Author Archives: Adrian Fagg

Newsletter – February 2012


Bluff your way in climbing – Steve Culverhouse – Part zero of the IMC essential skills series

IMC in Snowdonia in December – Jeremy Hall – Jeremy is now doing the lecture cicuit in preparation for the next expedition

Hot Rock 2011 – Ian Thurgood – Comedy, horsemanship and some climbing in Sicilia.

Old Men on Stoer – Mike Turner – An account of a climb on the Original Route, Old Man of Stoer.


Editors’ note

Well, it has been a long time since the last edition. Thanks to Steve for his article, being the first that I’ve had for a very long time. Also thanks to the rest who responded quickly to my request for some more.

Of course, we have a new president, but I forgot to ask her for a presidential address, which is why there isn’t one.

Our outgoing president did the Lob of the Year speech, but this was an impromptu
effort, with no written record, so that’s not here either.


Newsletter – April 2011

Jeremy’s Presidential Address

Dear All,

What a lovely time of the year to be writing my first contribution to the IMC
newsletter as President and I would like to start by thanking Caroline and the
committee for all their hard work during 2010. We all get to enjoy the meets,
but behind the scenes someone somewhere is organising and managing the website,
newsletters, membership, BMC affiliation, the bank account and other things
beside. So thanks to everyone for making it all happen smoothly during the last

At the moment Mike, David and Suzanne are working on building the IT system to
allow on-line membership renewal and application. It sounds easy but believe me
it’s not a trivial exercise. And Phil is busy collating the responses from the
recent questionnaire. Thank you to those who replied, I’m looking forward to
seeing the output.

A team of early spring climbers has just returned from a blistering weekend in
the Peaks. All the winter training seems to have paid off. Martin H put up a
fantastic lead on Eliminator, HVS 5b. Ian T, Christina and Monty seemed to be
going well, Ian A and Mike B were on good form and Emma put up a great lead on
Terrace Crack, VS 4b (it’s VS in my guide book Emma). I am sure you will join me
in congratulating Dan on his first E grade lead, Easter Rib, E1 5b. Well done
Dan. You may also wish to join me in asking him about his adventure on Three
Pebble Slab, E1, 5a. Hats off to Eddy as well for manfully following Dan up
everything over the weekend.

As I write this I am hoping that Adrian has managed to persuade a few of you to
recall on these pages some of your winter highlights. I enjoy reading the epics
which winter excursions often bring. I am pretty sure that Adrian himself and
Andy have had one or two. And Sheila organised a couple of excellent winter
trips I hear.

IMC has had a busy winter indoors as well. The Wednesday nights at Copleston
remain popular and we have had lots of interest from beginners and newcomers at
the monthly sessions. Last Wednesday alone there must have been about ten
beginners. Thanks to everyone for helping to show the potential new recruits the
ropes. Dan might have his hands full at the beginners meet in May, so please let
him know as soon as you can if you intend to come, so that amongst other things
leaders and assistant leaders can be worked out.

By then IMC will be the proud owners of some items of climbing equipment. The
club was successful in its application to the BMC for funding. We received £70
and will match this with £70 of our own. That should be enough to buy a couple
of harnesses and a helmet. Martin H has kindly agreed to be the IMC’s equipment
officer and we will be following the BMC’s own guidelines for management and
storage of equipment. Ian T is leading the charge on applying for further
funding from the BMC for instruction, so keep an eye out for that.

Other winter activities have included regular monthly Sunday trips to the Castle
in London, thanks to Martin S for organising those. I think it’s definitely
worth a visit during those long winter months. And plenty of IMC members also
have been going to Stowmarket on a Sunday during the winter.

John Boy organised a skill sharing evening at Copleston a few weeks ago. I
thought it was a great success. Abseiling, prusiking, belay building, assisted
hoists, knot tying, and climbing were all being attempted.

Then, of course, there was the inaugural IMC Competition night. Steve and I had a
busy time the night before tagging some new routes and in our haste I think we
put up some pretty fierce ones. They are still there if anyone wants to have a
go away from the glare of the TV cameras. Congratulations to Rob and Ala for
winning the top rope and lead climber categories respectively and
congratulations to our IMC Champion, Chris; goodness only knows how he lead the
climb on the right. Along with prizes donated by the sponsor Action Outdoors,
Suzanne’s raffle ensured that nobody went away empty handed and £33.50 was
raised for the club.

Thanks also to Martin H and contributors for organising and contributing to the
series of slide shows during the winter, ending last Thursday with a review of
recent trips to the Dolomites and Arco.

I think that’s about it for now.

Have a great spring and summer.




Winter Leading in Scotland – Ian Ackerley – Ian learns to climb for the second time.

Banff Film Festival – Kearton Rees – An expedition forty miles to the North.

Rodings Rally – Kearton Rees – More adventures in the Great East Anglian Wilderness.

On Organising Trips – Adrian Fagg – The definitive reference (may one day be written).


Editors’ note

Apologies again for the late delivery of this newsletter. One day I’ll get myself organised.

Thanks as always for the contributions.

I hope I haven’t lost any this time. If you have sent me something and it’s not here, please get in touch.

Newsletter – October 2010

Here is a very late, but just in time for the AGM, newsletter.

Do to an administrative error, Bob’s article was missed last time, so ready for
the next winter season, here it is.


Bob’s Alpine Guide – Bob Butcher – Suggestions for the discerning IMC visitor to the French Alps

IMC Spring Bank Holiday – Ian Ackerley – A Lakes trip recalled

Jeremy’s Whimsey – Jeremy Hall – The Meaning of Life…


Editors’ note

Once again, I have to apologise for delivering this newsletter late.

Thanks as always for the contributions.

If anyone fancies themselves as the next IMC newsletter editor, please don’t be shy!

Newsletter – May 2010

Madam’s Meanderings

I am sure that I was not alone a couple of months ago in welcoming the sun in its
return to the UK. The last winter seemed, to me at least, to have been a really
old-fashioned one, in that it was cold, it lasted a good while and there was
snow. More than once. However, it is wonderful to see that golden orb back in
the sky on a regular basis and throwing out some warmth.

I do know that many members of the IMC love the winter and a number made it to
Scotland to enjoy the best that Ben Nevis and the surrounding area has to offer.
Adrian, Andy, Gill and Norman had a great trip to the distant north and you will
read more of that in the rest of this newsletter. Andy, as usual making a
beeline for Lob of the Year, started early with a 10m lob off the Douglas

Martin H, Eddy and Simon D (welcome Simon) made a later trip to Scotland too on
the official IMC trip and were met with the usual onslaught of sun, snow, wind
and driving rain. Oh chaps, that sounds like excellent fun – NOT!

I’m afraid that the cold stuff does not entice me at all. My last attempt at solo
winter walking found me totally lost after the mist came down. Shortly after
this I was bought an altimeter and I now have a GPS but I also have two dogs who
don’t like the cold either. So I think my winter days (not that there were ever
many) are well and truly over.

So I am really looking forward to the coming season, the long summer days at the
crag, hopefully getting some good climbing in, taking some photographs and
enjoying the company of my IMC friends. How Zest will take to the climbing and
camping scene is yet to be seen. I think there may be an experimental camping
trip to the local site just for a dry run you understand.

I hope that everyone has a good season’s worth of climbing. Trips so far to
Cornwall at Easter; to Wales on May Bank Holiday and Beginners’ have all been
well attended (except by yours truly). I hope that the official and all the many
and various splitters’ meets are well attended and enjoyed.

Climb well. Climb safely. Enjoy yourselves but not at the expense of other crag

Think Pink – take only photographs and leave only footprints




The theme for this newsletter is the amazing winter that we’ve experienced this

Even the December trip to North Wales had a tantalising hint of snow to come. New
Year Scottish trips were reportedly spoiled only by the presence of too much
snow, winter conditions were encountered on two successive Lakes trips, actual
ice was climbed in the Lake District, and it was climbed by actual IMC members
on an actual IMC trip. Three distinct trips to Scotland in March resulted in IMC
ice action.

Such a lot of winter action was almost unheard of, but let’s hope it may be
matched or bettered in subsequent years.

The only downside is that we missed opportunities with two solid months of ice
climbing in North Wales, and a Scottish season that had Point-Five Gully still
in condition in mid May – if only we were the idle rich, huh?

Anyway, here are the articles, with my thanks to their authors.

The Lakes in Winter – Phil Williams – Not one but two successful IMC winter trips!

Adventures In The Cold – Jeremy Hall – Jeremy finds himself at the sharp end.

Tower Ridge – Andy Hansler – A tale of ambition, failure, and ultimate triumph.

Harlow Climbing Wall – Steve Culverhouse – More tales winter conditions, frostbite, etc..

A Grit Weekend – Martin Stevens – At last, the winter’s over.


Editors’ note

The next submission ‘deadline’ will be when I have enough articles to publish and when I get the time to do it.

In truth, this one is seriously late, for which I apologise. Many thanks for the
contributions – please keep them coming.

Newsletter – December 2009

Madam’s Meanderings

Well it’s come to that time of the year again, that time when we reflect on the past year and think about the New Year. Resolutions, that’s what many of us will be thinking about now. As I sit and type this, I have not made any resolutions so far and I’m not sure if I shall be making any. Each year I make them and never keep them so what’s the point? However, it’s something that we all do year after year. Why?

  • Good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account.
    Oscar Wilde
  • New Year’s Day… now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.
    Mark Twain
  • Making resolutions is a cleansing ritual of self-assessment and repentance that demands personal honesty and, ultimately, reinforces humility. Breaking them is part of the cycle.
    Eric Zorn

I resolve to make no more resolutions! 😉

Before I get into comments about the Lob of the Year, I’d like to take this
opportunity to thank Suzanne Bloomfield once again for taking the time to
organise the Christmas Curry. Organising a bunch of climbers is not an easy
thing to do especially when you’re trying to get money out of them at the same

So Lob of the Year – as usual a tightly fought contest, though the fight is more
often with/against the rock than amongst ourselves. For anyone new to the club
the rules are pretty loose in that you must take a fall off rock and not be
injured. Injury leads to a disqualification as it would be reckless to advocate
members diving off rock for no other purpose than to win LOTY.

Nominations this year were: Adrian Fagg, Norman Smith, Mike Bayley, Jeremy Hall,
Andy Hansler, Steve Grey, Christina Ennis, John Bloomfield, Steve Culverhouse,
Emma Hawkins, John Sellars, Caroline Goldsworthy and Ian St John. I was
delighted to see the ladies in the club making such a concerted effort this

Christina started the IMC off in good style with the first LOTY on 1st January
2009. I’m a little hazy on the details (mostly cos I can’t read the handwriting)
but my understanding is that this was on a Welsh scramble. [In fact it was an
adjacent climb that the party had mistaken for the intended scramble. Ed]

My own nomination was for a concerted effort on 20ft Crack at Burbage North on
28th Feb. It’s only a Severe but I think I made it either 60 or 80 foot Crack by
the time I’d finished with it.

The next set of nominations was for first lead adventures. Emma Hawkins – first
HS lead, total commitment and a minor lob followed up by her first VS lead the
next day. Jeremy Hall did it in style first ever lead and first ever lob at

There seems to be a dogging element in the club (please refer to a climbing
glossary if you think this is in anyway related to dogs and car parks). Steve
Culverhouse – “best dogged route” Moyers Buttress at Birchen. Steve Grey –
Terrazza Crack. Mike Bayley – Limpopo Groove, Lawrencefield.

Mervyn gets two mentions – one for the third pitch of Valerie’s Rib at Tremadog
where he laybacked a corner climb (injury did ensue here though). The second
mention is for Five Pitch Route on Clogwyn Bochlwyd where the peapod style crux
put up a battle.

Adrian’s nomination is for Summer Climb at Lawrencefield where on approaching the
mantelshelf problem he discovered he’d inadvertently clipped his shoelace into a
runner. He managed to hang on and unclip the lace and topped out on the third

Ian St John came off his route at Calver not once but twice, but I lack juicy
gossip here. And last but not least the two Johns. John Bloomfield became “stuck
like a cork” in Robin Hood Cave unable to go either up or down. Apparently, the
advice of “just shimmy up here like this” was not well received. John Sellars
took two lobs off gritstone this summer (practically unheard of) and caused his
partner to indulge in a spot of deep water belaying. I have no more details at
this time but I am not convinced it will catch on.

And so for the winner… Everyone who got three nominations had their name put in
a ‘hat’ and disappointingly, I picked my own name out.

So for this coming year – get out there, have fun and try not to break anything.

All the best



Thanks go to Andy who contributed all the articles in this issue.

Whillans and Brown routes – Andy Hansler – Your very own tick list of grit stone classics…

Redpointing – Andy Hansler – An Introduction to the Dark Arts…

Andy’s Woodie – Andy Hansler – It’s a climbing frame really…

Note my restraint above. No talk of large erections in the privacy of your own
home in my sub-editing. Oh no, it’s a wooden framework, that’s what it is

Newsletter – November 2009

President’s Prattle

Well folks,

Summer has gone and the nights are well and truly drawing in as I am writing this
Prattle basking in the glory of a lovely Sunday morning trot around the
Wantisden Valley with Steve Culverhouse and Karen Roberts. Lovely might not be
the word we were using at the time but when it comes to Adventure Racing driving
rain somehow seems appropriate weather. I was somewhat amused by a sign after
about 7 kilometres advising that we were about to get wet given that we were
already soaked through (I might add that they were right as we were about to get
even wetter as the result of yours truly deciding to opt out of the zip wire
option and plunging into a lake and going for swim to the other bank with Steve
and Karen following my lead and saving ourselves a whole two minutes!). We were
pleasantly surprised to find that our finishing time was 1 hour thirty minutes
and thirty seconds – a whole thirty seconds outside the book time! Not very

Moving on as is my custom, I would like to say thank you to each of the meets
organisers since the last Newsletter went to web. So big thanks go to Christina
Ennis for organising the August Peaks meet; Martin for the Lundy Meet; the First
Lady and Mike Hams for finding somewhere vaguely dry for the August Bank Holiday
weekend (ok the Peaks was not particularly far but given that we were joined by
various IMC luminaries retreating from a rather surprisingly damp North Wales,
not a bad choice); and Andy Hansler for organising the September Peaks Meet. I
would also like to thank Martin Hore for co-ordinating the Lundy slideshow (and
all the Lundy 2009 crew for contributing) which was very entertaining.

Talking of the Meets issue I was going to express concern about the lack of
people organising official club Meets. I have just had quick look through the
2009 Meets schedule and it looks like there were 13 official Meets which
actually took place (which is not that many for a year) organised by eight
people (a couple of whom organised three meets so extra big thank Steve and
Martin). However, I was hugely encouraged by the turnout at the recent “Meets
Meet” when many newer members of the club stepped forward to organise the winter
meets (please see the Meets list on website for further details) so many thanks
to them. Please feel free to ask us “old lags” if you have any questions. It was
also pleasing to see that John and Kathy were so entranced by the Lundy
experience that they have volunteered to organise the Lundy 2011 trip. It looks
like there will be plenty of discussion about Meets at the AGM on 26 November.

On a slightly different note congratulations should go to Caroline and Andy for
getting hitched in August and honeymooning on Lundy (that’s dedication to the

Anyway that’s it for now. Hope those that are venturing out over the winter
months have fun on the hill and stay safe please!

El Presidente


Lundy 2009 – Ian Thurgood – Ian questions whether it was worth revisiting.

Winter Training Schedule – Pete Krug – At last, discover the secrets of Pete’s amazing level of fitness at the start of each season.

In Celebration of Harrison’s Rocks – Jeremy Hall – Soft Southern Sandstone – does it think it’s hard enough?

Editors’ note

The next submission ‘deadline’ may be 31st January.

Thanks to the authors once again.

It’s a bit worrying that I was able to copy and edit the last newsletter’s article links, only needing to replace ‘Louise’ with ‘Pete’ and all three authors’ names were already in place.

Newsletter – August 2009

President’s Prattle

Hia Folks,

Well what a summer it is …….. not. I suppose it is better than the last two
years but I don’t suppose you would think that when huddling in your tents or
sitting in the Outside cafe waiting for the rain to clear. What happened to the
long glorious summer promised by the Met Office? Sitting over Spain methinks
whilst the Jet Stream is parked way South of where it should be, sending all
those lows crashing straight over the middle of Britain rather than that big old
gap between us and Iceland! I am glad I have got that rant of my chest. Let’s
move on.

In spite of this we at the IMC have been getting out and about since the last
Newsletter hit your Inboxes. The first event was the Beginners Meet which if I
may say so was pretty successful with all parties err …… hitting real rock
(and no lobbage was reported to me) on both days and whilst the days were
somewhat curtailed we did not have to take evasive action at the climbing walls
of Sheffield. I would like to thank everyone that attended for being helpful and
supportive of me in my capacity of meet organiser. You certainly made the job
easier for me and I hope that you got what you wanted from the weekend.

Hot on the moist heels of that was the Lake District Meet organised by Ian and
Christina which turned out to be a 50th birthday party for certain un-named club
members (names withheld to protect the guilty). After that we had the Wye Valley
Meet and then the Beginners’ Multi-pitch weekend in God’s Country, both of which
were a success, so thanks to Martin Hore and Steve Culverhouse for organising
those trips and all of those who attended. Unfortunately, no one came forward to
organise that Yorkshire meet, and the alternative meet to the Lake District was
rained off. I believe that the First Lady and I were the only members to venture
forth from East Anglia as we headed south west for an Alternative Swanage
weekend. I can assure you that no gear was placed and no belays required as we
ventured far and wide in the Purbeck Hills on two wheels on one day, and two
legs the next (I believe a trip report can be found later on in the newsletter).
Food for thought for those not sure about attending the scheduled IMC meet later
this year.

You will be aware that we held what was somewhat miss-billed an EGM of the club
by yours truly to discuss the nature of the club’s Meet program. It was very
encouraging to see a good number of members attending and especially pleasing
that it wasn’t just the “old lags.”  There were several new members of the club
who turned up and actively contributed to the proceedings which is brilliant
news for the future of the club, so thanks very much from me (I am very much on
the lookout for a new El Pres!). I also received some useful feedback from
members who were not able to attend and this was incorporated in the

The meeting felt that there was no need to change the nature of the meets, which,
over the course of the year, cater for all levels of ability and experience. It
was felt that now was a good time to think about issuing guidelines for Meets
Organisers and Participants so that members have a greater understanding of how
meets are run, which I very much hope will give them more chance to enjoy the
“club experience”. A committee of volunteers (they did volunteer really!) has
been set up to put together these guidelines and the results of their
deliberations will be publicised before the AGM so that this can be voted on at
the AGM.

One useful side effect of these discussions concerned finding new meets
organisers. We are having trouble finding new meets organisers and some meets,
as I alluded to above, do not take place because no one steps in and organise
them. If anyone is interested in organising a meet (there are a few meets still
without organisers but even an “ad hoc” meet will do) but is not sure how to go
about the task please ask, and one of the more experienced hands will help you

Talking of club events I have no offers to do slideshows this autumn, so I am now
begging for you to dust off those slides or polish up those digital CD’s. The
shows don’t have to be long, as the evenings are as much a chance for members to
meet up and chat and enjoy a beer or two during those long winter evenings!

Finally, I was wondering if anyone can come up with a politically correct term
for Beginners and Low Grade climbers – “numpty” will not do. I might not
actually use the term myself as I see myself as a numpty and those of you that
know me will understand that the phrase “politically correct” and El Pres go
together like a boxing glove and a face.

Have fun and take care on the hills.

El Presidente


Thanks again to all those who contributed articles and apologies for the rather long delay in publication, particularly the two that came
in just as I published the last newsletter.

A Pembroke adventure – Ian Thurgood – A sea cliff, route finding, commitment, adventure…

Swanage isn’t just for climbing – Louise Krug – Pete and Louise find other challenges above the cliffs

In the Beginning – Jeremy Hall – Jeremy’s first taste of climbing at the beginners’ weekend

On French Guides – Norman Smith – Norman goes back to the Alps

Beginners’ Multipitch Weekend – Andy Hansler – Friday 03/07/2009 to Sunday 05/07/2009

In search of Dragons – Jeremy Hall – Jeremy finds hazards not usually mentioned in the guidebook


Editors’ note

The next submission ‘deadline’ will be a moveable feast.

There could be a special edition coming out shortly, what with the highlight of the IMC climbing year in Lundy and the highlight of the social year just past. Otherwise it will be September 30th with a little leeway available.

Newsletter – April 2009

President’s Prattle

Well Folks,

We have had our first barbecue this year so I have declared that it is summer –
yahoo! I hasten to add that I can’t guarantee that it will be a good summer. I
will leave that to higher deities than the President of the IMC but it is

As usual various IMC members have been keeping themselves busy since the last
issue of the Newsletter was sent out. Easter in particular saw the IMC marauding
far and wide across the country with the official IMC meet being held in
Cornwall, the official IMC “splitter” party esconced in God’s Country and
unofficial splitters in the Peaks and on the North Yorkshire Moors. I gather
that some great stuff was done in Cornwall and Wales and rumours have reached
the Presidential ears of early season lob action so it is great to hear that IMC
members continue the challenge the boundaries of gravity! I would like to thank
the organisers of the meets (in particular Steve Culverhouse who organised the
official meet)!

If you will see from the Meets calender there are many meets happening during the
summer (and that excludes the ad hoc ones that have yet to be arranged) and some
of them still need organisers so I would appreciate it if some volunteers could
step into the breach.It often doesn’t involve too much work – largely organising
bums on (car)seats after deciding a campsite and even the destination is the
prerogative of the organiser. The next Meet is the Pembroke meet (the Newsletter
might be out too late for this) which is being organised by Martin Hore followed
closely by the Beginners Meet which is being organised by the President and
First Lady. Anyone who wants to be involved in this highly enjoyable Meet (in
whatever capacity) should please get in contact with me as soon as possible
(unless you have already told me). There is a meet in the Lake District at

While I remember it the Ipswich Hospital Abseil takes place on the weekend of
11/12 July this year. In past years, IMC members have helped out (either
chucking the punters off at the top or getting them “suited and booted” at the
bottom) which is good fun and a very rewarding experience. In return we get to
borrow helmets and harnesses for the Beginners Meet from the Abseil organisers.
Please let me or Dave at Action Outdoors know if you want to help out.

As is my custom I would like to thank all the people that have organised meets
since the last edition of the Newsletter and I have alluded to this somewhere
above. I would also like to thank Andy Hansler and Caroline Goldsworthy for
their “Turkish Delight” Slideshow (and I am not referring to the poxy karaoke
downstairs) and the two Steve’s (Messrs Gray and Culverhouse) and one Carol for
the “Climbing in the Midnight Sun” slideshow. It has certainly given me food for
thought in terms of visiting some slightly different places to go climbing in
such as Turkey and the Lofoten Islands! I think that the Brewery Tap got the
thumbs up from those that attended the last show and I will be looking to book
the Autumn series there and I would be extremely keen to hear from anyone that
feels the urge to show some photos.

On a slightly different note Lou and I have had some great service from a couple
Action Outdoors’ suppliers so a big round of applause from the Krug household
goes to Life Venture for new fewer than two lids for a leaky flask and Vaude for
repairing our fox bitten inner tent (and also Dave at Action Outdoors!).

And finally a thought that occurred to me as Lou and I were descending from the
summit of Fairfield whilst being sprinkled by some gentle snowfall. Is it still
a rainbow when it is snowing?

Have fun on the hills and stay safe.

El Presidente


As always, many thanks to all those who contributed articles.

April Peak Performance – Guy Reid – Another Impromptu IMC Posse descends on the Peak District

Cornwall Easter – Ian Thurgood – Ian’s account of the Official IMC Easter trip

Cornwall Easter – Steve Culverhouse – Steve’s account of the Official IMC Easter trip

Easter In North Wales – Mike Bayley – The Official Report of the Official Splitters Easter Trip

Lakes February – Ian Thurgood – Or – My first winter lead

Lost In The Crowd – Adrian Fagg – or route finding on a popular V Diff

Scottish Winter – Adrian Fagg – Scottish Winter Climbing in Easy Steps

Team Buffalo Away To Stanage – Guy Reid – Guy and Simon battle the elements


Editors’ note

The next submission ‘deadline’ will be May 31st.

Scottish Winter

Despite much IMC winter action in Wales and the Lake District, I may have been
our only representative on the Scottish winter scene this winter. So this is the
tale my trip in early March.

Being both inexperienced and rusty from missing the previous season, I booked a
guide for four days, with the Glen Nevis youth hostel as a base. I can
thoroughly recommend both the hostel and the guide. The latter, Ian, a Mancunian
based in Snowdonia, is known to at least three other IMC members to my

The main issue with these trips is the weather and correspondingly, the snow
conditions. There had been plenty of snow. Reports of neck deep powder on the
Aonach Eagach ridge added to the inaccessibility of most of the high routes on
the Ben due to category 4/5 avalanche risks didn’t bode all that well.

We warmed up with a wade through the snow to a grade II ridge somewhere near Lock
Laggan, which passed without incident, significant snowfall or even a late

The next day was dedicated to another wade up the side of Tower Ridge to
do Fawlty Towers III, to the right of the Douglas gap. This was our second
choice route, due to traffic on the Douglas Boulder route that we first headed
towards. Meanwhile, a party had set out to tackle the ridge itself from the CIC
hut, at the same time that we’d passed the hut. Apparently this was the first
attempt for several days, thanks to the excessive snow accumulations. The only
problem that we had was that at that height, water was running under the ice and
a lot of it had no real substance to it. With the benefit of a top rope, I was
able to trust the ice on route, whereas Ian had to take a few diversions when
leading. If I’d been leading, I’d have backed off in terror after the first few
metres. The top pitch proved particularly difficult, with Ian needing three goes
to find a route that had any semblance of security. As we descended to the
Douglas gap, we wondered whether the ridge party had any chance of finishing in
daylight. The fact that they were only just above us on the ridge well into the
afternoon suggested not. The third day was pretty easy to assign as a rest day;
the forecast of high temperatures and heavy rain proving to be annoyingly
accurate. As we later saw, this caused most of the main gullies on the Ben to
avalanche and actually improved the remaining snow to something like a
reasonable state.

Climbers on the Douglas Boulder

Abseiling into the Douglas Gap

Climbers on the Douglas Boulder Abseiling into the Douglas GapSouth West Ridge III

The classic Twisting Gully III,4 on Stob Coire nan Lochan was the next day’s
target. This time we were the first party to get to the crag, on what turned out
to be a busy morning, with many teams out. I can imagine that in good
conditions, the technical grade might be a bit generous, but in the rather warm
air, the ice wasn’t the best that I’ve encountered. The crux is a steep traverse
out from under a chock stone, which Ian reached with his usual efficiency.
Belaying and watching from below, it didn’t look easy, and to confirm that, a
“Watch me!” put my concentration onto its full setting, as though it might ever
not be. Ian edged out onto the face. I fed a little of the higher blue rope
through the belay device. Searching for a placement with the left hand axe,
obviously nothing good to be found… Then the unmistakable sounds of falling, of
crampons not staying put. In the age that ensued, I locked off the rope and
braced for the inevitable tug. It never came though. Somehow, Ian held on, his
crampons having latched onto rock a foot or so down. “Tension on blue”, then he
continued climbing, with obvious care and got out onto the rib. Being able to
use the revealed footholds made following straightforward. Nevertheless, I was
reminded of my rustiness on the next pitch, where I made a complete, four
course, meal of a simple corner, almost devoid of ice. Ian had easily bridged up
on nothing very obvious, but when it came to my turn, I ended up hanging from my
axes, cranking up with my feet scraping ineffectually at the rock. Ho hum.

The fourth day’s climbing saw us out bright and early and after an hour and a
half’s trudging at the base of Green Gully IV on the Ben. Its technical grade
seems to be a movable feast, but conditions weren’t bad. There was plenty of
ice, which was mostly pretty secure to climb on, although gear was mostly old
pegs, this being another classic. Three steep full length pitches and an exit
over the cornice went by without difficulty, but was entertaining and what
Scottish gully climbing is all about.

All in all, my best winter trip to date.

Ben Nevis NE Ridge

Lost in the Crowd

or route finding on a popular V Diff

My very first proper rock climb was Grooved Arête on Tryfan. My first lead had
been a supervised pitch two on that same climb. This Easter, I returned with
Martin’s mate, Dave. Dave’s only ever been to North Wales
once before, and that was the scene of an off-route and wet epic with me on the
nearby Sub Cneifion Rib. So now was a chance to do a classic route, with no
worries about route finding. We converged on the start of the route exactly as
two other teams arrived. Thankfully, we got away second in the queue, me leading
the first pitch. At the top of the first section, I looked at a crack continuing
straight up, but decided it was harder than the grade of the climb, and craftily
placed a friend in it before stepping left to find the polish on the rib. Dave,
with that one lonely placement as a guide, and no useful advice from his belayer
climbed said crack direct, in, it has to be said, good style.

The first pair up had gone straight up on the next pitch, only stepping to the
left near the top. The guide book and my memory told me that this wasn’t the
route, that in fact one should step directly into the groove in the rib to the
left. I only worked this out after Dave had made some progress off route, so he
made an awkward traverse left, gaining the rib with a very bold step from the
top of a pinnacle. Back on route, I led the remaining pitch before the path
across to the second half of the climb. At about this point, the party behind
lost touch with us, apparently a lack of confidence overcame the girl leading
the second pitch, as we later heard.

At this point, Dave was feeling rather cold, the sun having stayed hidden so
far, so I led the next pitch up the rib towards the ‘haven’. Now, this is where
the experience climber does a little arithmetic, since pitches on these classic
routes are often run together, as with first two pitches of the climb, for
example. So, the rib leads up one 90 foot pitch, to a block belay, followed by
another 120 foot pitch crossing a groove near the top to another grooved rib
before finally arriving at the haven. My rope being a mere 160 foot, I couldn’t
run these pitches together. After at most 50 feet of climbing, I came to a
plausible belay, but clearly this wasn’t it, so I carried on up the rib. As it
became clear that a) I’d climbed a lot more than 90 feet, and b) the rib was
getting harder, with no obvious holds above, I was forced to cross into the
groove on the left. A bit more progress, without anything resembling a decent
stance and things were starting to look pretty serious. Steep blank rock barred
all upwards progress. A delicate traverse back right to the arête showed nothing
but vertical featureless rock.

Looking back across the groove to the left, I spotted polish below me on the left
hand rib. Carefully, I eased my way back and rejoined the route with palpable
relief. Another few feet and I was able to belay comfortably.

My curious inability to keep to the polish on these classic routes has had me
wandering on previous occasions. I made a mental note to concentrate better in
future as I belayed Dave up to the stance, noticing the quite considerable rope
drag on the way. As it turned out, I’d used nearly a full rope length on that
pitch, so we deduced that Dave had about another 60 feet of climbing to reach
the haven. Dave set off, with strict instructions to ‘follow the polish’. He
quickly disappeared from view, somewhere over the buttress above my head. Soon,
another chap arrived, grunting as he hauled his rope up against what sounded
like a lot of drag. Still no news from above, as that pair got themselves
settled on an adjacent stance. We waited a bit. The very competent woman who’d
followed her husband up the previous pitch mentioned that this was, in fact, the
haven, and that the Ogwen guidebook was definitively wrong. “Ah”, I said. before
trying to communicate this important information to Dave, unsuccessfully.

Above the haven is a steep wall, surmounted by an exposed slab, which is normally
climbed diagonally up to the top right corner – the Knight’s Move. When,
eventually, Dave brought me up to his stance, I found him in a hanging belay at
the top left corner of the slab. I carefully traversed across to the hidden
niche where he would have been if only he’d realised what pitch he was on, and
brought him back to the route. In the meantime, the couple following us had come
through and combining with the next pitch, overtaken us. We were the second pair
that they’d overtaken, the pair immediately behind us at the start being the
first! Dave feeling the cold quite badly at this stage, I led the last pitch
out, only to be followed, somewhat rudely I felt, by another climber who’d
decided to climb on past Dave for reasons that weren’t clear to me at all. I
then brought Dave up whom had some difficulty, getting past the above mentioned

It was just another enjoyable day on a Welsh multi-pitch V Diff.