Thursday, February 14, 2013

Ben Lomond hat trick!

I've been knee deep in Southern Highlands esoterica in the last few weeks and, with good conditions continuing, was keen to arrange more of this unfrequented fun while it lasted. I'd already been in touch with Andy Nisbet about climbing on Ben Lomond during the Winter. Both of us had done some stuff there in the past- with our shared interest in the crag, were keen to team up for some new lines. It turned out to be a successful mission!

We slogged our way up a partially broken trail to the summit ridge. Tying laces and putting poons on in the biting Easterly wind was purgatory, and it was a real relief to descend Easy Gully and find the coire was completely sheltered. Blood slowly returned to our extremities as we scoped out possibilities. Conditions were excellent- solid turf, bits of ice and a good amount of hoar on the rock.

Andy on the ice bulge of Rowardennan Rib. The second pitch goes through the overhangs above.
After a short stroll we arrived below a square- cut rib near Endrick Corner (V,6). Andy bagsied the first lead and made quick progress up to a tricky section- a steep ice bulge. Soon he disappeared out of sight to belay on top of the rib. It was a good lead. I really enjoyed seconding the sequence of moves on ice but noted how bold it must have felt to Andy on the sharp end.

On the second crux of Rowardennan Rib (V,5)
I set off up the second pitch. Turf led directly to the band of intimidating overhangs above, with a shallow groove offering a potential line of weakness. I unearthed a crucial wire placement at a ledge below, and then banged in a hook for good measure. The turf seemed good enough to encourage me to go for the initial move to enter the groove- a fairly strenuous pull up. I was committed but there were still a good few moves to do before I could relax. Just when the run- out was starting to feel a wee bit spicy I found sanctuary with a stonking hex in the corner above. Phew!
Andy finishing off the second pitch. The square cut rib of the first pitch is below.

I took a belay at a good ledge above the steep ground and Andy disappeared up an easier finishing pitch. Up top, chuffed with the route, I would have been happy enough to head off down at that point, but Andy was fired up for doing a 'couple more'. He certainly likes to get value for money for his long journey down from Aviemore!

The trio of lines left of Endrick Corner
So, down we went to an area left of Endrick Corner. A trio of gully and groove lines all start from a central snow bay. We roped up for the grade III left branch which offered 60m of climbing, with some technical interest around a turfy bulge higher up. After that, we abandoned the ropes and headed off to solo the slightly longer central grade II line. After topping that one out I politely declined Andy's invite to join him in solo'ing the final right hand route. Down he went again, reappearing at the top again shortly afterwards- making his tally up to 4. The man is a machine! It's no surprise he has around 1000 new routes to his name...

The 5km back down to the lochside was a long one as it went dark, with a couple of unplanned skites onto our backsides on patches of ice to punctuate the grind. What a great day out. My first hat- trick of routes in a day in Scotland!

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