Pic ‘n’ Mix IX/9 (29/3/10) 2nd Ascent

Above and Below: Approaching the route

After returning home at 1 am on Sunday morning from my antics on the Ben, I caught a few hours sleep before waking up and checking my emails. I had a message waiting from Guy Robertson asking if I was keen to head into the Gorms on Monday for some more mixed winter action.

Above : Me Leading the first pitch

I unpacked my wet climbing kit from the day before and flung it all on the radiator to dry out so I could head up North later that day. On Sunday night I kipped in my tent in the Cairngorm car park and met up with Guy yesterday morning bright and early.

Above: Me looking for blind hooks on the first pitch

While we were walking into Lochain the sun was just rising above Sneachda and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We both knew it was going to be a good day and as it was the first time we had met, we swapped stories and gathered up the psyche for the coming day’s climbing.

Below: Making the teetery thin traverse.

When we grew closer to the corrie it was obvious that most of the routes were in perfect winter condition and some were well buried under a thick covering of hoar frost, which always makes for a fun days climbing! After kitting up and ditching our bags at the base of the corrie we started up the steeper slopes to the base of the main central pillar where our intended route loomed steeply above.

Above: The belay is in site, (thank god!)

I think it’s safe to say that anyone who has seen the DVD “Hard XS” would agree that Ian Parnell and Tim Emmet’s route “Pic n’ Mix” is one to aspire to; I was most definitely one of them. Standing beneath it now certainly didn’t change my opinion. I wouldn’t be ashamed to admit that I was excited and scared in equal measures. This was evident from the discussion with Guy about whether or not to attempt the route considering its particular condition: a heavy build up of hoar frost on the upper sections which would definitely mean a lot of clearing. However, we decided that there was no harm in trying and got ready for what would become the battle of a lifetime.

Below: Guy approaching the first belay

Having made the final decision we quickly found a belay, I took a couple of deep breaths and headed for the steep icy cracked wall above. Nine hours, a lot of route clearing and some of the hardest climbing I had ever experienced later we both stood at the top exhausted but also ecstatic that we had claimed the second ascent of this prestigious route. I was particularly pleased as this was my first grade IX Scottish winter route.

Above: Guy heading for the steep second pitch and getting ready for some serious route clearing!

The climbing had been extremely sustained throughout and due to the amount of clearing required we both had to fight tooth and nail to succeed. But succeed we did!
As we triumphantly walked back to the car park we chatted about how good this winter has been and discussed potential future outings. Even though the route had resulted in me missing the last train home and kipping in my tent in a friends snowed under garden it was still one of the best days climbing I have done.

Below: Me seconding the steep broken corner

N.B. It should be noted that although Ian and Tim named the route “Pic N Mix” it is referred to in the guide book as “Never Mind – Winter Variation” IX/9.

Ship of Fools

Ok put rock cragging on hold, winter is BACK!!!!!!!

Yesterday Ian Parnell and I headed up to a very wintery Ben Nevis to do a route on the Indicator wall area.


On the walk in it was snowing hard and the rock was looking very white. There seemed to be lots of ice still lurking about up high, so we decided to do a thin icy, mixed line that Ian had had his eye on for a while. It is called “Ship of Fools” VIII/7 and it follows the steep pillar between “Riders on the Storm” and “Albatross” on thin icy grooves and slabs. Ian was sure that our ascent was the second as it was a friend of his that did the first ascent in 2007 and he had heard of no repeats to date.

It was an awesome line with just enough protection on the hard sections to help gather the courage to commit to the bold climbing. On the whole the route was home to some really enjoyable technical climbing and the thin ice provided interest throughout.


With the forecast looking cold for the next few days I’m hoping to get out again soon before winter leaves for good. PSYCHED!!!!!!!

Rock Again!! (by gum this climbing lark is fun)

Today Ali Swinton and I decided to go for some rock gragging instead of following the hords up to a slushy Ben Nevis. We headed to Pass of Ballater, this was the first time I had been there and I found it to be an awsome grag.
The weather was good and we both had a fun day. It felt good to get moving on rock again. We did a number of good routes and scoped out some projects to return for later in the season.

Bit warm in them there hills!

pic; me leading the first pitch

Yesterday James and I headed back to Udlaidh. I was hoping to try Andy Turners new mixed line on the lower tier but when I got to the base of the route I found that it was dripping and running with water as the temperature was quite high. Not wanting to knock it down, I decided to leave it for a colder day.
pic; James seconding the first pitch

We then headed over to do “Organ Pipe Wall” because regardless of the temperature this route is mega fat and stable. There were a few parties waiting to climb the right hand line, so we opted for the steeper and more direct line because it looked better and meant no waiting!

Pics; Me seconding the Last pitch (cranking out!)

I lead the first steeper pitch and took a hanging belay so that James could get some of the leading action on the second pitch. It was a good route and even though I had already climbed it earlier this season, the direct variation felt like a completely different route.

The Grin first ascent

Pics; (first 4) Me on the first pitch

After returning from the Alps on Saturday, I was keen to get out climbing again so today James and I headed up to Beinn Udlaidh to get stuck into the fat ice that James had been raving about over the past few days.
We went up to do The Smirk, but when we got to the route there was already a team on it and another two at the bottom waiting. So we decided to do something else, as we where walking away I noticed a good looking steep line to the left of the Smirk. It had an ice bulge at the bottom then a rock traverse to a hanging icicle. It looked very continental with some rock hooks between the ice.

The route looked good, so I jumped on it and got stuck into the surprisingly good climbing. The first ice section was straight forward and then came the tricky traverse which was fairly strenuous and steep. Once I was on to the hanging icicle and got a screw in, I made my way up the hidden thin icy groove which was home to more ice than I expected, then to the fatter ice near the top.

I took a belay and called to James to start climbing. When I started taking in the rope and finally could see my second I got really confused when I realised it was not James who was coming up but Tim Blakemore. I then learned that James was not keen to do the route and had bumped into Tim at the bottom who was waiting to do the Smirk so it all worked out in the end as Tim was psyched to climb the route. He then went on to lead the short but steep last pitch.

Pic; Tim leading the top pitch.

I have made some enquiries and I am pretty sure this is a new line. It goes at about VI/7 and I think I’ll call it “The Grin”. It was a great line and if anyone else gets on, it would be good to hear what you think.

We then walked off and met back up with James who went on to lead The Smirk (V/5***) and had a blast while doing so.

Pic; James leading The Smirk