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    Browsing Posts tagged Cairn Gorm

    Greg Boswell just after his spectacular his ten-metre fall from Banana Wall (XII,12) in Coire an Lochain in the Northern Corries. After lowering down for a rest, Boswell then led the route on his second attempt that day. The only other winter route graded XII in Scotland is Anubis on Ben Nevis that was climbed by Dave MacLeod in 2010. (Photo Masa Sakano)

    Greg Boswell just after his spectacular his ten-metre fall from Banana Wall (XII,12) in Coire an Lochain in the Northern Corries. After lowering down for a rest, Boswell then led the route on his second attempt that day. The only other winter route graded XII in Scotland is Anubis on Ben Nevis that was climbed by Dave MacLeod in 2010. (Photo Masa Sakano)

    Greg Boswell and Masa Sakano made climbing history on February 25 with the first ascent of Banana Wall. This continuously sustained route takes the overhanging wall between Fallout Corner and Bavarinthia in Coire an Lochain on Cairn Gorm.

    The route was graded XII,12 and is only the second winter route in Scotland ever to be given a Grade XII rating.

    “Banana Wall has literally been eating away at me since 2011 when Guy and I first spotted it,” Greg told me. “I’ve been in to try it twice previously but down climbed from about eight metres both times after being way too scared to push on due to the steepness and lack of obvious gear! I rapped the route on my second day in, to try it to see if it would be safe to continue upwards, but due to the route being so steep, I was hanging in space from the word go and got very little info or feedback of what was to come! I was obsessed with keeping as much of the adventure alive as possible so I’m glad the abseil didn’t give me any real beta, it just got me more psyched to try the route. There was absolutely no practicing of moves or testing placements as I was free hanging eight metres from the crag at times when I rapped down.

    I went up with Masa Sakano as he agreed to belay me for the day and second me if I got it (which I didn’t think I would do on Wednesday). On my first go I failed high on the wall and took a ten-metre whipper into space when my axe ripped (pretty scary). I lowered off and had lunch and then got it on my second attempt of the day. Finishing the second (much easier) pitch in the dark and storm winds with one headtorch between us – what an amazing adventure!

    The route is crazy steep and the protection is there if you can hang on long enough to place it! The headwall was a bit run out and I got pretty scared trying to get onto the belay ledge!

    I’m going with the grade of XII,12 as it is super sustained, very steep and the gear is there if you’re fit! It is by far the most sustained thing I’ve done in Scotland, and there are three roofs to contend with as you make your way up the wall.”

    Greg has been on fire this season, leading the crux sections of his magnificent hat trick of new routes with Guy Robertson. These were ground breaking in themselves, but Banana Wall raises the bar yet higher. Greg considers Banana Wall to be M11, which makes it one of the most difficult technical mixed routes ever led by placing the gear on the lead.

    Simon Yearsley making an ascent of Savage Slit (V,6) in Coire an Lochain on Cairn Gorm. Savage Slit reliably comes into condition with the first snows of the winter and is a popular early season choice. (Photo Helen Rennard)

    Simon Yearsley making an ascent of Savage Slit (V,6) in Coire an Lochain on Cairn Gorm. Savage Slit reliably comes into condition with the first snows of the winter and is a popular early season choice. (Photo Helen Rennard)

    Strong westerlies brought the first real snows of the 2013/214 Scottish winter season during the last days of October. There are rumours of an ascent of Fingers Ridge (IV,4) in Coire an t-Sneachda during the first snowfalls last week, but the first batch of this season’s winter routes were climbed over the weekend and Monday.

    Blustery conditions and poorly frozen turf, meant that many folk climbing in the Northern Corries went away empty handed over the weekend, but further west, parties were more successful on the mountaineering classics suxh as the Aonach Eagach and Ledge Route on Ben Nevis.

    Yesterday (November 4), Duncan Hodgson and Mark Chadwick visited the Northern Corries and climbed the modern classic Hookers Corner (VI,6). Next door on No.4 Buttress, Helen Rennard and Simon Yearsley made an ascent of Savage Slit (V,6).

    “Sensible route choices are always important, but none more so than with the first snows of the winter,” Simon told me. “It’s tempting to rush out to “grab the white stuff”, but it was pretty obvious that from following the forecasts that no turf would be frozen by Monday (as Helen found out the day before when she’d taken a walk into Coire na Ciste on the Ben to check out conditions), so it was all about routes which can be climbed in a good coating of snow but don’t rely at all on turf. Routes like Fingers Ridge, Crest Route, Crypt Route, Hookers Corner Savage Slit and Mess Of Pottage are good objectives, and yesterday was no exception!

    Helen and I walked into Coire an Lochain with deep snow in the boulders around the eponymous lochan and the cliffs plastered with rime and heavy snow. Savage Slit was beautifully white, with lots of effort needed to uncover the cracks for gear, and coupled with the wind it was a full-on reintroduction to Scottish winter! Mark Chadwick and Duncan Hodgson found similar conditions on Hookers Corner, and later in the day we also bumped into Lou and her partner after they’d done a route on Mess of Pottage, and also heard later that Andy Nisbet and Dave McGimpsey enjoyed a fun (and possibly slightly more sheltered) day out on Fingers Ridge. I must admit I did feel pretty tired after the Ice Factor Festival of Ice Comp on Saturday, but walking back down to the car park, we both agreed that it felt wonderful to be back in the swing of things… here’s to more white stuff!”

    Dafydd Morris on the crux traverse of Gallows Groove (VI,7) on Creagan Cha-no on the east side of Cairn Gorm. The prominent gully of Fingers and Thumbs with its steep headwall can be seen just to the right. (Photo Matt Buchanan)

    Dafydd Morris on the crux traverse of Gallows Groove (VI,7) on Creagan Cha-no on the east side of Cairn Gorm. The prominent gully of Fingers and Thumbs with its steep headwall can be seen just to the right. (Photo Matt Buchanan)

    Dafydd Morris and Matt Buchanan made an excellent addition to Creagan Cha-no on December 16. “I managed to drag myself out of my sick bed to head back to Creagan Cha-no with Matt Buchanan on Sunday,” Dafydd told me. “I couldn’t face a long walk in, and having seen how good the climbing was when I did Anvil Corner a few weeks ago this seemed like a good option. We decided on a route on Arch Wall. We took the initial narrow chimney of the route Arch Wall to a ledge, and then followed the lower of two grooves rightwards across the steep slab (crux) on thin moves aiming for a turfy blocky chimney, and continued up this to the top.

    There was very little gear on the crux across the slab, only really turf stuff was available. The cracks were surprisingly blank, with not much for the feet, and didn’t have the hoped for bomber hooks I love so much. It took a lot of clearing too, and felt harder than Anvil Corner on the day. The route name derives from the fact I took a slight tumble on the lead and Matt thought I looked like I’d been sent to the gallows with my falling position!”

    Roger Everett moving up into the hidden snow bay on the first ascent of Goulotte Cachee (IV,4) on the east side of Cairn Gorm. The route follows a streambed in summer that is likely to ice regularly. (Photo Simon Richardson)

    Thaws followed by a re-freeze are a great time to enjoy easier mountaineering routes. I had been waiting for a chance to climb a new line on Coire na Spreidhe on the east side of Cairn Gorm, and last Sunday (February 12) was the ideal opportunity. Approaching rarely climbed crags with no idea about conditions other than gut feel is always a bit of a risk, but I had a hunch that the crucial ice pitch would be frozen as it is a stream in summer. Roger Everett was keen to take a look too, and we were treated to a magnificently clear morning that felt more like April than mid February.

    After soloing the first couple of Grade II pitches on low angled ice we reached a snow bay and Roger led the crucial ice pitch. After that we unroped for the rest of the 300m-long route, so we were on the plateau by 1.30pm. There was time to head off to Creagan Cha-no where the shadowed north-east facing Arch Wall was still white and frosty from light snowfall the night before. A croaking Ptarmigan at the foot of our route (the right rib of the Finger and Thumbs Gully) provided the name for our climb (Ptamigan Rib – IV,5) which followed a good line but took in some existing climbing on Mac’s Crack and the steep section of Fingers and Thumbs itself. By the time we had reached the plateau the cloud had rolled in which only made us appreciate the beautiful morning even more!