Scotland

Winter went by in a flash. I managed to climb some great routes and tick some obscure Munro’s almost every day.

The first few weeks of my time were spent climbing with Chris Andrews, James Clapham, Suzanna EL Massri, Gareth Hughes and Tim Oliver in the Northern Corries. Having spent the last few years away from the UK in the Alps, I was a little green around the gills about Scottish Winter climbing again and needed familiarising with the testing unconsolidated powder conditions.

The first few routes were Route Major IV 5, Burning and Looting V 7 and Western Route IV 6 with Tim Oliver. We ticked some great memorable climbs and navigated our way around in terrible conditions on the Cairngorm Plateau.

Chris Andrews and I had some very memorable hits out west when the weather allowed it.  Ben Eighe’s great West Buttress IV 4, Crypt Route on Bidean Nam Bian V 6, Crest Route on Stob Coire An Lochain V 6 (One of the most spectacular climbs I have ever done, stunning final pitch is really quite amazing).

Other highlights included a few days climbing The Genie V 7 again with James and Suzana, The Guillotine with David Thexton (one of the most enjoyable routes of the season on Carn Etchachan, my favorite of the Northern Corrie crags) and The Lamp V 6 with Suzana. David also eased the Messenger which gets V 6 and has a stiff reputation.

The last few days of winter weather offered a great day with Joe Salter and Sasha Doyle climbing The Third Man IV 6 and Central Crack Route IV 5 on Coire an Lochain. This was a really rewarding day as we all climbed a great pitch each.

A good friend and the most sure footed man in Cheltenham, James Matthews, joined me for a much wanted ice week on the Ben. Unfortunately conditions did not materialise. A stable high pressure weather system emerged over all of the UK and allowed a window for ice potential early morning on the Isle of Skye on the North face of Sgur Gillean. We would do Pinnacle ridge and then the North facing slopes of Sgur Gillean, which gave us excellent neve and ice. With the added beauty of the island around us, it was the best alpine winter day I could have ever imagined. Getting back to the Sligachan Hotel for a cup of tea in T shirts, Scottish spring had fully arrived and the chance of doing anymore winter climbing was going to be unrealistic.

Next day we did the Clach Glas – Blaven Traverse expecting a little bit of snow. Most of it was climbed in T- Shirts and a great chimney was climbed on the penultimate pitch before joining the normal walker’s route to the Summit.

We then did a lovely spring traverse of the An Teallach and then drove to Stoer after a magical drive from Ullapool to Lochinver. Whilst making a brew and our usual van tortellini, a man came out of the darkness with a tripod and camera asking us if we were fellow photographic enthusiasts. He then went on to explain that there was a massive chance of seeing the Aurora Borealis that evening.

We continued to make our brews when we noticed a light and a giant beam of green light boomed behind the lighthouse. We rushed to see Stephan snapping shots and we continued to chat about space, time and photography to the early hours of the morning whilst watching a magnificent light show.

The next day we climbed the Old Man of Stoer, twice, once via its normal route and then by the Diamond Face route in the sun.

Thanks to James Clapham and Craig Burry for organising the house and Jude for such a great comfy retreat!  Also a special mention for Lemony the cat who required endless cuddles and Tiptoes (Large black cat) for not being too needy!

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