Winter climbing in Scotland is fascinatingly thankless. You have to invest in long approaches before you even get to touch the cliff. The weather is so changeable and moody, that you have to take everything into consideration. Often, only a few hours lie between bright sunshine and snow storms.
Doing without bolts is the law in Scotland. The climbing here is traditional and that means solely with mobile safety devices. I have gained a lot of respect, due to hearing dramatic stories about awful falls and accidents. In order to see it for myself, I travel to Scotland in the wintertime. For the record: Without the support of the local climbers, who gave me a lot of information and hints, I wouldn’t have been able to climb more than a few winter classics. Because of this support, my road trip through Scotland developed into a unique adventure and a memorable experience. It would have a lasting effect on my attitude towards bolt-free, traditional climbing. Ian Parnell, a very strong Scottish climber and experienced Himalaya-alpinist, supported me and introduced me to several local climbers.
Simon Yearsley lends me his „Big Tree Campervan“.I climb with various partners in different regions: Ben Nevis, in the northern highlands and in the Cairngorms. The van: It’s my mobile home, with many visitors coming and going.
I like the Scots and their mentality. Warm-hearted people, open and very helpful. They would give you their last shirt, if they had to. The climbers are very proud and are delighted to hear when you are enthusiastic about their country. I spend very exciting days with Audrey Gariepy, Charly Fritzer, Ian Parnell, Dave MacLeod, Greg Boswell, Pete MacPherson and Michael Tweedley, where we repeat first ascents and establish new routes. Hans Hornberger accompanies us with his camera. It’s a real challenge under such uncomfortable conditions to take such good pictures.
The strong ethics of the Scots impress me. As mentioned, you needn’t start to think about bolts. One has to be mentally prepared, to solely depend on mobile safety devices. Ian is like a mentor to me. In difficult rock passages covered in white frost and snow, you need to have the confidence to trust the mobile safety devices, which can slip easily. By the way: If a face is black in winter, which is not covered in „Rime“ or white frost, then it is not worth climbing at all. It is useless and isn’t recognized as a winter ascent. That’s the way the Scots are.
A ripening combination of high humidity, wind and temperatures around freezing point occurs. „Rime“ covers the cliff with a plastic-like structure which - in contract to ice - gives little or no stability. My ice tools have to fit well into the cracks if I want to climb safely. I cannot imagine a better preparation for the technically more demanding high mountains.
First I have to win my „Scottish Wings“. As a climber, you can’t expect any favors from Scottish winters. I sometimes find it difficult to leave the warm van at night to march off at sea level. It takes hours until we finally get to the foot of the wall. We’ve usually covered over 1,000 meters in altitude. Sometimes in the snow storm, sometimes in the drizzle, very seldom do we get any sun. This is what is so fascinating about Scotland. It’s part of the game. If you are waiting for the weather to improve, then you will lose. Here you get the chance to prove to yourself, how strong your will really is. In order to take a shower, we occasionally spend a night in a youth hostel. Apart from this, we also get to dry our very wet ropes and clothes. Even if our campervan is cosy, the heating inside it cannot really compete with Scottish winters.
- 26.01.2011 “Daddy Longlegs” VIII, 9 on-sight, Cairngorms, Coire an Lochain
- 27.01.2011 “To those who wait” IX, 9, Ben Nevis: first repeat, Charly Fritzer rotpunkt (f.a. Greg Boswell & Will Sim 31/12/2010)
- 28.01.2011 “Triple X” VIII, 8, Ben Nevis: First Ascent on-sight (Ines Papert, Charly Fritzer & Dave MacLeod)
- 29.01.2011 “The demon direct” IX, 9 “Happy Tyroleans” IX/10 on-sight, Cairngorms
- 31.01.2011 “Savage Slit” V, 6 and First ascent “Bavarinthia” IX, 9 on- sight, Cairngorms, Coire an Lochain: (Ines Papert & Charly Fritzer 31/01/2011)