Tuesday 3rd March 2020, 11:15am
In the space of a week over 150 routes were climbed, including six first ascents – one of those an impressive Grade IX,10.
Most notably, however, almost 60 climbers from 22 different countries had the experience of a lifetime.
Streap Alba Geamhradh 2020 was the international Scottish winter climbing meet, revived from years gone by as part of Mountaineering Scotland’s 50th anniversary celebrations and supported by the Scottish Mountaineering Club, The Alpine Club, the BMC and Salewa.
Nearly 30 guest climbers were paired up with UK hosts and set loose on mountains which had only recently come into good climbing condition after an unseasonably warm first half of the winter. Split up into three groups, the climbers circulated between four climbing huts – the CIC on Ben Nevis, Lagangarbh in Glen Coe, the Raeburn in Laggan, and Mill Cottage at Feshiebridge – so that each got a chance at different areas.
After a first night at Aviemore Youth Hostel many headed for the Northern Corries, and a few to Ben Nevis, although two pairs headed north for Torridon and Beinn Eighe. On the Far East Wall, Neil Adams and Peter Hoang (Canada) set the bar with an ascent of the modern classic Sundance (VIII,8) while on the Eastern Ramparts, Callum Johnson and Lukas Klingora (Czech Republic) came away with the fourth ascent of Boggle (VIII,8).
In Glen Coe, Paul Ramsden and Wadim Jablonski (Poland) climbed the superlative Central Grooves (VII,7) on Stob Coire nan Lochan. And over on The Ben the climbs included Dave Almond and Trym Saeland (Norway) climbing Darth Vader (VII,7).
Heavy snowfall on day two meant four pairs turned back from Creag Meagaidh because of avalanche risk, but elsewhere climbers battled through near white-out conditions to claim some hard routes elsewhere.
It was on day three that the first new route came though, with Maarten Van Haeren (Canada) and Andy Inglis taking a new line on Minus Two Buttress on The Ben. Calculus (VIII,8) takes a line directly through the overhangs that girdle the buttress at one-third height.
The following day there were close to 40 climbers from the International Meet active on Ben Nevis. The standout performance came from Peter Hoang (Canada) and Neil Adams who made an ascent of The Shroud (VI,6) followed by Mega Route X (VI,6). Peter was keen to reach the summit of the Ben, so they continued up Jubilee Climb and circumnavigated Coire na Ciste to tag the summit before descending Coire Leis. The Shroud has not touched down and is currently a hanging ice fang. Peter used his extensive Canadian icefall experience to judge that this potentially very risky ascent was in safe condition. Even so, he rated the climb at WI6/WI6+ on the Canadian scale and commented that he had never climbed an icicle that did not hang vertically before – it had been blown sideways by the wind.
That same day Wadim Jablonski (Poland), Emily Ward and Alfie Maun abseiled off their route on the Douglas Boulder to go to the aid of a climber (not on the meet) who had been avalanched out of Number Five Gully.
Over in Glen Coe, volunteer John Higham took a break from resupplying the huts with food to make his own first ascent: Ephemeron Buttress (IV,4) on Buachaille Etive Mor. Another foray by the volunteers took place the following day, when joint coordinator Simon Richardson teamed up with Stuart MacFarlane and Ian Dempster to make the first ascent of Superwoman (V,6) up the previously unclimbed steep east flank of the Little Tower on Tower Ridge of Ben Nevis. The route was named after Carole Hawthorn who kept everyone superbly fed and watered in the CIC Hut throughout the meet.
Some Glen Coe based teams, headed to Creag an Socach above Bridge of Orchy, in search of less snowy conditions. Messiah (VII,7) had ascents from at least three teams, but the most notable climb was the third ascent of Defenders of the Faith (IX,9) by Peter Hoang and Neil Adams. This very steep mixed route was first climbed by Dave MacLeod and Fiona Murray in 2006, and was the first Scottish Grade IX to receive an on sight first ascent.
There was more Grade IX action on day six – and this time a new route – on the seldom in condition South Wall of Garbh Bheinn in Ardgour. Tim Miller, Callum Johnson and Damian Granowski (Poland) made the first winter ascent of Scimitar (VII,8) and Neil Adams, Peter Hoang (Canada) and Lukas Klingora (Czech Republic) made the first winter ascent of Gralloch (IX,10). Damian led the simmer crux of the VS Scimitar, and Peter made an outstanding lead of Gralloch, which is E2 in summer.
The whole event wound up with an after party in Tiso Aviemore Outdoor Experience, with a talk by top Scottish climber Guy Robertson and a social evening with prizes and giveaways from gear sponsors Salewa.
On the final morning back at Aviemore Youth Hostel there were many tired legs – although some of the climbers were planning on further routes! Over the course of the week over 150 routes climbed, ideas had been shared, friendships made and partnerships formed. Our international guests had been given a magnificent taste of Scottish winter climbing and left with huge smiles on their faces, full of praise for the organisation of the event, their hut and climbing hosts, and for Scottish winter climbing itself.
You can read Simon Richardson’s daily reports on the meet here.
Photo: Rene Lisac from Croatia climbing Gully of the Gods (VI,6) on Beinn Bhan.
Rene said afterwards that this was the finest route he had ever done. (Photo Scott Grosdanoff)