Showing posts with label Ben Nevis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ben Nevis. Show all posts

Friday, 5 September 2014

Geological mapping, on your iPhone

Here is the second film we were involved with this summer. Glasgow based geological mapping company Midland Valley asked us to shoot and produce a film on Ben Nevis detailing the new app they have released for geologists to do digital field mapping. We had a great time on the north face of the Ben and learned a lot from the guys.


FieldMove Clino - Digital Field Mapping from Midland Valley on Vimeo.

Friday, 20 June 2014

The Wicked


Leading pitch 3 of The Wicked, E6 5b, 6b, 6b, 6b, 6b, Ben Nevis. Photo: Dave Cuthbertson/Cubby Images.

In 2000 and 2001, Gary Latter and Rick Campbell worked on a major new line on Carn Dearg Buttress of Ben Nevis. It took the obvious challenge of stepped grossly overhanging wall pitches, followed by the attractive wall left of the Bat corner pitch high on the buttress.  At the time it was by far the hardest rock climb on Ben Nevis, before much harder routes such as Anubis and then Echo Wall were put up in the years following.

They approached the climb ground up, cleaning the route on aid and then redpointing the pitches. However, they did not climb it in a single push, but rather climbed various pitches on different days (and years) by accessing them from the easier routes, eventually grading the route E6 and calling it The Wicked.

This left the obvious challenge of a first continuous ascent. It was a great challenge too, as the climb has four consecutive hard pitches. I had stood at the foot of it once before with Niall McNair several years ago, but it was wet. In fact, frequent wetness on the first two pitches seems to have helped maintain its unrepeated status for all this time. As far as I know noone else has climbed it.


I went up to the buttress with Donald King the other day with no particular plan. Since a period of fine weather had not long started, I expected to find The Wicked wet and we might go for the other mega E6 on the buttress, Trajan’s Column. But on arrival, the wet streaks didn’t look too bad, so we decided to go up for a look. Donald studiously avoided a few wet holds on the first pitch which was ok. But on closer acquaintance, the slab leading up to the first hard pitch looked pretty wet, and the start of the crux itself even worse.

I went up, expecting to quickly come back. At the overhangs, the holds above looked quite big so I wondered if I could just climb on through the wetness. I knew it would end up in a scrap, but who cares? It’s training. And, who likes starting up a route and not finishing it, ready excuses or not?

 I picked my way through the wet and sharp jugs in the roof and eventually managed to grab a flat jug over the lip. Looking down, there were no dry options for feet whatsoever. Hanging with my feet off, I felt under pressure to make a decision so opted for an overhead toe-hook behind a loose looking flake. This worked nicely to get a runner in and dry wet hands. But with one hand in my chalk bag, the block suddenly flew out, sending me swinging wildly with one point of contact. Instinct kept me on and there was no option but to go up, quickly. Below, Donald tried hard not to laugh. The holds beyond were manky, covered in thick lichen and the odd bit of wet moss. I pressed on trying to clean as I went, but totally pumped, I slid off onto the rope at the last move.


Eyeing up the final pitch of the lovely wall left of the Bat corner.

Why on earth didn’t I put the brush in my bag? A quick clean by rubbing the slopers with my hands sort of worked, and on the next attempt the pitch went down no problem. The next pitch was almost as bad, cleaning thick lichen off most of the holds while pumped, but at least I got up it onsight. The next was even worse and I slid out of licheny jams twice before giving it a good rub with my T-shirt and getting it done next go. The final 6b pitch up the lovely Bat corner wall looked immense. It looked a little less dirty too and I was determined to clean it on lead without resting on the rope. However, as I reached for the crucial crux crimp, my finger tips sank into a fluffy pile of moss which was saturated with water. Damn! Even that one needed a quick garden before releading it from the start.


All in all we got quite a workout. But we got to the top!



Thursday, 27 March 2014

Choosing carefully on the Ben


On the steep corner of Rutless, VII,8 Ben Nevis. My camera misted up a bit in the west coast air!

After a huge dump of fresh snow, a lot of folk, including myself, were desperate to get back up the Ben and get some winter routes in. I walked in on a rather wet morning with Helen and Harry to see what we could safely get to. Not much. In the CIC hut, we went round in circles trying to figure out what would be frozen, but not going to avalanche us. In the end, we walked out of the door with no plan, and just went upwards, expecting nothing.


Ice damage


Harry had mentioned a steep wall on the Douglas Boulder. Going beyond this looked dangerous, and it looked a bit more frozen than expected, so we tied in and started going up. After Helen’s tunneling pitch (in snow) and my tunneling pitch (the Gutless chimney), we arrived below the wall. Harry passed me back the lead and I set off, at first trying to go rightwards, before getting pumped trying to get any protection in an ice choked overhanging crack. Eventually, I settled for going left which was a god bit easier, although I was already quite tired from the direct venture.


 Helen moving a lot of snow to make upward progress.

Our late start and chilled out pace meant it was actually getting dark as we were abseiling off the top of the Douglas boulder. With bottomless windslab in the gully below, we continued abseiling down the slopes all the way back to our sacks for safety. We later found out that the route I took had been climbed a few years before by Nick Bullock and Matt Helicker (Rutless VII,8). It’s a good choice for a stormy or dangerous day on the Ben.


Harry and Helen enjoying the belay ledge.


A lot of folk walking out in the morning owing to the tricky conditions for accessing the classic routes.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Orient Express FWA


Adam Hughes seconding the crux pitch of Orient Express IX,8, Ben Nevis


I’ve been back from Patagonia for a week or two and every waking hour has been filled with family time, travelling to lectures, a bit of filmmaking and continuing to work flat out on my injuries book. Oh and a bit of mixed climbing.

Given the ridiculous volumes of snow on Ben Nevis this season, I had a mind to return to a route I’d had an abortive attempt on a few years ago. Orient Express is a summer E2 5c on the first platform of North East Buttress. After I did the first winter ascent of Steam Train (HVS) just to the right in 2006, I decided to see if it would go in winter. I had my doubts, since it was a slabby and bold looking E2. I guessed it might be too slopey and too bold to be climbable with ice tools.



Good winter line for an E2!


I had a go with Michael Tweedley in a pretty bad blizzard and got to the technical crux, where I could find no hooks at all. It felt like a total dead end, with only rounded smears leading up a steepening in the slabby ramp. But Nevis new lines tend to simmer in my mind, and I felt that if it ever got any real build up on the ramp, there might be some useful neve to make progress.

In early Feb I returned with Calum Muskett and subjected him to a long, cold belay while I probed around back at the blank looking crux for ages. There was some cruddy snow sticking to the ramps, but it was useless for the tools. Eventually, I found the tiniest flat hooks, a few mms wide to teeter upwards and onto a good flake and some gear. But above was a long section with only a couple of very poor peckers for protection, followed by another crux to gain access to the upper ramp system. I teetered about for ages, but finally couldn’t find any hooks to get over the bulge and decided to downclimb to the last gear I was happy to weight, apologising to Calum for inflicting such a cold belay on him.


 The ramps were well covered in snow, and I thought the recent freeze-thaws at this altitude might turn them into some useful ice. So yesterday I returned with Adam Hughes to see if I could get any higher. I regained my highpoint after an hour or so and could see a couple of blobs of cruddy neve well out left of the top bulge. Over the course of a good number of forays, I stretched up and tried to reach the ice blob, but it was just too far. The best I could get was a highly dubious stick just below it. After a bit of working up to it, I committed to swapping hands on the bad stick and reached the ice blob above, which did rip through a bit as I rocked over onto the bulge. Too late, I was either going up, or off! 

Thankfully the peckers weren’t tested today and we continued up lovely ice on the ramps to the top.


Adam getting stuck into great, if poorly protected ice on pitch 2.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

More training ups and downs




My fortune over the past wee while hasn’t been great. I’m just back to being human after losing just short of 2 weeks in bed with a virus which floored me. Normally with most bugs I just reduce my training a bit and get some work done while I’m ill. This time I couldn’t do anything except lie in bed and shiver. 

Not to dwell on the details. But it obviously meant no training was done apart from ab-busting cough workouts. After I finally exited the other side, I was overflowing with eagerness to get going again, so jumped straight back on my board and onto the trails. After three days straight of bouldering and running, I could feel every muscle in my body. 

Unfortunately, on the 4th day I was booked to jog up Ben Nevis with Michael for the end of his city to summit race (swim the Forth at Edinburgh, cycle 110m to Glen Coe and then marathon finishing up and down Ben Nevis). On one hand, if it hadn’t been Michael’s race day, I would’ve probably moaned about just going to the kitchen to put the kettle on, never mind putting my running shoes on. On the other, if you can’t run up the Ben with a man who’s just come from Edinburgh under his own steam, it doesn’t look great, even if he is a machine.


So we had a nice jog up and it wasn’t so bad after all. Just inspiring. Over the past few months I have at various points given up on running due to continued ankle pain, only to start again a couple of weeks later. Changing my running gait to account for the ankle damage had caused knock on effects - an annoyed tibialis posterior tendon. It’s a bit of a tale of woe, but I’m beginning to think I could start a little gentle regular running again. Tomorrow I’ll maybe try something a little longer and see how it goes.

At the tail end of my virus I put in some productive days on my book, which inches ever closer to a finished first draft. Just a bit on shoulders and we’re done. Then on Friday I was at the opening of the new ice wall in the Snow Factor in Glasgow. It was pretty weird moving on ice and dry tooling boards. By the end of the day I was quite sad that winter is finally over.

In the coming week, I shall be climbing, running, route setting, book writing and then off for the first climbing trip of the summer. Exciting times!

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Nevis Landscape


Nevis Landscape Partnership film with Dave MacLeod from Dave MacLeod on Vimeo.

Who looks after and somewhere as special as Ben Nevis and Glen Nevis? It’s not something that we’re always constantly aware of. Whatever special mountain areas you visit, you might only see the mountains and not all the work that keeps them as they are.

But you’d soon notice if all the tons of litter dropped on Ben Nevis every year was allowed to accumulate, or if the paths were allowed to disintegrate into sprawling scarred muddy bogs. Or if poor planning allowed some rather ill advised developments to permanently change the shape and look of the area. And then there's all the things you might not immediately notice, but are just as important, such as the changes in which plant and animal species thrive as the environment changes. Although the untrained eye might not see that sort of thing, it's obvious to everyone that the place is full of life and that is what makes it great. If that was threatened it would be pretty important.

For many years, the Nevis Partnership took on the role of looking after the Nevis area. For various reasons, the organisation has evolved into the Nevis Landscape Partnership who will be doing lots of good projects in the coming years to help us all enjoy the place and keep it as good as it is.

We made a short film for them through the lens of my involvement with the place. It’s just meant to let you know that the NLP are there and that there are many fields of interest which you might want to get involved in, if you like. Their Facebok page is here.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Recent adventures on rock

During the past three weeks, life has been progressively more manic, as is normal in Lochaber at this time of year. Usually in February, the weather gets amazing for almost all types of climbing, and this season has been especially good. Trying to get anything else done apart from new routes is quite a challenge and usually involves late nights and early starts. Maybe the rain will return by March and I’ll take a rest day?!

When I got home from Spain, I was pretty keen to get into the hills. I started off with a day on the Ben with Kev and could hardly walk the next morning. However, my ankle seemed to continue to adapt and I went back up a couple more times. Since both of us were only really able to walk short distances with big packs, we opted for the CIC hut cascades. Kev cruised the icefall.

Next up I went to a ridiculous boulder roof in the glen. It’s quite low to the ground and fully horizontal. An acquired taste maybe - a bit like a darker version of the darkness cave in Magic Wood. There’s 25 feet of horizontal climbing on brutal crimps in there, with three logical starts. The shortest link will be Font 8aish and the full trip looks like solid Font 8b+. I couldn’t imagine doing it at the moment, but I did do about half the moves on my first session.

I’ve also been trying a bit of running with mixed results. I did some trail and hill runs up to 12 miles and was getting on fine. Then one evening I did some short fast sections since it was already getting dark after the climbing. I misjudged the angle of a boulder on the trail and hit the ‘no go zone’ in my ankle hard and let out a yelp. It’s been worse ever since, which is rather depressing. I can’t really do much except hope I’ve not done more damage. Not good.


Ardverikie deer forest. Here be boulders...

 The next day I was getting pain even walking which put a downer on an otherwise great day out in Ardverikie Forest returning to a boulder I’d found on a run two years ago. I went to look at a roof that I’d estimated about Font 8b. But to actually try, it felt way harder. I pretty much gave up, although to be fair I wasn't in the most positive frame of mind, and the easterly was biting cold. It was a series of savage first joint undercuts in a roof with microscopic granite crystals level with your head for feet. A bit like doing harder versions of the Hubble undercuts crux about 5 times in a row. Maybe I’ll make a model on my board and try it once more in the spring.


The solid river Nevis today, near Steall.


Dan cleaning new problems, new boulder in Glen Nevis today.

Today saw some great new problems get done after a monster cleaning. I'll take some pictures of them next time. I did the problems almost in the dark since we were brushing for a lot of the afternoon. The boulder has probably 15 problems to do from Font 5 to 8A+ on the usual lovely honeycomb Glen Nevis schist. I hope my arms aren't too tired for tomorrows session back on the Ben. Off to sleep!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Caldera crags


Kev checking out some future very scary granite slab climbs on Ben Nevis
On the outer rim of the Ben Nevis volcanic caldera is a ring of granite surrounding it’s andesite centre. The granite is the stuff that gently baked the mica schist of Glen Nevis, giving it it’s honeycomb texture that makes it so great to climb. But not much of the granite is exposed as crags unfortunately. I’ve often passed small outcrops of the stuff on various approaches to the Ben and thought it would be nice to find a good crag or boulder made of this stuff since it’s some of the nicest rough granite I’ve ever seen. 
One place I kept meaning to look were the obvious slabs high on the slopes of the Ben, directly above the car park for Steall. I say high - they only look high because of the savage slope leading up to them. They are actually only about 6/700m altitude. On last week’s run I went past one of them and found an immaculate 15 metre slab of granite with four routes to do on it and an even bigger slab above. Two lines in particular stood out as the best gritstone style E7/8 slab climbs I’ve seen. A bit like the classic Cairngorm E7 ‘Firestone’ but with even better rock.
Kev and myself couldn’t resist checking them out and so we slogged up and had a play on them. As suspected, a pair of fantastic but very bold climbs to be done there. An E7 6b and E8 6c. Something to go back to when feeling rather confident. If I'd remembered my helmet, the E7 line may just have got an ascent. But probably best to have to go back with a strong mind anyway.



Thursday, 8 March 2012

Glen Nevis podcast episode 4: Steall


Episode 4 of the Glen Nevis Walks Podcast is up now on Friends of Nevis here and on iTunes here. This episode takes us through to Steall and the most dramatic bit of the glen. As usual there are stacks of good interviews but you climbers might be particularly interested in Kevin Howett’s rather worrying description of taking 60 foot falls onto an RP1 and breaking his ribs during the first ascent of Chairoscuro E7 6b in the gorge. I made the second ascent of Chairoscuro, onsight,  in 2010, 23 years after Kev’s ascent. So listening to him describe the lonely upper arete brought back some strong memories for me too!
We’ve also made a couple of videos of the interviews contained in our Glen Nevis Walks podcast series. They’ll give you a taster of some of the interviews in the episodes. The first is geologist and climber Noel Williams describing the fascinating and unusual geology of Ben Nevis and it’s volcanic caldera.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Meeting the Queen


On Fat Boy Slim VI, 6, Ben Nevis the other day




How do I winter climb again?
After doing Anubis a couple of years ago I took a bit of a break from winter climbing. That route was a really nice piece of climbing and was very satisfying to climb. It was hard to find something good enough to follow it. I was also really missing bouldering and felt I hard to get some strength base together for climbing the Longhope. Last season I tried a couple of new routes that were maybe too hard, and then winter was over for me with imminent arrival of my daughter Freida. It’ll be interesting to see if I can find some good routes this season. I was worried that I would feel very out of touch with winter climbing. So I thought I better start with some basics at VI or VII. It certainly felt strange to be holding tools again and a circuit around my board tonight on them felt desperate. It’s always difficult finding the real stand out new routes in any discipline, but never more so than in winter climbing. I’m really into finding steeper lines but it’s a frustrating business when every climb on the mountain is in condition except yours sometimes. But I do know about two or three lines that might have the makings of great winter routes that I’d like to go at if they come into condition this year. I think a Birnam cave session or two could be in order first though!



Blink and you’ll miss it. MacLeod in a suit for the first time, for one night only.
It must have been some occasion, you must be thinking, to see me in a suit of an evening. Indeed! I was asked to go to London to meet the Queen, along with many other adventurers from up and down the land and beyond. We gathered at Buckingham Palace, for a glass of champagne and a royal hand shake to mark the centenary of the Scott expedition. I met many accomplished climbers I knew, some I didn’t know and spotted various royals and folks I’d seen a lot on the telly. Messner gave me some good beta about future projects too. It was a nice evening, and the trip was a nice way to spend a couple of rest days after a monster session at the TCA in Glasgow. 

Speaking of the TCA, it was my first visit and I was headless chickening as most folk apparently do on their first visit. It’s the best climbing wall I’ve ever been to, worldwide. I’m really chuffed to see climbing walls go to another level. I walked around all after noon repeating inwardly “I wish this was here when I started climbing”. I’m super looking forward to Christmas hols in Glasgow to get a proper feel for the place. It’s just too big to scratch the surface on your first visit. If you haven’t been yet, sort it out!




As I write I have the satisfied feeling of every upper body muscle aching from a good solid session on my board - hard problems, mileage, circuits and tooling circuits and then my rehabs. With work trips finally over for the year it’s so nice just to get down to the business of uninterrupted training.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Nice short film about Ben Nevis


Ben from Kate Owen on Vimeo.

Nice video by Kate Owen about Ben Nevis. The climbing by me is on the Heather Hat boulder and Kev’s section is on Scimitar Ridge. I particularly liked the hill running part.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

First winter route of the season


Fine high pressure weather on Ben Nevis this week



Snow bunting enjoying the views and climbers sandwiches on the summit



Lovely morning in Observatory Gully



Ines leads off up an excellent thin ice slab on Triple X VIII, 8



With physio exercises commenced on my hernia I felt OK to try a day out winter climbing. So I teamed up with Ines Papert and Charly who are visiting Scotland and headed up the Ben. After a brief wander about with me pointing out various new route possibilites, we settled on a look at a new icy mixed line based on the summer route Rolling Stones.
Charly set off, getting past a slightly sketchy thin crux bulge and embarked on a long traverse above our heads. It looked tricky. It was kind of bold to second as well as lead after I (being last on the rope) took out the backrope runner at the start of the traverse.
Next up it was Ines’ turn and she headed off across a very thinly iced slab which looked great fun. Ines was looking very at home on the ice and we enjoyed following a lot more than the previous pitch.
Last up it was my turn and I joined Ian Small and Ian Parnell’s new route from last year, Faith Healer VIII,7 at the start of it’s crux pitch. The steep chimney was great fun and nice to be reacquainted with the absorption of winter leading again after ten months or so since I last wielded my ice tools on a mixed route.
Triple X, VIII,8 gave us three nice pitches and satisfied an urge to open a new line on this nice little face that I’d spied while wandering about near Echo Wall in the past.



The line of Triple X


Next day it was back in action on the bouldering front. I managed to do the crux move on my highball project in Glen Nevis again which is getting me excited. I feel like I have a good sequence for most of it now and all I’m needing is a few more kgs worth of raw crimping strength. Next week’s forecast looks good for concentrating on the crimping strength, rather than braving the storms...


Friday, 3 December 2010

Couple of videos: Pinnacle Trailer and the cave

Here is the trailer for The Pinnacle DVD, ice climbing on Ben Nevis following in the footsteps of Smith and Marshall. Brilliant for the winter psyche!The DVD is in the shop here.





This is an extended clip of Michael making a determined second ascent of my own problem Bone Broke (Font 7c) in the Arisaig Cave last week. The wee fire was great, shame the wind was blowing it into the cave for the full winter cave dwelling experience!


Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The Pinnacle wins at Kendal

I’m just home from the Kendal Mountain festival where I had a great couple of nights speaking about The Pinnacle film and The Great Climb. The Pinnacle won the People’s Choice prize for the best film at the festival - thanks for voting for it!
It’s great that people liked it so much. It was a great vibe at the premiere and watching the film for the first time I just felt so glad that we were able to make it. I think Jimmy Marshall and Robin Smith’s story is as inspiring as ever and the film shows off Ben Nevis at it’s absolute best.
Diff gave me a pile of Pinnacle DVDs to take home and Claire has just dispatched all the pre-orders today. I had a watch of the extras this morning, which include our live show with myself and Andy Turner talking with Jimmy at last year’s Fort William Mountain Festival, Diff’s full uncut interview with Jimmy for the film, and also Heatherhat’s film about my first ascent of Don’t Die of Ignorance (XI,11) with Joe French on the Ben. All the info about the DVD is in the shop here.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

The Pinnacle DVD is here

Hot Aches Productions DVD about our re-enactment of the Smith-Marshall week on Ben Nevis is ready. Tomorrow (Friday) I’m at the premiere of the film in Kendal and will be picking up our DVD stock from Diff there and dispatching orders when we come home on Monday. It’s up in the shop to order if you want a copy, right here.
In case you missed my previous posts about our week, this is what all the fuss is about: In 1960 Jimmy Marshall and Robin Smith, probably the best ice climbers anywhere at the time completed a week of back to back first ascents of cutting edge ice routes on Ben Nevis. The first one-day ascent of Point Five Gully, first ascents of Pigott’s Route, Smith’s Route, The Great Chimney, Minus 3 Gully, Orion Face Direct and a traverse of the Grey Corries as their ‘rest day’. It was a massive step forward and took the generation behind them a good decade and the development of modern ice tools to catch up. Step cutting these routes day after day was a fantastic feat of skill and endurance. It became a bit of a legend in Scottish climbing, to say the least.
Hence, 50 years later, to the day, myself and Andy Turner felt it would be great to go and repeat the week of climbs and make a film about it with Hot Aches Productions. We had a great night after our week with Jimmy Marshall himself, talking about the week at the Fort William Mountain Festival (which you’ll find as an extra on the DVD along with an extensive interview with Jimmy who is now 82). Since then, Paul Diffley has been preparing the edit of the film itself.
It recounts the story of Jimmy and Robin’s adventure and achievement, shows off the routes and the Ben itself rather beautifully I think. It did help that we had a stunning week of weather on our re-enactment.
Hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed making it.


About to top out on Point Five Gully during our re-enactment of the Smith-Marshall week on Ben Nevis.


Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Lectures in Harris, Lewis and Kendal


I’ve just arranged two lectures in the Western Isles pretty soon - I’m speaking on Harris at the Harris Hotel, Tarbert at 8pm on October 4th. On Oct 5th I’m at the Cala Inn in Stornoway. I’ll talk about how climbing transformed my life, thoughts on climbing Sron Uladail on live telly with an overdose of painkillers and why climbing is load safer than it looks…
Well, most of the time anyway.
I’m also speaking at this year’s Kendal Mountain Festival in November. On the Friday night  I’m speaking alongside Andy Turner at the Premiere of The Pinnacle (The Smith/Marshall ‘week’ on the Ben). On the Saturday it’s ‘Great Climb’ night and I’m co-hosting an evening of talking and film about the making of the BBC live broadcast alongside Richard Else, Brian Hall and Cameron McNeish. Should be fun!
See y’all there.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Anubis FWA


The Comb showing the line of Anubis, on the day of the ascent
Quite unexpectedly, I managed to complete my long term ambition to make the first winter ascent of my own summer E8, Anubis on Ben Nevis. The number of hours to finish the lead might just be countable on one hand, and completely exhausted me for the following three days. In other words, I completely went for it.


Starting up the initial overhang Photo: Christina Bell
It seems to contradict reason, but it seems clear to from my experience that there are many different states of mind which seem to work well for bringing out the best (or should it be worst?) in climbers for hard leads. ‘confident and solid’ is most consistent, but suffers often from nerves and fear of failure. ‘Invincible’ can produce moments of sickening boldness/recklessness, but always makes for a short career in climbing. ‘Angry’ is only really good for pull-ups. Climbing is too delicate for it’s unchannelled release of energy. ‘F**k it, what have I got to lose?’ was where I was at on the crux of Anubis. Life is too short for caution when you are on the right route, at the right time. So I dispensed with caution.
A small gear ripping fall on the initial wall leading to the main roof helped a lot to relax the body. I had been needing that for about two or three seasons. I started again. This time climbing like I wanted to get higher. 


Crossing the crux roof Photo: Christina Bell
Several hours later, with nothing left in my arms, my feet slipped off again on the final headwall, well out from the last gear. I had the eyeball bulge of a leader with three seconds to find a solution or fall. A footless speed-downclimb of about 8 moves and kung foo kick back onto the footledge under the roof saved one more chance to get to the belay. Christina burst out laughing at the sight of it. I laughed as well, after a minute or two. 
Next time up was my last strength, so I got there. I pulled through my 70 metre ropes, tied them together and kept going up the comb in a 140 metre pitch, before untying and continuing up the ice grooves, and eventually standing in the quiet of the summit by myself for a few minutes.
Grade in winter? No idea. I’ll have a think about it. I haven’t ever tried or done anything harder in winter. I guess there are worse chores than grading your hardest route. The route started as an idea to see if it was possible today to maintain the Victorian mountaineering tradition of opening a new climb in summer conditions, and progressing to an ascent in winter. Great that it’s still every bit as possible as it was a century ago.



The highpoint of my 2nd attempt, the other week Photo: Andy Turner



Anubis in summer E8 mode Photo: Cubby Images


Postscript: Just before I posted this up I read a timely post on Ian Parnell’s blog with a full list of all the routes of grade IX and above. I can’t say it really helped that much for making a wild and disclaimer-ridden stab at a grade for Anubis. But what did stand out was the consistency of routes which are often reasonably protected HVSs working out at IX in winter. There are of course some E2s and up to about E4s that have been done as winter mixed routes, generally where the cruxes involve cracks. Anubis, although dramatically harder at E8 does have a useful short crack at the crux, but then a section of E5 6a face climbing on small crimps. Bla bla… the long and short of it is I do think it’s a significant step up from any of the routes I’ve done. The crux is not much harder than Don’t Die, but then the rest is like stringing three of the IXs on Ian’s list together. So maybe it’s XII if my other two routes are really XI. Or if The Hurting and Don’t Die are really grade X then Anubis might make it into XI. I’ll keep thinking about it...

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Marshall Smith challenge success!


Today, Diff and I are stationed in my house drinking vast quantities of tea, piling through an entire box of shortbread and generally recovering from the Smith Marshall week. We managed to do it, film it, photograph it and enjoy every minute of it.
Yesterday we left the CIC hut at 8ish and made a morning ascent of Orion Face Direct in glorious conditions to finish off, and top of the seven Ben Nevis routes. That left the sting in the tail - the Grey Corries traverse. It’s a big walk but not a big deal on it’s own. It was Smith and Marshall’s rest day from the climbs. However, after topping out on Orion Face and starting it for the afternoon itinerary, it started to feel a bit more uphill by the time we were floundering in deep snow up to Aonach Beag.
Several peaks later, glycogen ran out and autopilot and mars bars kept us plodding along the snow arete in the dark to Stob Coire Claurigh and the final jog down it’s long open plateau towards the lights of Spean Bridge. Our water supply had run out way back at Aonach Beag so I was hallucinating about a huge glass of orange and lemonade in the Commando Bar in Spean. It took two pints of the stuff before I could face a sip of celebratory beer.
Anyhow, I need to go back to preparing video and pictures of the week for our show at the Fort William Mountain Festival on Sunday night. Hopefully see you there for a good night of ice climbing inspiration.



Pristine ice grooves on Orion Face Direct




Moving out on a thin Smith’s Route







Donald - a man who can take a cameraman where few have gone before




Climbing into a deep blue sky - Point 5 Gully on Wednesday




Andy learning to cut steps



Glad to be standing on the last summit of the Grey Corries after traversing them after Orion Face