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    Nick Bullock leading the thin ice smear on Capricorn (VIII,7) on Ben Nevis. This outstanding single pitch addition climbs the thin snaking ice line directly above the twin Grooves of Gemini on the North Face of Carn Dearg. (Photo Tim Neill)

    Nick Bullock leading the thin ice smear on Capricorn (VIII,7) on Ben Nevis. This outstanding single pitch addition climbs the thin snaking ice line directly above the twin grooves of Gemini on the North Face of Carn Dearg. (Photo Tim Neill)

    Carn Dearg Buttress on Ben Nevis became particularly icy at the end of February and the classic Gemini (VI,6) saw many ascents together with the very good, but less frequented Waterfall Gully Direct Finish (VI,6). On March 10, just before the cold spell ended, Nick Bullock and Tim Neill nipped in for an excellent new addition on the Gemini headwall.

    “The line takes an often-prominent ice smear that often forms to the left of the twin grooves and Direct finish to Gemini,” Tim told me.” It appears to lead to nowhere, or at the very least, to an area of compact rock.

    From the good belay just left of the foot of Gemini’s twin grooves, the route pulls over the overlap on the left leading to a good pillar of ice in a left-facing groove. This leads to a stance on a small ledge to its right on a shoulder after 30m or so.

    Nick then climbed the icy groove above until it was possible to pull out left onto the surprisingly steep smear. This was followed to a more helpful and better-protected groove exiting right onto a snowy ledge. There was a possible bomber belay here, but instead, Nick continued up the technical and well-protected shallow groove above, to reach easy ground below the crest of Ledge Route.

    The route is provisionally called Capricorn (Nick’s star sign and holding the same traits required for a successful lead… ) It felt VIII,7 on the day, but it could may well feel a touch easier with slightly better ice. Nick led all the hard ground in one monster pitch.”

    Rob Patchett leading The Shround (VII,6) on the North Face of Carn Dearg on Ben Nevis. This may have been the first ascent of the season for this outstanding ice feature which is one of the steepest ice routes in Scotland. (Photo Helen Rennard)

    Rob Patchett leading The Shroud (VI,6) on the North Face of Carn Dearg on Ben Nevis. This may have been the first ascent of the season. (Photo Helen Rennard)

    Helen Rennard had an outstanding weekend climbing on Ben Nevis last weekend. On Saturday March 5 Helen climbed The Shroud (VI,6) on Carn Dearg Buttress with Rob Patchett and Dougie Russell, and on March 6 she partnered Dave MacLeod on a new route called Night Fury (IX,9), which lies just left of The Urchin in the East Face of Tower Ridge. Here is Helen’s account:

    “I was climbing with Rob and Dougie on the Ben on Saturday. It was my first time out with either of them and it was good fun. We were planning to climb The Shroud but changed this to ‘whatever is free’ when we found the North Face car park already full at 6am. Six of us piled into Dougie’s van for a lift up the track, the extra weight almost bringing it to a standstill on one snowy incline. Walking in we could see that The Shroud was free and there was only one party heading in that way, so we stuck to Plan A.

    I led the first easy pitch and then Rob had the crux. The right icicle was a metre or so from touching but the left one was fully formed. The ice up to here was sugary and Rob did a great job keeping calm a long way above a rubbish ice screw, until he reached the relative sanctuary of some in situ gear. Once onto the pillar the quality of the ice improved massively and it was brilliant fun to climb. I tend to avoid ice in favour of mixed so was happy to have a rope above me on this. We think this was the first ascent of The Shroud this season, though we may be wrong. On our way down we found two ice screws and one nut – not a bad haul! Adrian Crofton and Al Robertson, who were staying at mine for the weekend, had had a good day on Waterfall Gully Direct, and on Sunday they climbed The Promised Land on Beinn Dorain.

    The next day I was out with Dave MacLeod, again on the Ben. After a quick stop at the CIC for tea and a spot of autograph-signing (by Dave – the lady looked a little perplexed when I said that she could also have mine…) we set off up Observatory Gully to try another new line near Red Dragon (on the East Flank of Tower Ridge). This was a line a few metres left of and parallel to Urchin which Dave Garry and Simon Frost had looked at two years ago. Dave MacLeod and I had been to try it back in January but it was heavily verglassed and Dave downclimbed the bottom of the first pitch on verglassed crimps. He kindly offered me a go at leading it but I declined, thinking that if he wasn’t getting up it then there was no chance I was.

    On Sunday the route was again verglassed, though not as bad. After the initial difficulties on the first pitch Dave went out of sight. Though I couldn’t see him I could hear that things weren’t great – the gear he had got was poor, and he had then climbed a protectionless verglassed groove a long way above this. The hex he had eventually got in above this took a while to hammer out! Dave had brought his Go Pro rather than camera and when I realised he could record audio on this I regretted the amount of swearing I’d been doing trying to untangle my fankled lanyards on second… The obvious line for the top pitch was straight up overhanging IX,9 ground. There was an easier route to the top, traversing off to the left, but this seemed a bit of a cop out. Again Dave led. He wasn’t happy to commit to the crux moves until he had got some gear in. Once he’d hammered in a terrier he pulled through on thin hooks and no feet, locking off to reach up for more thin hooks. Desperate stuff. Seconding this I managed to knock the terrier out with my hand – it was useless!

    We abbed down back down to our bags, chatted with Dougie and Adam Russell who had backed off Brass Monkey because of the amount of verglas (which shows just how well Dave had done), called in at the hut for more tea (but no food for Dave, as someone had thrown away what he had left on the table!) and then a wander down as it started to snow.”

    Italian guide Renzo Corona climbing The Shield Direct (VII,6) on Ben Nevis. As far as I know this is the first time this modern classic has been climbed this season. (Photo Renzo Corona collection)

    Italian guide Renzo Corona climbing The Shield Direct (VII,6) on Ben Nevis. The photo was taken on February 13 and as far as I know this is the first time this modern classic has been climbed this season. (Photo Renzo Corona collection)

    I receive all sorts of correspondence for scottshwinter.com but the following email from February 14 made me smile…

    “Hello, I apologize for my English, I’m Renzo Italian mountain guide crown have been to you for a tour with friend Martin, the time left us to climb, the first day to know a little stayed at Cairn Gorm of Aladdin the way the Flame, the second on Carn Megadich, the way Smith routes, the third day to the well-nevis Carn Deargh the way Schield direct, beautiful, today Fort Williams visits to distilleries, sure be back, we loved it… even the beer!”

    I think Renzo’s account has suffered the ravages of Google Translate, but The Lamp (V,6), Smith’s Gully (VI,5) and The Shield Direct (VII,6) is a pretty good haul for a first three days in Scotland. Bravo Renzo and Martin!

    Ken Applegate starting the Direct Variation (IV,6) to Pinnacle Arête on Ben Nevis. The Direct Variation continues up the prominent offwidth crack up and left, whilst the original route climbs the chimney line on the right side of the photo. (Photo Steve Holmes)

    Ken Applegate starting the Direct Variation (IV,6) to Pinnacle Arête on Ben Nevis. The line continues up the prominent offwidth crack up and left, whilst the original route climbs the chimney line on the right side of the photo. (Photo Steve Holmes)

    On February 8, Steve Holmes, Ken Applegate and Dot Bankowska made the possible second ascent of the Direct Variation (IV,6) to Pinnacle Arete in Coire na Ciste. This variation was first climbed by Robin Clothier and Andy Huntington in October 2010.

    “Throughout the Autumn I had been searching around for alternative routes at amenable grades and came across a direct pitch to Pinnacle Arête on Ben Nevis,” Steve told me. “Both Ken and I were keen to explore this area for potential guiding routes, so with reports of iced cracks higher up and unfrozen turf lower down, mid height on the mountain seemed a good idea. The initial ‘normal’ pitch gave some good but unsecure climbing after which we broke out left to climb ledges and cracks towards a wide crack splitting a vertical wall. Ken set out on the second pitch before taking a belay at the bottom of the offwidth crack, leaving me with the entertaining but stiff proposition of leading us through and over the top. This crux section has superb hooks behind large chock stones but felt awkward and reachy for my short stature! Its a good more challenging alternative to the normal two star route, and on the day we felt it deserved V,6.”

    Iain Small making the third ascent of Tomahawk Crack (VIII,9) on Ben Nevis. Greg Boswell and Adam Russell made the he first ascent of this daunting line on Number Three Gully Buttress in November 2012. It was repeated by Andy Inglis and Will Sim in December 2014. (Photo Murdoch Jamieson)

    Iain Small making the third ascent of Tomahawk Crack (VIII,9) on Ben Nevis. Greg Boswell and Adam Russell made the first ascent of this daunting line on Number Three Gully Buttress in November 2012. It was repeated by Andy Inglis and Will Sim in December 2014. (Photo Murdoch Jamieson)

    Iain Small and Murdoch Jamieson made the third ascent of Tomahawk Crack (VIII,9) on Ben Nevis on February 3.

    “It had some pretty technical climbing which was hard work to protect as everything was a bit icy,” Iain told me. “I think the Secret only deserves VIII,8 when compared to this at VIII,9. There were quite a few teams about. Folk were on Archangel and Avenging Angel Direct. Canadians Jon Walsh and Michelle Kadatz climbed Knuckleduster, which had been our first choice, but clearly we need to get up earlier! We saw them back at the hut and Jon said was really enjoying being back on Scottish mixed even in the wild conditions that we were having. He said he had never actually had to climb routes with goggles on before!”

    Ramon Marin on the first ascent of Tangerine Dream (VII,8) on South Trident Buttress on Ben Nevis. This prominent chimney-crack lies to the left of The Groove Climb and finishes on the large terrace leading into Number Four Gully. (Photo Douglas Russell)

    Douglas Russell on the first ascent of Tangerine Dream (VII,8) on South Trident Buttress on Ben Nevis. This prominent chimney-crack lies to the left of The Rattler and finishes on the large terrace leading into Number Four Gully. (Photo Ramon Marin)

    Douglas Russell and Ramon Marin added a challenging new single pitch climb to the left side of the Central Tier of South Trident Buttress on Ben Nevis on January 31. Russell takes up the story:

    “On Sunday, Ramon Marin and myself headed up to the Trident Buttress area on the Ben. We were planning on getting on Sidewinder or Strident Edge, but when arrived at the buttress we realized we had packed the selected guide instead of the definitive one. Looking at the buttress we noticed an obvious chimney and flake system on the left-hand side, so decided to jump on that as it looked like fun climbing and such an obvious line.

    I started up noticing that there were some loose blocks at the bottom and lots of verglas on the rock. The gear was pretty poor but good enough to persuade me upwards. At the top of the chimney I was stopped by a bulge. Looking around for gear I managed to get a wobbly Terrier in. It didn’t fill me with much confidence and I couldn’t bring myself to commit to pulling over. So I opted to lower off / down climb back to the belay.

    Knowing the top Terrier placement would take a bomber Bulldog we took the Bulldog out of the belay and replaced it with an axe. Ramon set off up armed with the spare Bulldog and was soon at my high point. He replaced the Terrier and pulled the bulge without too much difficulty and found himself at the upper flake system. We thought once we reached the flake the climbing would ease off but we were wrong. With some very thin hooks and some poor feet he made steady progress and soon found himself on the big snow bay at the top.

    We are unsure of the grade. Ramon thinks it felt harder than Sundance [on Beinn Eighe] and with worse gear. We felt it had a definite Tech 8 move in it, but with low commitment value being a single pitch. We are suggesting VII,8. We may have found it hard due to the style of the climbing, but time will tell!”

    German climber Michael Rinn on the first ascent of a new V,7 on The Stuic on Lochnagar. Unlike previous winter meets, challenging conditions meant new routes were thin on the ground during this year’s event. (Photo Simon Richardson)

    German climber Michael Rinn on the first ascent of a new V,7 on The Stuic on Lochnagar climbed during the 2016 BMC International Winter Meet. Unlike previous Meets, challenging conditions meant new routes were thin on the ground during this year’s event. (Photo Simon Richardson)

    The Weather Gods did not smile kindly on the BMC International Winter Meet that was held at Glenmore Lodge from January 24 to January 30. Over 35 guests from 30 different countries were teamed up with UK hosts and let loose on the Scottish hills. Unfortunately a major thaw preceded the event and the first two days were spent dry tooling at Newtyle or sea cliff climbing in the warm sunshine at Cummingston and Logie Head. The exception was Andy Nisbet who showed his great experience by leading a party up Fiacaill Couloir on ice that had survived the thaw. Despite the non-wintery start, there were smiles all around, and for several of the visitors, climbing by the sea was a new experience in itself.

    With lower temperatures, an overnight snowfall, and a temporary lull in the gale force winds, winter climbing final kicked off on Wednesday January 27, and teams headed off to the well-known ‘early season’ locations of the Northern Corries, Ben Nevis and Beinn Eighe. In Coire an t-Sneachda, Original Summer Route, Fingers Ridge and The Message were climbed and in Coire an Lochain, Savage Slit, Fallout Corner, Deep Throat, Western Route, Sidewinder and Ewen Buttress all saw ascents. Full marks went to Raphael Slawinski (Canada) and Erik Eisele (US) who both made ascents of The Vicar (VII,8) as their first-ever Scottish winter routes with Dave Garry and Tom Livingstone. The Beinn Eighe teams climbed East Buttress and West Buttress, and on Ben Nevis the best conditions were found on Tower Ridge and North-East Buttress. Unfortunately it had not been cold for long enough to bring the mixed routes into condition, except for Sioux Wall (VIII,8) which was well rimed and saw an ascent by Uisdean Hawthorn and Luka Strazar, and Ian Parnell and Ian Welsted (Canada). This was ten years after Parnell’s first winter ascent of this landmark route with Olly Metherell in December 2005.

    Thursday January 28 dawned wild and windy, but it was still cold with a thaw forecast in the afternoon. Attention focused on the Northern Corries, and in Coire an t-Sneachda, The Haston Line, Houdini, The Message, Hidden Chimney Direct, Patey’s Route, Stirling Bomber and Invernookie were climbed together with Central Crack Route, Deep Throat, Savage Slit, Fallout Corner, Hooker’s Corner in Coire an Lochain. The highlights were ascents of The Gathering (VIII,9) by Tom Livingstone and Ian Welsted (Canada) and Never Mind (IX,9) by Dave Almond and Luka Strazar (Slovenia). Elsewhere in the Cairngorms on Lochnagar, Michael Rinn (Germany) and I climbed a new V,7 on The Stuic that was sheltered from the worst of the westerly gales. Across on Ben Nevis, Raphael Slawinski (Canada) led The Secret (VIII,9) in very stormy conditions.

    Friday was a write-off with more gales and thawing conditions, but that evening snow began to fall and everyone prepared for one last push on Saturday January 30 to finish the Meet on the high. Unfortunately for most it was not to be, as the winds and unrelenting blizzards were too strong and all parties attempting to climb in the Northern Corries were beaten back. The only climbing in the Cairngorms took place in in Stac na h-Iolaire, a small crag within walking distance of Glenmore Lodge where a number of new additions up to Grade IV were found. Enterprising visits to Beinn Eighe and Creag Meagaidh came to nought with teams reporting black rock or avalanche conditions, but surprisingly the determined teams that ventured across to Stob Coire nan Lochan in Glen Coe to climb in the teeth of the westerly storm were rewarded with ascents of Spectre (V,6), Tilt (VI,7) and Chimney Route (VI,6).

    The Meet finished that night with a disco at Glenmore Lodge that lasted well into the early hours of Sunday morning. Despite the challenging weather and conditions (almost certainly the worst ever experienced on a BMC International Winter Meet), the week was a great success. Every evening, presentations were made showing the winter climbing potential in Scotland, Canada, USA, Greece, India and Portugal. Ideas were shared, friendships made, new partnerships formed and the overseas guests returned home with a new-found respect for the Scottish mountains, the Scottish weather and for all those who climb in them.

    Thanks once again to Glenmore Lodge for hosting us and Nick Colton and Becky McGovern from the BMC who set such an upbeat tone throughout the week and worked so hard behind the scenes to make the event run so smoothly. Tom Livingstone has also written a report on the BMC website.

     

    US climber Steve House on the second pitch of Darth Vader (VII,7) on Creag Coire na Ciste on Ben Nevis. This one of three routes climbed on Ben Nevis by the strong US team of Steve House, Josh Wharton and Mikey Schaefer in early January. (Photo Mikey Schaefer)

    US climber Steve House on the second pitch of Darth Vader (VII,7) on Creag Coire na Ciste on Ben Nevis. This one of three routes climbed on Ben Nevis by the strong US team of Steve House, Josh Wharton and Mikey Schaefer in early January. (Photo Mikey Schaefer)

    Josh Wharton concluded his trip report on the successful visit made by Steve House, Mikey Schaefer and himself in early January with some tips for the visiting North American. It’s always interesting to have an outside perspective on the Scottish winter game, so here are Josh’s tips:

    Days were very short in early January, with light from approximately 8:30 to 4:30. I’d recommend going later in the season when days are longer.

    If you want to climb regardless of weather and conditions (just make sure Nick is around!), the nastiness you will encounter cannot be understated. I’d recommend bringing two sets of clothing, and as many as eight pairs of gloves. That makes it possible to alternate between dry sets each day, and stay reasonably comfortable. Thick, fresh Gore-Tex is also key. Don’t bring any down.

    Navigation can be a real issue. Having satellite maps on your phones, with map and compass back-up was ideal.

    The Grades didn’t make a lot of sense to me, and of course are highly influenced by Nick’s mood. I found the routes we climbed to generally be in M5 to M7 range, but often quite spicy. (This was partly due to useless cams, and my inexperience with Hexes.)

    Conditions are incredibly variable. If you can source local knowledge, do it! If not, the Northern Corries and Ben Nevis are apparently the most reliable areas.

    Gear: a single set of cams to #4, a large selection of Hexes and stoppers (offset wired hexes seemed best), and a selection of 6 to 8 pins, with an emphasis on specters and beaks, seemed about right. We placed no screws on the routes we climbed.

    A pair of junky approach skis could save a lot of energy over the course of the trip.

    The CIC Hut on Ben Nevis is fantastic, and I highly recommend spending some time there. There is an excellent drying room, so you do not need to worry about drying your kit. 

    Gothic Edge

    John Crook about to start the crux section of Gothic Edge (VII,7) – a new link up on Number Three Gully Buttress. The crux section up the arête left of the Gargoyle Cracks involved a long run out above a Pecker, so the grade should be treated with a healthy degree of caution. (Photo Peter Graham)

    John Crook about to start the crux section of Gothic Edge (VII,7) – a new link up on Number Three Gully Buttress on Ben Nevis. The crux section up the arête left of the Gargoyle Cracks involved a long run out above a Pecker, so the grade should be treated with a healthy degree of caution. (Photo Peter Graham)

    Some late news just in -  John Crook and Peter Graham climbed a significant new pitch on Number Three Gully Buttress on Ben Nevis on December 31.

    “We started up the Direct Start to Gargoyle Wall, which without much ice provided a good VI,7 pitch,” Peter explained. “We then followed Gargoyle Wall to the corner below the Gargoyle Cracks. From here, we climbed what we believe to be a new pitch up the arête left of the Gargoyle Cracks and finished up the Rok Finish to Hobgoblin. This provided an excellent direct route up the buttress at around VII,7 that we named Gothic Edge.”

    There have been a number of link ups of existing routes climbed on the right wall of Number Three Gully Buttress in recent years, and one or two have even been reported as new routes, but they essentially climb previously travelled ground. Gothic Edge is significant in that the pitch up the arête left of the Gargoyle Wall Cracks is completely independent and a fine addition to this popular high altitude mixed cliff.

    Visiting US climber Josh Wharton on the second pitch of Daddy Longlegs (VIII,9) in Coire an  Lochain in the Northern Corries. Over the course of eight stormy days in early January, Steve House, Josh Wharton and Mikey Schaefer notched up one of the most impressive collections of high standard routes ever seen from an overseas team. (Photo Mikey Schaefer)

    Visiting US climber Josh Wharton on the second pitch of Daddy Longlegs (VIII,9) in Coire an Lochain in the Northern Corries. Over the course of eight stormy days in early January, Steve House, Josh Wharton and Mikey Schaefer notched up one of the most impressive collections of high standard routes ever seen from an overseas team. (Photo Mikey Schaefer)

    “It’s always great to see visiting climbers enjoying the Scottish winter, and early January saw just that,” Simon Yearsley writes. “I picked up US climbers Josh Wharton and Mikey Schaefer from Edinburgh Airport on January 2 and spent the evening at our house pointing at maps and guidebooks and generally building the psyche. What then happened over the next eight days was pretty cool: Josh and Mikey set off in one of our campervans, soon joined by Steve House and between them they dispatched eight routes in a really smooth style over six days climbing with two rest days. There were two things which for me made the trip really stand out: the weather and conditions definitely weren’t at their best (Josh did say he nearly cried on several occasions the weather was so gnarly!) but they still managed to get out; and also they were pretty self-sufficient for the whole trip, unlike many other top-flight visiting teams who’ve tended to have lots of support and folk to go out with them on the hill. Yes, they had lots of online support from various folk including me, Ian Parnell and others, but they were really operating on their own with only Steve having been in Scotland once before, many years ago on a BMC Winter Meet.

    I asked Josh to pen a quick resume of their trip, which makes interesting reading. The only thing I’d add for context is that whilst they climbed in the Northern Corries and on Ben Nevis, they were really psyched and determined to hit the more remote locations – how frustrating for them to have the weather they had, and I really hated texting Josh so tell him that no, Giant’s Wall would not be in nick with a freezing level of 850m!

    It’s good to see that Scotland’s winter climbing has such a big impact on top flight team. All we need now is another 30+ visiting climbers here for a week… roll on the 2016 BMC International Winter Meet next week!”

    Scottish Winter Trip Report by Josh Wharton

    Scotland has a well-deserved reputation as a stronghold of traditional mixed climbing, so Mikey Schaefer, Steve House, and I arrived excited to get a taste of the winter scene. Here’s a trip report of what we got up to:

     January 3: On our first day we walked into the Northern Corries in driving rain, low visibility, and the occasional knockdown gust. A fine introduction to Scottish misery… or is it fun? At the small lochs everything went white, and the cliffs, as best we could see them, were covered in thick slush. Judging ‘Nick’ to be in full effect, we climbed Fallout Corner (VI,7). It felt like well-protected M5, climbed in a snowy blender.

     January 4: Again, it was driving rain at the car, with horrendous winds and low visibility; a little like post-holing out to climb in a nasty Patagonian Storm. We headed for Daddy Longlegs (VIII,9). There was significant snow, and avalanches were rumbling about the corrie. As we racked up a sizable avalanche came down The Vent, inconveniently just as Mikey was changing layers. His pack and gear was shellacked with wet snow, and he received a very cold snow shower.  After a bit of fumbling around to get re-sorted and warmed up, we picked a different spot to belay. Daddy Longlegs proved quite fun. It was covered in slush, and it was difficult to look up in the deluge of snow, but at least the cams worked. Seemed like spicy M6+. We rapped the route to avoid any more avalanches.  I’d ordinarily consider seven to eight hours of walking, and 3.5 pitches in two days pretty pathetic, but in this case Mikey and I were pleased with our efforts.

     January 5: Rest Day. We collected Steve at the Edinburgh airport in the evening, and made a late night drive to Ben Nevis.

     January 6: We left the parking lot a bit after 7am, dropped some kit and had a brew at the CIC Hut, and headed to the Number Three Gully Buttress for Knucklebuster (VIII,9). Conditions were a little kinder, and colder, so it was decidedly less miserable. Although it was still properly winter, with blowing snow and low visibility. On this day, I realized that locals actually do pay attention to the forecast. Suddenly there were lots of people out climbing. Knucklebuster (I believe we climbed the ‘Direct’ version) was the best route of the trip; enjoyable thoughtful climbing, aesthetic features, some sticky ice in the corners, and comfortable belay spots! Again, not super hard technically, perhaps easy M7, but often spicy. We almost missed the descent down the Number Three Gully, but Steve’s phone saved the day.

     January 7: After a lovely night in the hut we headed for The Secret (VIII,9). It was nasty again, although not as wet, and no one was out. Things rimed up considerably overnight. We fixed a line so Mikey could take some photos, and I led the route in one long pitch. The rime, and verglass was very thick, and it was extremely difficult to see the hooks and feet, or get any quality protection. Cams were completely useless, and with only four hexes, and a limited knowledge of how to place them, it felt especially spicy. I climbed at a crawl to make sure I didn’t fuck up. Cool climb, but a bit hard to enjoy given the conditions. Next we soloed out across ledges to the base of the chimney pitch on Darth Vader (VII,7). Steve led to top in one big pitch. Good fun.

     January 8: The weather was gorgeous and clear, so of course we decided to take a rest day. We joked that there’s no point in climbing when Nick is in such a good mood! With the clear weather it was nice to finally see the mountain and a bit of the countryside. We weren’t sure where conditions would be good, so we opted to head back to the Northern Corries.

     January 9: We started into the Corries in clear, cold weather. How nice! I hoped to try the Hurting, but could see from a distance, that it was heavily rimed. So we made a spur of the moment decision to go to the Ventricle (VII,8). It proved tricky, and covered in lots of powder snow. Steve put in a nice, epic effort; climbing to the ledge in one big pitch. Despite the grade, this pitch seemed like one of the trickiest of the trip. I’d say proper M7R. I climbed the second pitch to the right of the slot via mostly ‘hero’ hooking in heavy rime. Good times, but a surprisingly long day.

     January 10: Hopeful to go big on our last day, we set the alarm for a painful 4am; packed for the Citadel (VII,8) on The Shelter Stone. Unfortunately we had used up our mojo, and went back to sleep when the alarm sounded. We salvaged the day by climbing the Genie (V,7) and Magic Crack (VII,7). Fun, good quality routes, and there was a nice big track into the corrie for a change. I headed over to The Hurting (XI,11) at the end of the day, just to have a look. It was completely covered by 4 to 8 inches of rime. Since it was our last day, I dropped a line and tried it on Mini-Traxion anyway. I managed to climb the first half of the route by using fins of rime as handholds, unique! After that, it was too steep and fragile to climb the rime with my hands, and the rock features were buried. Another trip I guess!