Monday, 21 January 2008

New or old?

Something is beeping at me. A distant chime dragging me back from my dreams. It's 6.00 already, I'm sure I only just closed my eyes. Bleary eyed and yawning I fall downstairs for a brew and some toast and pretend that I'm psyched and good to go to Gaz Davies, who's in a sleeping bag on the lounge floor.

It's still dark when we step outside, a blackbird laughs at us from the hedge. Part of me is pleased the Ben is so close, we don't have to get up at 4.00 for a days climbing, but 5 minutes in a car isn't long enough to wake up and prepare for the onslaught. We start up the new Ben path, trying to keep my eyes open as I sweat and wheeze upwards. Bloody hell. Climbing always seems like a good idea on a warm sofa in the evening, but on a dark January morning it seems like a fools errand.

On arrival at the CIC hut we look up into the Ciste to see dark crags and full gullys swathed in cloud. I've learnt this lesson before: mixed routes are going to be good high up. On friday night Andy 'Turnermator' Turner told me about a wee buttress above Number 4 gully with new, easier route potential, so we thought we'd slog up there and have a peek. We weren't dissapointed.

The crag above No. 4 Gully. I took a line trending up and right from the snowy bay in the bottom left.

Overlooking Number 4 Gully on the right hand side is a short crag made up of turfy corners, grooves and ramps and looked nicely white and iced as we approached. We decided to try a likely looking groove line up the centre of the wall. I lead off, coming to an abrupt halt at a tricky step that was slightly undercut. Where were my feet? Skating about in search of a hidden hold. In the end there was nothing for it; bury the tools in something frozen and heave-ho. With judicious use of knee I flopped onto a ramp and continued up, panting and swearing. After 45m of turf, rock, neve and ice I slithered up a V-groove into a pleasant snowy gully and belayed Gaz up. He then followed the crest on the left of the gully for about 25m to the top, popping out about 50m to the right of the top of No. 4. Wow, convenience climbing on Ben Nevis.

Gaz Davies on the last V-groove of pitch 1.

Gaz on the crest of pitch 2.

We sorted out our gear, went down No. 4 to the base of the crag again and found another line that Gaz started up. The snow started in earnest, and the thick clag hid the whole of the mountain. Again, it gave about 40m of good climbing, steep awkward steps and turfy ramps, coming out in the same gully as the first line. I followed the same crest to the top for pitch 2.

Gaz endures heavy snow beneath the crux on pitch 1 of the second line.

Gaz on the final awkward step

We felt both routes were about 70m long and around IV,5, with maintained interest all the way. I'm in consultation with the powers-that-be to find out if they were new lines, but regardless, it was a great adventurous day out. The crag has loads of potential for other routes, and it's really accessible (except for being at the top of the Ben), perfect for second routes or shorter days and being so high is probably in nick regularly. So get busy.

The alarm was as unwelcome as the day before when it kicked me into life yesterday. I snoozed as Gaz drove down to the Coe and groaned as we stomped into Stob Coire Nan Lochan (Stobbers, as it is becoming known by the Banff Crescent glitterati). We thought about getting scared on Chimney Route (VI,6) but neither of us fancied an hour of thrutching and wriggling so decided to climb Twisting Grooves, a IV,5 to the left of Twisting Gully. It's a nice wee route with two good mixed pitches and two snowy 'fillers'. We felt if it was IV,5 our routes the day before were probably about the same grade. It was only 13.00 when we topped out but neither of us was particularly bothered about another route, feeling smug and satisfied by the weekends endeavours, so slid back down to the car for tea and tiffin.

Myself after pitch 3 of Twisting Grooves

News Flash:

Just heard from Simon Richardson and both our lines have been done by him before! Nothing else has been done up there though so I'll have to get back up. The first route is called Triton Corners, IV,5 and the second is Poseidon Grooves, IV,5. Nice to see we got the grades right at least.

1 comment:

sam loveday said...

Nice work on the new routes, went to lochnagar on saturday, tried parallel buttress but backed off and then did a very soft v called moonshadow, now in rome so conditions will no doubt be ace...