Winter climbs this season…

On March 23, 2016 by Tim Neill

Once  work started the personal route tally hit a dive…weekends were either 1 day long, bad weather or both! Plan As often ended up as Plan Zs or nothing at all… I was glad of my earlier efforts in December and early January.

The route pictured above was the culmination of wandering around the Ciste corrie backing off a number of routes and avoiding potential avalanche…it was however an intriguing route with a well deserved reputation!

This was a day where we shouldn’t have gone out at all…

Then in one day it all went well for the weekend climbers!

However this was the day before! Good climbing but in a hurricane!! Keith and I uplifted our spirits with a cool icy mixed route at Bridge of Orchy called the Prophet. Really good gear on most of the pitches, lots of ice, good turf and exciting climbing…enhanced by the wind blowing my rack above my head. This climaxed on the final thin ice pitch where I literally hugged the ice with my head between my axes! Motivation was high to ensure success and improve the weekend hit rate

The next weekend was a one day off affair where cumulative work fatigue and a tight schedule had to be put aside in the hope of recovery at work…easier said than done when working full time in the winter hills.

And so, straight after work Keith and I headed to Kishorn, Applecross via the chippy. A 4am departure was just enough to put us into pole position as some friends, Helen and Dave, pulled up into the lay-by.

Daybreak had us launching onto the mega route”The Godfather” on Beinn Bhan. This über classic had been in the dreams for a long time and here we were on a perfect day. The climb is beyond all adjectives! It builds up and up to a wild finally and will take everything you’ve got if you’re operating at the grade.

We topped out as the sun set. An incredible view out to the islands…with the high pressure installed Harris, Lewis, Barra, Pabbay and Skye appeared like floating apparitions on the horizon. The Cuillins looked as grand as ever too.

The walk back and subsequent drive to Glencoe in fits of delirium was pretty special and swinging my rucksack on for work the next morning I had to dig deep. But recover over a busy weeks MIC training I did and the next days off had me and Keith, joined by Matt as well climbing another couple of belters on Beinn Bhan again.

Der Riesenwand of “Cold Climbs” fame was the first. Perhaps the worst route in Scotland for a team of 3! A series of epic zig zags, poor belays and spaced gear leads in a sort of mini Eiger fashion up a fantastic cliff.

Commitment is very equitable for leader and seconds and it seemed quite a tense outing!

We wandered back down leaving most of our kit below the objective for the next morning…

An early start and an light walk back into Coire na Fhamair had us setting off into “The Gully of the Gods”…a Fowler masterpiece. It was generously fat with ice and looked more grade VIII than VI, but was perfect…perhaps Mick graded it IV. The atmosphere is considerable and brings smiles and stern looks in equal measure…constant type 1 fun all the way.

Background cooing was provided by the resident Rock Dove population…enhanced by the amazing acoustics within the cleft’s interior. All too soon the final bulge leads to a great amphitheatre and an icy romp to the top…with icy unclimbed lines everywhere on its left! The final cornice deposits you beside a sort of “blow hole” feature on the plateau…easily fallen into and clearly a subterranean extension of the line extending back from the edge. Afternoon tea in Fort William rounded off an excellent few days in the NW and a reminder to always make the effort when things look good.

After another weeks work my final free day coincided with the end of the high pressure cold weather.

Nick and I bumbled up to the Ben with an open mind and we settled for a possible unclimbed line of ice. It hung above Gemini on Carn Dearg and had been in my mind since trying to spot it source after numerous forays last season during the particularly icy conditions then.

Nick dealt with the thin ice ’cause that’s what he does best! I thought we’d call it Capricorn to keep the link with Gemini…and perhaps because Capricorns have the traits required for ground like this.

I fell victim to that great trick that Scottish winter does…it beats you up then gives you a few great days like nowhere else. I saw a few other lines on the Ben that we could’ve climbed that day too, as well as many beautiful mountains from the top of Beinn Bhan I’ve yet to visit. Fingers crossed for next year then!

So a final great day on a great mountain with a good friend too. Rain arrived the next day, but I was climbing in the sun at Tremadog in Wales with my lovely wife while our daughter was at school.

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