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Burly Conditions as Scottish Winter Climbing Starts

It was a late start to the season, but a difficult first winter ascent has already been made

Winter climbing in Scotland is a lot different than in Canada in that there’s less ice, protection is almost always with trad gear and there’s a lot more tools on rock.

There’s no better source for up-to-date news and information than Simon Richardson’s blog Scottish Winter. On Dec. 8, he said, “Once again, it’s been a slow start to the Scottish winter season and most of November was unseasonably mild… Winter started for real on Sunday December 4 with teams in action across the Cairngorms.”

Of note this year are several ascents by top Scottish climber Greg Boswell, who was once attacked by a grizzly bear in Canada – see him talk about it here. He and Guy Robertson just made the first winter ascent of the summer rock climb called Nihilist at Lochnagar in Scotland and gave it the winter grade of IX 9. The climb had been attempted several times over the years in winter, but remained a summer climb graded E1 until now.

“I was psyched to be able to keep a cool-ish head and piece together the very thin, pumpy and technical crux pitch,” Boswell wrote on social. “This eventually unlocked access to the awesome, but also very sustained climbing above… this one wasn’t a foregone conclusion, and tricky and bold above sharp ledges is never easy on the head.”

In 2019, Richardson visited Canada and established two new routes with B.C.-based Piolet d’Or recipient Ian Welsted: Mount Waddington Traverse and the North Spur of Mount Phillips. In 2020, Canadian Peter Hoang impressed locals with a bold repeat. Richardson said, “The standout performance came from Peter Hoang and Neil Adams who made an ascent of The Shroud (VI,6) followed by Mega Route (X VI,6). Peter used his extensive Canadian icefall experience to judge that this potentially very risky ascent was in safe condition. Even so, he rated the climb at WI6/WI6+ on the Canadian scale and commented that he had never climbed an icicle that did not hang vertically before – it had been blown sideways by the wind.”

Boswell then teamed up with Squamish-based Jacob Cook for another day out on a snowy climb. Check out just how burly the climbing in Scotland is right now.