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    Browsing Posts tagged Dafydd Morris

    Stuart McFarlane climbing the ice chimney of The Promised Land (VI,6) on Creag an Socach in the Southern Highlands. This pitch is also climbed by Deliverance (VI,6) that had an early repeat in the hands of McFarlane and Dafydd Morris. (Photo Dafydd Morris)

    Stuart McFarlane climbing the ice chimney of The Promised Land (VI,6) on Creag an Socach in the Southern Highlands. This pitch is also climbed by Deliverance (VI,6) that had an early repeat in the hands of McFarlane and Dafydd Morris. (Photo Dafydd Morris)

    It’s been a busy couple of weeks on Creag an Socach above Bridge of Orchy with the rarely formed classics of The Promised Land (VI,6) and Messiah (VII,7) in good condition and seeing several ascents. They were first climbed by Graham Little in the 1980s (The Promised Land with Dave Saddler in March 1987, and Messiah with Bob Reid in January 1988) and were significant ascents during the development of Southern Highlands mixed. Both routes follow strong lines, but unfortunately they are not often in condition.

    Stuart McFarlane and Dafydd Morris had an excellent weekend making an early repeat of Deliverance (VI,6) on January 31, and then climbing the bulk of Antichrist (VI,7) with Andy Clark the following day. Deliverance was first climbed by Al Powell and S.Elworthy in January 1995 and is a direct variation to the central section of The Promised Land. “Deliverance is a superb direct line,” Stuart enthused. “We couldn’t really work out where hairline crack on Antichrist went, so we took the obvious winter line which lead onto the top and joined Second Coming.”

    The hairline crack on Antichrist is on the fourth pitch. When Roger Everett and I made the first ascent in March 1992, we were determined not to deviate from the tapering pillar defined by the fault lines of The Promised Land and Second Coming, so we climbed directly up the apex of the pillar via an impending wall cut by a hairline crack. “A series of steep moves on widely spaced tufts (not visible from below), lead to a ledge,’” the description (rather unhelpfully) reads. “Protection is in the form of a poor knife-blade peg in a crack on the right.” I remember being particularly proud of this pitch and the crucial ‘tuft’ on the crux move was the size of a postage stamp. I’m not sure if this pitch has ever been repeated, but I’m sure with a Pecker or two, it could be better protected than on our ascent. The name of course, was a playful swipe at Messiah, which Graham and Bob had climbed four years before.

    The current guidebook suggests that Deliverance and Antichrist may overlap to some extent, and Stuart has several comments on the descriptions that may be useful for the next guidebook. ”Deliverance starts at flakes below steep rock (Promised Land), moves back right, steps up, then moves left and up a turfy groove to a belay overlooking the ramp of The Sting. Turfy ground then leads diagonally up right (joining Antichrist) through a bulge into a steep groove, stepping left around a block, into snow bay beneath ice chimney of Promised Land. Antichrist starts 5m right of flakes, goes straight up the groove above (Deliverance goes up left one), then takes turfy groove going slightly leftwards to bulge (common with Deliverance), before traversing right, sensational exposure, belaying on ledge on arête. This is a fantastic pitch! Even without last 20m pitch, this would be a worthy V,6 in it’s own right!”

    Matt Buchanan making the first winter ascent of Arch Chimney on Creag Tharsuinn in Arrochar. This was one of the last ‘old school’ summer routes on the cliff to receive a winter ascent. (Photo Dafyyd Morris)

    Matt Buchanan making the first winter ascent of Arch Chimney (V,5) on Creag Tharsuinn in Arrochar. This was one of the last ‘old school’ summer routes on the cliff to receive a winter ascent. (Photo Dafyyd Morris)

    Dafydd Morris and Matt Buchanan laid an old ghost to rest with the first winter ascent of Arch Chimney on the Upper Buttress of Creag Tharsuinn on January 22.

    “Matt and I headed back to Creag Tharsuinn to give Arch Chimney a go, once again!” Dafydd explained. “I say again, because when we did the winter ascent of Hangover in the corrie two years ago we had a look at it, but on that occasion it was a hoared up rocky chimney/corner line. We went back later that season to try it only to spend four hours taking the gear for a walk in waist deep snow. Zero visibility meant we wandered aimlessly round the cliffs trying to get our bearings without success so beat a not so hasty retreat to the Village Inn in Arrochar for consolation pints!

    This time, the deep snow was still there, and to our horror so was the low cloud cover. After another wander round, thinking bloody hell not again, the cloud lifted and presented the crag to us, and right enough, we were miles away from our objective. A wade later to the bottom of the route revealed an icy slabby corner. Luckily we’d left all the ice gear behind as we’re really good at reading conditions!

    So I managed to get a great peg in at the bottom of the pitch, and that was it gear-wise pretty much. The ice was too thin for screws anyway. Back and footing up the corner it was a bit awkward swinging the axes in the confined space but this led to a great belay below the Arch pitch which Matt dispatched pretty sharpish. The route was 65 to 70 metres all together and followed the summer line. We had the usual debate about the grade. I thought V,4 whilst Matt gave it V,5. I guess it would really depend on the ice build up on the first pitch. A great day out whatever – you gotta love the Southern Highlands. This time the pint in the Village Inn tasted a bit sweeter!”

    Dafydd Morris contemplating the top wall/corner past the rock finger on the second pitch of Hangover (VI,6) on Creag Tharsuinn in Arrochar. (Photo Matt Buchanan)

    Dafydd Morris contemplating the top wall/corner past the rock finger on the second pitch of Hangover (VI,6) on Creag Tharsuinn in Arrochar. (Photo Matt Buchanan)

    “Headed out last Sunday (January 20) to Creag Tharsuinn in Arrochar with Matt Buchanan,” Dafydd Morris reports. “A great wee venue. Had a winter ascent of Hangover in mind, a summer Severe on the upper buttress. I’d been up to the crag a few weeks before and this caught my eye, a much better looking winter line than a summer one in my opinion, damp and turfy looking.

    The crag was in top nick, hoared up with bomber turf. I’d envisaged the top pitch would be the crux but it turned out to be the first 15m or so, a pretty tenuous pull over a bulge, not much gear and little for the axes made for an interesting few moves, this led into a great turfy steep corner to a relaxing belay ledge. We then headed up a rocky corner to a steep wall passing a finger of rock described in the guide. Great climbing, really enjoyed it. Grade wise, VI,6. Overall a top day, not a breath of wind, and plenty of time for a couple of pints of Jock Frost in the Village Inn down in Arrochar.

    On Thursday (January 24) we tackled The Sting on Beinn Dorain, with Matt again. A fantastic line, the ramp has some superbly delicate moves and the main corner pitch was great fun, steep and well protected. Discussed grades in the pub afterwards with Stuart MacFarlane and Gary Gray who had just done The Prophet. Stu had done the Sting a couple of years previously. General consensus was VI,6 for the ramp and V,7 for the corner, so overall VI,6 or VI,7? Winter grading, love the debates!”

    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!”

    Sandy Simpson moving past ‘the Anvil’ on the first ascent of Anvil Corner (VI,6) on Creagan Cha-no in November 2010. (Archive Photo Simon Richardson)

    The recent snow and cooler temperatures are beginning to bring the crags in the Northern Cairngorms into winter condition. Activity is picking up in the Northern Corries where routes that do not rely on frozen turf such as Honeypot, Pot of Gold, The Message and Pygmy Ridge have received ascents.

    I’ve just been contacted by Gary Gray who visited Creagan Cha-no today (November 27) and made an ascent of Anvil Corner (VI,6) with Dafydd Morris. His enthusiastic email gives a flavour of the current conditions:

    “It was not a great day for climbing with poor visibility and a fair bit of wind, but fortunately we were protected by the route from the worst of it. The turf was not [completely] frozen, but good enough when it mattered. Both pitches were excellent and sustained, so good value for such a short route. The route wasn’t plastered, unlike the crag in general, so gear was plentiful but awkward to place at times. A great route and worthy of a couple of stars at least!”

    Jeremy Windsor crossing the icy steps on the first ascent of Thea (III) on the west side of The Garadh on Ben Nevis. This route was one of the most walked past unclimbed medium grade route on the mountain. (Photo Jeremy Windsor Collection)

    As chance would have it, on Friday January 20, two teams independently set their sights on the first winter ascent of Cryotherapy, a VDiff on the west flank of The Garadh in Coire na Ciste on Ben Nevis. Jeremy Windsor, Piers Harley and Rob Marson arrived first and climbed the obvious line of icy ramps up the centre of the face. “We climbed diagonally for one pitch (60m) crossing a series of iced up steps,” Jeremy told me. “We felt it was worth a grade of III and possibly a star! A very enjoyable preamble for something like Glover’s Chimney or White Line.”

    Just as Jeremy, Piers and Rob were gearing up, Dafydd Morris and Matt Buchanan arrived with the same intention. Instead, Matt and Dafydd climbed the line of mixed grooves to the left to give Crying Out Loud (IV,5). Dafydd is unsure where their route starts in relation to the summer line, but thinks they finished up the final groove of Cryotherapy.

    “I couldn’t believe it,” Dafydd told me. “We got to the base of the route and there were three guys there saying that was their target for the day! Hence the “Crying Out Loud” name suggestion. They climbed the snow ramp heading up and left above them, which they thought was Cryotherapy, hence we’re all a bit confused now. Anyway, a fantastic day in little wind, top turf and gear, a cracking little route whatever it was, exposed with great climbing.”

    Jeremy decided to name their grade III Thea, so it will be up to the next guidebook writer to sort out the relationship of theses two climbs with the summer line of Cyotherapy. (Ooops, that will be me then!)