Old climbing banter – Crag x and the ever changing conditions?

It was interesting that when I was climbing in winter a lot how conditions could change dramatically from day to day. This was especially in the early winter when we would often try to get an early route in. I frequently met the late Andy Nisbett on our travels and we had some laughs. Despite being a top climber Andy was always interested in what we were up to and I often shared information with him of new crags. I suppose we were no threat yet at that time to him yet we had some steady winter climbers. The conditions could change especially true on the easier graded routes. These were the days when often a route was a snowed up rock climb. There was limited chat amongst other climbers as the internet was not about much was word of mouth but so many were secret about what was going on. We travelled every week to a different area as part of our job bumping into many of the climbers of that era. Early on in the year you may see a headtorch in the distance but there was always plenty of room for other climbs. Mostly you were lucky and no one was about and often you ended up taking a rope for a long walk. Guide books in these days were vague have a look at some of the old ones and they basically showed you the line and of you went. In the late 70’s we had a bit of an epic on Mainreachan Buttress in winter on Fuar Tholl after Hamish guide was produced. I always looked into far flung Corries in the summer and dropped into wild corries much to the disgust of some of the folk I was with looking for likely lines. This also was very handy on Call – outs searching these wild places assisting the local teams all over Scotland. Occasionally we did helicopter training and I would show the crews where the new routes were being explored. It gave you a birds eye view of some wild places.

Gardh Gully Ben Nevis – early 80’s
Gardh Gully same pitch at the same time of year

My old pal Mark Sinclair would drag me out midweek to some remote hill usually on the North West arriving in the dark after an Alpine start. He would have seen some new line and I was his belayer. Looking back these were great days but when he and his pal Neil were killed on Lochnagar some of the joy of winter climbing left me. It took me a few years to get my head sorted out. This was especially true on our 14 day winter courses climbing in the Cairngorms, the Ben and Glencoe often with very bold young lads and lassies who were at times fearless. Often I would take them to more remoter parts of the Ben, Glencoe or Cairngorms and show them the Brenva Face and climb some of these rarely climbed routes. This was true winter climbing with few crowds and real route finding awareness. Yet it was in the North West that we had some fun. Looking back how many get a winter route done on Fionaven or Seanna Bhraigh I doubt if you would have any company even today.

Seanna Bhraigh.

The term crag “x” was often used for a newish venue.

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer and loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Enviroment, Gear, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Well being. Bookmark the permalink.

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