Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mixte Ecossaise

For the last few weeks i've mostly been working on the farm, my usual job when in the UK, milking cows, shoveling shit and enjoying my Mum's cooking. I find that November is a good time to be working in the UK, as there's not much going on alps-wise and there's always Scotland to provide a fix.  I've decided that this year i'm going to try and be Cumbrian/Scottish based until at least the end of January, when i'm hosting at the international meet. This way i can get properly stuck in, rather than climbing a route or two then dissapearing to climb big stuff. Scotland is awesome, i have always loved the place, the weird and wonderful style of climbing, and its great to get involved with something that has a real energy and exciting vibe about it at the moment, and which is undoubtedly going through a period of accelerated progression.
       I have lots of plans and ideas for the next couple months, and myself and Greg Boswell, along with James Dunn got off to a good start this week. I drove up to Greg's with an open mind, and within a few minutes we had a great plan revolving around the Ben, even if the forecast was pretty dire!

         On the way we climbed "Defenders Of The Faith" IX 9 on Beinn Dorain. It was a great route, even though it was just one main pitch on a pretty much roadside crag. Greg was super steady, in fact i'd say he cruised it.
Greg resting on Defenders.

 I expect this one will become a proper classic, similar in popularity to the neighbouring "Messiah", a super fun VII (but which i think is more realistically a steady VI).

After the obligatory chip shop stop in the Fort we walked up to the CIC on the Ben that night. After a failed mission to drive my car up to the top car park, we broke a trail through a white-out and arrived a bit late at the hut.

The next day we headed up to the Echo wall area in very high winds and deep snow. After an abbortive atempt of something new and cool looking we settled for the "Great Chimney" which was no pushover in heavy spindrift.
The Great Chimney

Thursday we dubbed "escape from the CIC", as this is what we tried to do. The hurricane hit hard, and when we looked out the window and saw debris blowing up towards the Orion Face, we investigated the outside of the hut, only to see the whole of one side of the roof missing.
         As the hut got wetter and wetter we decided to make a run for it. We only made it 50 metres, getting picked up and thrown back several metres by the wind before we could even cross the river!
         We resided in the hut for the rest of the day, hoping that we'd manage to get something done once the hurricane had blown over!

Passing time durring the storm, some time around the time of this shot was when the roof came off.

We woke to a still, cold morning and broke a trail through heavy windslab to the base of No.3 gully buttress. We had decided to do "Knuckleduster" a summer HVS which a few years ago Blaire Fyffe and Steve Ashworth climbed the first two pitches of under winter conditions, giving it VIII 9, before trending of rightwards. We thought it would be cool to climb the whole line.

Myself on the great first pitch, heavy glazing made gear hard work.

Greg on the crux, this pitch is only about 15 metres, but packs a punch.

Pitch three, looking for the 4c crack.

Found it.

Greg charging up the short top pitch in the dark.

After the second pitch, we decided to follow the line, rather than veering off rightwards. I went straight up from the iffy belay, placed a high runner then made a fun move around the arete to a steep wall, where a 4c crack split its right side. The pitch was totally awesome and sustained with some spaced out feet.
       Greg swiftly led the short top pitch in the dark, and we rapped "Winter Chimney" before making a tentative descent down a loaded No. 3 gully. I'd say "Knuckleduster" is a top drawer route, with sustained and brilliant climbing, get yourself on it!

Robin Clothier assessing the damage yesterday morning.

So, a fun few days. I'm in Cumbria at the moment, but will be headed back north as soon as i've done a little more work.


  1. Will, we didn't trend rightwards from pitch 2 we went up the grooves in the arete (just to the right in the picture of you looking for the 4c crack, which gave a great direct pitch at VIII/8 (Ian Parnell) climbed these when he did last stand. great positions and great climbing. Good effort to get the top pitch. The hut looks a bit of a mess.


  2. Steve,
    Yes we chatted to Blaire afterwards about where you guys went. I guess its still trending rightwards in relation to the summer pitch though, which goes left. So many good winter lines on that area of the buttress.
    Good effort to Blaire on that crux mantle! must've been scary doing it first!