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    Uisdean Hawthorn climbing Clefthanger (VII,7) on the East Flank of Tower Ridge with Indicator Wall in the background. The line of Call Me Ishmael (VIII,9) is marked in red. (Photo Iain Small)

    Uisdean Hawthorn climbing Clefthanger (VII,7) on the East Flank of Tower Ridge with Indicator Wall in the background. The line of Call Me Ishmael (VIII,9) is marked in red. (Photo Iain Small)

    Uisdean Hawthorn had a remarkable run of routes on Ben Nevis last week. The first three days were a prelude for the main event – a new route on Indicator Wall. But even so, Boomer’s Requiem, Le Panthere Rose, Astral Highway, Riders on the Storm, Clefthanger and Kellett’s Route were a pretty good haul. Riders on the Storm and Clefthanger were particularly noteworthy, as Uisdean’s father, Doug, had made the first ascents 30 years before. Clefthanger has seen very few repeats and is now thought to be VII,7 rather than the originally given grade of V (and VI,6 in the Ben Nevis guidebook).

    On day four (March 16), Uisdean teamed up with Iain Small for a new route on Indicator Wall. This takes a tenuous line between Stormy Petrel and Psychedelic Wall and was the brainchild of Iain who had been on the first pitch twice before and found less than perfect ice on both occasions. “It’s one of those fantasy lines you’ve spied out as a possibility, but in reality you doubt the chances of ever actually finding it in condition,” Iain told me.

    “Iain had pointed out the line the day before while climbing Clefthanger and Kellett’s,” Uisdean wrote on his blog. “I felt fairly confident about it until Blair [Fyffe] mentioned that Iain had fallen of it when he tried it last time. ‘Hmm,’ I thought. ‘I don’t think I have ever seen Iain fall of anything, even in summer. Come to think of it even at Ratho I have spent entire sessions with him where he climbs the hardest routes with out falling off! God, what have I let myself in for?’”

    After three days of bright blue skies, the day dawned murky and cloudy, but this the ice this time was better.  Soon Ian had led the serious upward traverse of the first pitch. Uisdean then set off on the next lead. “Eventually with a Peanut, small wire and half a peg I committed to the move through the overlap and onto the thin ice wall,” Uisdean wrote. “From below this just looked like another slab however once on the wall with the prospect of hitting the slab below I realised it was very close to vertical and felt steep especially on thin and slightly aerated ice. No gear for the next ten meters (the ice was too thin for screws) a definite no fall zone. I eyed a small stance with a bulge of ice above good enough for a screw and aimed for that. I made the stance clipped the screw and RELAXED!”

    When Iain arrived at the belay grinning all over, he told Uisdean that he had always thought about climbing that wall but was never quite sure if it would be possible. “Uisdean did a brilliant job on the second pitch breaching the central overlap and barrier wall,” Iain explained. “From the first belay nothing could be seen (especially in the mist) and I was only able to give him a vague verbal sketch of the line that might go. He would have to go on dead reckoning. Uisdean departed from the stance and quickly navigated the central slabs then started to work hard for gear, very hard. Out of sight I could only wait and agonize over what he would find on the steep wall above the overlap. What harsh task had I sent him out on? Suddenly the ropes moved, steadily paying out until fully shot. I started to dismantle the belay, preparing to move together and hoping he had reached the good ledge traversed by Flight of the Condor. Still clipped into one wire the cry ‘safe’ came, Uisdean had cracked the pitch, one that had always seemed the most crucial and the least likely to be climbable.”

    This left Iain with the last pitch through the steep, jutting headwall. “It was an almost violent transition from the delicate balance on thin ice to physicality and brute force,” Iain recounted afterwards. The first two pitches were bold thin ice but the final mixed pitch was a complete contrast at Tech 9.

    “The whole experience brought to mind epic sea tales, reinforced by the surrounding classic route names (Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, Albatross and Stormy Petrel),” Iain explained. “What name could capture our voyage? A memory of a whole chapter in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick dedicated to whiteness made me smile. It was apt and I had to admit, I had been chasing this white beast of a route for a few years now – Call Me Ishmael had to be the name.”

    And at a grade of VIII,9 Call Me Ishmael is now the most difficult route on Indicator Wall.

    Helen Rennard on the superb arête pitch of Nevis Queen (V,6) on Goodeve's Buttress. The major lines of weakness on this feature high in Coire na Ciste are taken by The White Line (and variations), Hale Bopp Groove and Goodytwoshoes, but the ground between provides excellent middle grade mixed climbing. (Photo Simon Richardson)

    Helen Rennard on the superb arête pitch of a new V,6 on Goodeve’s Buttress on Ben Nevis. The major lines of weakness on this feature high in Coire na Ciste are taken by The White Line (and variations), Hale Bopp Groove and Goodytwoshoes, but the ground between provides excellent middle grade mixed climbing. (Photo Simon Richardson)

    Sunday March 15 was a glorious day on Ben Nevis. The sun shone and the air was crystal clear. After last week’s thaw the snow had re-frozen into hard neve, and the high-level ice routes were in superb condition. The mountain was busy of course, with many teams visiting Observatory Gully intent on the thin face routes on Indicator Wall and Gardyloo Buttress. In Coire na Ciste the pace was less frantic and high up on Raeburn’s wall Dave MacLeod and Natalie Berry were climbing the steep icefall of Le Panthere Rose for the camera.

    Given the ideal conditions and almost carnival atmosphere in the corrie, I couldn’t believe that I’d chosen the worst ice on the entire mountain to climb. Helen Rennard and I were attempting a new line to the left of The Alpine Princess on Goodeve’s Buttress, and I had ground to a halt on the opening moves. The initial gully of 70 degree ice looked to be in perfect condition, but when hit with an axe it dissolved into a series of brick-shaped lumps exposing bare rock beneath. The lack of purchase was bad enough, but with every move, so much material fell off that it threatened to push me off balance. Slowly and carefully I down climbed back to the belay and we reconsidered our options.

    I thought I knew this part of the mountain well, so I was surprised to find a hidden V-groove up and right that I hadn’t noticed before. Steep mixed moves on good holds led into the groove, which had a ribbon of ice less than 10cm wide at its back. This time the quality of the ice was good and the V-groove led rather neatly to the top of the gully. We were on our line again and back in business!

    Helen took the lead up an awkward left-leaning ramp that led to a superb narrow hanging groove in the arête between two of the variation finishes to The White Line. It was a spectacular pitch – never too hard and a delight to climb on such a clear day. Another long pitch took us to the plateau on the rope stretch and the welcome rays of the warm afternoon sun.

    Iain Small on the first ascent of The Piece Maker (VIII,9) on the East Flank of Tower Ridge. The nearby Clefthanger, first climbed in winter by Arthur Paul and Doug Hawthorn in 1985, has seen a couple of repeats recently and is thought to weigh in at VII,7 rather than the guidebook grade of VI,6. (Photo Blair Fyffe)

    Iain Small on the first ascent of The Piece Maker (VIII,9) on the East Flank of Tower Ridge. The mixed routes in this area of the mountain are rarely visited, but the nearby Clefthanger, first climbed in winter by Arthur Paul and Doug Hawthorn in 1985, has seen a couple of repeats recently. It is thought to weigh in at VII,7 rather than the guidebook grade of VI,6. (Photo Blair Fyffe)

    Iain Small and Blair Fyffe added another technical test-piece to Ben Nevis on March 10 when they made the first ascent of The Piece Maker (VIII,9).

    “After all the ice climbing recently I was pretty keen to get back on some mixed,” Iain told me. “After the wild weekend conditions it was difficult to know what might be in so I headed up the Ben for a wander around Observatory Gully. It was blowing a Hoolie with a lot of spindrift and even an avalanche from above Tower Scoop but at least that flank of Tower Ridge was gathering snow on the faces. I retreated to the CIC and had an impromptu night there. Blair was free on Tuesday so I arranged to meet him at the hut the next morning, with the additional request to bring some pieces up for me as I was out of food.

    The delivery was made and we headed up to the crags with an improving day forecast. Plenty of folk were heading up for the ice routes, which left us with no queues for mixed options. The area of steep rock to the right of Tower Scoop and Clefthanger had always looked like a contender for some steep mixed so we went for a look. It’s actually overhanging but at the left margin was a steep corner rising from the left end of a long ledge, after a quick discussion we decided to try that and if it was unfriendly we could always join a queue for an ice route.

    The initial short corners to the long ledge were helpful and the big corner sported a crack, so game on. It was a steep pitch but with gear once the ice and frozen dirt were hacked out, it felt great to be doing some pumpy technical moves again. Moving out left from the corner to a semi hanging belay the next pitch followed a stepped corner ramp to a small perch below a vertical corner with ice drooling down and fringing the twin overlaps with icicles. This gave a bold fantastic bit of climbing that lead to easy snow and a belay below the final pitch. Icy steps and a steep ice pillar led to the Eastern Traverse and with clear blue skies we opted to finish up Tower Ridge and catch some superb evening sun at the top.

    The line felt like VIII 9 and we called it The Piece Maker due to Blair’s lunch-making duties earlier. Plus it placates Dave’s nearby route Angry Chair!”

    Pete Harrison powering up the Right Pillar of The Shroud (VI,6) on the North Wall of Carn Dearg on Ben Nevis. This steep continental-looking ice route has been in the best condition in living memory and has seen several dozen ascents this season. (Photo Tom Livingstone)

    Pete Harrison powering up the Right Pillar of The Shroud (VI,6) on the North Wall of Carn Dearg on Ben Nevis. This steep continental-looking ice route has been in the best condition in living memory and has seen several dozen ascents this season. (Photo Tom Livingstone)

    Following his successful Scottish hit in January, Tom Livingstone had another superb run of routes in February. Tom takes up the story:

    “Pete Harrison and I were keen for two weeks of hard mixed climbing, ideally in the North West Highlands: Beinn Eighe, Beinn Bhan etc. But Scotland always seems to have other ideas! The ice was in fantastic condition but the mixed wasn’t, or plastered in cruddy ice. We had to face reality, so racked the ice screws.

    We enjoyed the classic ice routes (or rather, Pete did and I behaved like a spoilt child and complained about the lack of mixed. Thankfully I got a kicking and even started to enjoy the ice!). Over a couple of days we did Minus Two Gully (after an attempt at Minus One), Mega Route X (after an attempt at Sioux Wall), soloed The Curtain and climbed both Left and Right pillars of The Shroud.

    Apparently, these routes were all in ‘once-in-a-decade’ condition, which has made me appreciate the experiences a lot more. We kept saying, ‘this isn’t Scotland!’ when lowering off a brilliant two-pitch ice route, or sinking another ice screw to the hilt. The left, free-hanging ice pillar of The Shroud was particularly exciting.

    At last, we managed to get our fix with the mixed. Heidbanger (VIII,8) came into condition and we got stuck in, eager for some steepness at last. Pete led the first pitch – an overhanging and technical corner into an offwidth. I had delicate and technical face climbing for pitch two. It was cool to swing into a hanging ice smear at the top of the face with a small but tasty run-out below! We rapped down Mega Route X just before darkness, appetites sated after a thoroughly enjoyable route. I think this was the third ascent, interestingly. There’s a cool video of Greg Boswell climbing it on the BMC TV site.

    Pete returned to Wales and Simon Frost came up the following day – perfect timing. We found ourselves beneath Babylon (VII,8) on Ben Nevis, and Si kindly let me have the crux pitch.

    The next day, we waded through deep snow to Coire na Ciste. The crag was plastered and we had pretty stormy conditions, but The Secret (VIII,9) was white and I was on a mission. Simon led the first pitch – a tricky pitch in its own right – which got me thoroughly warmed up. We had some issues wondering where to belay, but eventually I set off… only to be stopped two metres up the wall by the crux. After several up-down-up-downs, testing a cam and drowning in waves of spindrift, I considered sacking the whole thing off. It was heavily iced and the wind was really buffeting me – not ideal on technical, tenuous moves!

    I got back on, however, and scraped through the lower moves using small hooks and deep lock-offs. Before I knew it, I was committed and gunning for the ‘two-thirds’ ledge. It probably took me a while to make each move but it felt like the route flew by, skipping my feet up the wall on matchbox edges.

    The final headwall cracks were really cool to climb but I was very conscious of completing the route. To fail right near the top, ‘Cracking Up’ style (a grade IX,9 by Nick Bullock, on Clogwyn Du, North Wales where I recently snatched defeat from the jaws of victory), would have made me really pissed! So, with Ueli in mind I carefully pulled onto the snow slope above and whooped with relief.

    Thanks to Pete and Simon for a great few weeks.”

    The line of Red Dragon (VIII,9) on the East Face of Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis. The deep gash just right of centre is The Great Chimney (V,6) that was first climbed in winter by Jimmy Marshall and Robin Smith during their famous week in February 1960 when they climbed six new routes culminating in the first ascent of Orion Direct. (Topo Dave MacLeod/Archive Photo Simon Richardson)

    Red Dragon (VIII,9) on the East Face of Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis takes a line up the right side of the wall with the snow patch left of the deep gash in the centre of the photo. The deep gash is The Great Chimney (V,6) that was first climbed in winter by Jimmy Marshall and Robin Smith during their famous week in February 1960 when they climbed six new routes culminating in the first ascent of Orion Direct. (Archive Photo Simon Richardson)

    On February 26 Helen Rennard and Dave MacLeod added a new mixed test-piece to the Ben. Helen takes up the story:

    “Dave and I headed into the Ben. We didn’t have a definite plan and it was more a case of getting to the hut and having a look. Dave fell through a snow bridge on the walk-in and was up to his knees in snowmelt (my helpful response when this happened was to stand and swear!), so the planned cup of tea at the CIC turned into probably two hours by the fire trying to dry boots, chatting to folk, including Blair Fyffe and friends on their way to do the avalanche forecast, and listening to the wind batter the side of the hut.

    Back in December Dave Garry and I had unsuccessfully tried a new line on the steep wall right of Brass Monkey, about ten metres left of Urchin. The bottom six – seven metres of this was steep and pumpy, especially as it was straight off the belay, and Dave Garry reckoned the route could be grade IX (the harder climbing was still to come). I suggested this as an option to Dave, as we would be sheltered from the strong westerly winds round in Observatory Gully. Dave was up for it, Dave Garry texted ‘go for it’ (I’d checked he was ok with this), Dave was happy to lead it, so that was the plan. The weather had deteriorated by the time we left the hut, with spindrift being blasted up the gully, and we met a number of climbers retreating as we headed up. Thankfully we were fairly sheltered round at our route for at least half the day.

    The first pitch was the crux, with a steep tech VIII section at the very bottom and a strenuous overhanging tech IX section above this with nothing much for your feet on the left. The cracks were iced up and the gear was poor, and Dave spent a long time trying to find some semi-decent runners before powering on through the crux. He did shout down from 20 metres up that his last decent bit of gear was the in-situ sling (left by me and Dave Garry) about five metres above the belay! By mid afternoon the weather had become more stormy and there was now no shelter from the updrafts of spindrift. Seconding for me involved a tight rope and a lot of cursing myself for not having trained a bit harder over the past month as my arms started to give up, but I did make it… From there it was grade V then easier ground to the top and a descent down Tower Ridge. After more tea at the hut we walked down in grim weather – the first time I have ever had to wear goggles to get back to the deer fence!

    We decided to call the route Red Dragon after the little red dragon who was found in Observatory Gully in summer 2013 by Blair and Tony Stone and who has been living in the CIC ever since. We wondered about IX,9 for the grade but Dave thought VIII more accurate as without ice in the cracks you would be able to place cams under the crux.”

    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.”