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    Browsing Posts tagged Pete MacPherson

    Guy Robertson following the ice section on the bold second pitch of One Step Beyond (IX,9) during the first ascent. The combination of steep technical mixed with thin vertical ice, makes this route one of the most challenging winter climbs in Scotland. (Photo Pete Macpherson)

    Guy Robertson following the vertical ice section on the bold second pitch of One Step Beyond (IX,9) on Beinn Eighe during the first ascent. The combination of steep technical mixed with thin vertical ice, makes this route one of the most challenging winter climbs in Scotland. (Photo Pete Macpherson)

    Pete Macpherson and Guy Robertson made a highly significant addition to Beinn Eighe’s Far East Wall on January 29. One Step Beyond (IX,9) takes the line left of King of the Swingers, and is based on an unusual hanging ice smear that oozes from a seep half way up the wall.

    “We’ve never seen anything like this anywhere else in Scotland,” Pete told me. “I think it’s quite unique. We’ve been to Far East Wall numerous times over the years but have never seen ice form so abundantly around this area before. We spotted the ice just before New Year when we had to make a hasty retreat off another line due to the onset of bad weather.

    Conditions and weather were great last Wednesday, so we thought we’d have a look. To be honest I had reservations as to whether it would go, and after succeeding on only three routes this season with three failures due to poor weather, I was keen for success. Guy headed up the first pitch that starts below the big corner of King of the Swingers and belayed below the impending grooved arête to the right of the ice feature. Gaining the niche below the groove on pitch two involved some intricate moves, but when I was standing below it I was taken aback by the steepness of the groove above.

    The groove was extremely strenuous tech 9 with absolutely no rest in sight, so I just kept climbing until I pulled round onto the ice into a wee icy niche, pumped out of my mind and ‘one step beyond’. I was way above my last gear (a small peg only half in), so I stood perched on the ice for an hour and half, scared out of my wits, as there was no more gear. Guy reassured me that there was nothing below me if I fell off – nice one, cheers for that Mr Robertson! Eventually I plucked up the courage to climb up to a bomber hanging belay at the top of the ice.

    A thin crack system sprouts from the top of the ice. It looked utterly desperate, but appeared to be well protected by small nuts. Guy headed up the crack (solid tech 9), but unfortunately dropped our small wires at the start of the pitch. Gutted but not deterred, Guy pulled out a cracker of a lead, especially so when one of the cracks petered out over a bulge forcing him instinctively out onto the arête.

    The next pitch is common to King of the Swingers and is solid VII,7, but I really struggled with it as I was so wrecked and it was getting dark. I stopped about two metres from the top below a steep tech 6 corner as both my arms kept cramping up. Guy nailed the last corner on failing arms and that was that. We could hardly untie from the ropes we were so exhausted.

    Climbing One Step Beyond on sight is the stuff of dreams for me. The route is definitely my hardest on sight to date, and we thought it top end IX,9. It most definitely deserves four stars. This morning, four days after our ascent, I received a text from Guy which says it all – ‘Still high as a kite, dude!’”

    Pete Macpherson tip-toeing up thin ice during the fourth ascent of Diedre of the Sorrows on Lochnagar. This very sustained mixed route route was first climbed nearly 30 years ago, and throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, it was thought to be the hardest winter route in Scotland. (Photo Martin Moran)

    Pete Macpherson tip-toeing up the fourth ascent of Diedre of the Sorrows (VIII,8) on Lochnagar. This very sustained mixed route route was first climbed nearly 30 years ago, and throughout the 1980s and early 1990s was thought to be the hardest winter route in Scotland. (Photo Andy Inglis)

    Pete Macpherson and Martin Moran added to their long list of cutting edge ascents with an ascent of Diedre of the Sorrows (VIII,8) on Lochnagar’s Tough-Brown Face on January 11. This much-celebrated route was first climbed by Dougie Dinwoodie and Andy Nisbet in March 1986, and has only seen two other repeats. On the second ascent in January 2000, Dave Hesleden and Andy Cave added a direct finish that they thought was harder than anything on the original route.

    “I have real admiration for Dinwoodie and Nisbet doing this route way back in the mid-eighties and questing into the unknown’” Pete told me. “I’ve wanted to do Diedre of the Sorrows for over a decade now, but the Tough-Brown Face is so rarely in good condition that I’ve never had the chance.

    I’ve been on that face three times now, twice on Nevermore, and once when I took a whipper off another new line, so I was keen to actually get to the top of something. Diedre of the Sorrows has a huge reputation for hard bold climbing in a sort of tradition kind of way, rather than a modern steep hard pulling style. There was some nice quality super thin ice on the route, but every time the angle eased, or you reached a ledge, you were met with sugary tool-ripping snow on top of bald slabs, which made for some nerve-wracking moves way above gear.

    That’s the thing about this face compared to everywhere else I’ve climbed in Scotland – you dig out the back of grooves, and nine times out of ten you find nothing, no cracks no gear just an open groove. Martin made a smooth lead of the super thin and serious third pitch, and I got the direct pitch above, which Andy Cave and Dave Hesleden did on the second ascent. Six millimetre-thin ice with Peckers in an icy groove for pro focuses the mind somewhat! We did the last two pitches in the dark, which added to the adventure. All in all, a cracking day out which should keep me happy…until next time!”

    Iain Small leading the new Alternative Start to Avenging Angel on Ben Nevis. This perplexing area of overhanging grooves at the left end of Creag Coire na Ciste has yielded a number of excellent routes and variations in recent seasons. (Photo Tony Stone)

    Iain Small leading the new Alternative Start to Avenging Angel on Ben Nevis. This perplexing area of overhanging grooves at the left end of Creag Coire na Ciste has yielded a number of excellent routes and variations in recent seasons. (Photo Tony Stone)

    Although this year’s December weather is proving to be unusually mild, there was a brief burst of cold air at the end of last week which produced a flurry of activity on Ben Nevis. Three notable ascents took place on December 6 – an early repeat of The Knuckleduster (VIII,9) on Number Three Gully Buttress by the powerhouse team of Martin Moran and Pete Macpherson, a possible second ascent of The Sorcerer (VII,8) on Creag Coire na Ciste by Keith Ball, Kenny Grant and Guy Stephen, and a new start to Avenging Angel Direct.

    The Sorcerer takes an unlikely line through the steep wall below the exit gully of Lost the Place, and to the best of my knowledge, it had not been repeated. Steve Ashworth and Nils Nielsen from Norway made the first ascent during a memorable day on the 2007 International Winter Meet. They climbed Darth Vader (VII,8) in the morning, followed by The Sorcerer, before racing up Thompson’s Route to warm down!

    The third important event was the addition of a new Alternative Start to Avenging Angel Direct (VIII,8) on Creag Coire na Ciste by Iain Small and Tony Stone. The sustained Tech 7+ pitch follows a parallel corner line to the left of Angels with Dirty Faces (VIII,8) – a Small-Stone addition from February 2011.

    “Friday turned out a nice day,” Iain explained. “There was no wind which was a relief as it was pretty cold. We headed up to the Ben for a look, and as usual, it delivered. Unfortunately the keener (and earlier) team of Moran and Macpherson were already on Knuckleduster so we headed over to the Archangel area. After the recent interest in Avenging Angel Direct, it reignited my regrets over not continuing up that finish when we climbed Angels with Dirty Faces. So this time we started up a different lower pitch between Archangel and Angels with Dirty Faces to reach the top two pitches of Avenging Angel. It was satisfying to finish up that route eventually!

    Reading your recent post, and the opinions generated, regarding the recording of lower grade routes, it left me wondering how to treat our alternative (but less direct) than the Direct Start to AA! It was a fun pitch, but perhaps left until someone can incorporate it into a line cutting through the headwall? On balance though, I feel it should it be recorded as an alternative start – I guess the same agreements and principles apply to routes at all grades in the end.”

    Tony Stone making the third ascent of Arthur (VIII,8) on Number Three Gully Buttress, Ben Nevis. The first winter ascent of this imposing line was made by Bruce Poll and Tony Shepherd in 2004 and was the third Grade VIII to be climbed on the mountain. (Photo Iain Small)

    Tony Stone making the third ascent of Arthur (VIII,8) on Number Three Gully Buttress, Ben Nevis. The first winter ascent of this imposing line was made by Bruce Poll and Tony Shepherd in 2004 and was the third Grade VIII to be climbed on the mountain. (Photo Iain Small)

    If last weekend’s activity is anything to go by, Ben Nevis has taken over from the Northern Corries as the venue of choice for high standard early season mixed. Harry Holmes and Dan Tait set the tone on Thursday November 21 with an ascent of the steep corner-line of Cornucopia (VII,8) on the left flank of Creag Coire na Ciste. This route has become something of a modern test-piece, but it can be even more challenging early in the season when the tricky entry pitch is not banked out by tens of metres of snow in Number Three Gully.

    The following day was forecast to be a little warmer, but Iain Small and Tony Stone decided to take a chance and head up to the Ben to take a look. “Luckily the freezing level kicked in below the Number Three Gully Buttress area,” Iain told me. “The snow pack is pretty impressive for this time of year, so no struggling up snow-covered scree! Conditions were pretty icy with some neve even on bigger ledges and the rock was getting rimed and verglassed in the damp mist. We climbed Storm Trooper (VIII,8) by the original start up the flake-crack and finished up the final chimney of Cornucopia. It was very good route, which deserves to be climbed more often. Somehow, it seems to have been overlooked compared with other surrounding lines.”

    On Saturday November 23 there were plenty of strong teams in action on the high cliffs of Coire na Ciste. Andy Inglis and Neil Adams made an ascent of The Secret (VIII,9), whilst nearby, Blair Fyffe, Richard Bentley and Robin Clothier made an early repeat of Archangel (VII,7). Across on Number Three Gully Buttress, Iain Small and Tony Stone made the third ascent of Arthur (VIII,8). This steep and rarely climbed summer HVS was first climbed in winter by Bruce Poll and Tony Shepherd in January 2004, and was repeated by Ian Parnell and North American ace Kelly Cordes during the 2005 BMC international Meet.

    The following day (November 24), Pete Macpherson and Erick Baillot visited the Archangel area and made the second ascent of Avenging Angel Direct (VIII,8). Direct, steep and uncompromising, this is one of the finest mixed lines on the mountain and was only first climbed in its entirety by Neil Adams and Jim Higgins last February.

    Neil Adams and Andy Inglis made it a memorable weekend with an early repeat of Apache (VIII,9), the steep crack-line to the right of Sioux wall on Number Three Gully Buttress. Next door, Harry Holmes and Helen Rennard made a smooth ascent of the modern classic Sioux Wall (VIII,8). “It was brilliant and really enjoyable,” Helen told me. “There were some amazing hooks, and it was never that hard. We started late and finished in the dark but it was still clear with an amazing starry night.”

    Pete Macpherson on the second ascent of Steam Train (VII,7) on Ben Nevis. This striking line takes the big corner between Orient Express and Newbigging’s 80-Minute Route on the First Platform. (Photo Guy Robertson)

    Pete Macpherson on the second ascent of Steam Train (VII,7) on Ben Nevis. This striking line takes the big corner between Orient Express and Newbigging’s 80-Minute Route on the First Platform. (Photo Guy Robertson)

    On April 26, Guy Robertson and Pete Macpherson visited Ben Nevis. They had their eye on an objective higher up the mountain, but with the big routes buried under thick unstable snow, they opted for a safer low level option and made the second ascent of Steam Train which they thought weighed in at about VII,7

    Steam Train was first climbed as a summer route by Doug Hawthorn and Noel Williams in July 1984 and graded HVS. Dave MacLeod and visiting US climber Alicia Hudson made the first winter ascent in 2007 and graded the route VI,7.

    “It looks like Dave started up The Ramp and missed the first pitch of Steam Train,” Guy told me. “This was a notch harder than the top corner, so the grades make sense. It’s definitely a quality wee route and a good option when the weather and/or snow are conditions unfriendly!”

    Pete Benson climbing the challenging second pitch of Nevermore (X,10) during the fourth attempt in March 2013. Extreme cold and dwindling daylight forced retreat from two pitches above. The first ascent of this highly significant route fell to Nick Bullock and Guy Robertson several weeks later. (Photo Guy Robertson)

    Pete Benson climbing the challenging second pitch of Nevermore (X,10) on Lochnagar during the fourth attempt in March 2013. On this occcasion, extreme cold and dwindling daylight forced retreat two pitches above. The first ascent of this highly significant route finally fell to Nick Bullock and Guy Robertson several weeks later. (Photo Guy Robertson)

    On April 8, Nick Bullock and Guy Robertson put to bed one of the last great problems on Lochnagar with the first winter ascent of Nevermore on the Tough-Brown Face. This rarely climbed summer E2 was first climbed by Dougie Dinwoodie and Bob Smith in August 1981 and takes a direct central route up the face between Post Mortem and Mort.

    Pete Benson and Guy Robertson were the inspiration behind this climb. They made three attempts with Pete Macpherson, but were repeatedly turned back by the extreme difficulty of the second pitch. When Pete Benson finally succeeded on climbing this clean during their third attempt in March 2012 (a pitch thought to be worth IX,10 in its own right), they were shut down by a rapid thaw on the fifth and final pitch.

    For their fourth attempt this March, Pete and Guy roped in Nick Bullock, but ferocious cold and dwindling daylight forced another retreat from high on the climb. Guy and Nick probed the fifth pitch, but both climbed back down unwilling to commit to the difficult initial roof.

    On their fifth attempt on April 8, Pete was unable to join the team, but Guy and Nick were highly focused. They both knew that this was their moment, and they would either climb the route that day or not at all. Nick led the challenging second pitch leaving Guy the crucial fifth pitch. After some hesitation, Guy pulled over the roof, but on the moves above, with still no protection in place except for below the roof, he fell. With the on-sight lost, he handed over the ropes to Nick who soon passed Guy’s highpoint and pushed on into the unknown.

    “The climbing difficulties above the second overlap increased,” Nick wrote later. “There was no more gear until the pitch and the angle eased. I took a long time as the technicalities were brain-ache inducing, stomach churning – the prospect of falling now slowed me – terror was the tang of battery terminals licked.” Incredibly Nick kept his cool together and a winter ascent of Nevermore was finally a reality.

    “I’m astounded to get the route finally in the bag, “ Guy told me. Although Nick and Guy share the honours as the first ascensionists, they have both been quick to acknowledge that Nevermore was very much a team effort with considerable input from the two Pete’s – Benson and Macpherson.

    The significance of this ascent goes far beyond Lochnagar and the Tough-Brown Face. Nevermore was graded X,10 – a significant step up from the dozen or so Grade IX first ascents that have been climbed on-sight. Of course, with the prior attempts, Nevermore was not the perfect on-sight, but although we have a handful of higher graded winter routes in Scotland, they have typically benefitted from pre-inspection, multiple attempts on the crux pitch or knowledge from summer ascents. For me, in a season that stands out for its superlatives, Nevermore is the ascent of the winter. Not only is it technically difficult, bold and committing, but it opens the door to the chilling prospect of on-sight Scottish winter Grade X.

     

    Roger Webb approaching the imposing Atlantic Wall on Slioch. Over the last 20 years Webb has authored over a dozen new routes on this remote face. With a total height of over 400m it is one of the biggest cliffs in Scotland. (Photo Pete Macpherson)

    Roger Webb approaching the imposing Atlantic Wall on Slioch. Over the last 20 years Webb has authored over a dozen new routes on this remote face. With a total height of over 400m it is one of the biggest cliffs in Scotland. (Photo Pete Macpherson)

    Pete Macpherson and Roger Webb added a challenging new route in Torridon on March 29.

    “Roger and I had a memorable day on Slioch’s impressive Atlantic Wall on Good Friday,” Pete told me. “Last time I climbed with Roger was about six years ago when we had a massive day in Beinn Dearg Mor so it was good to get back out with the ‘North-West Connoisseur’ himself. We left the car at 5.30am in daylight and made the longish approach along the shores of Loch Maree then up to the crag.

    I can’t believe I have never been to this crag before – it’s a cracker! There are 250m of steep sandstone broken by three or four terraces topped by a further 200m of Grade II scrambling which takes you to the very summit of the mountain.

    We decided to do a line up the right side of the crag starting up an obvious corner-line followed by chimneys and walls totally direct all the way to the summit. The first two pitches proved to be the crux with strenuous, and at times quite bold, climbing with bomber turf just when you needed it. The climbing eased afterwards but stayed interesting all the way up the remaining four pitches.

    On the top half of the route we had the sun on our backs, which was bliss, and we topped out to one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen over Loch Maree and the Fisherfield Forest hills. Overall, it was a very relaxing day and a great laugh with Mr Webb. We called the route ‘Yggdrasil’ which is a sacred tree from Norse mythology and gave it VIII,8, although I find sandstone quite hard to grade. But more importantly, I can’t emphasis enough, how cool this crag is!”

    Despite Pete’s casual description, the long approach and descent makes any route on Slioch a major undertaking. Nevertheless, Roger has had a good late season spell on the mountain. A couple of weeks earlier (March 16), he visited the cliff with Guy Robertson and made the first ascent of Morgane (VII,8) the prominent corner-line on the left side of the wall, which joins the upper section of Katabasis.

    Pete Macpherson ion the first ascent of Suspended Animation (VIII,9), a new four-pitch long mixed route on Suspense Wall in Coire na Feola on Beinn Bhan. (Photo Martin Moran)

    Pete Macpherson on the first ascent of Suspended Animation (VIII,9), a new four-pitch long mixed route on Suspense Wall in Coire na Feola on Beinn Bhan. (Photo Martin Moran)

    “After a four-week layoff due to cold and chest infection,” Pete Macpherson writes, “I ventured out (on January 16) with Mr Moran in the hope of a relatively easy day. Big objectives were out of the question due to my lack of fitness and chronic cough so we headed to Suspense Wall on Beinn Bhan, which has a nice short (two hour) approach and is an easily accessible crag.

    The wall is extremely steep to say the least, and we struggled to find a realistic on sightable, and for that matter survivable line to try. Sometimes you just have to get in amongst it and hope that you find a weakness, such is the nature of on sighting on primitive untouched sandstone.

    Four pitches of pokey and really technical climbing with a bizzare and thought provoking crux (which the Moran machine solved), got us to the easy finishing slopes. Delighted! Beinn Bhan gives pure adventure once again. Suspended Animation. We gave it VIII,9 but as Martin said at the time ‘it’s an intense passage.’ So much for an easy day!”

    Martin Moran on the third winter ascent of Steeple (IX,9) on the Shelter Stone. This landmark route was first climbed in a 24-hour push by Alan Mullin and Steve Paget in November 1999. It set a new standard for Scottish routes of such sustained difficulty, and by deliberately climbing through the night, they redefined the approach to climbing long Scottish winter routes. (Photo Pete Macpherson)

    The Shelter Stone has been in good conditions over the past few days with ascents of the classic mixed routes Sticil Face (V,6) and Postern (VI,6). Big news however is the third winter ascent of the summer E2 Steeple on December 12 by Pete Macpherson and Martin Moran. This pair are no strangers to high standard routes on the Shelter Stone. Two seasons ago Pete made the first ascent of Stone Temple Pilots (X,9) with Guy Robertson, and last December Martin made a winter ascent of The Needle (VIII,8).

    “Martin and I had an incredible day yesterday on The Steeple’” Pete told me yesterday. “Rather than begin up Postern we started via the summer line, and apart from missing the 5c crux which was black (we did The Needle crux instead) we followed the true line throughout. Really sustained route from beginning to end. Martin led the corner in style, which was nails to say the least. I was so knackered seconding it with a sack that I only just managed to lead the final pitch in the dark, which was super strenuous before my hands arms and legs started to cramp up. Absolutely shattered today. I’m in college now studying to become a nurse. I think my fellow students thought a zombie had walked into the classroom this morning!

    Nick Bullock making the possible second ascent of Le Panthere Rose (VI,6) on Raeburn’s Wall, Ben Nevis in January 2012. The route was first climbed led by Godefroy Perroux in April 1993, but despite several attempts, there have been no reported repeats. This year’s team reported that “after a delicate start, lots of funky ice led to the top. Recommended!” (Photo Keith Ball)

    Now the winter season is finally over (yes, it was still going strong four weeks ago in the Cairngorms), I’m conscious that there are several notable routes I have not reported. Although I strive to cover significant events through the winter, some events pass me by, whilst reporting on others eludes me.

    A good example of this was Charly Fritzer and Matthias Wurzer’s new route Pfugga-lule on the Happy Tyroleans wall in Coire an Lochain in the Northern Corries. The Austrians first climbed the route on almost dry snowless rock in mid January, but when they heard feedback that these conditions were not acceptable, they returned and reclimbed the route in bona fide winter conditions after it had snowed a few days later. Charly then led the route several times for the camera, but I was unable to secure a photo for www.scottishwinter.com. Copyright for these images rests with his sponsor, and it proved too difficult to obtain one.

    Swiss climber Dani Arnold’s visit later in January was perhaps even more impressive, as he made an ascent of The Hurting (XI,11) in Coire an t-Sneachda. This Dave Macleod test-piece was repeated by both Andy Turner and Greg Boswell last season, and like Dave on the first ascent they took long falls in the process. Dani came close to on sighting the route but he also took a long fall from the final moves. He was back two days later to record the fourth ascent – an extremely impressive achievement considering this was his first foray in to Scottish winter climbing. Dani is one of the world’s finest mountaineers, with the current speed record of the North Face the Eiger (2 hours 28 minutes) and (more impressive perhaps) the first winter ascent of Torre Egger, to his credit. Dani said afterwards The Hurting was the hardest [technical] route he had ever climbed.

    Dave MacLeod’s six-metre roof climb, Castle in the Sky on Druim Shionnach in Glen Shiel, was another significant climbing achievement, and typical of Dave, it pushed the boundaries. The pre-protected nature of the route means that it is more in the realms of a continental M-climb rather than a traditional Scottish winter route, but this does not mean that it was a safe undertaking. An upside down Pecker and a blade peg as the key protection must have offered little reassurance, and the route is so unlike any other that it is virtually unclassifiable. A key point perhaps, is that Dave has demonstrated that roofs of this size are physically possible on Scottish winter rock.

    Back in January, Nick Bullock, Tim Neill and Keith Ball climbed Le Panthere Rose (VI,6) on Ben Nevis – I think this was a second ascent, and unreported from early in December, was the first ascent of the five pitch High Grade Low Grade (VIII) by Dave Almond and Duncan Tunstall on Earn Crag at the head of Glen Esk in the Southern Cairngorms. Finally, the day after his repeat of Guerdon Grooves, Guy Robertson climbed the Duel (IX,9) with Pete Macpherson followed by the second ascent of Satyr (IX,9) the next day with Pete and Nick Bullock. Three grade IXs on consecutive days was a outstanding feat, and for me this was one of the highlights of the season.

    Phew, that’s it – finally up to date. I can go to bed with a clear conscience now!