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    Chasing The Ephemeral – 50 Routes for a Successful Scottish Winter will be published by Mica Publishing in November. The cover photo shows Robbie Miller on the second pitch of the Cumming-Crofton Route (VI,6) on Beinn a’Bhuird. (Photo Henning Wackerhage)

    Chasing The Ephemeral – 50 Routes for a Successful Scottish Winter will be published by Mica Publishing in November. The cover photo shows Robbie Miller on the second pitch of the Cumming-Crofton Route (VI,6) on Beinn a’Bhuird. (Photo Henning Wackerhage)

    As soon as the second edition of Ben Nevis – Britain’s Highest Mountain (which I co-authored with Ken Crocket) was published in 2009, Tom Prentice asked me whether I would like to write a book about Scottish winter climbing. The original idea was to produce a selected guidebook describing 50 of the finest routes, but the more we discussed it, the concept gradually began to change. The problem with describing the absolute best Scottish winter routes is that they require good conditions and many become climbable all at the same time. For me, being in the right place at the right time has always been the underlying Scottish winter climbing skill, so the selection criteria for the book evolved into a series of routes that cover the full range of climbing opportunities throughout the season – from snowed up rock routes in the first snows of November through to high up ice routes in April.

    After three years of discussion with Tom, I finally put pen to paper in 2012. It immediately became clear that this was a book about winter climbing strategy and tactics. I set about describing how to choose the most appropriate route to suit the prevailing weather and conditions (strategy) and then how to approach, climb and decend safely and efficiently (tactics). These strategy and tactics have been derived from long personal experience. Like many folk I have juggled climbing with a full time job and family, and have not had the flexibility to go climbing exactly when I pleased. In fact for nearly 20 years, my climbing was constrained to Sundays, but by careful choice of routes and venues I was able to successfully winter climb nine Sundays out of ten. I have described these thought processes in the book and then illustrated them with a selection of outstanding winter routes that I have enjoyed. Many will be well-known favourites, but others will be less familiar. My intention is not to create a tick list, but to prompt Scottish winter climbers to think widely about where to go and what to do.

    Chasing the Ephemeral – 50 Routes for a Successful Scottish Winter will be a sumptuously illustrated book with routes from III to VII covering all major winter climbing areas in Scotland. Many people have kindly helped review the text and provided images, and I will be contacting a few more folk for some final photos in the coming weeks as we move to the final stages of production and publication date of November 2016.

    Simon Richardson on the first pitch of Too Old to Rock and Roll (V,7) in Glen Clova during the first ascent. The crucial hanging icicle leading through the overhanging headwall is hidden in a bay above. (Photo Sophie Grace Chappell)

    Simon Richardson on the first pitch of Too Old to Rock and Roll (V,7) in Glen Clova during the first ascent. The crucial hanging icicle leading through the overhanging headwall is hidden in a bay above. (Photo Sophie Grace Chappell)

    I’ve been watching an icicle grow in in Glen Clova’s Corrie Farchal for a number of weeks now. It’s situated on the buttress high up on the right side of the corner and makes the central line up the front face of the buttress through the overhanging headwall a possibility. The lower wall ices readily enough, but the only weakness in the upper section is an alarmingly steep corner whose walls overhang steeply on both sides, but fortunately it forms a hanging icicle.

    Sophie Grace Chappell was keen for a look, so on March 2 we headed up ahead of an approaching front. The first pitch was steeper than it appeared from below, but the turf was good and even yielded a couple of bulldogs as runners. I belayed in a bay below the icicle, which was complete, but it looked rather thin and fragile. I suspect it had suffered from the ravages of the sun the previous week, and will probably soon disappear completely as the sun rises higher in the sky, so it was now or never. Sophie came up and we rearranged the belay to provide protection from falling ice and I set off.

    A token ice screw on the approach ramp and a sling round the narrow base of the icicle itself did not inspire much confidence, but I managed to three-quarters place a stubbie in better ice and tie it off. The icicle was a narrow fragile free-hanging chandelier and most of it fell down with a single hit, but the six-inch wide column that was left seemed solid enough. Some steep pulls led to an icy dollop on the right wall where I could bridge my foot across and collect my thoughts for the steep exit onto unconsolidated powder top out. Fortunately a helpful clump of heather emerged below the powder and after some awkward contortions I pulled through just as the weather turned and it began to snow.

    SG followed with consummate ease and then led the final pitch to the plateau. Reflecting on the grade, it was probably the hardest ice pitch I’ve led for a long time and the protection was poor, but the crux section was short so we settled on V,7. In better conditions it could be a V,5 romp. Time and future repeats will tell!

    Postscript: Sophie and I returned on March 10 to add Too Young to Die (IV,6) a companion route to Too Old to Rock and Roll up the blunt left arete of the buttress. We also climbed Coffin Dodger (IV,4) up the rounded icy buttress between the gully lines of Brains Before Brawn and Over The Hill. Also in Clova on March 5, Forrest Templeton and Brian Duthie found The Scrorrie Romp (II) which takes the prominent right to left ramp-line up the impressive headwall of The Scorrie.

    The upper section of the 400m-high Spider Buttress on Ladhar Bheinn in the Western Highlands. The much sought after Tir na Og (V,5) takes the central line of ice streaks and Face Route (IV,4) follows the line of grooves just left of the sunlit West Pillar. Tir na h-aoise (VI,6) climbs the barrel-shaped wall right of Tir na Og, starting up the tapering right-slanting gully. (Photo Simon Richardson)

    The upper section of Spider Buttress on Ladhar Bheinn in the Western Highlands. Tir na Og (V,5) takes the central line of ice streaks and Face Route (IV,4) follows the crescent-shaped line of grooves just left of the sunlit West Pillar. Tir na h-aoise (VI,6) climbs the barrel-shaped wall between these two routes, starting up the tapering right-slanting gully that begins just right of the icefall of Tir na Og. (Photo Simon Richardson)

    Without doubt, the 400m-high Spider Buttress on Ladhar Beinn in Knoydart is one of Scotland’s greatest winter cliffs. It’s central snowfield bears an uncanny resemblance to the Spider on the north face of The Eiger, and the cliff is sometimes described as Scotland’s Eigerwand. It’s remote situation, deep in the heart of Knoydart only adds to its aura.

    The buttress was first explored in the late 1970s. Andy Nisbet and Paul Tipton added the superb looking Face Route (IV,4) in February 1978, which takes the most obvious line of weakness up grooves on the right side. Two weeks later, Con Higgins and A.Foster met the full challenge of the wall by climbing the line of ice straight up its centre. Tir na Og (V,5) takes a superlative line and is one of the most coveted winter routes in the North-West Highlands. Unfortunately its remote situation and proximity to the sea means it is rarely in condition and has seen only a handful of repeats.

    Roger Everett and I were lucky enough to make an ascent of Tir na Og in February 1986, and ever since, I have dreamed of returning to the face. I was particularly attracted by the challenge of the steep barrel-shaped wall between Tir na Og and Face Route which has been described (rather enthusiastically perhaps) as ‘a last great problem’.

    Roger Webb and I were planning a route in the North-West Higlands last week but deep powder snow on the approaches made us rethink. Ladhar Beinn lies further south, and is remote and difficult to get to, but at least most of the approach is at sea level. We left the car at 7pm on February 24 and returned at 3am two days later after a 32-hour return trip (which included a four hour kip in Barrisdale bothy).

    Starting a big route when you’re more than seven hours away from the road feels committing, and in this case we weren’t helped by less than ideal conditions. The snow was not as consolidated as we’d hoped, the turf was aerated, and the attractive ice streaks running down the barrel-shaped wall turned out to be loose snow lying on rock. We did have a trump card though in the form of a photograph I had taken one autumn from the western side of the corrie that showed the wall was cut by a hidden diagonal slot. We were confident that once we reached that, the route would go.

    The crunch came on the fourth pitch where a narrow sinuous chimney led up from the Spider. Logic dictated the chimney was the way but the side walls were blank and instinct told us that we’d be better off linking the blobs of turf on its right wall. A bold and absorbing 60m pitch led to the foot of the diagonal slot which was helpfully iced, and we knew then that the route was in the bag. Three pitches later, we arrived on the summit ridge just as it was getting dark.

    I’d love to be able to report that Tir na Og was in good condition, but whilst it looked attractively icy from below, the ice was thin and unattached. I’d also forgotten about the rather unhelpful Ladhar Beinn mica schist. In seven pitches we just placed one nut and one cam for protection. All the other gear was bulldogs in frozen turf.

    Unfortunately a visit to the mythical land of Tir na Og is far too late for Roger and I to preserve our youth, so Roger suggested we name our route its antithesis  – Tir na h-aoise (VI,6) – The Land of Age Sunken Beneath the Western Sea

    Roger Webb approaching Cnapan Nathraichean on Lochnagar. White Mamba (V,4) takes the narrow right-slanting groove directly above Roger ‘s head and is based on the summer line of Green Mamba that was first climbed by Dougie Dinwoodie and Adhair McIvor in June 1976. (Photo Simon Richardson)

    Roger Webb approaching Cnapan Nathraichean on Lochnagar. White Mamba (V,4) takes the narrow right-slanting groove directly above Roger ‘s head and is based on the summer line of Green Mamba that was first climbed by Dougie Dinwoodie and Adhair McIvor in June 1976. (Photo Simon Richardson)

    I’m terrified of snakes so Cnapan Nathraichean (the knoll of the adders) on the north side of Lochnagar has never been one of my favourite crags. One time when I was below the cliff in summer a large female slithered past me on top of the knee-deep heather, and I spent a nervous day with my eyes peeled in case I encountered another.

    I was nervous too when Roger Webb and I approached the cliff on Thursday February 18. A better than average avalanche forecast had drawn us to the Southern Cairngorms, and I had a hunch that the brief thaw on Tuesday night would have consolidated snow and ice in the summer route Green Mamba. Without doubt this 110m-long smooth groove is the line of the crag, but just powder-covered rock would mean game over. Fresh snow covered the crag and we were kept guessing until we were almost at the start of the groove when tell-tale patches of grey ice became visible under the white coating.

    We climbed the route in three long pitches. There was ice (albeit very thin) where it mattered, and the sequence of bulges on the second pitch were protected by cams and wires in the cracked right wall of the groove, but even so it was a spooky climb to lead. Roger observed that it was a route where the “numbers were the wrong way around” and we had no hesitation in grading it V,4. We took a more direct start to the summer line so decided to call our route White Mamba. Given the pristine wintry conditions of the day, we really didn’t have much choice!

    Simon Richardson climbing the central buttress of Stob a’Ghlas Choire at the eastern end of Glen Coe. The crest of this buttress led directly to the summit and provided an excellent VI,6 mixed climb. (Photo Roger Everett)

    Simon Richardson entering the hidden slot on the first pitch of the central buttress of Stob a’Ghlais Choire at the eastern end of Glen Coe. The crest of the buttress then led directly to the summit and provided an excellent VI,6 mixed climb. (Photo Roger Everett)

    After enjoying some excellent summer scrambling on the north face of Sron na Creise one autumn day, I set off for the round of the three Black Mount Munros. Looking back along the summit ridge of Creise I was struck by a rather shapely crag on the south-east side of Stob a’Ghlais Choire, and in particular its central buttress that looked a magnificent winter objective.

    Hamish MacRobert’s 1952 Central Highlands Area Guide reveals that Dan Piggott added a rock climb finishing directly on the summit, but other than that there is no record of any climbing on the cliff. It has been lurking on my to do winter list for some time now, and it seemed the perfect option for Roger Everett and I to try on February 15.

    Although the crag is visible from the Glen Coe ski area, it is rather awkward to reach. The shortest approach is from Glen Etive over Sron na Creise, but we were wary of descending steep slopes to the foot of the crag and unsure about the initial river crossing. Instead we chose to approach from the ski area, and make a long traverse around the head of Cam Ghleann to reach the corrie below the cliff. Our approach, in sometimes-awkward conditions underfoot, took three hours, but I’m sure there are faster ways.

    Our toil was rewarded by a magnificent climb up the crest of the buttress. We were worried about the first tier, that looked very blank and steep, but fortunately there was a hidden slot to its right, which provided a reasonable (albeit sometimes bold) way through.

    Above, a succession of steep chimneys and grooves, interspersed with comfortable belay ledges, led all the way to the summit cairn where we basked in the afternoon sunshine before heading back home over the summits of Creise and Meall a’Bhuiridh.

    The buttress is about 100m high and we climbed it in four pitches at a grade of VI,6. Given its visibility it is difficult to believe that nobody has ventured on to this little gem before, so if you know of a prior ascent please get in touch.

    Roger Everett on the first ascent of The Borrowdale Conundrum on Ben Starav (III,4). This is one of two new routes added to this fine mountain at the head of Loch Etive. (Photo Simon Richardson)

    Roger Everett on the first ascent of The Borrowdale Conundrum (III,4) on Ben Starav. This is one of two new routes added to this fine mountain at the head of Loch Etive. (Photo Simon Richardson)

    Several years ago Roger Everett suggested there might be some winter climbing on a buttress on the North Ridge of Ben Starav, and in November 2011 we went to have a look. Winter had yet to arrive that year, so after looking at the buttress from below and agreeing that we should return some day, we climbed over the summit and made a summer ascent of Hidden Ridge, the Graham Little and Dave Saddler Grade IV that is becoming something of a mini classic.

    On February 14, nearly five years after our reconnaissance, Roger and I finally made it back to Starav. The approach through crusty snow over deep heather took nearly four hours, but we were rewarded with two lines up diverging grooves up the front face of the buttress – The Borrowdale Conundrum (III,4) and The Starav Enigma (V,6).

    The route names need a little explanation. During the walk in Roger was reconciling the length of our approach to the likely length of climb, and recalled a comment in the introduction to a recent Borrowdale guidebook that stated that it was becoming unsustainable to record the large number of short and remote climbs that had been developed in the area.

    Both our routes were barely more than 60m long and arguably could be classed as ‘Borrowdale conundrums’. But there again, the climbing was good and Ben Starav is a beautiful place, and for us, this more than compensated for any lack of stature – hence The Starav Enigma.

    Henning Wackerhage on the improbable undercut prow of The Seven Ages of Man (V,5) in Corrie Farchal in Glen Clova. The route takes the prominent buttress on the left side of the cliff between the gullies of Age Before Beauty and The Art of Growing Old Gracefully. (Photo Simon Richardson)

    Henning Wackerhage on the improbable undercut prow of The Seven Ages of Man (V,5) in Corrie Farchal in Glen Clova. The route takes the prominent buttress on the left side of the cliff between the gullies of Age Before Beauty and The Art of Growing Old Gracefully. (Photo Simon Richardson)

    Sunday February 7 was not a particularly nice day but time was running out for Henning Wackerhage and I. After 19 years in the UK, Henning is set to return to his native Germany in a couple of weeks time to take up a professorship in Munich, and there were still some outstanding lines in Corrie Farchal to do.

    It was snowing hard and it took us a time to find our objective, the buttress to the left of the gully of The Art of Growing Old Gracefully. This is defended by steep bands low down and at mid-height, but in typical Farchal style the rock was surprisingly helpful and some steep moves up undercut twin cracks led through the first crux. Henning then confidently threaded his way through the improbable undercut prow of the second band that led to a third pitch of simple snow slopes and the top. We debated the grade a little, but to me The Seven Ages of Man felt like a V,5 experience overall even though the crux sections were steep and technical.

    Four days later on February 11 we back in better weather. This time we had our sights set on a long sought after goal – the overhanging front face of the buttress above Farchal Ramp. This is arguably the finest feature in the corrie and was first climbed by Alex Thomson and Jenny Hill in January 2015 with Age is Only a Number (III,4), a brilliantly devious line taking hidden chimneys and ramps on its right side. But the front face is the real challenge, and tantalisingly it is cut by a diagonal crack. The problem is that it is difficult to judge the angle from below as the buttress is covered with overhangs and impending corners all leaning the wrong way and festooned with hanging icicles. Looking up it is like an impossible Escher drawing and any route through seemed highly improbable, but diagonal lines can sometimes cut through remarkably steep ground and the only way to find out was to give it a try.

    We soloed up easy ground to Farchal Ramp and then Henning led a slanting chimney-slot, stepped over the chimney of Age is Only a Number and continued up the ramp above to a narrow ledge with the headwall bulging above. From directly below we could see the crack cleverly threaded its way through the steepest overhanging terrain but it was still the wrong side of vertical. Unfortunately it blanked out for the first three metres or so, which meant there were some delicate moves on thin ice on the left wall to get established. Once in the crack itself, it provided one of those unrelentingly strenuous pitches where every move is Tech 7, and just hanging on to place the gear feels as hard as the climbing itself. Finally a good hand jam at the top allowed a swing left to a good ledge. Henning led a short vertical icefall to finish and The Age of Enlightenment (VI,7) was finally in the bag.

    We had time for one more route, the discontinuous gully line left of Farchal Gully, which provided three excellent sections on steep ice and a chance for Henning to use the route name he’d been saving for his final new route – The Last Hurrah (IV,4). There was just time to sprint back to the car and drive back for Henning’s farewell climbing dinner in Aberdeen.

    Henning has spearheaded the development of winter climbing in the Angus Glens in recent seasons and has been a prominent figure on the North-East climbing scene for the last ten years. His boundless enthusiasm, superb photography skills and awesome fitness on the hill will be missed.

    German climber Michael Rinn on the first ascent of a new V,7 on The Stuic on Lochnagar. Unlike previous winter meets, challenging conditions meant new routes were thin on the ground during this year’s event. (Photo Simon Richardson)

    German climber Michael Rinn on the first ascent of a new V,7 on The Stuic on Lochnagar climbed during the 2016 BMC International Winter Meet. Unlike previous Meets, challenging conditions meant new routes were thin on the ground during this year’s event. (Photo Simon Richardson)

    The Weather Gods did not smile kindly on the BMC International Winter Meet that was held at Glenmore Lodge from January 24 to January 30. Over 35 guests from 30 different countries were teamed up with UK hosts and let loose on the Scottish hills. Unfortunately a major thaw preceded the event and the first two days were spent dry tooling at Newtyle or sea cliff climbing in the warm sunshine at Cummingston and Logie Head. The exception was Andy Nisbet who showed his great experience by leading a party up Fiacaill Couloir on ice that had survived the thaw. Despite the non-wintery start, there were smiles all around, and for several of the visitors, climbing by the sea was a new experience in itself.

    With lower temperatures, an overnight snowfall, and a temporary lull in the gale force winds, winter climbing final kicked off on Wednesday January 27, and teams headed off to the well-known ‘early season’ locations of the Northern Corries, Ben Nevis and Beinn Eighe. In Coire an t-Sneachda, Original Summer Route, Fingers Ridge and The Message were climbed and in Coire an Lochain, Savage Slit, Fallout Corner, Deep Throat, Western Route, Sidewinder and Ewen Buttress all saw ascents. Full marks went to Raphael Slawinski (Canada) and Erik Eisele (US) who both made ascents of The Vicar (VII,8) as their first-ever Scottish winter routes with Dave Garry and Tom Livingstone. The Beinn Eighe teams climbed East Buttress and West Buttress, and on Ben Nevis the best conditions were found on Tower Ridge and North-East Buttress. Unfortunately it had not been cold for long enough to bring the mixed routes into condition, except for Sioux Wall (VIII,8) which was well rimed and saw an ascent by Uisdean Hawthorn and Luka Strazar, and Ian Parnell and Ian Welsted (Canada). This was ten years after Parnell’s first winter ascent of this landmark route with Olly Metherell in December 2005.

    Thursday January 28 dawned wild and windy, but it was still cold with a thaw forecast in the afternoon. Attention focused on the Northern Corries, and in Coire an t-Sneachda, The Haston Line, Houdini, The Message, Hidden Chimney Direct, Patey’s Route, Stirling Bomber and Invernookie were climbed together with Central Crack Route, Deep Throat, Savage Slit, Fallout Corner, Hooker’s Corner in Coire an Lochain. The highlights were ascents of The Gathering (VIII,9) by Tom Livingstone and Ian Welsted (Canada) and Never Mind (IX,9) by Dave Almond and Luka Strazar (Slovenia). Elsewhere in the Cairngorms on Lochnagar, Michael Rinn (Germany) and I climbed a new V,7 on The Stuic that was sheltered from the worst of the westerly gales. Across on Ben Nevis, Raphael Slawinski (Canada) led The Secret (VIII,9) in very stormy conditions.

    Friday was a write-off with more gales and thawing conditions, but that evening snow began to fall and everyone prepared for one last push on Saturday January 30 to finish the Meet on the high. Unfortunately for most it was not to be, as the winds and unrelenting blizzards were too strong and all parties attempting to climb in the Northern Corries were beaten back. The only climbing in the Cairngorms took place in in Stac na h-Iolaire, a small crag within walking distance of Glenmore Lodge where a number of new additions up to Grade IV were found. Enterprising visits to Beinn Eighe and Creag Meagaidh came to nought with teams reporting black rock or avalanche conditions, but surprisingly the determined teams that ventured across to Stob Coire nan Lochan in Glen Coe to climb in the teeth of the westerly storm were rewarded with ascents of Spectre (V,6), Tilt (VI,7) and Chimney Route (VI,6).

    The Meet finished that night with a disco at Glenmore Lodge that lasted well into the early hours of Sunday morning. Despite the challenging weather and conditions (almost certainly the worst ever experienced on a BMC International Winter Meet), the week was a great success. Every evening, presentations were made showing the winter climbing potential in Scotland, Canada, USA, Greece, India and Portugal. Ideas were shared, friendships made, new partnerships formed and the overseas guests returned home with a new-found respect for the Scottish mountains, the Scottish weather and for all those who climb in them.

    Thanks once again to Glenmore Lodge for hosting us and Nick Colton and Becky McGovern from the BMC who set such an upbeat tone throughout the week and worked so hard behind the scenes to make the event run so smoothly. Tom Livingstone has also written a report on the BMC website.

     

    Adrian Crofton about to ‘bamboozled’ on the first ascent of Bamboozle Buttress (V,6) in Corrie Bonhard. The route eventually went up and left. (Photo Simon Richardson)

    Adrian Crofton about to ‘bamboozled’ on the first ascent of Bamboozle Buttress (V,6) in Corrie Bonhard. The route eventually went up and left. (Photo Simon Richardson)

    On January 16, Adrian Crofton and I visited Corrie Bonhard in Glen Clova and climbed Bamboozle Buttress (V,6), a direct line up the left-hand of the twin buttresses high up in the corrie. The right-hand buttress was climbed last year by two good routes – Mystery Ramp (III,4) and Cryptic Wall (V,6) – and the left-hand buttress did not disappoint with sustained mixed climbing from the first move to the very top.

    Adrian was very much ‘bamboozled’ on the second pitch, because the line was not obvious, but after two false starts he found a hidden shelf that deftly led through the headwall to easier ground.

    The low-lying south-easterly aspect of the crag means that these are very much mid-winter routes that can only be climbed after a hard freeze, heavy snowfall and when the sun is low in the sky. Added to this, Corrie Bonhard (together with several other Glen Clova cliffs such as Winter Corrie, Coire Fee, Juangorge and Craig Maud) sometimes carries a bird restriction from February 1 to July 31.

    < http://www.mcofs.org.uk/nesting-bird-warning.asp>

    Spooks

    Simon Yearsley on the second pitch of Spooks (VI,6) on Craig na Caillich on Meall nan Tarmachan. This cliff has a long history and was first climbed by Raeburn and Lawson in February 1898 by an indirect version of Great Gully that nowadays carries a IV,4 rating. (Photo Simon Richardson)

    Simon Yearsley on the second pitch of Spooks (VI,6) on Craig na Caillich on Meall nan Tarmachan. This cliff has a long history and was first climbed by Raeburn and Lawson in February 1898 by an indirect version of Great Gully that nowadays carries a IV,4 rating. (Photo Simon Richardson)

    On January 14, Simon Yearsley and I added a new route we called Spooks (VI,6) to Meall nan Tarmachan in the Southern Highlands. Simon takes up the story:

    “Simon and I have known each other, and known of each other, for many years. In fact we probably first met in Snell’s Field in Chamonix in 1983, when the ever-enthusiastic, and sadly late, Mark Miller was bemoaning the fact there were ‘Too many Simons in Chamonix!’ Despite that, we’ve never actually climbed together. Simon rang me to say he had a guidebook meeting near Stirling at 7.30pm in a couple of days time, and so did I fancy breaking the habit of the past 33 years and actually teaming up for the day. A fine idea.  With a bit of time pressure and a lot of snow high up, we opted to check out Creag na Caillich. This modest looking east-facing crag just west of the popular Munro Meall nan Tarmachan has a base around 670m so should have escaped the worst of the snowfall and was nicely close to the road.

    We had expected a bit of a ‘powder wade’ to reach the crag but were pleasantly surprised by good enough travel, with deeper snow only in the last bouldery section below the cliff. I often find crags like this hard to judge, as on first glance it looked pretty easy angled and very vegetated with few really compelling lines. Simon was more optimistic, as he’d stood underneath it in summer, and assured me it was a) steeper than it looked, and b) contained a good looking line to the right of the prominent corner of Momento Mori. He was, of course, absolutely correct.

    Simon took the honours on the first pitch with an innocuous wee groove proving much harder than it looked, then a long vertical section on blobs of turf leading to a fine exposed belay. At one point, Simon’s feet skittered off and there was a momentary yelp as he regained control. Following Simon, I was struck by how insecure and spooky the 55m-long pitch must have been to lead.

    The second pitch was somewhat easier, but very spectacular, as a short groove then an exhilarating swing right round an arête led to a turfy ramp system cutting above the steep section of the crag. The swing round the arête was great fun, the position on the ramp was excellent, and it felt like we were on a bigger and more majestic cliff. An easy pitch led to the top and we scuttled back to sacks before the light faded.

    It was great fun to finally climb together and won’t be the last time either! Oh, the guidebook meeting – Simon did get there, albeit a wee bit late, but with a hopefully good enough excuse!”