Thursday, 8 April 2010

End of season review: Scottish winter 2009 - 2010

The winter season season is dying its last gasp: sad but true, as we move into mid-April and the temperatures are rising day by day. However, it has been the most incredible, magical, otherworldly season, a season of soaring beauty and endless blue-sky days. So here is a quick round-up of the season's highlights.

In total I have climbed thirty two graded winter climbs during this season, plus many more days in the mountains not involving actual climbing. A notable feature of this winter has been that the vast majority of these routes have been solitary efforts, with the exception of only three roped climbs: Boomerang Gully with Isi Oakley in December, South Gully with Steven Holmes in the same month, and the cornice pitch of Easy Gully in February. The other defining characteristic of the season is that the bulk of my activity has been at Grade II. I have done very little harder than this: South Gully on the Ben, a couple of water ice solos at III,4 (including the highly memorable and rare Lower Falls in Coire nam Beith), and an ill-fated attempt at North Buttress on the Buachaille.

I think the occasion when Mike and I attempted North Buttress was the 'dividing line' in terms of my attitude to climbing. Before then I had been keen on pushing my grade and attempting harder mixed routes, but that day, plus a range of other factors, convinced me that I simply had no motivation to climb any harder. I am passionate about mountains and mountaineering, not climbing. Since then I have been happy with my solo explorations at II and III and content not to try anything more difficult.

Interestingly, I also started to view roped climbing as an unnecessary faff when almost any mountain face may be ascended without ropes. In this respect, my attitude to mountaineering has become even more Victorian in that even my perception of what I see as a 'route' has considerably changed.

Best moments are hard to quantify, and are always different in retrospect. However, some days that stand out as particularly special include the following:

Lower Falls, and a step-cutting ascent of Stob Coire nan Lochan
No.3 Gully
A huge day on Stob Coire nam Beith, and the first ascent of Symphonic Variations
The Traverse of the Aonach Eagach
Stob Ghabhar
The Sron na Lairig
NW Gully
Cornice-tunneling five minutes from my door
East Ridge of Carn Dearg Meadhonach

So: a winter of wonders, and another treasure store of memories that will sustain me for the rest of my life, whenever I find myself doubting that the Highlands are the true country!


  1. Bring on the summer and warm dry rock!!

    However I do look forward to getting my teeth into some more winter stuff next year!

    Plenty more adventures to be had once the snow has gone!

  2. 32 routes, wow!!!

    Wish I could be braver soloing stuff (only feel comfy on grade I ground really, or soft II)
    Does feel nice to move and be unencumbered by the rope.

  3. I enjoyed following your winter climbs. Great to read and the photos were superb. Thanks for sharing.