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    Steve Holmes leading the initial corner of Inception (V,7) on Ben Nevis. This technical mixed follows a line of grooves and chimneys in the Fawlty Towers area of Secondary Tower Ridge. (Photo Duncan Curry)

    Steve Holmes leading the initial corner of Inception (V,7) on Ben Nevis. This technical mixed route follows a line of grooves and chimneys in the Fawlty Towers area of Secondary Tower Ridge. (Photo Duncan Curry)

    On February 17 Steve Holmes and Duncan Curry added a good mixed route to Secondary Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis. The 95m-long Inception (V,7) climbs the left edge of the inset area of crag between Douglas Gap West Gully and the start of 1934 Route. This area is best known for Fawlty Towers, a popular Grade III outing when the weather is poor. Inception starts 15m up West Gully, and lies directly opposite the start of the South-West Ridge on the Douglas Boulder, below a left-facing corner ramp. The route climbs the well-defined initial corner, a constricted chimney followed by a cracked wall to finish up another chimney and snowy grooves to reach the crest of Tower Ridge.

    The day before (February 16), Pete Harrison and Tom Livingstone scored a notable repeat with the third ascent of Heidbanger (VIII,8) on Central Trident Buttress. “We both thought the route was very good,” Pete told me. “We reckon it’s worth two stars because it’s fairly short, but it has excellent quality climbing. The first pitch is steep to start then a bit strenuous up the wide crack, and is fairly well protected. The second pitch is beautiful face climbing on small edges – teetery, but with good wires where needed. The third pitch was an icefall… We both thought VIII 8 was spot on, and not soft!”

    Michael Barnard climbing the line of Shear Fear (VI,5) on Ben Nevis. This steep two-pitch line on the west side of Tower Ridge provides a direct finish to Vanishing Gully. (Photo John MacLeod)

    Michael Barnard climbing the line of Shear Fear (VI,5) on Ben Nevis. This steep two-pitch line on the west side of Tower Ridge provides a direct finish to Vanishing Gully. (Photo John MacLeod)

    Michael Barnard and John MacLeod climbed a possible new ice route on Ben Nevis on February 14. “We climbed the obvious icefall overlooking the easier upper gully of 1934 Route, which makes a good finale to Vanishing Gully,” Michael told me. “I guess it could have been done before, but I can’t find any record. We called it Shear Fear and graded it VI,5. It’s often thin, and would be at least a grade easier with thicker ice.”

    As Michael says, this is a very obvious feature (when formed) and it makes a natural finish to Vanishing Gully. Michael is absolutely correct that there is no published record of a route hereabouts, but I seem to recall a description in the CIC Hut Book of an ascent by (I think) an Italian party.

    I’ll have a look at the hut book again when I’m next in the CIC, but in the meantime, if anybody knows of an ascent of this excellent-looking line, the please get in touch or leave a comment.

    Guy Robertson leading the first pitch of Storm Trooper on Creag Coire na Ciste on Ben Nevis. This was used to access the thin ice smear (above and right of Guy’s head) resulting in a new addition called (in keeping with the Star Wars theme) Han Solo (VIII,7). Storm Trooper has two starts – the one climbed by Guy and Uisdean was the start used on the first complete ascent of the route by Andy Turner and Steve Ashworth in January 2008. (Photo Uisdean Hawthorn)

    Guy Robertson leading the first pitch of Storm Trooper on Creag Coire na Ciste on Ben Nevis. This was used to access the thin ice smear (above and right of Guy’s head) resulting in a new addition called (in keeping with the Star Wars theme) Han Solo (VIII,7). Storm Trooper has two starts – the one climbed by Guy and Uisdean was the route of the first complete ascent by Andy Turner and Steve Ashworth in January 2008. (Photo Uisdean Hawthorn)

    “Uisdean Hawthorn and I climbed a new route/variant on February 11 on the Ben,” Guy Robertson told me. “Very interesting conditions with a fair bit of black rock but lots of verglas and thin ice high up. We climbed an obvious ice smear that had formed directly above the first pitch of Storm Trooper. There’s a wee gully that feeds it from above so I think it’ll come in again reasonably often. I led the first pitch of Storm Trooper – mostly on thin ice, which was very cool – then Uisdean led the smear itself.

    Though the climbing was never technically particularly hard, the whole thing was pretty spicy with two pitches of VIII,7 or thereabouts. Uisdean’s lead of the smear was impressive; the ice was maybe only about three inches thick at best, and a lot thinner in places. All in all a pretty cool ‘cerebral’ experience and I’d have thought one of the harder bits of ice the Ben has to offer. Uisdean called the route Han Solo for self-explanatory reasons!”

    Postscript 17 February 2015: No sooner had this post been published than I received an enthusiastic email from Tim Neill saying that he and Nick Bullock had made the second ascent of Han Solo earlier that day (February 16).

    “I just caught the post on your blog about Guy and Uisdean’s line on the Ciste cliff,” Tim wrote. “Good to read the details… I’d spoken to Uisdean earlier in the week and he’d described the line and randomly over the weekend I’ve been doing a neat film job for Mountain Equipment and Nick Bullock and I managed to repeat the line and get it all on film.

    Anyway, the climbing was wild… Nick got Pitch 1 and I managed to make it up the smear pitch… fairly sensational. All of Guy’s comments stand… I hope the film will showcase the great ice on the Ben as well as possible!”

    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.”

    Michael Barnard nearing the top of the Superdirect Finish to Nordwand Direct (VI,5) on Ben Nevis. The Nordwand area on the North Face of Castle Ridge has been particularly icy in recent weeks and there have been numerous ascents of the classic Nordwand (IV,3) and Nordwand Direct (IV,5). (Photo John MacLeod)

    Michael Barnard nearing the top of the Superdirect Finish to Nordwand Direct (VI,5) on Ben Nevis. The Nordwand area on the North Face of Castle Ridge has been particularly icy in recent weeks and there have been numerous ascents of the classic Nordwand (IV,3) and Nordwand Direct (IV,5). (Photo Brendan Croft)

    Michael Barnard and John MacLeod climbed an exciting new pitch high on the North Face of Castle Ridge of Ben Nevis on February 7.

    “For the most part we took a line approximating Nordwand Direct,” Michael told me. “We started up the fine icy groove just right of the initial icefall, which gave a good long pitch of IV,4/5. Although it’s not mentioned in the guidebook, this clearly sees plenty of ascents when in condition (I saw the odd pick mark). Being a more independent line, I wonder if this would be a better way to describe the Direct?

    As we continued up, we noticed an impressive icy feature in the upper headwall, so we made a beeline for that. An icefall had formed down a hanging slab, while an icicle hung ominously above. Clearly the icicle wasn’t going to go, but a right-slanting ramp looked like it might allow passage through the upper wall, so the main uncertainty was the icefall below.

    I climbed up to it but with the only rock protection some way below and the ice too thin for screws, discretion won! So I took some steep mixed ground to avoid the main part of the icefall (though still without gear) to where I would have to get onto its top section. Here the ice had helpfully formed over wee bulges and created a short two-stepped ramp, but these things can be awkward with the feet-off kilter with the axe placements. Still, those placements seemed good so I moved onto the first step and became committed. By now the runout had become too much of a worry and I spent a long time equalising three ice screws. As it turned out, this gear was pretty good and the next move, once attempted, was fairly straightforward but that’s hindsight for you!

    I then went behind the icicle and the ramp granted safe passage up and right. A pull over on bomber turf took us to an easier icy finishing groove. We called our new 30m pitch the Superdirect Finish to Nordwand Direct and graded it VI,5.”

    Neil Silver starting the second pitch during the first ascent of Cousinade (VII,8). This difficult mixed route was inspired by the summer line of Cousin’s Buttress Direct, but takes a different line in the steep lower section. (Photo Simon Yearsley)

    Neil Silver starting the second pitch of Cousinade (VII,8) on Ben Nevis. This difficult new mixed route was inspired by the summer line of Cousin’s Buttress Direct, but takes a different line in the steep lower section. (Photo Simon Yearsley)

    Malcolm Bass, Simon Yearsley and Neil Silver added a new route to Cousins’ Buttress on Ben Nevis on February 4. This had been a long-standing objective for Malcolm and Simon, having made two previous attempts on the buttress. The first was on the 2012 BMC International Winter Meet when Simon and Magnus Kestengren attempted to follow the summer line of the summer Severe route, Cousins Buttress Direct but struggled to find a way through the steep wall on the right-hand side of the buttress. In 2013, on the weekend of the Scottish Winter Climbing Meet organised by Richard Bentley, Malcolm and Simon returned and made a further attempt with Malcolm taking a nasty fall and hurting his ankle while probing the same area.

    “It was on the second attempt that Malcolm peered round the corner into the steep open corner on the left hand side of the buttress,” Neil explained. “This corner system is a very obvious feature from the approach path to the CIC, but given its aspect and steepness it’s not often in good winter condition. Having seen it at close quarters, Malcolm thought it looked climbable but hard and hence this became the target for attempt number three – all we needed were good conditions!

    The Ben was not first option on our list with the Applecross mountains in such great condition but we had work commitments so couldn’t make the longer drive north. However, having seen lots of pictures of the Carn Dearg area looking really white and icy, we were hopeful that the Cousins’ Buttress corner would be in condition. It was! We all agreed on the day that the this part of the Ben can feel like a different mountain more akin to a North-West cliff with great atmosphere provided by the ice of the Shroud and the steep North Wall of Carn Dearg framing Cousins’ Buttress.

    Simon led a difficult approach pitch that finished with an exposed traverse relying on some crucial undercuts to set us up on a belay underneath the main corner.

    I set off with very thin moves off the belay to gain some small icicles just below a flake and the tension of the hard moves was broken as the first swing into the top of the icicles caused a small waterfall. Keen not to be completely soaked on this cold day I was nearly off avoiding the outflow but managed to stay on and the ice lower down took a good screw and gave some safety. The ground above looked steep but good with some initial chockstones leading up and right via a jamming crack to the bottom of the main steep corner. The corner gave good gear but increasing steepness and after some procrastination I had to make a final push for the top and the promise of a good ledge. Exiting the steepness a final hard move to the left was required to gain the ledge, which was indeed good as promised!

    Simon had hurt his shoulder seconding and struggled up on the top rope with increasing difficulty and pain to the belay where we re-organised. Malcolm led the next pitch through a steep off width and steep wall to take us to the saddle on top of the lower buttress.

    The saddle brought the darkness and a decision of how to attack the top buttress. I led a short link pitch across the saddle and onto the side of the upper buttress where we took a belay below the upper icefall of Harrison’s. With Simon’s shoulder giving continued pain Malcolm headed on into the darkness up a gangway leading into a groove all with excellent easier climbing but sparse protection. Theses final two pitches were quickly dispatched and we arrived in the magnificent upper corrie. Joining Ledge Route we descended under the stars and finished with a fine glissade down Number Five!

    Overall, we thought the grade was VII,8 with the top section of the main corner particularly technical and tenuous. For the route name, my wife Estelle is from France and her family celebrate an annual gathering of various cousins – Cousinade. It seemed to fit perfectly!”

    The Beat

    Tom Livingstone following Un Poco Loco (VII,7) on Bidean nam Bian in Glen Coe. Together with Dave Almond, Tom climbed three excellent routes in a period of very windy and stormy weather in the middle of January. (Photo Dave Almond)

    Tom Livingstone following Un Poco Loco (VII,7) on Bidean nan Bian in Glen Coe. Together with Dave Almond, Tom climbed three excellent routes in a period of very windy and stormy weather in the middle of January. (Photo Dave Almond)

    Tom Livingstone and Dave Almond had a very successful four days climbing in Glen Coe and on the Ben earlier in January. The weather was particularly wild that week, but even so, they succeeded on Un Poco Loco (VII,7 – January 13), Strident Edge (VI,7 – January 14) and Centurion (VIII,8 – January 16). Tom has written a full version of their trip on his blog, and a concise version follows below:

     

    The Beat

    Dave looked up, scoping out the climbing above. He tilted his head and, without warning, his orange helmet rolled backwards, falling straight off. It bounced onto the steep slab and then tumbled out of sight. We were both speechless – how had that just happened? His head torch was still attached and we were on the fifth pitch of Centurion, a classic VIII,8 on the Ben. It would be dark in 90 minutes and we still had over 100 metres of climbing left. ‘This just got interesting!’ I thought.

    ***

    We walked up to Church Door Buttress on Tuesday, seeking refuge from a fresh storm ploughing off the Atlantic. Dave’s new toys were put to good use: his new 19 million lumen headtorch is capable of lighting up the entire mountain, and the GPS watch performed well. We left a breadcrumb trail as we zigzagged up; ‘Water,’ ‘Camp 1,’ ‘Meadow.’

    Un Poco Loco is a fantastic four-pitch route taking an improbable line up the centre of the buttress. A giant, shattered arch hung overhead as I scrabbled around, trying to find my feet. Dave hunkered on the belay below, his feet going stamp, stamp, stamp, trying to ward off the cold. I found tenuous hooks and laybacked off parallel cracks. Howling winds, waves of spindrift, verglas: this certainly was fun. Pulling onto the belay ledge brought relief and the internal chatter began to quieten.

    ***

    The following morning we walked into the Ben with Centurion in mind. Within 50 metres of the CIC hut my boot sank through a snowdrift and plunged into a stream, soaking my foot. The only consolation was that Carn Dearg Buttress looked black, and we wouldn’t be going anywhere near Centurion. We scratched around for an alternative objective. Coire nan Ciste was too avalanche-prone, the lower buttresses were black, a storm was due to slam into Scotland at 6pm that evening and it was already 10.30am… how many lemons does it take for an epic?

    We settled for Strident Edge on the Trident Buttress with Dave Keogh coming along for the ride (an Irishman staying at the CIC). We avoided triggering any slides on the wade up and I started climbing the main pitch around 1pm. The climbing flowed by, and I pulled into the belay groove some time later.

    We topped out in darkness with worsening weather. By the time we were down-climbing back into the Ciste the winds were horrific – blowing us about like puppets, making us hunch over ice axes. The straightforward descent turned into a bit of a Weston-Super-Mare. Irish Dave dropped his head torch but we found it 100 metres lower – lucky man. After a long walk back to the hut (why isn’t there an outside light that comes on at night?) we finally re-packed and headed down to Fort William. I don’t think Irish Dave knew what he was letting himself in for, but hats off for rolling with it and staying strong when the storm hit!

    ***

    Friday morning and we were stood beneath Centurion again, this time lucky enough to have it in decent winter conditions. Dave climbed the first pitch by headtorch, dispatching the tricky and technical moves in style. He was obviously on some weight-loss mission as a Scotch egg and Twix bar flew past my head when he got to the belay I launched into the second pitch – an impressive overhanging corner system with nearly 40 metres of climbing. As it says in the guidebook, the holds just keep coming and the gear keeps on giving. It felt amazing to be stemming wide with loads of air beneath my feet, the belay in sight and the beat of Centurion pulsing through my arms.

    I belayed Dave using a large hex for a belay plate, since he’d forgotten his. I had a smile on my face and we cruised, mellow, floating on the high. I barely needed to swing my arms to keep warm, and we flowed through the route until pitch five When Dave’s helmet fell off his head, I definitely skipped a beat. It’s certainly one of the least expected things to happen to your partner as they climb. He had loosened the straps to make it more comfortable, but perhaps a bit too much.

    Thankfully, Dave’s head is pretty hard and he led the pitch fine, sans helmet and headtorch. When I reached his belay, at the junction with Route II, I figured it would be dark in an hour, we still had 100m of climbing to go and we didn’t know how hard it was. However, Dave wanted to continue, so I obliged and we sprinted for the top.

    We pulled it off just in time, topping out in near-darkness and descending Ledge Route in a giddy, schoolboy ‘just-got-away-with-it’ haze.

    Thanks for a great week Dave, and for choosing ‘up.’

    Roger Webb finishing the crux pitch of Tenterhooks (VII,8) on Ben Nevis during the first ascent. This steep icy mixed climb takes the steep wall between Central Rib Direct and Tinkerbell Direct of Creag Coire na Ciase. (Photo Simon Richardson)

    Roger Webb nearing the top of the crux pitch of Tenterhooks (VII,8) on Ben Nevis during the first ascent. This steep icy mixed climb takes the wall between Central Rib Direct and Tinkerbell Direct on Creag Coire na Ciste. (Photo Simon Richardson)

    Choosing where to climb this weekend was a tough call after the devastating New Year thaw. With temperatures only dropping on Friday, it was difficult to figure out how much it had snowed, and where, and whether the turf had re-frozen. In the end, Roger Webb and I opted for the failsafe option and visited Ben Nevis on Saturday January 3. We were hoping that the thaw had left sufficient snow on ledges and flat holds to bring in an icy mixed possibility in the Tinkerbell area of Creag Coire na Ciste.

    We were second into the corrie following behind the welcome footsteps of James Richardson, Andy Munro and Helen Rennard who were heading for The Comb. As the daylight broke it was clear that high up, the mountain was icy and frozen hard, and tell-tale streaks and blobs of white on our objective looked encouraging. An pleasant icy gully leading through the lower tier warmed us up for the first pitch that climbed a mixed wall before joining the upper section of the intial icy groove of Tinkerbell.

    Our line then went left onto the impressive wall to the right of Central Rib. This wall overhangs for much of its height but is cut by a tapering ramp that leads into its centre. Unfortunately the ramp disappears and the way is blocked by an undercut monolithic block. The plan was climb the ramp, hand traverse the block and then climb the vertical groove above that leads into a parallel ice line left of Tinkerbell.

    The ramp was reassuringly icy, but it was clear that hand traversing the monolithic block was going to be a non-starter (for me at least). After a lot of hesitation I hooked a high flat hold on the wall above, stepped up on a small rounded nick and precariously stood on top of the block. The wall above was overhanging and pushing me out and the only way to get back into balance was to kneel on the block. I urgently needed a placement to lower myself down but there was nothing. I contemplated falling and catching the block as I went past, but eventually I found the tiniest of hooks and lowered myself down, first one knee and then two.

    I could now see round the block and into the groove but the view was not good. A steep overhanging wall barred entry to the groove and there was no protection in sight. Eventually I dropped down to the left, changed feet on the tiniest of footholds, hooked a poor edge and bridged up sloping icy dimples to gain the foot of the groove. I was now a long way above my last gear, and my tools were starting to rip. There was nothing for it but make, one, two, three, four, five moves on the most tenuous of placements. One slip and I would have been off. Eventually my right tool sank into a centimetre-deep crack and vibrated. My heart sang. One final pull took me out of the groove onto easier ground.

    By the time Roger came up it was dark, but he made short work of the final icy groove and led all the way to the top. The plateau was bathed in beautiful moonlight. It felt late but was only about 6pm, and made all the more sociable by bumping into James, Andy and Helen after their fine ascent of Tower Face of the Comb.

    Uisdean Hawthorn and Murdoch Jamieson making the second ascent of Boggle (VIII,8) on Beinn Eighe’s Eastern Ramparts. (Photo Mairi Ri Hawthorn)

    Uisdean Hawthorn and Murdoch Jamieson making the second ascent of Boggle (VIII,8) on Beinn Eighe’s Eastern Ramparts. (Photo Mairi Ri Hawthorn)

    When I saw Mairi Ri’s beautiful photo of Uisdean Hawthorn and Murdoch Jamieson repeating Boggle (VIII,8) on December 26 I wanted to put it on scottishwinter.com as soon as possible. But Uisdean has been so busy on the hill I only caught up with him today. Boggle only saw its first winter ascent in the hands of Martin Moran and Robin Thomas less than two weeks before, so this is an unusually quick repeat of a major route.

    “Boggle is a really good route, particularly the top two pitches,” Uisdean told me. “It’s steep and sustained, but positive climbing and good gear. I can see it becoming really popular. We even managed to get back to the car just before darkness. Thanks to Murdo dispatching the long hard middle pitch in under an hour!”

    Uisdean drove home to Glenelg that night, and next day he linked up with Callum Johnson and climbed Point Five Gully on the Ben. Uisdean’s father Doug was also on Ben Nevis that day, and back at the CIC Hut he showed the pair some misty photos of the Little Brenva Face that showed that the icefall of Super G (VI,6) was possibly formed. This ephemeral route has probably not had a second ascent since it was first climbed by Hannah Burrows-Smith and Dave McGimpsey in March 2002. “So on Sunday morning (December 28) we took the chance of soloing up to the bottom to see if it was in,” Uisdean explained. “When we got there we thought it looked thin but just climbable so we climbed it in two fantastic 60 metre ice pitches leaving us grinning from ear to ear at the top of North-East Buttress. We climbed Zero Gully this morning as Callum had to catch the ferry to Arran, to finish a fantastic four days climbing!”

    Dave Almond climbing the first pitch of The Secret (VIII,9) on Creag Coire na Ciste on Ben Nevis. Most photos of The Secret show the spectacular crack cutting through the headwall, but the first pitch provides excellent climbing in its own right. (Photo Graham Dawson)

    Dave Almond climbing the first pitch of The Secret (VIII,9) on Creag Coire na Ciste on Ben Nevis. Most photos of The Secret show the spectacular crack cutting through the headwall, but the first pitch provides excellent climbing in its own right. (Photo Graham Dawson)

    With the late start to the season, high standard ascents have been quite rare so far this winter, so I was delighted to hear that Dave Almond and Graham Dawson made an ascent of The Secret (VIII,9) on Ben Nevis last week. “It’s been a long wait for the season to start,” Dave explained. “So I used the time to its maximum to pack in some extra dry tooling sessions in Wales.”

    “With a reasonably cold forecast a contingent of Scousers from Liverpool headed up with high hopes,” Dave continued. “Saturday I ended up trying to get up a route using every variation but the right one. Defeated I retreated to the valley with all the usual mind games going on in my head. Sunday the weather was disgustingly warm, windy and wet which left me ever more time to ponder. On Monday December 15, despite a nasty forecast, Simon Frost and I had the joy of breaking a new trail in the fresh deep powder up to Stob Coire nan Lochan and were rewarded with a windless, sunny day and a lovely ascent of Inclination (VII,8). I felt soothed.

    Tuesday was another warm, wet and windy day and I took the chance to rest. On Wednesday December 17 I met up with Graham Dawson who had accepted my invite to have a look at The Secret despite it being a few grades harder than his norm. Another trail breaking session ensued giving plenty of time for self-doubt. I had previously climbed the first pitch two years ago but escaped up the Cornucopia finish due to lack of daylight. The Secret looked a fair bit whiter than the last time. Could I protect it?

    There was no time to delay as the walk in had eaten up time, I cracked on and must say that first pitch is really excellent climbing. Graham followed up incredibly fast giving me a little leeway for the second pitch. From the belay, the top pitch looked like an iced up crack line that I doubted would take cams. As I made progress I realised I was correct and it was difficult to get nuts to settle in the flaring verglas. Lots of deep breathing and I made it past the first difficult section to some small ledges that I thought I could get a rest on. Maybe I let my concentration go a second, as I felt quite solid when my right axe ripped and off I went all the way to stop beneath Graham.

    The light was starting to dim and I asked Graham if he was ok for me to have a last go. ‘Yes’ was the answer and off I went with a bit more haste and a lot more speed. The second pitch is good sustained climbing and I topped out on a large block just short of the cornice. Graham followed me up in increasingly poor light and heavy spindrift and continued up over the cornice in to a nasty storm.

    I was absolutely delighted to have been able to climb this route. Thanks to Graham for his patience. Maybe the tooling sessions paid off after all!”