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WINTER CLIMBING MEET YIELDS MIXED ROUTES
Posted on: March 7, 2007
The summit of Ben Nevis (1343m) atop Indicator Wall. Teams are working up Albatross (VII 6) and Psychedelic Wall (VI 5) in grim weather on February 26, the third day of the International Winter Meet, hosted in Scotland by the British Mountaineering Council. The Meet is an annual, week-long climbing festival that attracted some of the most talented mixed climbers from twenty-three countries this year. [Photo] Rob Jarvis / Highland Guides
More than forty hosts and forty guests from twenty-three countries attended the 2007 International Winter Meet in Scotland from February 24 to March 1. The annual Meet, hosted by the British Mountaineering Council, gathers climbers from around the world to push their mixed onsighting limits in the fickle Scottish climate. Although venues like Creag Meagaidh and the North West were totally out of condition, and the Meet began with heavy thawing and windy conditions, the climbers turned the bleak situation into a send-fest. March 1 was probably the most active day, from a hard mixed climbing perspective, ever to take place on Ben Nevis (see the March 5 NewsWire for a pre-Meet report on Knuckleduster, another hard, new mixed line on the mountain).
The first weekend of the International Meet was hosted in the wet, but surprisingly still quite wintry Northern Cairngorms. I was lucky enough to team up with Hiroyoshi Manome (Mano) and Katsutaka Yokoyama (Taka), the Japanese contingent who have been busy tackling mixed routes in Alaska, the Andes, and on Meru's Shark Fin in the Gangotri Himalaya. Despite fairly unpleasant weather and conditions, the two Japanese lads and many other visitors got a fine introduction to the Highlands.
Cornice above Gardyloo Gully on Ben Nevis. On the first day of the Meet, two separate parties had a close shave with a much larger collapsing cornice out of the right hand branch of Y Gully in Coire an Lochain. [Photo] Rob Jarvis / Highland Guides
On Monday, February 26, the Meet moved to Ben Nevis, where ice conditions were excellent high up. Hordes of climbers flooded up Observatory Gully, where plenty of ice, blue skies and sub-zero temperatures beckoned for ascents. Ian Parnell and Kristoffer Szilas made the third ascent of Babylon, high on Three Gully Buttress and right of Gargoyle Wall, Chris Cartwright and Simon Richardson's VII 8 testpiece. Immediately afterward, Freddie Wilkinson and John Varco made the fourth ascent. Nearby, Es Trsesidder and Rok Zalokar added the Rok of Ages finish to Gargoyle Wall at a spicy and icy mixed VII 7. Other teams enjoyed excellent ice and mixed conditions on the classics: Smiths Route, Point Five, Indicator Wall, Psychedelic Wall, Tower Ridge, Slab Climb, Diana, Two-Step Corner, Thompson's, Green Gully, The White Line, Glover's Chimney, The Cascade and the list goes on.
Eighty mile-per-hour winds, Category 4 and 5 avalanche hazards, and various international illnesses offered perfect rest-day conditions on Tuesday and Wednesday. A few hardy souls, however, braved the difficult weather to climb routes such as No Blue Skies (VI 7), Bulgy (VII 7), Ventilator (II), Savage Slit (V 6) and Haston Line (III). Bouldering teams also went out to Cummingston, and Dave Macleod took a keen group to Newtyle to try Fast and Furious (M10+; its extension, Too Fast Too Furious, is M11+), where Mano took a spectacular lob, sweeping a rucksack at the base with his head.
Ian Parnell on the third ascent of Babylon (VII 8), 3 Gully Buttress, Ben Nevis, Scotland. Parnell, with Sean Isaac, also made the first ascent of Curly's Arete (VIII 8), Sioux Wall, Ben Nevis—one of three new Grade VIII routes established on March 1. Jarvis believes it was Ben Nevis's most active, hard mixed climbing day on record. [Photo] Rob Jarvis / Highland Guides
Thursday, March 1 was the final—and most inspiring—day of the Meet with three new grade VIII climbs established in Coire na Ciste on Ben Nevis. Never before had I witnessed so many teams on both interesting and new mixed ground in Coire na Ciste. Dave Macleod, Mano and Taka climbed a new line high on the left side of the Comb's Tower Face, parallel to The Good Groove at a steep and reportedly slightly loose grade VIII. Ian Parnell and Sean Isaac climbed Curly's Arete (VIII 8), a new line on the Sioux Wall. Vivian Scott and Domagoj Bojko climbed a steep and technical chimney left of South Gully at a scary VIII 8 that they named Salva Mea.
Ale, drams and Slovenian hooch flowed freely at Glenmore Lodge for the final night's celebration. The next morning dawned cold, clear and snowy—a superb Strathspey morning. Some hardy teams headed back to the Ben and others into the Corries, but most were off to Inverness Airport. Here's to this year's accomplishments and the next BMC meet.
Calle Martins (Sweden) on The Cascade (V), Ben Nevis. [Photo] Rob Jarvis / Highland Guides
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