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    Browsing Posts tagged Helen Rennard

    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.”

    Helen Rennard leading pitch 2 of The Godfather (VIII,8) on Beinn Bhan. This touchstone route was first climbed by Martin Moran and Paul Tattersall in March 2002 and has become one of the most sought after high standard mixed routes in the Northern Highlands. (Photo Dave Almond)

    Helen Rennard leading pitch 2 of The Godfather (VIII,8) on Beinn Bhan. This touchstone route was first climbed by Martin Moran and Paul Tattersall in March 2002 and has become one of the most sought after high standard mixed routes in the Northern Highlands. (Photo Dave Almond)

    In a similar vein to the two ascents of The Needle in a weekend in January, The Godfather (VIII,8) on Beinn Bhan in Applecross had three ascents in the space of five days last week. Helen Rennard takes up the story:

    “Dave Almond and I had plans to climb last weekend and had various ideas about what to do and where to go. We decided on the North-West in the end as Dave was up there already: he’d climbed Rampart Wall on Beinn Eighe with Simon Frost and Gully of the Gods with Blair Fyffe through the week. Dave was keen for The Godfather and we knew that Uisdean Hawthorn and Ben Silvestre had climbed it on Wednesday. I was a bit less keen, worried that it was a serious undertaking and maybe a bit out of my league. I was a bit put off by Martin Moran’s account of the first ascent, but in the end I thought what the hell, and we agreed on that.

    We pulled up at the parking spot at 4.20am on Saturday February 27 only to find two others about to start walking in. It turned out to be Tim Neill, who Dave and I both know, and Keith Ball, and they too were heading for The Godfather. Dave and I were happy for them to go ahead; they could do the route finding (though they actually had Uisdean and Ben’s tracks to follow) and we’d stay a pitch behind. It worked well, was sociable and made the whole day feel a bit less serious having them on the same route. Our friend Misha was also out on Great Overhanging Gully with his partner Mark. He’d driven up from Birmingham the night before, climbed on Sunday too, and then drove back!!

    Two hours later we were at the foot of the route, still in the dark. It felt very Alpine-like with the still clear conditions and the sunrise behind us was amazing. After a bit of discussion about where the route actually started, Tim and Keith set off, then an hour later me and Dave. The route was fantastic: really nice climbing, steep but positive, good gear overall, something interesting on every pitch, a definite crux and a top out onto the summit under the stars (I’m not fast on these climbs… ) Dave did a great job leading the crux pitch. A walk out under a sky full of stars and we were back at the car just after 10pm. A comparatively short day for me…

    Dave is extremely keen, gets by on a lot less sleep than me and was due back home on Monday, so it took a bit to persuade him to not climb the next day, especially with the fantastic forecast. We probably could have done something short but I was happy to have a pint at the Lochcarron Hotel, crash out in the car and wake up whenever. We had breakfast and cake at the new Bealach Café and sat about in the sun, which was very relaxing. A good weekend all round!”

    Dave Almond on the Northern Corries test-piece The Gathering (VIII,9). This exceptionally steep route lies on the pinnacle in the fork of Y-Gully in Coire an Lochain was first climbed by Guy Robertson and Pete Macpherson in February 2011. (Photo Helen Rennard)

    Dave Almond on the Northern Corries test-piece The Gathering (VIII,9). This exceptionally steep route lies on the pinnacle in the fork of Y-Gully in Coire an Lochain was first climbed by Guy Robertson and Pete Macpherson in February 2011. (Photo Helen Rennard)

    Following his ascents of Swallow Tail Pillar and Smokestack Lightnin’ Variations, Dave Almond made another couple of important repeats in the Northern Corries with Simon Frost and Helen Rennard.

    “On December 13, Simon [Frost]and I were joined by Helen Rennard and we headed in to have a look at The Gathering,” Dave explained. We were greeted by a very white, frosty cliff and as I looked up at the imposing line I gathered my thoughts. I had tried this line a couple of years ago with Dave Garry but this time I felt like I had put the work in dry tool training at Clogwyn Mannod, so I felt a lot more confident. It offers a nice gentle start with some Tech 4 climbing to warm you up before you get thrown on to the meat of the route. I found the angle, style and grade of the first pitch similar to where I have been training which made the climbing much more relaxing. Simon and Helen joined me on the belay before Simon lead off and committed to the testing moves away from the ledge making a fitting second pitch.  Congratulations to the first ascensionists on a three star route.

    Continuing in the theme of third ascents, I unknowingly seem to have made the third ascent of Babes in the Wood on December 14 with Helen Rennard. It’s graded VIII, 8 in the guidebook however I have now altered my own copy to IX,8. The route follows the gully line so it’s ground fall potential until the initial overhang and then once on the steep slab the gear is atrocious with foot and tool placements getting smaller as you get higher with a crux move at the top protected by a Terrier which could pull and then you’re back to ground fall. I found this route more challenging than The Gathering and to describe Babes as being bold would be an understatement.

    We walked in to the Lochain on Tuesday morning but backed off as my arms were feeling the effects of the previous four days of full on climbing!”

    Postscript 22 December 2015: Dave, Simon and Helen’s ascent of The Gathering was the fifth ascent. Previous repeats were made by Greg Boswell and Will Sim in January 2012, Andy Inglis and Neil Adams in December 2014, and Murdoch Jamieson and Guy Steven in January 2015.

    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.

    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.”

    Simon Yearsley making the third ascent of Castro on the South-East Face of Sgurr and Fhidhleir. Two days later, Simon’s partner Helen Rennard returned to the Fhidhleir to make an ascent of the Nose Direct. Helen joins a small group of climbers who have climbed more than one route on this prestigious winter cliff. (Photo Helen Rennard)

    Simon Yearsley making the third ascent of Castro on the South-East Face of Sgurr and Fhidhleir. Two days later, Simon’s partner Helen Rennard returned to the Fhidhleir to make an ascent of the Nose Direct. Helen joins a small group of climbers who have climbed more than one route on this prestigious winter cliff. (Photo Helen Rennard)

    Helen Rennard scored a notable double on the Fhidhleir last week with ascents of Castro and the Fhidhleir’s Nose. Helen takes up the story:

    “Simon Yearsley and I were free to go climbing on January 19, and with the very cold temperatures and snowy weather, we both thought the same thing – The Fhidhleir’s Nose! We drove up through the day on the Sunday so we’d get a view of the Fhidhleir and also to check out the walk-in, which can be notoriously difficult under powder. Everything was looking good – The Nose was white and there was enough snow to outline the path, but not enough to make the going tough. In the warmth of the Elphin Hut we discussed plans and Simon suggested we try Castro instead. I agreed, with both of us thinking this would be a first winter ascent (having not read page 149 of The Great Mountain Crags of Scotland, or having checked the SMC journals carefully enough!)

    In the morning we set off under a starry sky and arrived at the base of the route at first light. We were both apprehensive about the climb ahead but the clear skies, sunshine and stunning views helped to calm us. My belay at the top of pitch one was in the sunshine, a rare event when climbing Scottish mixed!

    Simon later summed up the route – ‘Six pitches, overall VII,6. Highlights: the icy corner on Pitch 3; keeping a cool head with 25m of unprotected Tech 6 climbing above a big ledge; and Helen’s awesome route-finding on pitch 6 after I’d spent one and a half hours not finding the way through the final steep rock barrier [thanks, Simon!]‘ We thought the route was quite serious, with all but the last pitch rather lacking in gear. Topping out under the stars we made our way down and back to the bags. Thinking we’d done the first winter ascent I texted Simon Richardson, only for him to reply that he and Iain Small had climbed the route in 2009! Ours was the third ascent. [The second ascent was made by Colin Lesenger and John Davidson in February 2010]. Still, it was fantastic to have climbed a route on that face, especially in such stunning weather.

    After a day of eating, sleeping and eating cake in Ullapool, I headed back into the Fhidhleir with Neil Silver and Simon Davidson on Wednesday (January 21) to climb The Nose Direct, which was high up on all of our wish lists. We had a long and memorable day out, with difficult route finding (none of us having climbed the route in summer). Neil did a brilliant job leading the crux in the dark, and we finally topped out with a blanket of stars above and the Northern Lights in the distance. It felt comforting to follow our old footsteps all the way back to the car with each of us lost in thought.

    A very long day meant that I only had time for a couple of hours sleep in the back of my car (with all of my clothes and boots still on!) before driving home and heading straight to the office. Needless to say I wasn’t on my best form at work!”

    Roger Webb finishing the crux pitch of Tenterhooks (VII,8) on Ben Nevis during the first ascent. This steep icy mixed climb takes the steep wall between Central Rib Direct and Tinkerbell Direct of Creag Coire na Ciase. (Photo Simon Richardson)

    Roger Webb nearing the top of the crux pitch of Tenterhooks (VII,8) on Ben Nevis during the first ascent. This steep icy mixed climb takes the wall between Central Rib Direct and Tinkerbell Direct on Creag Coire na Ciste. (Photo Simon Richardson)

    Choosing where to climb this weekend was a tough call after the devastating New Year thaw. With temperatures only dropping on Friday, it was difficult to figure out how much it had snowed, and where, and whether the turf had re-frozen. In the end, Roger Webb and I opted for the failsafe option and visited Ben Nevis on Saturday January 3. We were hoping that the thaw had left sufficient snow on ledges and flat holds to bring in an icy mixed possibility in the Tinkerbell area of Creag Coire na Ciste.

    We were second into the corrie following behind the welcome footsteps of James Richardson, Andy Munro and Helen Rennard who were heading for The Comb. As the daylight broke it was clear that high up, the mountain was icy and frozen hard, and tell-tale streaks and blobs of white on our objective looked encouraging. An pleasant icy gully leading through the lower tier warmed us up for the first pitch that climbed a mixed wall before joining the upper section of the intial icy groove of Tinkerbell.

    Our line then went left onto the impressive wall to the right of Central Rib. This wall overhangs for much of its height but is cut by a tapering ramp that leads into its centre. Unfortunately the ramp disappears and the way is blocked by an undercut monolithic block. The plan was climb the ramp, hand traverse the block and then climb the vertical groove above that leads into a parallel ice line left of Tinkerbell.

    The ramp was reassuringly icy, but it was clear that hand traversing the monolithic block was going to be a non-starter (for me at least). After a lot of hesitation I hooked a high flat hold on the wall above, stepped up on a small rounded nick and precariously stood on top of the block. The wall above was overhanging and pushing me out and the only way to get back into balance was to kneel on the block. I urgently needed a placement to lower myself down but there was nothing. I contemplated falling and catching the block as I went past, but eventually I found the tiniest of hooks and lowered myself down, first one knee and then two.

    I could now see round the block and into the groove but the view was not good. A steep overhanging wall barred entry to the groove and there was no protection in sight. Eventually I dropped down to the left, changed feet on the tiniest of footholds, hooked a poor edge and bridged up sloping icy dimples to gain the foot of the groove. I was now a long way above my last gear, and my tools were starting to rip. There was nothing for it but make, one, two, three, four, five moves on the most tenuous of placements. One slip and I would have been off. Eventually my right tool sank into a centimetre-deep crack and vibrated. My heart sang. One final pull took me out of the groove onto easier ground.

    By the time Roger came up it was dark, but he made short work of the final icy groove and led all the way to the top. The plateau was bathed in beautiful moonlight. It felt late but was only about 6pm, and made all the more sociable by bumping into James, Andy and Helen after their fine ascent of Tower Face of the Comb.

    Two contrasting views of the first pitch of Twisted in Stob Coire nan Lochan. The left photo shows Malcolm Bass enjoying delicate mixed conditions on the first ascent, and the right photo shows Dave Almond taking advantage of useful ice at the same point on the second ascent. “There was quite a bit of the first ascent was on ice too,” Malcolm commented. “We were of the belief that ice would be critical, so had waited till there was a drool at the top of the wall.” (Photos Simon Yearsley/Helen Rennard)

    Two contrasting views of Twisted (VII,7) in Stob Coire nan Lochan. The left photo shows Malcolm Bass enjoying delicate mixed conditions on the first ascent, and the right shows Dave Almond taking advantage of useful ice at the same point on the second ascent. “Quite a bit of the first ascent was on ice too,” Malcolm commented. “We were of the belief that ice would be critical, so had waited till there was a drool at the top of the wall.” (Photos Simon Yearsley/Helen Rennard)

    “Back in November Harry Holmes, Dan Tait and I went into Stob Coire nan Lochan in Glen Coe with the aim of making the second ascent of Twisted, a three-pitch three star VII,7 to the left of Chimney Route put up by Simon Yearsley and Malcolm Bass last March,” Helen Rennard writes. “However, on the day we found the bottom pitch to be bare, Chimney Route dripping and the rest of corrie disappointingly unfrozen, so we returned to the car having got up nothing.

    Onto January and I was climbing with Dave Almond the weekend of January 11-12. Dave was up from Liverpool for his first trip of the winter and, as ever, was highly motivated to get out, having been training hard at White Goods since October. We were keen to avoid too much driving so opted to stay local to Fort William (where I live). I texted Simon on the Friday for his thoughts on Twisted and he replied “I’d be worried about it being black…I’d have a Plan B.” As it turned out, being too black was not an issue!

    Dave did a great job leading the first pitch, remaining completely calm despite getting only three lots of gear in 30 metres. Pitch one was easily the crux, though the rest of the route maintained a high quality of (run-out!) climbing in an impressive situation. Comparing photos with Simon afterwards it was clear that Dave and I had climbed the route in contrasting conditions to the first ascent; where Simon and Malcolm had been delicately hooking on snowed-up rock, we had had usable ice for most of the route. We thought the VII,7 grade still applied for our conditions, and Dave described it as having “a tasty first pitch followed by a mellow second pitch.”

    As it was, the climb was the least exciting part of the day. While we were gearing up in the foot of Twisting Gully the cornice above us collapsed. I heard a loud ‘boom’ and seconds later was being pummelled by wet heavy snow that obliterated everything around me. I was clipped into the belay, but Dave wasn’t, and I was convinced he had been swept away. After what may have been minutes, but maybe it was only seconds, the snow subsided. Then there was shouting and confusion. Below us, Adam and Dougie Russell and Steve Johnstone, who were under Chimney Route and had also been hit, were shouting up at us to check we were OK. They could see the end of one of our ropes trailing in the snow below with no one attached and thought the worst. I didn’t know what was happening and thought someone had gone, but Dave was still next to me, and Adam, Dougie and Steve were all unharmed. Cue some nervous laughter and Dave commenting that he’d have grabbed onto me as he went past if it had come to that…

    And, with that, he set off up pitch one, not being a man who is easily scared. But it was certainly a lesson to be more aware of the objective dangers when winter climbing in Scotland, and I think it’s fair to say, that the five of us had a lucky escape.”

    Malcolm Bass on the first winter ascent of Turkish on Ben Nevis. “We thought it was about VII,7 on the day, uncommonly amenable for a Ben Nevis HVS, enjoyable in its variety and situations and definitely worth a star!” (Photo Simon Yearsley)

    Malcolm Bass on the first winter ascent of Turkish on Ben Nevis. “We thought it was about VII,7 on the day, uncommonly amenable for a Ben Nevis HVS, enjoyable in its variety and situations and definitely worth a star!” (Photo Simon Yearsley)

    Malcolm Bass, Helen Rennard and Simon Yearsley had an excellent day on Ben Nevis on Saturday January 4, when they made the first winter ascent of Turkish (VII,7) on Number Five Gully Buttress.

    “Since climbing Free Range with Jim Higgins back in 2011, Simon and I have been waiting for an opportunity to get back on Number Five Gully Buttress,” Malcolm explained. “We’re not really drawn to winter ascents of classic summer rock routes, but the HVS Turkish, described in the Ben guide as ‘a poor route’, was first climbed in 1967, and hasn’t experienced a noticeable surge of popularity since then. So it was deemed a legitimate target.

    This area of the buttress faces south-east, and needs cold damp south-easterlies, or at least southerlies, to come into winter condition. Through last week the seemingly endless gales swung south-easterly for a few days and hopes were raised. But would there be enough of a gap in the storms to allow for an attempt? On Saturday there was, but it was forecast to be warm the preceding night before dropping colder during the day, and the cliffs were well defended by wet, fresh, slabby snow on the approaches. So, with Helen Rennard, we decided on a late start to let things cool and settle down, and packed spare head torch batteries. The bowl underneath the buttress can be nasty, so we’d planned to get in by abseiling down to the foot it from high on Ledge Route. But luckily, Number Five had already avalanched, very impressively, so we were able to climb the debris and then skirt round just under the crag.

    The climbing on the route was very varied. Steep corners with exits on good ice. Consolidated snow allowing progress up compact slabs. And a delicate technical crux. We are fairly confident that we followed the summer line, but a 1967 summer route description defined by ‘loose blocks’ on pitch three isn’t the best guide to a snowy 2014 ascent. At the base of the big corner we weren’t sure where to ‘trend across the left wall’. On my first attempt I went too far up the corner and experienced a rapid downwards trend. Party conference was in favour of a more defined steer to the left, and that took us across delicate sloping slabs to the crux steps under a bulging wall, which yielded (eventually) to crimps, undercuts, and thin hooks to gain a steep corner full of stacked flakes, well bonded by ice. We think this was where the tension traverse was used to avoid loose blocks on the summer first ascent. The darkness took us on this pitch, but there was virtually no wind.

    After topping out on Ledge Route we dropped down this a way, then, mindful of the lurking snow bowl, abseiled down to the sacs, and cramponed back down the avalanche chute to the CIC. The empty hut, the quiet mountain, stillness, darkness and gently falling snow – The Ben had trusted us with sight of one of its less familiar moods.”

    Helen Rennard climbing pitch two of Day of The Doctor (IV,5) on Ben Nevis during the first ascent. The route was repeated next day by Robin Clothier and Pat Ingram taking a more direct line on the final pitch, (Photo Simon Yearsley)

    Helen Rennard climbing pitch two of Day of The Doctor (IV,5) on Ben Nevis during the first ascent. The route was repeated next day by Robin Clothier and Pat Ingram taking a more direct line on the final pitch. (Photo Simon Yearsley)

    On Saturday November 23, Simon Yearsley and Helen Rennard added a new route to North Trident Buttress on Ben Nevis. Simon takes up the story:

    “Over the weekend, freezing levels seemed hard to predict, with anything from 900m to 1100m for the West, depending which forecast you chose. So Helen and I banked on going high, and headed over to the Ben. We were in a new route mood, so we headed up to North Trident Buttress to look at the buttress tucked between Nereid Gully and Left-Hand Ridge. The buttress is fairly small, but does have a very obvious and very fine looking ramp line on its right hand side. From below, the ramp looked to be about grade III, but, as is often the case with features like this, as soon as you set off, the climbing proved to be a bit harder. Short steep steps with not so great gear lead upwards… but I then decided to head rapidly downwards in a silly 7m fall when an axe ripped. The rope caught in my crampon, spinning me into an inelegant upside down clattering fall. A peg just below me ripped, but a lower sling (and Helen’s belaying!) caught me.

    I’ve taken very few leader fall in winter, and was a wee bit shaken… but with Helen’s encouragement, and few giggles at the daft position of me being lowered back to the belay with my leg high above my head, I dusted myself down, and I set off again. The ramp is a very fine feature and gave two great pitches before joining Left-Hand Ridge above its crux. We followed the excellent horizontal arête of Left-Hand Ridge for one pitch, and then spotted a series of turfy grooves immediately right of the crest of the buttress between Jubilee Climb and Nereid Gully. This gave a final 50m pitch before the angle kicked back and we sauntered to the top.

    Thinking about a name for the climb is always a fun part of new-routing. Chatting through different ideas, we realised that over 10 million people across the UK were going to be glued to their TV screens later than evening watching a 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who. So, the name was easy – Day of The Doctor.”

    The route was repeated next day by Robin Clothier and Pat Ingram. “Robin and Pat climbed a slightly better final pitch,” Simon told me. “Above the flat section of left-hand ridge, where we climbed turfy grooves on the right of the arête, they climbed the deep groove in the arête itself. We’d looked at this but time was pressing, but it’s probably a better finish at the same overall grade.”