Scottish winter climbing news

    Browsing Posts tagged Guy Steven

    Dave Almond making an early repeat of Tuberculosis (VI,6) on Stob Coire nan Lochan. This rarely climbed two-pitch route takes the steep groove right of Crest Route and was first ascended by Dave Hollinger and Guy Willett in February 2004. (Photo Helen Rennard)

    Dave Almond making an early repeat of Tuberculosis (VI,6) on Stob Coire nan Lochan. This rarely climbed two-pitch route takes the steep groove right of Crest Route and was first ascended by Dave Hollinger and Guy Willett in February 2004. (Photo Helen Rennard)

    Last week (December 10-14) was undoubtedly the week of the winter so far. Heavy snowfall was consolidated by a mini-thaw the previous weekend followed by stable cold weather with no wind and blue skies.

    Several of the major events have already been reported on – Guy Robertson and Greg Boswell’s first ascent of the Vapouriser (VIII,9) on Creag an Dubh Loch, Martin Moran and Pete Macpherson’s third ascent of Steeple (IX,9) on the Shelter Stone and Andy Nisbet and Brain Davison’s good run of new routes in Glen Coe and An Teallach.

    The Cuillin Ridge came into good conditions and four teams made the winter traverse. Both Scott Kirkhope and Ken Applegate and John Orr and Ronnie made a traditional outing with a bivouac, whilst the Fort William-based team of Guy Steven, Donald King, Kenny Grant and Duncan made a lightning-quick traverse in only 12 hours. This is very respectable time for a summer ascent and the team was aided by King’s intimate knowledge of the route. All these ascents were widely reported on various blogs and Twitter, but more impressive perhaps was a solo traverse by Barry Smyth with one bivouac. The Cuillin Ridge has been traversed in winter solo before, but to do it mid-winter with precious little daylight and long nights takes a very special resolve.

    Dave Almond had a good run of routes with Helen Rennard. They started off with The Secret/Cornucopia Combination (VII,8) on Ben Nevis, followed by Tyrannosaur (VI,7) on Lost Valley Buttress in Glen Coe. On their third day they climbed Sidewinder (VII,8) on the Ben and finished off their four-day spell with an early repeat of Tuberculosis (VI,7) on Stob Coire an Lochan. Dave then teamed up with Guy Steven and Blair Fyffe to climb Sticil Face (V,6) on the Shelter Stone with the Direct Finish.

    Guy Steven bridging wide up the niche on the second pitch of The Survivor (VII,8) on Ben Nevis. The crux section lies ahead and entails moving up the left wall to gain the ledge on the left arête. (Photo Keith Ball)

    On Sunday December 2, Guy Steven, Keith Ball and Ewan Rodgers (third time in crampons!) made the second ascent of The Survivor on Ben Nevis. Guy described it as “a fantastic route – we really had to stretch the legs!”

    The Survivor is based on the prominent niche on the front face of Number Three Gully Buttress. Given it is such a prominent feature, it was added relatively late in the development of modern mixed climbing on the Ben. When Iain Small and I climbed it in March 2008 we called it The Survivor because it had ‘survived’ without a first ascent for so long!

    Guy Steven on the first ascent of Deliverance (VII,7) on the Stone Shoot Face of Sgurr Thearlaich on Skye. This south-east-facing cliff has a number of superb winter climbs that come into condition quickly due to their altitude of 800m. (Photo Mike Lates)

    Guy Steven and Mike Lates made a superb addition to the Stone Shoot Face of Sgurr Thearlaich on Skye on Sunday November 4, with the first ascent of Deliverance (VII,7). After seeing that there was a good blanket of snow on most peaks, Guy got in touch with Mike Lates to see how things were shaping up on Skye. Mike suggested it would be worth me coming across for the weekend and the pair ended up in the Great Stone Shoot below Sgurr Alasdair. They had two days, so on the first day they climbed CD Buttress (V,6), and then eyed up a striking unclimbed corner-line before stashing the gear for the following day.

    “So we walked back in and found ourselves standing below the steep corner,” Guy explained. “The first pitch consisted of steep bulges with some good torquing required and some brisk foot work followed by a bulge with next to no footholds – sustained and really fun climbing. The second pitch consisted of some awkward moves out of the alcove and over some blocks to an easier finish, which was also really good fun. We graded the route VII,7 and gave it two stars. It would be a super pitch if you linked both sections together!”

    Mike had been studying this line all summer wondering what it would be like as a winter climb. “Maybe I’ll regret giving this route to Guy if I work hard on the arms and technique this winter,” he told me. “But the truth is that it was desperate and I was well chuffed to get up it on a very tight rope!”

    Guy Steven about to abseil into Number Three Gully on Ben Nevis with the line of El Nino (III,4) and the La Nina Start (V,6) on Number Three Gully Buttress behind. This two-pitch buttress route lies above Winter Chimney on the left wall of Number Three Gully. The original line was climbed on ice in March 1998, but the new direct start provides a more technical early season mixed alternative. (The original El Nino line starts further left and joins at the first prominent dogleg on the topo). Lying high on the mountain the buttress comes into condition quickly with the first snows of the winter. (Photo Al Halewood)

    Whilst the Northern Corries have remained busy over the last few days with ascents of the early season classics such as Pygmy Ridge, Fingers Ridge and Fallout Corner, activity has now started on Ben Nevis.

    On October 31, Kenny Grant and Guy Steven made the probable third ascent of Archangel on Creag Coire a Ciste. This stepped line of corners was first climbed in February 2005, and was surprisingly late in the winter development of the crag considering it is such a prominent line. Despite a high freezing level, Kenny and Guy found good conditions with a reasonable snow covering and dry well protected cracks. I found one of the pitches quite scary on the first ascent with Chris Cartwright and we gave the route a grade of VII,7, but it now seems to be settling down at VI,7.

    The day after (November 1) Guy was back on the Ben once again to climb the classic Gargoyle Wall on Number Three Gully Buttress with Al Halewood. This time conditions were not so kind, and the cracks were very icy and covered in a deep layer of snow. After a pitch they decided to retreat, and headed up Number Three Gully looking for something else to save the day. They ended up climbing La Nina (V,6), a new direct start to El Nino, the buttress to the right of Winter Chimney.

    “We looked up and thought it looked about III,4,” Al told me. “But as so often happens, it caught us napping and left us both hanging full arm on a superb hook in a pick-width crack as our feet popped off the sloping left side of the groove we were climbing. Guy reckoned that move was approaching the difficulty of things on Archangel the day before and there was some more good stuff higher on the pitch…”