The line of Tupilaq

Last Tuesday I was out climbing with Kev and Ken. I’ve been scouting several new lines in Glen Nevis but high priority was a revisit to Bistro Buttress which sports excellent clean rock and a handful of established routes from HVS to E3. Over two days I had six attempts on top rope, one of these was purely to get a direct start which ended up being very bouldery and serious should you fall off it. The line then climbs a very thin crack up the wall straight to the huge pine at the top. I maybe biased but its now the best route at the crag, easily two stars and well worth a visit. Grading it took a while but I think I have settled at E5, whatever the grade, its another top day for the season. Thanks to Kev for the pics and Ken for the belay!

Tupilaq (E5,6a) ** 17m – Fierce moves through the roof to get established on the wall, then climb the thin crack with difficulty straight to the prominent pine.

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The North face was pretty quiet today. Aside from teams heading towards No2 Gully, Tower Ridge and high up in Observatory; we had the Ciste to ourselves which was surprising considering the return to winter and plenty of rime on the rocks. After climbing No2 Gully on Monday Neil and I went for something a little steeper; No3 Gully Buttress (III,4) which was really enjoyable. The lower pitches were as good as they have been all season, the upper traverse was a little dry but it was certainly wintry enough, much like typical mid January. Things were melting fast, the white and rime ice from recent Northerly winds dissapearing as we finished the final direct pitch. Shame it wont last for one final winter hit…….

Neil enjoying the delights of No2 Gully on Monday

A wintry Ben Nevis this morning

Neil getting to grips with No3 Gully Buttress today

Lots of rime, unfortunately stripping quickly this afternoon

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Tom getting us started on ‘Tom’s Other Route’

Yesterday Tom and I wanted to make the most of the good weather so had an impromptu couple of hours up at Crown Buttress in Glen Nevis. I’d been here last year with Jane and the dog so knew it would be a nice place for tom to do a couple of established routes and maybe a new one for good measure.

‘Cool Beans’ FA

Tom on FA ‘Cool Beans’

We climbed the plumb line down the slab between Palpitation and Pal which gave a really enjoyable pitch that we called ‘Cool Beans’. Its difficult to put a grade on it but we felt it was harder than other similar routes in the Glen such as Rubberface, Secretaries Super Direct & Twitch but easier than Diode so E2,5b maybe? Anyway, its a nice addition to a great wee crag. Tom also climbed the two ‘Tom’ routes which were also on brilliant rough rock: Tom’s Arete (HVS) and Tom’s Other Route (HS). 

Tom starting up ‘Tom’s Arete’

Tom high up on ‘Toms Arete’

Cracking day to be out

Cool Beans E2,5b FA Steve Holmes & Tom Lawfield 27/03/2017

Climb steeply to gain the slab passing a foot long wobbly block on the right. Climb straight up the slab to the niche just right of the final moves of Palpitation.  

The abseil rope pretty much takes the line of ‘Cool Beans’

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Mascot for the day

Kev, Jane and I had an amazing day climbing rocks yesterday. Yep, the spring season has arrived when we can climb ice, ski, bike or go rock climbing; its an amazing time of year and possibly my favourite too. Having had plenty of success at the small but perfectly formed Beinn Bheag Slab, Kev and I both had projects we wanted to get done so we can move on to other objectives burning away in the back of our minds. After a short (freezing) session in January and a further one last week, I managed to get the nerve to tie into the sharp end and climb Skyfall (E6,6b) which could possibly be the 4th ascent of this precarious slab climb.

Getting to know the route on bottom rope

Building psyche for the head-point!

Game on…… very reachy initial moves to get to the only gear on the route at just over 1/3 height

Great climbing

Through the crux which relies on a crimpy sidepull that I broke last week….

Stretching for the jug & top

Kev had been busy on what might be the final new route to be done at the crag. Again, pulling the top rope to get on lead needed some convincing but he came away with The 45 (E4,6a) which runs up and left of Jacobite Rising on the side wall of the crag. Jane was on hand to snap some cracking photos (all credits to her!) and Goose tagged along for moral support!

Some practice and a little cleaning revealed a great route up the sidewall

Rubbish gear in place, its game on

On the jugs way above that poor pro…

A Happy Kev Shields!

Celebrating Scottish style!

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It was Roberts last day so at his request we took a journey round the CMD Arete in full winter conditions. There was loads of wading and battling with surprisingly strong winds and by the time we got to the top of Coire Leis it was like being in a washing machine of spindrift! We ploughed on up the shoulder onto a benign summit before heading straight down the red burn. A significant thaw is set to take place over the next few days – the end of winter maybe??

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Robert is looking to reacquaint himself with steeper ground in preparation for an Alpine trip this summer. Yesterday we climbed Ledge Route without issues so today I thought we’d climb Dorsal Arete and descend the ZigZags for another rounded alpine journey. As it turned out the route felt all too steep for Robert so after three pitches we rapped into Broad Gully and followed Ali’s trench to top of the crag. We then traversed over the summit of Stob Coire nan Lochan before descending the NE Ridge. Plenty of snow being blown around and accumulating in deep deposits. We didn’t find any evidence of instabilities but with the strong westerly wind moving so much snow it wont take long for slab to build on leeward aspects

Mixed route starting to look wintry again, lots of icy cracks though…

Ali Rose putting in a good trench up Broad Gully

Last pitch on Dorsal Arete before we rapped into Broad Gully

Great views across the Bidean

The summit of Stob Coire nan Lochan

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This morning we received a fresh dusting of snow some of which has settled above 600m. Most of these deposits are on North through to Easterly aspects as the ferocious winds have blasted the majority of any new snowfall into the atmosphere. Ledge Route under its new coating of white, was great for Robert and I today. The old snow had firmed up and allot of the slush had turned to ice making movement in crampons over the rocks much easier. I will be out with Robert until Wednesday, working for Abacus Mountain Guides. 

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The freezing level dropped overnight and was due to stay below the summits until midday. With this in mind we had an early start to try and avoid the monsoon and maybe just maybe climb some ice too. I’d done Glovers Chimney in November 2012 during a cold snap. It was more wintry then than it was today – mid March! Anyway, it didn’t stop us enjoying a nice ice pitch to get into the route (mushy) then some great but verglassed mix climbing to get into Tower Gap. By the time we topped out on Tower Ridge it was raining and getting quite windy, we made a beeline for the red burn which was broken and awkward to descend. Marie had what I would call an experiential learning day, lots of little things making life a tad difficult for her. We all have our own battles whilst climbing in winter, it feels quite disheartening at the time but we learn from these days which makes us more efficient and better climbers in the future.

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After a valiant attempt to get some climbing done today, Marie and I thought our day was better spent doing some coaching on ice and indoor walls. We weren’t the only ones drying off inside, it was a very wet day to be on the hill! How much winter is currently left on Ben Nevis only tomorrow will tell, its been raining hard and the Allt a’Mhuilinn was an awesome sight as the snowpack once again made its way into the sea.

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Marie and I have climbed quite a bit together in the summer. Last year she developed her rock climbing by following me up an E2 and since then she has progressed to leading 6b sport and completed a few winter routes upto grade IV. Today was about getting back into winter climbing and discussing winter belays and route tactics. We chose No3 Gully Buttress which is in better condition than it looked from below. Ken was following just behind us with his team of two and Mike P and Bob took a left turn towards Tower Face area to see what looked in condition to climb. The lower ice pitch is good fun and lots of verglass in the upper pitches is sticking everything together quite well.

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