Cold War

Well I didn’t think I could beat Mondays outing in the Scottish hills, but yesterday definitely came close, perhaps even took the overall medal!

On Wednesday night after two days of resting and eating, to try and make myself feel a little less zombified, I jumped in the car with James and Neil Carnegie and headed for Costa del Loch Muick car park for a few hours shut eye in the tent before a 4:45am start.

I was meeting up with Guy again to make the most of the awesome weather and conditions we’ve been getting this week before it crapped out at the weekend. We took bikes on the off chance that the Land Rover track might be cyclable, and thankfully apart from some icy sections, we were able to ride all the way to the bothy with only one or two deep snow diving experiences.

Guy, James and Neil making the most of the easy walking conditions

Guy, James and Neil making the most of the easy walking conditions

After that it was time to get our wade on! The path was buried in a frustrating amount of different snow conditions, one moment you’re wading through knee deep powder, then you’d get to some solid névé where you’d get all excited and lured into a false sense of security, 5 minutes later whilst strolling off at high speed… POW, the crust breaks and you’re up to you waist in a fluffy deep cold pit. Not so fun to say the least! It was bliss to eventually reach the loch. The crag had partially come into view through the looming mist and was looking about as wintery as it gets, and the loch was almost fully frozen over. This made for perfect walking conditions on the icy surface around the left hand side, which was a nice change from our booby trapped first half of the walk in.

James and Neil continuing for pastures new

James and Neil continuing for pastures new

James and Neil continued along the loch in search of some ice filled adventures and Guy and I headed up hill to the base of the very loaded and scary looking easy gully.

As we geared up, the cloud never really lifted and only glimpses of our route could be caught between fumbling with harnesses and trying to stuff food in our mouths ready for a day of nerve induced starvation. Guy proceeded to consume a full wedge of pure brie which was quite impressive, and made a change from his bean and cheese pasties that usually came along on these outings. The food of winter climbers is never boring!

After our cultural and inventive snacks, we set off up the arduous and scarily snowy lower ground, soloing to the base of our route.

Guy starting up the new first pitch.

Guy starting up the new first pitch.

Over the past three seasons I have made the long approach into the Dubh Loch seven times with our intended route in mind. Three of those times I have climbed alternative routes, three times I have left without doing anything due to conditions, and one time I just walked in on a rest day to see what the conditions might be like for the following day. I have only ever seen the route in “full winter condition” once out of those seven visits and that one time the temps where too high and everything was melting fast! But finally we were there and so was the route. The winter was there, hanging from the crag in the form of sharp long curtains of ice and crisp straggly tufts of turf all covered in a flood of snow and hoarfrost. It was game on!

We were going to war, “Range War” to be precise. Info from friends told us that it was a turfy wet and dirty E4 in summer. They also said that it would lend itself very well towards being a very good and hard modern day mixed adventure. So obviously we put ourselves forward for the challenge.

Guy pulling through the tricky roof on pitch one

Guy pulling through the tricky roof on pitch one

We had spied an alternative, new, winter-only line to the left for the first pitch which led us to the same stance higher up and looked much more like the obvious winter challenge of steep turfy plumes and technical roof capped corners. Guy took this pitch and after some shouts of how good the moves were through the shielding mist and some funky maneuvers to breach the roof, he finally shouted “SAFE” and brought me up. I stopped on a ledge just before the corner to snap a pic as I hadn’t had a good view of it below and then proceeded to enjoy the moves just as much as Guy had. The pitch was the perfect warm up both mentally and physically for the next pitch and main event.

The roof capped corner from another angle

The roof capped corner from another angle

By this time the cloud and mist had begun to clear away and the whole coire came into view. I could see the sun hitting the route that James and Neil were on, then as I focused on the game at hand, my attention turned to the next pitch.

The cloud cleared and the remainder of the sun lit up Eagle Rocks

The cloud cleared and the remainder of the sun lit up Eagle Rocks

It was a steep, hanging wall leading to a niche capped by a roof. The wall was smeared with hanging icicles and above the niche there was an ice curtain enticingly hanging over a higher a large overlap. I was nervous! Three years I’ve been coming to try this route and now it was time to step up and give it a shot. But it looked hard, and more to the point, the pitch looked long and sustained. Thoughts of still being fatigued from Mondays adventure plagued my head and whether or not I’d be able to hold onto the technical looking wall long enough to get adequate protection. I wasn’t really in the mood to repeat Mondays bold and scary lead any time soon.

Me getting my head in gear

Me getting my head in gear

But I was there now, stood below one of the best looking pitches of climbing I had ever seen, with a psyched partner and some amazing weather, it would have been rude not to at least have given it the respect of trying, even if failure was the consequence.

Gaining the pumpy and trying to get recovered

Gaining the pumpy and trying to get recovered

I surmounted the first pedestal and took a deep breath. “No down-climbing this time” I told myself, to try and preserve energy on this monster of a pitch. I started up with every move nudging my thoughts into the correct headspace, and found myself enjoying every second of the experience. I composed myself and tried not to let the technical torques and moves get one arm more pumped than the other. I continued up and then the pump started to sneak in. I was shaking and looking for the next move, shaking and looking, this process went on until I decided to charge for the niche that looked like it would be home to a nice comfortable rest. Unfortunately this wasn’t to be, the routes steepness was deceptive and although the niche wasn’t as steep as the lower wall, it was still well overhanging. I fought to get some gear in and try and de-pump my now burning forearms, deep egyptians and contortions were tried to relive my arms and finally once I had scoped what looked like the way to sanctuary, I powered on through the steep capping roof of the niche to gain a wild and astonishingly exposed position on the overhanging arête. Hundreds of meters of cliff dropping away below me with nothing but air between me and the coire floor. This is a memory that will last a lifetime!

The evening view from the belay

The evening view from the belay

After that it was out onto and over the ice-capped overlap and into a position below another steep ice smothered bulge. At this point the head games had returned, I really didn’t want to blow it at this point but the next section of climbing was not too hard but very off balance and with only a turf hook half hammered into the capping ice, as there wasn’t enough for screws (which we did remember this time), I had thoughts of fluffing it and taking the ride into the exposure in the back of my head as I committed. Eventually I gained easier ground and the comfort of the ice cave where I belayed and took in the exposure in a more comfortable state.

Guy seconding with the exposure booming below him

Guy seconding with the exposure booming below him

The usual cries of enjoyment and beaming smiles were found as Guy seconded the pitch, and as I was belaying him up, I recounted almost every move in my head and was unbelievably psyched to climb what was definitely one of the best and varied pitches I have ever been on!

By the time Guy had reached the cave belay the weather had rolled in and the spindrift and wind were howling down the crag, he grabbed a handful of gear and raced on upwards over the flowing blue ice and eventually to the top of the crag and I finished off the route with a screaming ice-cream headache and a mouth full of wind-propelled powder snow. Some might say this is the best way to finish a big winter day in Scotland, in my opinion, they’re wrong!

Guy moving away into a world of spindrift and wind

Guy moving away into a world of spindrift and wind

Once at the top we sorted the ropes and congratulated ourselves on doing the route that we had both been pining over for the last three years, and what a route it was!

We trotted back to the base of the coire and down to our bags via a pretty big detour due to the copious amounts of scary snow and loaded slopes, then it was off across the loch and back to the snowy path. We were hoping our tracks from the approach and James and Neil’s tracks out would still be nice and firm and showing for our swift exit, but the wind had drifted tones of new snow across and it was back to the booby-trapped trail breaking all the way back to the bikes.

It was a long and tiring day by the time we got back to the car, but by gumble it was well and truly worth it!

 Range War (winter variation) ***********

Grade- X/10

Coire an Dubh Loch

Guy Robertson and Greg Boswell (on-sight)

The Greatest Show On Earth

Finally, some good weather!

I’ve been out in the mountains a couple of times since my last post, but I’ve had my head set on bigger projects this season that are going to take me a bit longer than usual, so unfortunately I’ve not really had anything worth writing about. Also with the weather being very bad since the New Year, I’ve mostly been putting in multiple hours of training on my board, trying to make gains and stay fit in preparation for when the conditions eventually get better!

Walking in with the sun turning everything pink

Walking in with the sun turning everything pink

But yesterday it all came together and all the waiting and training seemed to have paid off!

 

With projects put on hold for the moment, I picked Guy up from Inverness on Sunday evening and we continued north. With all the snow on the ground and the very low freezing levels, our psyche levels were through the roof and we were eager to see what the mystical Scottish hills were going to throw at us the following day.

 

Guy approaching the gear stash point

Guy approaching the gear stash point

I had no real idea of where we were going, Guy had told me where it was but I didn’t know the area very well, but he sealed the deal with the words “It’s a big unclimbed wall with a huge roof at the bottom”, what more could I ask for!

We set off yesterday morning in the dark and as the sun was starting to shed it’s first light on the surrounding hills, we had nearly arrived at our intended gear stashing spot. It was hard to drag ourselves away from taking photos and actually gear up, as the colour of the sky and the view were completely out of this world! We eventually got ready and trotted down the steep turfy slope to the base of the big and very intimidating buttress that we intended to climb.

What a view

What a view

 

We were on Cul Mor, and Guy was pointing us towards a very cool looking wall in Coire Gorm. On our way over to the base of the wall, it was very obvious which line I thought we should focus our attention on. The whole lower third of the face was masked in a wave of hanging icicles and smooth fat columns, then came the roof, which stretched the length of the buttress and my arms started to ache just thinking about trying to get over it!

Our intended line was going to cross the roof not at its smallest point, but at the point where we could reach an immaculate looking hanging turfy corner in the upper wall above. There was an obvious line of hanging icicles and smears, so we decided to try our luck there!

Gearing up at sunrise

Gearing up at sunrise

Amazing light over the hills

Amazing light over the hills

Guy took the first pitch, which was entirely on thick ice and massive frozen turf blobs, which was made more interesting by the fact that we didn’t take any screws with us, to reach a belay below the start of the very steep ground and got nestled in for the long haul. After I had seconded up the first pitch and tried to suppress the nervous butterfly party that was raving on in my stomach, we decided that I might as well have a look, but neither of us were overly convinced that the crazy steep next pitch would even be climbable let alone have any worth while gear on it, however, one can but try. So I did.

Reaching the wall

Reaching the wall

Guy starting up pitch one

Guy starting up pitch one

After climbing up the initial hanging ice column I was starting to feel a little more in the zone for hard climbing, but I was yet to find any gear. I eventually got two upside-down turf hooks in an icy crack and told myself that if they happened to cam themselves if I fell off, then they might stop me, or at least they’d slow me down.

Me seconding the first icy pitch

Me seconding the first icy pitch

The ground above me was made up of what looked like big, overlapping semi-detached blocks that I was definitely going to have to yard on to get myself through the steepness. The only gear placements above me looked to be in the back of these blocks, and there was no way I was committing to this type of climbing with my back up gear being two crappy upside-down hooks! But after some up and down climbing and not finding anything, I decided to get a higher runner that might cam one of the blocks to the wall rather than rip it off, if I was to fall. I then retreated down a bit and gathered myself. Back up again and I managed to sling a very small spike on the same block, I then pulled up to see if I could see a way to go over the roof, but as I leaned back and craned my head to look over, a huge plume of spindrift hit me in the face. I heard Guy uncontrollably giggle from below. It was an outstanding day on a huge cliff and the only damn spindrift anywhere decided to come down right on my face at the exact time I was totally pumped and happened to look over the roof, to be fair it was pretty funny!

Me reaching the belay below the roof

Me reaching the belay below the roof

I frantically retreated back to the semi-rest point and tried to gather my thoughts. I just wanted it to be over, the climbing was tiring me out a lot with every attempt to find gear and through my spindrifty shower, I couldn’t see any way to breach the roof and gain the wall above. Ahhhh the joys of head games!

Me setting off into the steepness

Me setting off into the steepness

I opted for one last look as I new I wasn’t going to have many more down-climbing goes left in my arms. I reached my high point and frantically stuffed in a cam, I gave it a tug and it popped out, so I turned it around and the smaller lugs bit a little better on a small flake, I was too pumped to give it another check so I pulled up on a tiny Ice smear over the roof. By now I was well up above the belay and with very little, and all of which being marginal, gear stopping me from zooming past the belay and onto the huge ledge below. Despite this, once I was fully committed and beyond the point of no return, the big fall and dodgy gear left my thoughts completely, I was well and truly focused on the climbing at hand, that was the only way I’d prevent myself from testing Guy’s first aid skills!

Guy pulling over the roof on the crux pitch

Guy pulling over the roof on the crux pitch

Guy making progress seconding the crux pitch

Guy making progress seconding the crux pitch

I got a little flustered when I couldn’t see a way above the roof and my only axe placement in the thin smear started to slip, but I was committed now, so I had to force myself to calm down, I looked around, took some deep breaths and opted for some very powerful and dynamic moves to get myself out of that situation. Unfortunately all it did was take me further away from my so-called gear and into some of the boldest and most technically difficult moves on marginal placements that I’ve done. All I remember saying to myself was “Breath, just breath”!

I rocked up over the lip of the roof on the tiniest of footholds, praying that it didn’t blow off, and eventually found myself in a semi rest but very off balance position. I struggled to hammer in and clip a turf hook, which surprisingly felt like I’d just clipped a bolt, as long as I didn’t rip the turf off the wall, the hook felt bomber. It’s always funny when you think back, a blob of probably very badly rooted turf to a rock face is your best runner on one of the hardest routes you’ve done, oh the joys of the magical Scottish mountains.

Guy starting what was to be an outrageously fun pitch

Guy starting what was to be an outrageously fun pitch

After composing myself again, I slowly teetered upwards and finally felt the addictive rush of joy you get when you know you’ve basically just gone all or nothing and managed to scrape through by the skin of your teeth!

Me looking up pitch three to Guy whilst seconding

Me looking up pitch three to Guy whilst seconding

Once at the belay, I eventually managed to get a rope to Guy so that he didn’t need to climb the pitch with the added weight of the rucksack, and once I’d pulled it up, he got stuck into seconding what was, despite the seriousness of it, one of the most enjoyable hard pitches I’ve climbed in winter in Scotland!

Me seconding pitch three

Me seconding pitch three

The upper pitches of the route were also worthy of four star status and Guy made a good comment; they felt like a reward for all the effort we’d put in to get passed the crux pitch. They weren’t super hard, but more than hard enough to keep things interesting and outrageously fun.

The sun is off to bed as night skies roll in

The sun is off to bed as night skies roll in

After the harder climbing was over it was a hundred or so meters of easy soloing to the top and eventually the summit before heading back to our bags and on to the van.

The last tricky section before the solo mission to the top

The last tricky section before the solo mission to the top

The obligatory summit shot.

The obligatory summit shot.

It was an awesome day and I had fun climbing in a new area, and to make it even better I managed to onsight one of the hardest pitches I’ve done in Scotland and climb a new four star route with what might be one of the best views I’ve ever seen! (We named the route in relation to the view from the crag)

The weather looks like its staying good this week, so hopefully there’ll be more of this to come!

 

The Greatest Show On Earth ****

Cul Mor

Grade – X/10

FA, Guy Robertson and Greg Boswell (onsight)

 

Put In The Effort And You Will Be Rewarded

Sunrise from the Dubh Loch

Sunrise from the Dubh Loch

On Saturday I lost my winter climbing 2014/15 virginity, and boy was it good! Guy and I headed in to the Glass Allt bothy on Friday night ready for an early start the next morning in the Dubh Loch. There was too much snow to cycle in, so it was walking all the way, and on the Saturday morning the approach to the coire was home to some very deep snow in places. But after a 2.5 hour slog, we reached the bottom of the buttress and geared up for the days antics.

We didn’t really know what we were going to do, as the conditions might have swayed us one way or the other, but eventually we opted for a look at Culloden.

Guy on pitch one of Culloden

Guy on pitch one of Culloden

This route had had a winter ascent a few years ago buy Ian Small, Tony Stone and Gordon Lennox, and they said it packed a punch and was graded IX/9. This sounded like it was just what the doctor ordered to start off the winter season and blow away any cobwebs that might be lurking about!

Me seconding up to the belay on pitch one

Me seconding up to the belay on pitch one

Guy offered me the crux second pitch, which I gratefully accepted, so he took the first and third pitch up the big steep face of the broad terrace wall. He swiftly dispatched the first pitch with little struggle and after I had seconded up, it was good to see that the route was going to pack it in.

The second pitch was a steep wall off the belay then a hanging techy corner. The initial moves were hard and committing, and the upper corner was hard to get situated into, then became very enjoyable to climb. The pitch was pretty sustained and the climbing was worthy of outstanding status! It was really fun, and after I had found a belay, Guy seconded up with a big smile on his face.

Me leading the second pitch.

Me leading the second pitch.

The next pitch was also very sustained and after Guy had made some pretty committing moves away from an marginal nut runner, he proceeded to get his axe well and truly stuck in a crack placement. After some frustrating struggling to remove it, and to no avail, he lowered down a loop of rope and I passed him my axes. Still well above his last runner and on very marginal foot placements, retrieving new axes was a feet in itself! But finally he was moving again, and he eventually made it to the belay with little more fuss.

Guy seconding me up the corner

Guy seconding me up the corner

I was able to retrieve the stuck axe on my way up seconding the pitch (after a bit of a battle and some inventive levering) and after that it was a small easy, yet still fun exit pitch to the top of the crag. All that remained then was the small inconvenience of the long walk back to the car. But all in all it was awesome to get out in the snowy hills again, especially when my last winter season ended a little abruptly due to injury, but everything seams to be good now so watch this space for more winter antics and updates.

Guy reaching the belay below the third pitch

Guy reaching the belay below the third pitch

 

 

Sampling the Goods

On Friday afternoon, Ally, Douige and I piled all our kit into the back of Dougies van and set our course for North Wales.

Ally had been invited to be the after dinner entertainment for the 3nd (almost annual) dry tooling meet at the White Goods. As he was going down to do his slideshow anyway, and Dougie had agreed to go down and give him a lift, I thought I might as well make up the numbers and head down with them. I had never been to the White Goods before, and I was keen to see if it was worth the 6 hour drive.

The Goods getting sessioned

The Goods getting sessioned

I knew that lots of people raved about the place and that some handy chaps had ventured across to sample the goods for themselves, Including Tim Emmett and Will Gadd. So naturally I was uber psyched to get stuck in.

We got there late on Friday night, and after a good sleep in the back of the van, it was all go on Saturday morning. It was cool to see lots of people had made the effort to head across from all over the country to attend the meet, and it wasn’t long before everyone was having a good time and getting pumped on their own little adventures on the steep and techy routes.

I had a really good days climbing and chilling out on the Saturday, and managed to climb a load of quality routes, including the 2nd ascent (flash) of Neomania M10+ and the first flash ascent of Careful Torque M11. All the routes I did were good fun and it was a shame the night rolled in before I could tick a few more.

Me flashing "Careful Torque"

Me flashing “Careful Torque”  Phto Cedit – Ally Swinton

But after the pub grub and the prize giving for the friendly comp that had been going on throughout the day, which I was psyched to win, it was up to Ally to talk us through the last five or so years of his time and antics in Chamonix. It was an awesome talk and it was cool to see a good friend be so enthusiastic explaining all the rad stuff he’s been up to in the mountains and the close calls that he thankfully managed to pull through on. Keep it up man!

Me on "Ready Steady Hook" Photo Credit, Kyle Wood

Me on “Ready Steady Hook”
Photo Credit, Kyle Wood

The next morning Ally and Dougie headed back North via some rock climbing cragging action and I jumped in the car with Masa Sakano who had also driven down from Scotland, and had offered to give me a lift home if I wanted to stay for the rest of the weekend meet.

So it was back to the crag, but this time Ramon Marin and I headed to the Power Pact cave area to look at the route “Stump Man” M11 that Tim Emmett did the first ascent of back in 2012. It was a bit unnerving, as Ramon explained that there had been a lot of rock fall on the adjacent routes in the cave and that we should definitely stay away from them. Gulp! But after Ramon had had a play on “Stump Man” and had assured me that it was safe to climb, I geared up for my go.

Me getting to grips with "Stump Man"

Me getting to grips with “Stump Man”. Photo Credit- Nicole Almond

 

I knew I didn’t have many route attempts worth of energy in me after the previous day of going at everything I laid my eyes/tools on, so I was a bit nervous to see how I got on. But thankfully after a fight across the lip and some inventive and super thin pick placements, I managed to clip the chains on my first go and lowered off with a big smile. I was really psyched to get this route climbed, as it was the photos I saw in 2012 of Tim Emmett climbing this route that made me want to come to the White Goods in the first place.

Nearly there on "Stump Man"

Nearly there on “Stump Man”. Photo Credit- Nicole Almond

After that I finished off the route I had been shut down on the previous day due to the night rolling in, and managed to squeeze one last tick in before Masa and I headed off in search of food and warmth at a friend of Masa’s, David Taylor’s house. (Thanks again Dave)

All in all it was an awesome weekend and a big thanks to all the sponsors and the people that made it happen, and more importantly, a big thanks to Ramon, who went out his way to give me loads of beta for the routes and helped me have such a successful weekend.

On the way back North on Monday, Masa and I stopped off at the Works tooling venue in the Lakes and met up with a big bunch of friends from Scotland and even Mr Mercier who was over from France to sample the British routes. It was another fun and psyche filled day, but I was feeling the effects of the weekend, so I just took it easy and heckled the rest.

A good three days, and now it’s back to work and training before winter actually gets its ass to Scotland.

 

White Goods tick list

Saturday

Jaz – M8, Onsight

White Goods – M8+, Onsight

Ready Steady Hook – M10, Onsight

Careful Torque –M11, Flash

Neomania- M10+, (2nd ascent) Flash

Tumble in the Jungle- M9, Flash

 

Sunday

Stump Man – M11, (without tree rest) Flash

The Finnish Start – M10+, 2nd go

Delicate Wash Me – M9, Flash

Soft rock sending at the RedBull WhiteCliffs

The last month or so has been a pretty busy time for me. After Mhairi and I got back from our Euro road trip this summer, we were both pretty skint, so I jumped straight back into work mode on the farm as soon as I could, and Mhairi made the most of her time before she got super busy and swamped with her uni work.

One super foggy morning on the farm, I was bringing in bails from a nearby field when my phone pinged, with the fog being so thick that it shielded me from view, I stopped the tractor and had a quick looksee at the email I had just received. It was from ((Scot Muir )),a mixed climbing wizard and ex-RedBull athlete. The email stated that RedBull were going to be hosting an event on the Isle of White in October to climb on the huge chalk cliffs that were found on the islands coast, and that I was one of 10 climbers from around the globe that had been fortunate to be given an invite. PSYCHED!

Sorting my stuff in prep for the whitecliffs

Sorting my stuff in prep for the whitecliffs

So for the last 6 weeks there has been a lot of working and trying to fit in as much training as I could to get in sufficient shape/fitness to hold my own against the other competitors. As I usually stay well away from anything to do with climbing competitions, it was interesting to see how psyched I was for the upcoming event. I had never climbed on chalk cliffs before, and to do it with a bunch of mates/awesome climbers from around the world, it was definitely something to look forward to.

Looking across to the main platform on an overcast Saturday.

Looking across to the main platform on an overcast Saturday.

This is how we do it! Grivel taking the lead.

This is how we do it! Grivel taking the lead.

So last Thursday I jumped on a plane to London Gatwick where I met up with Ed (a RedBull staff member) and also with ((Isreal Blanco)), another athlete from Spain. It was then onto the ferry at Portsmouth where we bumped into ((Dennis Van Houik and Mairan Van der steen)) who had spent the week climbing in the UK and were also on their way to the Island as Dennis was competing at the event.

It was my first time on the Isle of White, and it was cool to see that the hustle and bustle of London and the mainland was swiftly forgotten once we rolled off the ferry. Once at the hotel we met up with the rest of the competitors and also the big team of guys and girls that were there to make this RedBull event go smoothly, safely and as fun as possible.

The Isle of White has some stunning scenery.

The Isle of White has some stunning scenery.

From then on it was a weekend of laughs, psyche, pumped arms and making awesome friends. We had practice day on the Friday, were we got to have a go on the chalk lines and get a feel for the style of climbing. But as this was the first time this style of event had been put on, it swiftly became apparent that we were all going to have to muck in together to make the competition possible, with the weather not really playing ball, and no one really knowing the best way to work this style of climbing or chalk.

But after a second day of route excavating and practice on saturday, we were all ready for the main event the following day. After a group meeting that night, we all agreed that the competition would consist of one go each on the main and hardest line we had constructed and that there would be no falls allowed. The fastest time up the grossly overhanging 120m route would be the winner. Game on!

The Needles on the day of the comp

The Needles on the day of the comp

The team, chilling while we wait to be called to climb

The team, chilling while we wait to be called to climb

Me on the comp route. Photo credit. Calum Muskett

Me on the comp route.
Photo credit. Calum Muskett

Sunday morning came around and everyone looked a little more nervous and drained from the past two big days of getting everything in order for the final sprint. Our order of start times had been decided earlier in the trip from a novel little drinking game that involved a number on a coin that had been dropped to the bottom of our beer mug, this reminded me of stories my grandad used to tell me about how the soldiers used to get recruited back in the days of world wars. Anyway… I was 8th to get lowered down the wall to the beach and as each competitor went down and then raced to the top, all were doing really well. My nerves were rising fast and I remembered then why I didn’t enjoy mixing competition with the sport that I love so much! But eventually my turn came around and as soon as I was lowered down onto the face, my nerves settled and climbing head took over. My main goal was to not rush and fall off the route, whether it be from pumping out or blowing a hold, but obviously I didn’t want to hang about either and come last. I ended up climbing the route in 27mins, which I was super psyched with as it wasn’t far off the mark of all the other athletes… well, apart from the top three guys who beasted it good and proper!

Me still moving upwards on the huge steep line Photo Credit - Calum Muskett

Me still moving upwards on the huge steep line
Photo Credit – Calum Muskett

The podium boys!

The podium boys!

The calm before the storm on the last night after the comp. Things swiftly go a little messy!

The calm before the storm on the last night after the comp. Things swiftly go a little messy!

But all in all it was an amazing weekend and a really cool event and I’d like to say thanks to everyone who helped out and travelled world wide to make it happen and especially to the RedBull guys who had the vision and the resources to make it work. Bring on next year and some more adventures on the WhiteCliffs!

Following Our Noses, Part One

Since my last post about the islands of the Outer Hebrides, I have been on the move a fair bit throughout Europe.

Some Glen Clova action

Some Glen Clova action

The morning sun hitting Carn Dearg Buttress

The morning sun hitting Carn Dearg Buttress

After my return from the islands, I had a couple of weeks at home in Scotland where I got some work done for my sponsors, and also on the farm to earn some last needed cash before Mhairi (my girlfriend) and I headed off to the continent for two months. Between jobs, I also managed to get in a couple of awesome days trad climbing in the mountains and glens, trying to make the most of the good weather in Scotland while I was around.

Guy on pitch three of Trajans'

Guy on pitch three of Trajans’

Me on pitch four of Trajans'

Me on pitch four of Trajans’

One of the highlights was a day I had on the North Face of Ben Nevis with Guy Robertson, where we did the outstandingly good route {{{{{Trajans Column on Carn Dearg Buttress}}}}}}, which is a four star E6 of impeccable quality! Crazily it was my first rock route on the Ben, and thankfully it did not disappoint. It was cool to get such a good days climbing in before I headed off, to remind me that Scotland’s climbing is nothing to regret going back to, which is sometimes hard when you go away on these long amazing road trips.

So after that it was all stations go! A couple of days later we packed up all available space in my VW Golf, strapped on the bikes and headed for Dover. Judging the time it would take us to get to the ferry port at night with no traffic was all good and well, except I forgot to add in some time to arrive at the ferry before its departure time. So it was a bit of a blast through the night and we arrived just in time to drive straight onto the ferry as the rest of the cars had just finished boarding. Nothing like cutting it fine for a bit of excitement.

First stop... Font

First stop… Font

Rain dodging in Font

Rain dodging in Font

Our first stop was Fontainebleau where we met up with Adam Russell for a day of rain dodging, bouldering and slacklining, whilst he was on a day off from a works training course in the area. After that, Mhairi and I stayed in the area for another couple of days, which included a day at Disneyland Paris!!!! What more could you ask for from a holiday, climbing and Mickey Mouse?!

Not a bad place for tea

Not a bad place for tea

Since Font we have been to some amazing places through France and then down into Italy, to meet up with my sister and James who were on holiday down there, and back up into France again, which is where we are now.

Le Tour De France

Le Tour De France

Chilling at Lac Bolsenna

Chilling at Lago Bolsenna

Guess where this is.

Guess where this is.

It’s been really fun seeing so many new places over the last four weeks, and it’s been cool not having any real destinations in mind. We just stay somewhere for a couple of days then open the atlas and decide where we might go next, and if somewhere looks good on the way, we just stop! For example, I’m currently writing this from a seat outside my tent, with Mhairi slacklining in front of me beside the lake (Lac Serre Ponçon), which is surrounded by mountains that are just catching the last of the evenings sunlight as the windsurfers and kite boarders make the most of todays easing wind. We stumbled across this amazing place to wild camp 5 days ago after bumping into two French guys that were slacklining near by and they said it’s all good to camp by the lake, so we did.

Gorge du Verdon

Gorge du Verdon

The View from our campsite in Barcellonette

The View from our campsite in Barcellonette

Along with climbing and slacklining, Mhairi and I have done a fair bit of mountain biking, or VTT as it’s known as out here. As well as the down-hill biking we’ve done at several ski resorts, we’ve also done some pretty awesome endurnce rides in the mountains and the surrounding areas. The scenery you get to see over the large distances you can cover is outstanding, and it has been a good way to keep up the fitness, along with the long open water swimming sessions we have been able to do in the Alpine lakes throughout our various locations on the trip. ‘Fun’ is a bit of an understatement!

Its slacking off time.

Its slacking off time.

Sun setting over Lac Serre Ponçon

Sun setting over Lac Serre Ponçon

The view before the decent on the Pra Loup Enduro

The view before the decent on the Pra Loup Enduro

We are currently in our fifth week of our intended eight and its super exciting to think of what we might get up to in the next three weeks, especially as the last 4/5 have been so packed full of new places and adventure. So keep an eye on my blog and I’ll update it as soon as possible on my return to the UK. But for now I’m off for an evening of slacklining and BBQing.

Some of the terrain we covered on the Pra Loup Enduro

Some of the terrain we covered on the Pra Loup Enduro

 

Lac Serre Ponçon from a bit higher.

Lac Serre Ponçon from a bit higher.

Marooned On A Very Busy Island

In my last post I wrote about my trip out to Spain in which we ended up going to the Costa Blanca area due to the bad wether. Well three weeks after that trip I headed back out to Spain, but this time on my own were I met up with Tom again for some awesome climbing and fun sendage! We stayed further north this time as the wether was much better, and I managed to get some awesome climbing days in at Margalef, Siurana and Santa Linya, along with helping Tom with some renovation work on his house, all of which were good fun!

Most of the team heading out to the Islands

Most of the team heading out to the Islands

After my Spain trip I had a week at home before I headed off to the immaculate climbing mecca that is the islands of Pabbay and Mingulay in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.

Donald dropping us off on Mingulay

Donald dropping us off on Mingulay

It was my 5th trip to these island, but as always it was an outstanding week of climbing and when the week finally grew to an end I was very sorry to be leaving such a magical place again!

There was a bunch of psyched people on our trip and throughout the week we all managed to get a lot of grade ‘A’ climbing done and despite the two days of bad weather, we still ended up finishing the trip feeling happily tired and fulfilled with our adventures on the beautiful sea cliffs.

Not a bad place to pitch your tent

The Quasar….Not a bad accommodation for the week (A big thanks to Terra Nova)

Me making the first ascent of "The Secrets Out"

Me making the first ascent of “The Secrets Out”

One of the highlights of the trip for me was getting a new route done on what is one of the best walls that the Islands has to offer. Mike and I did a new E5 on the Undercut wall area on Mingulay. I’d never been into this area before, as it only has a small write up in the guide book and I didn’t think it would have much to offer, Oh how wrong I was! The area is outrageously good with a lot of scope for new routing adventures and now having a bunch of established routes across the wall, it deserves a lot more attention that it seams to be getting. Mike and I called our route “The Secrets out” and gave it E5 6a ****.

Catch of the day

The fish of the day

Dougy on Sugar Cane Country

Dougy on Sugar Cane Country

After our 3 days at the start of the trip on Mingulay, we got picked up and taken over to Pabbay for some more cranking. Unfortunately for the next day and a half we had really bad weather and only managed to get one route done on the evening of our second day on Pabbay, I tried to squeeze in another route, but rain stopped play too soon!

But despite the two fairly unsuccessful days, our last two days on the island were outstanding! We had glorious sunshine on both days and managed to climb late into the evening to salvage the rest of our trip.

All in all it was an amazing week and we managed to get lots done. The only thing that didn’t make the trip as special as my previous trips out to these beautiful islands, was the amount of people. As word of the first class standard of the climbing has spread, more and more people are heading out to try and sample some of its quality and beauty. Unfortunately this has an adverse affect and as the numbers of climbers go up, the feeling of remoteness, tranquility and adventure seem to subside. We found ourselves abbing into areas and then queuing for our intended routes and looking for areas to avoid the crowds. It felt a little surreal to be honest!

Day one of crappy weather

Day one of crappy weather

Not a bad view!

Not a bad view!

A friend of mine had just left the island as we headed out, and he mentioned some 50 people being on Pabbay when they were there. And on our leaving day, after two other teams had arrived over the previous two evenings, there was 28 tents in the small camping grounds of this remote area. Giving the close concentration of the climbing and crags, this must make it one of the most popular and busiest areas to trad climb in Scotland over the summer.

Phone charging time for the return journey ( Thanks Goal Zero)

Phone charging in time for the return journey ( Thanks Goal Zero)

When its good, It's the best!

When its good, It’s the best!

Despite this it was a fun week, but I think I’ll be waiting a while before heading back out, to try and avoid the higher numbers of climbers and wait until I goes out of fashion a bit! All in all it was ace though and I enjoyed it thoroughly!

 

 

 

Pabbays Great Arch

Pabbays Great Arch

Some cool moves before the rain and smear set back in for the night!

Some cool moves before the rain and smeg set back in for the night!

Making the most of the last days good weather

Making the most of the last days good weather

chilling in the sun after the hard climbing

Chilling in the sun after the hard climbing was over.

What an amazing trip with some awesome friends!

What an amazing trip with some awesome friends!

Running from the rain in Spain

Since my last post, I still have been experiencing some frequent ups and downs regarding injury, but on the whole, I’ve been having a lot of fun on the way regardless.

I’m still being plagued by this annoying knee/hamstring niggle, and even after recent MRI scans and specialist appointments, we’re all a bit stumped as to the cause of the pain. But thankfully I can still rock climb! Which is awesome!

So since early March, I’ve mostly been training, working and climbing, and since the days are getting quite long now, it’s been awesome getting out on the rock after work over the recent weeks!

Two weeks ago I got back from an awesome trip to Spain, sport climbing with my girlfriend and a mate. The plan for the trip was to head out and meet up with some friends who live out here, Lynne Malcolm and Tom Bolger, and climb in the Margalef area, but the weather had other plans! It was forecast to be pouring with rain all week in Margalef and the surrounding areas, and since none of us were too psyched for sitting out the torrential showers, we decided to drive south to the Costa Blanca and find the sun.

We packed up and all headed down on day two of the trip, and thanks to some quick thinking from Lynne, we managed to stay at a friends house down there who weren’t in the country at the time. Free accommodation is always a winner!

All in all it was an awesome trip, and we all did some really fun climbing, chilling and sun worshiping. But rather than writing lots of boring words about which routes had harder cruxes, and who ticked the highest grades, instead I’ll just put up a load of pics that made the trip awesome for me, and hopefully you’ll enjoy looking through them.

Im back out to Spin in a week, so hopefully the weather holds out for us this time.

Trying to stay dry in Margalef. Not really what you fly to Spain for.

Trying to stay dry in Margalef. Not really what you fly to Spain for.

Amazing when the rain stops, but the crags are still soaked!

Amazing when the rain stops, but the crags are still soaked!

Heading to Costa Blanca in search of sun.

Heading to Costa Blanca in search of sun.

Our home from home in the Costa Blanca

Our home from home in the Costa Blanca

Steep muggy climbing....hmmmmmm

Steep muggy climbing….hmmmmmm

Mhairi cranking it out at sector Bovedon

Mhairi cranking it out at sector Bovedon

Tom doing what he does best, which is making it look easy.

Tom doing what he does best, which is making it look easy.

BBQ Time!

BBQ Time!

Lynne busting out some shapes at Vallada

Lynne busting out some shapes at Vallada

Tom on the 4star 7a at Vallada

Tom on the 4star 7a at Vallada

Farming Spanish style

Farming Spanish style

Just walking his sheep!

Just walking his sheep!

Me on an outstanding 6c at Vallada

Me on an outstanding 6c at Vallada

Mhairi sending at Vallada

Mhairi sending at Vallada

Hot dog anyone?

Hot dog anyone?

Me on the immaculate Arcadia at Bovedon

Me on the immaculate Arcadia at Bovedon

Resting before the steepness on Arcadia

Resting before the steepness on Arcadia

Charging through the bulge

Charging through the bulge

Dougie flashing his 7a+ at Vallada

Dougie flashing his 7a+ at Vallada

Ups and Downs

Last week was the BMC International Winter Meet 2014, and what a week it was. A bunch of climbers from all over the world came to Scotland to sample some of what the Scottish Winter season has to offer, and as usual, it did not disappoint!

I had a really fun week of climbing and meeting new people. I’m going to give a rough outline of what I got up to and with whom and when, and then just let the pictures do the talking.

Lots of guests and hosts heading into SCaL

Lots of guests and hosts heading into SCaL

Day 1, I was first paired up with Mirko Breckner from Germany. Mirko was a totally awesome guy who also turned out to be a very capable and strong climber. After chatting about what he wanted to get out of the trip, we headed for Stob Coire an Lochain and did the direct variation start to “Central Buttress” called “Starting Block Start”, which gives a 3 start and very enjoyable VII/8. The perfect way to start a good weeks climbing.

Mirko Seconding pitch one of "Starting Block Start"

Mirko Seconding pitch one of “Starting Block Start”

Mirko Leading pitch 3 on "SBS"

Mirko Leading pitch 3 on “SBS”

The man at work, James Dunn filiming on "SBS

The man at work, James Dunn filiming on “SBS

Day 2, On our second day together, Mirko and I headed up the Ben to try and make the most of the better weather on the West. After crossing some suspect snow and scouting around for what to get on due to the limited access options due to a high avalanche risk, we opted for Central Trident Buttress area and jumped on a steep and intriguing line. Throughout the day, we didn’t know anything about our chosen route, we didn’t even know if it had been climbed before. It took a steep overhanging chimney on pitch one, and then onto a steep and technical thin wall/ice climb on pitch two. It turns out that we had followed and made the second ascent of “Heidbanger” (with the “Cranium” start) originally given VIII/8, but before I knew what the route was and due to the current conditions, I would have given the route IX/8 on the day. It was a bit of a spicy number!

Mirko seconding the first pitch on Heidbanger

Mirko seconding the first pitch on Heidbanger

Mirko on the last short pitch of "Heidbanger"

Mirko on the last short pitch of “Heidbanger”

Day 3, We wanted a shorter day, and opted for Sneachda, but unfortunately the weather didn’t play ball and we decided to bail out after we had reached a very stormy and horrible coire. We ambled back and chilled for the rest of the afternoon, looking forward to the good weather forecast the following day.

Jon rapping into West Central Gully Photo. Nick Bullock

Jon rapping into West Central Gully
Photo. Nick Bullock

Day 4, On Thursday we changed partners and I was paired up with Jon Walsh from Canada. Jon is a super strong climber, and was eager to sample some of Scotland finer vintages, in the form of new routing on Beinn Eighe, possibly one of the country’s best winter climbing venues! We also teamed up with Nick Bullock, whose new partner wanted a chilled rest day at the lodge. We all discussed our options and decided to go for a line that Nick and I both new of in the West Central Gully area. Our route took a steep roofed start to the first terrace and then after a cheeky traverse right to gain the steeper ground, it forged its way up the headwall for two pitches to find the summit.

Jon approaching the route

Jon approaching the route

We gave the route VIII/8 **** for its steep start and sustained second pitch and the 4 stars for its outstanding position and climbing quality. We called it “Making the Cut”

Gearing up below the roof of "Making the Cut"  Photo. Jon Walsh

Gearing up below the roof of “Making the Cut”
Photo. Jon Walsh

 

Me leading the first pitch of "MtC" Photo. Nick Bullock

Me leading the first pitch of “MtC”
Photo. Jon Walsh

Day 5, Unfortunately for me, I had tweaked my knee two days prior whilst on the Ben, and after the big day on Thursday, I was in quite a lot of pain. Not wanting to injure it for any prolonged period of time, I opted to head home on the Friday morning and try and see a physio about my knee. A lot of the meet members had gone to Newtyle (dry tooling venue) for the day because of the bad weather, so I stopped off there on my way home for a bit of a climb and to say cheerio to Mirko and the other guests. It was a fun day in the cave, and it was cool to see a mixture of abilities and styles throughout.

Me leading and soaking up the atmosphere on "MtC" Photo. Nick Bullock

Me leading and soaking up the atmosphere on “MtC”
Photo. Jon Walsh

Nick seconding the first pitch of "MtC" Photo. Jon Walsh

Nick seconding the first pitch of “MtC”
Photo. Jon Walsh

All in all the week of the meet was a big success, and I think it is totally awesome how the BMC seam to put so much time, money and effort into bringing all the countries, climbers and potential friends together to show what are amazing little country has to offer, keep it up guys! I would highly recommend it to anyone, whether they want to be a host or a guest from another country, get involved next time!

Jon moving right to gain steeper ground

Jon moving right to gain steeper ground

Jon starting up the headwall on "MtC"

Jon starting up the headwall on “MtC”

Jon nearing the top of the off-width pitch

Jon nearing the top of the off-width pitch

So after 4 days rest I stupidly decided to try and get out in the hills again yesterday. Guy Roberston and I headed out in search of some good mixed conditions. Unfortunately all we found was an abundance of snow and wind, so we decided to bail out once again, it seems to be a bit of a theme of the season for a lot of climbers this year! Something else that was annoying was that my knee clearly wasn’t any better, in fact, the deep snow walking seemed to make it worse. So after another trip to the physio yesterday, I have been put on two weeks recovery layoff, which means no venturing into the mountains! Not a happy bunny!

So it will be pull-ups and finger-boarding for me for a wee while, so keep an eye on this blog in around two-three weeks time, because I’ll be like a caged tiger wanting to escape and go mixed climbing as soon as I can (if tigers like mixed climbing, I’m not sure).

Me reaching the belay after the first headwall pitch. On "Making the Cut"

Me reaching the belay after the first headwall pitch. On “Making the Cut”

Nick reaching the belay on "MtC"

Nick reaching the belay on “MtC”

James Dunn gathering up his equipment after a days filming us on "MtC"

James Dunn gathering up his equipment on the ridge after a days filming us on “MtC”

The sunset on the walk out

The sunset on the walk out

Defence of the Realm and The Tempest

Since my last post about The Demon, I have had some very unsuccessful days out in the Scottish mountains, but also some amazing ones too!

In December Will Sim and I took advantage of a lull in the stormy weather for a quick hit in Sneachda. We managed to make the second ascent of a very cool and tricky crack line called “Babes in the Wood”. This was a cool route that offered some shelter from the high winds but didn’t substitute anything when it came to the quality of the climbing.

Will looking over at the all of "Babes in the Wood"

Will looking over at the wall of “Babes in the Wood”

After that route it was the busy festive period and also the return of the awful weather and conditions. I had a good run of training days to keep up the psyche and jumped at the chance to get out again as soon as the weather allowed.

My next few outings into the mountains weren’t overly successful. Will and I had a run of attempting some amazing looking lines, but not actually getting anything ticked. Whether it be conditions, Illness or just lack of psyche for certain situations, we just couldn’t manage to get anything sent.

But last weekend all that changed! After a failed trip to the Dubh Loch the previous weekend, I had kept my eye on the weather and opted to make the two hour drive and walk into the coire last Thursday with my girlfriend to take a look at how the conditions were doing/holding out. It was obvious that things were doing well! There was lots of ice hanging around and with a cold forecast for the following day, I was super psyched to get back in there at the weekend and hopefully get on an obvious looking line that I had spied.

My hotel for the evening.

My hotel for the evening.

Broad Terrace Wall on the Dubh Loch

Broad Terrace Wall on the Dubh Loch

I sent my photos and findings over to Guy Robertson who I was planning on climbing with and together we decided that it looked too good to turn down.

So on Friday night I made the drive over again towards Ballater, where I met up with Guy, Nick and Will, and after a quick chat and deciding on getting an early start, I put up my Quasar tent and caught a few hours sleep.

4am came around pretty quickly, and it wasn’t long before Guy and I were cycling along the 4×4 track on our way to the all mighty Creag an Dubh Loch. We reached the base of the crag well before daybreak, but this was fine, as once we had geared up and soloed to the bottom of our route, we just sat on the big neve covered ledge and watched the sun slowly rise above the bright headlight dots of all the other teams racing in to try and mark their territory on an icy line on this impressive mountain face.

Waiting for the sun to rise to light up our route.

Waiting for the sun to rise to light up our route.

Once there was enough light to see where we wanted to go on our first pitch before we could reached the steep and immaculate looking ice weep above, Guy set off up the lightly iced and immensely fun lower section forging his way up with every pull. Just after Guy had set off, there was a sudden arrival of two other teams to our quiet little ledge. One team was Nick and Will, who were just keen to get on something/anything that looked good (which they did), and the other team was Ian Small, Simon Richardson and Doug Hawthorn, who also had their sights set on our line up to the obvious icy abyss above. But you gotta get up at stupid o’clock if you want to win these sensational prizes in the Scottish mountains in winter.

Despite this, Ian and Simon went on to make the FA of a brilliant looking line to the left of “The Sting” (a Doug Hawthorn ice route).

Guy pulling through the steep ground on pitch one of "Defence of the Realm"

Guy pulling through the steep ground on pitch one of “Defence of the Realm”

After Guy had succumbed the tricky moves on the steep section of the first pitch, he reached the belay and I got stuck into seconding the fun and 4 star climbing to reach his position. Next it was my turn to take the helm. I set off round the corner and soon found myself situated below a steep and overhanging roof section caped by an icy curtain. After a few steep moves that had a very continental feel to them, I was into the midway bowl and made my way up the distinctive wave feature of ice that loomed above my head. Once I was over this, it was plain sailing all the way to the belay and then a short easy pitch by Guy lead to the top.

Me setting of on the second pitch of "Defence of the Realm"  Photo. Hawthorn collection.

Me setting of on the second pitch of “Defence of the Realm”
Photo. Hawthorn collection.

Me overcoming the steep bulge on "DotR" Photo. Guy Robertson

Me overcoming the steep bulge on “DotR”
Photo. Guy Robertson

Me reaching the pod below the icy wave, Photo. Guy Robertson

Me reaching the pod below the icy wave,
Photo. Guy Robertson

After walking back to our bags with a huge smile on our faces we bumped into all the other climbers in the area that had had a successful day. It was cool to see so many happy faces and psyched climbers. There is an awesome write up on Scottishwinter.com about all the new routes on the face done last weekend which offers a good read.

Our route went at about VII/7 and was worthy of a 4 star rating! We called it “ Defence of the Realm” and it was a real joy to be part of another new route at this amazing crag.

Guy on the easy last pitch

Guy on the easy last pitch

Guy celebrating an awesome day at the top of "Defence of the Realm"

Guy celebrating an awesome day at the top of “Defence of the Realm”

After a quick trip back home, I jumped back in the car on Sunday night to drive West to meet up with Guy, Nick and Will again, but this time in Glen Coe. The usual easy drive over was prolonged and made much more stressful by the amount of snow falling and lying on the roads. But eventually I made it to the Kings House Hotel and after a chat and a drink we headed to bed ready for hopefully yet another stonking days climbing.

Will and I reached the base of Stob Coire an Lochain with an open mind on what we were going to get on, and once we had geared up and scoped the crag, we decided to go and have a sniff at an amazing looking new line. Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be and after some quick decision making, we opted for “The Tempest”.

Will leading "The Tempest"

Will leading “The Tempest”

“The Tempest” is a bit of a test piece in the area, and has got a reputation for the style in which the first ascent was made, using redpoint tactics and preplaced protection. Even though these styles are frowned upon now, I personal think it was still an awesome effort by Neil Grasham to have the balls and psyched to get on such a cool looking line back in the day when it was first done.

Will lead off first as I had been the one trying the new line earlier. After some time finding gear and deciding on which way to go, Will probed upwards and eventually found his way to the icy upper section. I was quite happy on my comfy belay in the nice weather watching Will do his thing. But it all changed as he moved on upwards and it was apparent that he was going to get no more weight baring protection. His last worthwhile runner was just at about half height, and the last few moves onto the crudier neve/snow slope above were hard to watch as it was fairly obvious that he would have been lucky to walk away from the fall if his axes were to rip on the last moves.  But technique prevailed and he made it onto the easy ground above.

He popped his head over the top and asked me what I wanted to do, whether I wanted to second the route, leave it for another day, or have him abb down and I would just lead it. The light was starting to slowly fade and we both knew that trying the new route earlier and Will’s ascent had both taken a fair bit of time. But I got him to rap down anyway and I just put my headtorch on in case darkness made its way in, as I wanted to lead the route.

 

As soon as I started climbing and was committed on the face, the weather totally changed, and the wind picked up and started dumping floods of spindrift down on my head. I pushed on and soon found myself at the point where I too would have to leave the last worthwhile protection, but the length of the bold climbing looked much further from here and I had a quick word with myself before I continued upwards. I placed an atrocious pecker in the upper ice, but knew that it was a pointless exercise, but it’s good for the head to focus on this simple task to take my mind away from the ever growing distance between me and my last runner. I finally reached the top moves and found myself composed and comfortable despite my serious position, this all changed when I took my left axe out to make one last swing into the ice before reaching the top neve, and my right axe (that I thought was bomber) ripped down 2-3 inches in the cruddy ice behind the outer layer. Thankfully my next left placement was good and I swiftly pulled up on the easy ledge above. Ahhhhhh…… the addictive adrenaline and euphoria rush of overcoming a hard and technical situation soon set in and I rapped down and stripped the wall with yet another beaming smile on my face.

Me reaching the ice on "The Tempest"

Me reaching the ice on “The Tempest”

We had both had a good day, and it was cool to hear that Guy and Nick had also had an awesome time, making the FA of a new winter only route on another part of the Coire. We all trotted back to the car on cloud nine and after the usual ritual of sorting gear, we all went our separate ways and headed home.

Me about to get into the bold ground on "The Tempest". Photo. Will Sim

Me about to get into the bold ground on “The Tempest”.
Photo. Will Sim

Now that the weather seems to be settling a little, and I (hopefully) seem to be out of my rut of getting nothing done, I’ll hopefully be posting much more stuff on here from awesome ascents in the coming weeks, so keep and eye!