Much like Canada, where a warm fall has delayed the start of ice climbing season in many areas, Scotland also had a later-than-normal kick off. However, it seems that with the first ascent of a new multi-pitch winter route has signaled the official “game on” in the Scottish mountains.
Simon Richardson, the Elizabeth Hawley of Scottish winter climbing, has started posting on his blog Scottish Winter, which is yet another indicator things are underway. His first post was titled New Winter Season Finally Underway. In it, Richardson notes, “All this changed on November 26 when Storm Arwen swept in. Whilst the east side of Scotland was battered by hurricane force winds, Mike Lates and Tilly Cottrell took advantage of relative calm on the far west with the first ascent of North Buttress Gully (III) on Bla Bheinn on Skye.” Read about the new climb here.
His only other post of the season, so far, is called California Dreamin’, in which he talks about a new climb by James Milton and Robbie Hearns called Califonia (IV,4): “The first pitch was simple but bold, up blobs of turf and bad ice. The second pitch looked better, a 25m corner with one face having just enough ice for good feet. The left wall provided some hooks but no meaningful gear until above the crux moves at 15m.”
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.”