,9) on Ben Nevis during the first winter ascent. This pitch is different from the summer line (which takes the first pitch of The Crack), and provides an independent start in line with the steep groove system above. (Photo Iain Small)

    Andy Inglis on the first pitch of Teufel Grooves (IX,9) on Ben Nevis during the first winter ascent. This pitch is different from the summer line (which takes the first pitch of The Crack), and provides an independent start in line with the steep groove system of the summer line above. (Photo Iain Small)

    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.”

    Will Sim on the third pitch of Pale Rider (VIII,9) on the Eastern Ramparts on Beinn Eighe during the second ascent. When the route was first climbed five years ago, Robin Thomas’s lead of this Tech 9 pitch was one of the finest on sight leads ever achieved at the time. (Photo Andy Inglis)

    Will Sim on the third pitch of Pale Rider (VIII,9) on the Eastern Ramparts on Beinn Eighe during the second ascent. Robin Thomas’s ascent of this pitch in 2010 was one of the earliest on sight Tech 9 leads. (Photo Andy Inglis)

    On February 5, Andy Inglis and Will Sim made the second winter ascent of Pale Rider (VIII,9) on Beinn Eighe’s Eastern Ramparts. Martin Moran and Robin Thomas first climbed this tough sounding route in February 2010.

    “With all the good weather and pictures of North-West routes in amazing condition we were both desperate to get out,” Andy told me. “Especially with Will off to Norway at the weekend for work (ice climbing in Norway, is that really ‘work’?)

    As it turned out, the day dawned with drizzle, sleet and low cloud and the crux of the day might have been leaving the car. Nearly three hours of slogging through wet snow up Beinn Eighe had us on top, with the freezing level hovering somewhere around the top. Hopes were not high! Dropping into the corrie and moist cloud had us wading about looking for something appropriate after initial hopes of a Far East wall route were dashed, so traversing round to the Eastern Ramparts was the obvious next option.

    As it turned out Will lost patience looking for the start of Boggle and headed straight up into the corner line of Pale Rider. Belaying Will on this first pitch may have been the grimmest period of this winter for me… drizzle rolling past, soaking clothing, and my desire for coffee and warm clothes going through the roof. Fortunately the climbing was superb, engrossing and technical, with three great well-protected pitches! The added unexpected bonus was the third pitch that Martin had written so engagingly of on his excellent blog turned out to be straightforward (in daylight, maybe that was cheating?). The wall was encased in thick rime the like of which neither of us had seen on this wall before, and there was even hero ice up the final chimney of Pale Diedre! Pale Rider is certainly a high quality addition to the wall and definitely three stars!”

    Andy Inglis on the first pitch of Godzilla (IX,8) on Beinn Bhan during the second ascent. This route was first climbed by Guy Robertson, Pete Benson and Nick Bullock in March 2011 and was among the first few Grade IX’s in Scotland to receive an on sight first ascent. (Photo Iain Small)

    Andy Inglis on the first pitch of Godzilla (IX,8) on Beinn Bhan during the second ascent. This route was first climbed by Guy Robertson, Pete Benson and Nick Bullock in March 2011 and was one of the first few Grade IX’s in Scotland to receive an on sight first ascent. (Photo Iain Small)

    On January 24, Iain Small, Andy Inglis and Murdoch Jamieson made the second ascent of Godzilla (IX,8) in Coire nan Fhamair on Beinn Bhan. This exceptionally steep expedition is a direct version of The Godfather, taking an intricate line through the lower wall, before climbing two pitches of The Godfather corner to finish.

    “I managed to hook up with Andy and Murdoch and we eventually settled on walking into Beinn Bhan to take a look,” Iain told me. “We packed some screws to keep our options open but hoped the quick thaw on the Friday hadn’t made much impact and that the freezing level would be low enough and the crag sheltered.

    After a rather snowy and exciting drive we walked into increasingly grim weather with heavy graupel squalls blinding us and wavering our thoughts. As conditions underfoot began to firm up we could spot the crag through the poor dawn light and things looked wintry. We grabbed the chance to gear up in a brief lull and avoided too much misery. The previous evening’s route of choice was now a bit too real, but we silently climbed the remaining slopes to below the monumental wall and by some consensus Andy tied in and started the journey.

    Six pitches later we topped out in the dark and wind, the thaw hadn’t caught up yet and we were all tired, relieved and even happy. There really is nothing so essentially ‘winter only’ as an outing on those looming prehistoric cliffs!”

    Andy Inglis on the second pitch of Tomahawk Crack (VIII,9) on Number Three Gully Buttress on Ben Nevis. The second pitch continues up the narrow crack at the top of the picture in line with Andy’s helmet. (Photo Will Sim)

    Andy Inglis on the second pitch of Tomahawk Crack (VIII,9) on Number Three Gully Buttress on Ben Nevis. The third pitch continues up the narrow crack at the top of the picture in line with Andy’s helmet. (Photo Will Sim)

    Will Sim and Andy Inglis enjoyed an excellent two days on the Ben at the beginning of this week. On Sunday December 6 they made an ascent of Sidewinder (VII,7) on South Trident Buttress. This route has become popular in recent seasons and is good early in the winter as it is a pure snowed-up rock route. Their ascent was particularly impressive as Sunday was a wild and stormy day on the West, especially high up on Ben Nevis.

    The main event took place on the following day (December 7) when Will and Andy made the second ascent of Tomahawk Crack (VIII,9). This futuristic-looking line to the right of Sioux Wall on Number Three Gully Buttress was first climbed by Greg Boswell and Adam Russell in November 2012.

    “It’s a mega route and has the hallmarks of a future classic,” Will told me “Two hard pitches, the first thin, techy and run out and the second steep and pumpy – brilliant! A great find by Greg.”

    Elsewhere on the Ben, activity has been slowly picking up with routes climbed lower down on the mountain such as Jacknife, The Great Chimney and the South-West Ridge of the Douglas Boulder – all sensible choices in the current wild and windy weather.

    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 Inglis climbing the third pitch of The Brass Monkey on Ben Nevis during the second winter ascent. “Pitch three was the crux, but pitch four was just really awkward!” Neil commented afterwards. (Photo Neil Adams)

    Andy Inglis climbing the third pitch of The Brass Monkey (VII,8) on Ben Nevis during the second winter ascent. “Pitch three was the crux, but pitch four was just really awkward!” Neil commented afterwards. (Photo Neil Adams)

    Neil Adams and Andy Inglis pulled off an important second ascent on Ben Nevis January 1, when they repeated The Brass Monkey (VII,8) on the east side of Tower Ridge. This imposing corner which bounds the right side of Echo Wall is a rarely climbed summer HVS, and was first climbed in winter by Pete Davies and Tim Marsh in December 2008. The first ascent turned into something of an epic when Pete fell off seconding after dropping his headtorch. Tim heroically prussicked the last pitch in total darkness dragging both rucksacks behind him, and the descent of Tower Ridge under heavy powder with only one torch between them, understandably took some time. They eventually reached the car park at 12.30am after a 19-hour round trip.

    Neil and Andy, who have made an impressive start to their season with a string of powerful ascents, had a more mellow time. “It’s a good route and deserves more traffic, Neil told me. “It’s not too hard for the grade but probably graded right at VII,8. We ran the first two pitches together, which makes sense on 60m ropes as it’s easy climbing. [Interestingly, on the first winter ascent, Pete and Tim found these pitches quite tricky, with powder-covered rock and some committing moves on thin ice]. We had decent weather on the route but the winds really picked up during the day so the descent down Tower Ridge was in a full-on blizzard and fading light, which was probably the spiciest bit of the day!”

    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.”

    Andy Inglis on the first ascent of Moonshine (VI,7) on Stob Coire nan Lochan. This steep hanging groove branches out left from Moonshadow on the subsidiary buttress that over looks Twisting Gully. (Photo Neil Adams)

    Andy Inglis on the first ascent of Moonshine (VI,7) on Stob Coire nan Lochan. This steep hanging groove branches out left from Moonshadow on the subsidiary buttress that overlooks Twisting Gully. (Photo Neil Adams)

    Neil Adams and Andy Inglis added a new line on Stob Coire nan Lochan in Glen Coe on March 16.

    “Moonshine takes the obvious slim corner to the left of the top pitch of Moonshadow,” Neil explained. “To get to it, we started up Twisting Gully RH, then continued up another groove just right of the easy ground on Moonshadow (although this was also pretty straight-forward – you’d be as well just going up Moonshadow). There’s then a steep 30m pitch up the groove to the top of the buttress.

    It’s probably VI,7 overall – quite sustained tech 7, but never quite reaching tech 8, and not long enough difficulties to justify more than VI overall. Worth at least a star, probably 2, and a good option if the lower buttresses are stripped (as they were last Saturday).”

    Andy Inglis finding a way through the fourth pitch during the first ascent of The Rebirth of Cool (VII,7), on the Upper Cliff of Coire Ghranda on Beinn Dearg. (Photo Guy Robertson)

    Andy Inglis finding a way through the fourth pitch during the first ascent of The Rebirth of Cool (VII,7), on the Upper Cliff of Coire Ghranda on Beinn Dearg. (Photo Guy Robertson)

    Guy Robertson and Andy Inglis added a good new route to Coire Grandha’s Upper Cliff on Beinn Dearg on December 17. Guy has very made this rarely visited cliff very much his own with a string of impressive routes in recent years. “Unsurprisingly this is one of the places we still need to get pictures for the book [a new volume on Scottish mountain routes], and unsurprisingly we got a fantastic new route!” Guy told me.

    “The Rebirth of Cool (VII,7) takes the easiest line up the steep and complex area of overhanging grooves and bulges immediately right of Tickled Rib, another of my own routes from ages back.  The climbing was typical of the crag – never that steep, but never easy, and a superb mix of thin ice, turf and rock.  For a while I thought that – unusually for this cliff – the whole route was going to be well-protected, but a sustained section sketchiness a good few metres out from a tied off peg on the third pitch soon put paid to that.  As ever, it was great to get a rare opportunity on a day that many folk seemed to have written off as too warm.”