Sunday 7 March 2010


With all this fine settled cold weather we've been having for weeks now it seems it's the winter to be climbing lots of esoteric ice. Dave Macleod and Blair Ffyfe bagging a handful of new lines in Glen Coe over the new year period is testament to that.
In Scotland we're used to climbing lots of snow ice usually plastered to buttresses or gully beds, but this winter has seen lots of new seepage lines given the chance to form.
I've not been to Beinn Udlaigh for a few years now but it
seems to be the place to be at the moment, what with awesome classic ice routes in great condition and scary snow conditions in the mountains.

It was whilst out with Ruth bagging a few classic lines that we happened to walk under the lower tier, I was surprised to see how much ice was bulging out of the cliff. Now I probably wouldn't want to walk under this cliff in summer as the whole thing appears to be a giant Jenga puzzle but with all the ice around holding it all together it seemed fair game.

There was a push a few years ago to see some bolted lines on these lower cliffs to give some sport mixed lines for people to try and possibly train on. One such line was put up called Crossroads which saw a couple of ascents before the bolts were removed.
Walking under the cliff that day I spotted a line of icicles that could possibly be linked together to traverse under an ice curtain that had formed over an overhang. Pulling through that overhang looked like it could be the challenge I'd been looking for.
Enlisting Dave Macleod fresh from his ascent of Anubis on the Ben the day before, he agreed to be on belaying duty for the day.
Gearing up under the route, Lukasz Warzecha a friend of mine who was keen to get photos of the ascent ran round to rig his rope to get some close up shots. The route starts up a corner for 20ft using a mixture of ice, turf and frozen in blocks before traversing 3 or 4 large icicles for another 30ft to arrive under the roof. From this roof a large ice fringe made up of 3 more large icicles was draping. This was where I wanted to go. After arranging a couple of cams in a horizontal break you could step up high enough to knock the middle icicle out. This enabled a passage out onto the front face which proved to be pretty scary as a fracture line appeared in the icicle as I hit it.
Pulling onto the front of the icicle reminded me of some of the sport mixed lines I'd done the last few years in Europe.
This route is called BEHIND THE SUN (VII,7) and I would like to dedicate it to the memory of Chris Walker, a friend who unfortunately lost his life in an avalanche a few days later whilst guiding in Glen Coe.
Thanks to Dave Macleod for the photos.

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