Wednesday 3 January 2024

Sognando aurora, Tofana di Rozes: 5 year blogging hiatus - long live the blog!

If ever there was a route that embodied the spirit of Fairly Long, Moderately Hard and Mostly Free, well, damn, this is it!

If you've ever been to the Dolomites, you'll know the feeling of looking up at the wild expanses of rock between the classic aretes and cracks, thinking "does anything go up there"? And then you'll recall the looseness, lack of protection, route finding and general seriousness of the situations and probably back away, browbeaten, thinking - "nah, those faces are for the real heroes".

Are you a real hero?

A real hero: a local in his 60s casually soloing the Comici on Cima Grande

I am not. I've had moments of relative boldness, and been on some big faces, but in reality I'm a fairly middling climber who dreams of air beneath his feat, and unlocking the mysteries of the unknown above. And I'm not getting any younger...

This year's plan for foreign adventure was a single week in the Dolomites with my mate Simon, who trains harder than me and has a better six pack than me (i.e. actually has one) but sometimes needs his enthusiasm tempered to keep him on the straight and narrow (aka not wandering off route onto the nearest E7).

I had signed up for this one as "master belayer, follower, potential jumarar and heavy pack carrier". He's been sewing the seeds for years, trying to get one of us to relent to his lofty dreams of attempting something big and hard in the alps, but as yet, none of us have been mad enough to oblige his desires. This time I submitted fully, and basically said "so long as there are no psycho traverses, seracs and nothing on the Eiger, I'm in". In the end we settled o the Dolomites. We've both, separately, done the Brandler-Hasse, and I'd also done ISO2000, which, despite it's terrible name, is a very good sister route to the BH and quite well bolted. That route was the gateway drug for me, when it comes to the modern face routes out there - plumb vertical to mildly overhanging, edgey, technical and intricate climbing smattered with bolts...but still with some good old runouts. Magic.

Andy Inglis somewhere on ISO2000 back in 2015

In the run-up, we discussed the Fish (Il Pesce) on the Marmolada, but heavy rain at the start of the trip stacked the odds against it being dry enough on the first of the better weather days, and going later meant putting all eggs in that basket. We wanted something that could potentially give us top class outing, but without monopolising all our good weather days, leaving the option to go up to the Tres Cime and swing about on Camilitto Pelissier, a 500m 8a on the Grande. (I would be firmly in the belay seat for that one!)

We settled on going up to the Tofana de Rozes for a look. The main face where Sognando L'Aurora is positioned was still dripping, so we spotted  Il Vecchio Leone e la Giovane Fifona which is a shorter, 8 pitch, sportingly bolted/semi trad 7a. 

Tofana de Rozes, with large wet streaks still visible just above the treeline.

Simon leading somewhere on Il Vecchio Leone e la Giovane Fifona, an excellent F7a on the Tofana de Rozes 

Back the next day we went for the big one. Sognando l'Aurora, a relatively new (2005/2006) addition from Massimo Da Pozzo and Marcello Menardi, that snakes its way up through stupendous roofs and steep to overhanging walls of grey, pale yellow and orange dolomite. 

The first four pitches are wandering, minimally bolted and surprisingly taxing. It took us a while to identify the start - no bolts in sight! At a maximum given grade of 6b, they should really fly by but we were a bit slower than we would have liked, and we overtaken by a speedy duo from Spain/Italy up a parallel, more classic but slightly harder line. No worries, they were off and away above.

3rd? Pitch of the lower slabs - long runouts with little chance of extra gear and unobvious route finding.

Simon leading the last of the lower slabs, with the upper yellow walls looming above.

The first of the steeper pitches was quite long, rightward trending, and doesn't take the line direct above the belay bolts, but actually is 5m right on a second set (not marked on the Rushforth/Rockfax topo, which is plain misleading and clearly hadn't been adequately fact checked - the planetmountain topo is accurate). An enjoyable, little bit pumpy, but fairly mellow pitch and a great warm up for what's to come...

Simon led the 6c, which was more of the same, with a traverse left over the lip of the first massive roof - really starting to feel the air beneath you, and looming roofs above.

Simon on P6, 6c, weaving through the roofs.

I took over for the first 7a pitch, which eased you in to a fairly forceful move, then some steady crimping above. I followed the chalk of the team ahead, which led you directly up to a loose ledge, requiring a little care and a bit of a runout. From the belay you could see the line we should have taken, which actually moves a little right from the last bolt, via another bolt and some more face climbing, oh well.

Next up was the first stern test - the first of two 7b+ pitches. The sun was warming the face nicely, and the slightly chilly start was long behind us. The team ahead had taken a couple of falls and pulled through, which was ominous given their speed and fluidity on the lower ground. Simon was clearly both nervous and motivated, sizing up the fingery and technical traverse, pull through a roof and fierce slab above. 

P8, first of two 7b+ pitches.

Digging deep for the first time, he milked the kneebar rest and moved up towards the bolts above, but quickly reversed when he saw what lay ahead. 

Simon hiding in the roof, kneebar rest between the two cruxes on P7.

More milking of the kneebar and a couple of sorties further left gave him the information he needed - back to plan A, and engage some try hard!

I seconded most of it clean, but grabbed a QD in the traverse so save the chance of a swing into space -  bit lame, but it was a big face and time is always ticking. When I got to the crux above, I decided with the benefit of the top rope to take the slightly more circuitous route out left, which was less savage, but would be a good bit more spicy for the leader, as I traversed back right, I recalled some words I had digested a few days prior, while researching the route: "if you go out left it's easier...but you can't reach the bolt"....  oh dear, now with my rope going down and right to the bolt which I had no way of getting to I had to take a little swing to unclip. It's the only section of the route, except maybe the first 4 pitches, where the bolt position could maybe be improved - not bad for 500m, ground up bolted!

The next pitch was what I live for!  Given 7a+, but in reality, on the ground, you'd be hard pushed to go above above 6c+. 45 meters of gently overhanging rock, mainly on good holds but with multiple intricacies, usually with a bolt to guide the way and protect the sterner sections - but only 9 or 10 bolts in the entire pitch, with sections runout sections up to 8 metres of continuous 6b+ and just miles, and miles of air beneath you. Brilliant.

Up next was the second 7b+ pitch (conveniently placed for Simon to lead). Starting off with steep and sustained 7a climbing to a moderate rest below the obvious crux. A large, chalky undercling below the bulging roofed section, and a bolt well out of reach with a long section of very weathered, core-shotted rope looped through the hanger. 

P10, 7b+, continues up into the widest section of roof just right of Simon.

Simon knows what to do and gets established with both hands on the undercling, not overly concerning himself the with the usual profusion of cracks all around the block. In an instant I hear him shout, watch him explode backwards, fighting and juggling with the 20kg lump of aged and solidified sea creatures, both of whose trajectories are directly at me. Autopilot kicked in and I caught the fall while swinging into the small cave in front of me. Close.

The next sound to break the tension was the sweet female voice of some fellow climbers over on the classic South East Arete checking to see if we were alive. 

Climbers on the classic Southeast Arete

Fortunately, our only damage was a fairly bloody chunk out of Simon's thumb. After he'd given himself a once over, he asked if I wanted a go. "Shit, hell no" I think "I'm here for a low-stress holiday belay session" but I can't say any of that. "Give it a few minutes and see how you feel, you've made so much ground - I'll send you up some finger tape for the thumb".

Phew...the blood stopped, and with it most of the adrenaline. Once rested, he made the, now significantly harder, pull through, clipped the bolt and....what the fuck...WHY ARE YOU GOING LEFT my head screamed, oh, wait, maybe he's seen something I haven't. Stay calm. Further left the goes and pulls over a small roof.  

"I can't find any good gear, and there's a fair bit of loose rock"

No shit.

20 more metres of slightly loose, quite bold new ground got him to the anchors. After hauling (we'd being hauling a small pack on the steeper pitches with a microtraxion, and actually belaying the second on a lot of them with a 2nd trx too - very energy sparing!) I got up to the crux, pulled on the shitty rope but was really out of position and the single sport rope was sawing wildly over the sharp lip of the roof. At this point, just after Simon's fall, with time ticking on, it suddenly felt a lot more serious than the "fun multipitch sport" is had been to that point, I didn't fancy my chances of repeating the traverse left so called for Simon to throw down the second rope so I could double my chance of survival. 

Pack haulling on the last 7b+ pitch.

Monkeys need thumbs?

After regrouping, re-taping his newly incapacitated thumb, I stretched out two big pitches of 6a and 5+, leaving him below the next 6c pitch - one of the lesser quality pitches and, again, very poorly described by the Rushforth topo. We were a bit confused about the belay location. The pitch goes up and left, then quite boldly back right a little up and, before a long traverse left to a sort of cave below a roof. 

P13, 6c. Wandery and a bit friable - don't stop in the cave!

I shouted that it looked like the belay positon, but the gear wasn't amazing. We took it anyway. This left an awkward and poorly protected stance, with a tricky and poorly protected move straight off the belay to kick off the last hard pitch at 7b, with a poor cam in the best pocket... The 7b that Simon was meant to climb, but now I found myself on the sharp end, with a bit more "Alpine Anxiety" and already 400 metres of climbing in my arms. 

"That wasn't so bad for 7b"....oh, two bolts and a stance, the true belay. Lesson learned.

Continuing up into very steep and 3 dimensional climbing, with a few good jams to subdue of the pump - wild stuff! Some clouds had now rolled in, adding both to the ambience, and also the humidity. From an awkward rest, thinner and punchier moves led up and left and I was scraping the barrel of reserves, but still just staying on, improvising sequences and generally shaking my way up the pitch. Hoping the crux was behind me, I was relaxing a bit, but then another chalked short wall on the left, with a steep corner bounding the right side and a capping roof looked hard. Up and down, up and across, more pumped, greasing and getting sweaty, panting due to the thinner air at 3000m, I was maxing out and running out of ideas. I saw a potential lower sequence, which would cross the crux bolt at waist height, and if there was anything I'd learned by that point was that the bolts often hinted at the way. Thin feet, spanned out, pulling hard into crimps I got established on the face, reached through to clip the next bolt and then was stuck, slightly wrong handed with no chance of reversing or switching - airtime it was!  From a hang, the move was fine with recovered fingers and bit of chalk, but there was still a steep pull to the easy ground and good ledge belay. Simon walked up it sans thumb.

From here on it's another 5+ and 6b, which Simon linked into a rope stretcher. Bit of looseness to manage but nothing too concerning.

The descent was fairly uneventful, but the described descent is now out of date as a section was swept away - you need to descend a bit then head to the north col (i.e. after descending/traversing to the wide gully, turn left and go back up hill).

We got back to the Rifugio just in time to grab a beer (bottled, not draft, as they had just cleaned the taps and nearly said they were shut for the night...) and after a few sips, a group of female climbers, sitting with Aperol spritzes said "hey, are you the two that took the fall with the rock?".  "We're so glad you're ok". After a bit of chit chat, and some slightly more intense dialogue we toddled off back to the car to find a tent spot for the night. 

"Simon, were those girls hitting on us?" "Aye, massively" "Oh, that's what that was - it's been a while...."

Wednesday 4 April 2018



Our eyes met. Neither moved. Slowly the slender leg of the heron reached forward and delicately stepped closer to the water. Still our eyes locked, and yet the heron was simply not there….. an illusion of idealism in a world of silent beauty adjacent to the jetstream of human activity. 

But it is was there, it just took me too long to see it. A chance connection, a fleeting moment like the light at 2 ends of a tunnel meeting, the alluring goddess stepping back into the shadows. The frail form a ghost drifting away against the landscape. A fleeting moment past, but a moment etched. A perfect symmetry with the previous day’s fateful encounter.

Our eyes met for a split second as the fox glanced back. Nothing registered. On it trotted, head down, hood covering a sly smile spreading across its face, eyes glinting in the morning sun. The predator knowing another unsuspecting victim stood no chance. An easy kill. Another satisfying meal. Some kills are easier than others, but this was beyond belief. The slow patient approach, the distracted prey, the predator in plain sight. If only I could see what was hidden in plain sight.

And then it registered. By but by then it was too late, far too late. The simple equation of what was happening hit me like a sucker punch in the gut. A wave of sickness, weak knees and anger enveloped me. Forcing my legs straight, I had to stay upright. A forced smile for a good man….. ‘Hi Tim, how’s it going?’  The pray stood no chance.  By now the fox was nowhere to be seen. The easy pray. 

Content with having been well and truly bent over, Ally and I played kiddies games and settled for a consolation game of Scrabble, all the while eyeing up the big boys game with envy. A full word score later we topped out and descended into the coire.  

‘Have you a number 6 cam Andy?’ The fox howled down with laugher. Bastard.

Onward the heron drifted into the horizon.... 

 A glorious morning to get bent over

 Kiddies game pitch 1

 Ally on Kiddies game pitch 2

Sunday 29 November 2015

The People

A recent article in a prominent climbing magazine on the important physical and psychological part a belayer plays in attempting, let alone succeeding, on a climbing pitch, got me thinking a lot about the friends that I've had the pleasure of sharing adventures with in the mountains, and the unforgettable memories. From the days when it all feels easy in the sun, to the days where the weather wont let you stand and the howling banshee tears at your face! And with large snow flakes falling outside the winter and the winter season now underway, it feels appropriate to doff my cap to the few! ..... oh and maybe a great opportunity to highlight the numerous emotions behind an expression..... excitment, apprehension, appreciation, fear, relief, pain, horror, luvin' it, I nearly died and get me the hell out of here! Some are easier than others to pick! Roll on another winter.... :-)

Saturday 26 September 2015

The Clearences

The wind whips the ropes hanging beneath me, almost unhindered by protection for ten metres to the safe hands of Iain at the belay. My hands are freezing, the rock is damp in places and I'm searching for better protection below the steeping headwall on the first pitch of The Clearances.
Originally given E3 by its first ascentionist Ed and Cynthia Grindley in 1976, it had progressed upwards to E4 in the intervening years and remains rarely climbed. Since then a crucial peg has fallen out at the bold crux – a five meter, plumb vertical shield of rock with only fingertip edges and no obvious places to secure protection where the peg once was.

I plug in a good no.3 camalot at the change in angle between the lower slab and the crux wall. I know with this in place I can climb above with little chance of hitting the ground, but the fall will still be an unpleasant smash into the lower slab. My hands are freezing. Iain offers me some advice –
“Why don’t you climb back to that foot ledge and warm your hands”.
The winds tears at my winter-weight soft shell, sucking the heat from me, but I feel some pressure not to back off. I can deal with the cold. I'm used to climbing in the Alps, this is Scotland, man up. I don’t often use reverse gear and this didn’t feel like the place to start.
I clip a peg so old and rusty it flexes wildly when I tug on the quickdraw. I back it up with a microwire in a thin parallel crack, more suited to a peg than a nut. The guidebook mentions the possibility of a sling draped over an anvil shaped rock further up. I look down and see Cubby setting up his tripod and in my mind we feel connected - it is his written words, his description that is guiding me upwards. I make some technical moves up to the anvil. I silently curse Dave – not because the camera is off-putting – he is yet to start capturing my frozen, stiff climbing movements, but because I cannot see any way of securing a sling round this block. Damn him and his words.

I push on, moving further upwards, away from my protection, every move raising the stakes. I see a poor, flared slot and pull a yellow totem from my harness; anyone who has climbed with me recently will know I’m a firm believer in these wonderful, technical marvels. If I could write poetry I would have probably constructed an ode to them. It goes in but it’s poor – two lobes are in a constriction but the other too only prevent the cam from twisting. I hope this is enough. I work hard to get more blood into my hands, pressing them into the arch of my neck only provides fleeting warmth. I am not yet overly concerned about the boldness as the climbing is manageable. I spot another flared, vertical crack – possibly where the peg used to be. Using the tips of my fingers I can tell a blue totem will fit. I align it as best I can. I know from the Yosemite walls that these cams can hold in flares like this, but only bodyweight – will it hold a fall? I know for sure that if it fails the yellow cam below will not hold – I’m too far above, too much momentum will be gained.

Grasping the edge of the crack in my right hand I work my feet up onto small nubbins, the next few moves are not as clearly defined – I must search out the intricacies that show the way. I reach high and right to a flat hold which I can match with both hands, a hold I would normally consider “good”; now, however, my hands are numb, like wooden toy versions of my normal hands. The wind whips. Iain is dancing around on the ground trying to keep warm, wearing his winter belay jacket.
I spend too long trying to warm my hands, trying in vain to gain some feeling and confidence. When one hand gains feeling, the other is left perilously cold and pumped -  a zero sum game. I am worried. I cannot reverse those moves and there is no more protection. I try to work in a tiny micro nut but all that I gain for my efforts is a deepening pump in my forearms and yet colder hands. I see a better hold up and right – tooth shaped and positive. I press and stretch until I can painfully bend my fingers round its sharp form, my back and shoulders tensed to hold the position.

I am in real in trouble now. I rearrange my feet and grasp a large, flat hold on the left. It’s useless, I have no feeling and no strength – I’ve messed up and I’m in a serious position. I dare to look downwards, to assess my options. It is more than five meters to the last reliable piece of protection – if I fall now and the marginal cams, rusty peg and poor micro wire don’t hold – it doesn’t bear thinking about. The ground is fifteen meters below me but the slab will break my bones before I even get close.

Upwards is just as unthinkable. I cannot see any more protection, or any obvious holds. If I slip making the moves I will fall uncontrollably. In this predicament I have no choice but cut my losses and minimise the fall. I reverse as far as I can and just let go, I relinquish myself to fate – I have no control of the future. I’m finished.

The blue cam holds. I stop with my feet on the sloping slab. Lady luck and some clever Spanish engineers have been on my side.

I return to my high point, noting on the way that the microwire has pulled out and the yellow cam had rotated and inverted, but somehow stayed in. I glance at the blue cam and shake my head. I look back down to Dave and see that he has yet to set up his camera so I am saved the ignominy of having my worst moments captured on film.

When my hands are warm I resume. Once again on the tooth shaped hold I realise I should have rested longer while hanging on the rope; residual pump and surging adrenaline make me climb poorly. I find a hidden hold, it annoys me as I now know the secret. I work over towards the hanging crack-line, not strenuous but balancy and now very run-out. The crack offers the notion of protection. I hope for an obvious constriction where I can slot a nut, or a bomber cam slot. Instead I am faced with an awkward position, and small, damp and mossy cracks in which I must fiddle some wires. Finally I tug one down and it holds tight, I am safe, at long last I am safe. 

The crack stretches for another twenty meters to the belay ledge. In drier, warmer conditions I would have made light work of it but I am weakened by what has gone before.  Am slow, hesitant. I place protection whenever it is available, too much, wasting my energy and conscious that I am wasting Iain’s day – he has desires to climb a new route on the mouth of Ossian’s cave.

A long time later I crawl over the final bulge onto the midway ledge. I am exhausted. I build a belay and lay down. Iain is chatting to Dave so I get some respite before I have to haul our heavy pack. I feel light headed, nauseated and weak. For a brief moment I think that my poor performance heralds the start of cold or some other ailment. I quickly dismiss this, it is merely the after effects of the adrenalin circulating my system.

I had planned to lead both of these E4 pitches but I am not sure I can manage the second. Iain’s words revitalise my inner momentum –
 “ the crux is harder, but short. Plenty of easy climbing”.
I have to reaffirm that I can climb this route. I re-rack the gear and work my way up the steep wall to the mossy bulging overhang that I have to work round. I place some good protection under the bulge, walk my feet rightwards on smears, grasp a good side pull, and extend up leftwards to a good hold. I feel good again, I step right and that is it, the crux is done. Everything is possible once again.

Sunday 2 March 2014

Third Time Lucky

Andy and I have got history with Unicorn. I did a lot of my early winter climbing in Stob Coire an Lochain and remember looking across to this big obvious corner, clearly the line of the crag, never thinking that I'd be good enough to have a crack at it. Several years later we went for our first attempt. We didn't get very far, but it only increased by desire to get on the route.

We had another rematch at the end of last year. Andy took a couple of falls on P1 and backed off. I wasn't feeling in great form but set off up it anyway. My very ambitious goal was to get up to the fixed gear so I could lower off & get our gear back. Because of my low expectations, I headed up without any food or, crucially, a head torch. By some miracle I managed to climb the first pitch (taking something like 3.5 hours on lead!) but by the time Andy had led the second, it was dark and we were both frozen and exhausted so we abbed off.

This unfinished business had been on my mind ever since. Thankfully Andy agreed to humour me one more time and come back for a rematch.

Here we go again

As we approached, I was feeling confident - The route looked in great condition, I'd led the first pitch before and had succeeded on some hard routes recently, so surely this time it would go.

An hour later, I was about 10m up the route and struggling. The route was every bit as hard and awkward as I remembered. The gear was OK, although I wasn't sure I wanted to test it. I committed to the crux, one pick in the crack, one on a tiny thin hook and a leg bar across the flare. Then, disaster! The axe in the crack ripped and I came tumbling down just as I had a couple of years previously. This was not the plan!

Andy seconding the horrendous flare
I lowered back to the ground to eat, drink and chill out for a minute. Suitably refreshed, I headed up again and this time, pulled through OK. However the section above proved to be a lot harder than I remembered. Where previously there was some useful ice, this time there was just crud. I teetered upwards, making slow but steady progress. My frozen hands and soaked gloves fumbled gear, dropping the small nuts, but I pressed on and made it to the stance. I eventually managed to contrive a belay with the remaining gear and brought Andy up.

Don't fall now!

Andy headed on up, linking P2 and P3 to bring us to the end of the main corner. From here, there are two options: head left into the final chimney of Tilt (as per the first winter ascent) or head right and up (as for the summer route). We chose the easier Tilt option and topped out with daylight to spare.

The end is in sight

I'm delighted to get the route done at last. It felt harder than any of the other VIIIs we've done this year, and miles harder than Centurion a couple of weeks before. I'm glad I don't need to do that first pitch again!


Jim Higgins has retired from winter climbing, or so we all thought. So you can imagine my surprise when I got a text saying he fancied getting out for one day only, and was I up for Centurion?

I climbed this route in summer 5 or 6 years ago. Even back then, I remember thinking it would make an amazing winter climb. It was clearly out of my league at the time, but I've had the ambition to do it ever since. This was the first time that my abilities, climbing conditions, weather forecast and psyched partner had coincided so I jumped at the chance.

Jim on P1
And the didn't disappoint! Never desperate but constantly interesting, and what a line! Definitely one of the best winter routes I've ever done. If there was ever a route worth coming out of retirement for, it's this!

Me on the thin traverse on P3 (Photo - Jim Higgins)

Thursday 27 February 2014

BMC Winter Meet

The BMC meet was definitely the highlight of my winter so far. Held up at Glenmore Lodge a couple of weeks ago (yes, I know, I've been a bit slow in writing about it), it brought together about 45 visiting climbers from 26 countries and a similar number of local hosts to experience Scottish winter.

Inevitably, the Scottish weather lived up to its reputation! The first day was particularly wild, and even Coire an t-Sneachda felt like quite an adventure!

A little different to Spanish climbing
I teamed up with Felix from Spain. To avoid the loaded approach slopes, we went up the Fiacail ridge then abseiled in to Fiacail buttress. The wind was so wild, just we ran up Invernookie and headed back to Glenmore.

The next day was forecast to be better in the west so Neyc Marcic and I hopped on the minibus to Glencoe. We did East Face Direct Direct ion Stob Coire nan Lochain. It's a deceptive route - it looks about grade IV from below, but very variable snow & ice conditions made it challenging and it warranted its VII,7 grade on the day. I led P1 & P2 in one long pitch and Neyc cruised the awkward top pitch in great style.

Neyc seconding the long first pitch of East Faced Direct Direct

Good Scottish conditions on the top pitch

The next day, Andy and I took our respective Slovenians to Beinn Eighe. This is one of my favourite mountains anywhere, and it didn't disappoint! Despite a strong wind on the walk-in, we were treated to shelter and great conditions in the coire - we even saw some sun! Neyc and I did The Sting on the Far East Wall, which is possibly the second ascent. After me enthusing about how positive and helpful quartzite is on the approach, the first two pitches turned out to be surprisingly bold and technical but after that, we were back to good, steep, positive hooking and torqueing up perfect rock.

Neyc starting up P1 of The Sting

Look - a view!
 We switched partners that night and for the rest of the week, I was paired up with a very strong Japanese climber named Kenro. He had had a bit of an epic on West Buttress Directissima the day before, so I took pity on him and suggested a shorter day. Auricle was a bit of a swim / wade in places but a good route all the same.

Kenro on the crux pitch of Auricle
The weather was terrible the next day, which I was secretly delighted about as it meant I could have a rest! The next and final day was forecast to be better the further north and west you went, to Kenro and I headed up to An Teallach along with Susan Jensen and partner. The weather was glorious on the walk-in, and hopefully restored Kenro's faith that it is sunny in Scotland occasionally!

A beautiful morning and a beautiful mountain
 We'd been planning to do Hayfork (three-start VI,7) but spotted a great-looking, obvious line on the side of Major Rib which wasn't in the guide so decided to have a go at that instead. It turned out to be a great and varied route. P1 followed a bold icy corner, P2 up thinly iced slabs and flakes, P3 (crux) up a steep corner past a roof and P4 up a chimney onto the crest of Minor Rib. We called the route Last Orders (which we had been afraid of missing back at Glenmore!) and there's a route description here for anyone who fancies repeating it.

Me on pitch 1 of Last Orders - photo Kenro Nakajima
Many thanks to Becky McGovern and Nick Colton the BMC for organising this fantastic event. I hope to see you all at the next one in two years' time!