A second ascent of what is being described as the best Cascade climb in the UK
The recent cold spell had created some of the best ice climbing conditions for years. Just maybe time for a flying visit to somewhere not normally associated with cascade climbing.
5am in the morning a cup of coffee is shoved into my hand, where the hell am I, oh yes we are on Skye in search of a mythical coire with icefalls that like Brigadoon only appear very occasionally. No guidebooks here only texts & word of mouth from the first ascentionists who had been here a couple of days ago.
The word from the mouth was sensational climbing, yea yea, heard it all before, we parked up as per texted instructions & waited for daylight. The Magical coire was not far from the road maybe 3km tops but deep snow made the first section difficult until we came across a trench we suspect was designer built by Mike Lates a local Skye guide, known to have been in the coire recently.
By now it was full light & the obvious main line was clearly visible as we followed Mike’s trench to Fine Line named by first ascentionist Robin Clothier a couple of days prior, it was graded it 3,V. It didn’t look like anything that shoud have a 3 in it so we took this with a pinch of salt. We had also heard Mike, who is no mug, tried the line first & failed on it.
The first pitch looked reasonable but wasn’t. The second pitch actually looked desperate & once again was much harder than it looked. A full 60 metres runout, it had been a great lead by Nick, I struggled to second it while he just shrugged his shoulders & said if it was in Canada it would just be a middling grade.
The final pitch looked easy & short, it was neither but it did deposit us onto flat ground at the top of the climb.
Gut feeling was that we descended to the north, thankfully conditions were clear enabling us to weave a way down through the steep crags into the deep powder of the coire bottom. Flog, flog, & more flog. Nick tries to locate the incoming trench, but of course this means walking back up hill, not what I want to do at this time of the day.
Finally Finished (Now renamed Scamtastic V,5)
Eventually we find the trench & hot foot back to the car arriving as darkness falls, a sensational day getting an early, possible second ascent of a superb 120 metre ice fall that is much more akin to Canada than Scotland.
5am in the morning & I hear movement, oh hell, what are we going to do today, Robin also did a first ascent of another line at the weekend but Nick thinks we should have an easier day & turn our attention to the left most line in the Coire, ironically its graded 5, V, harder than yesterdays climb. The phone rings, its Doug another one of the locals, see you up there.
Today we follow Mike’s trench from the road making the approach much easier, we gear up & Doug arrives with info. Apparently the line we are doing today is called Finally Finished, Mike had done the first ascent 10 years ago but had taken him 3 attempts to find enough ice to complete the route. Doug traverses across to another very impressive must do line 40 meters right of ours.
No problem with ice today though, we do 4 great pitches & top out into high winds, clag & deteriating weather.
This time we descend to the South & soon pick up the trench back to the road, another brilliant day considerably easier than the day before despite the grade of the route.
Were in Glencoe, Hey it’s 5.50 am & I’ve have had a lie in, its tipping down with rain-whats new. Despite ambitions we drive south, by the time we reach Glasgow the rain has stopped so we decide to call in to see if the Grey Mares Tail is still in condition, it is, just!!!, a quick one up all up & we are back at the car in just over one & a half hours.
So ends 3 great days climbing 3 sensational 3*** routes with a possible second ascent to boot now all we need is the A66 to be open!!!!!
Grey Mares Tail
Oh yes if you ever go to Portree Indi Hostel don't leave your beer in the fridge overnight cos the staff nick it.