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Sunday, 31 January 2010

Moon Ice Jazz VI,7**

Moon Ice Jazz VI,7** (first ascent, 31.1.2010)

Adam Henly, Robbie Miller, Henning Wackerhage

This climb is all about the second pitch.
Pitch 1. 45m. Climb the right side of the recess in-between the 'Sun Rock Blues' and 'Wiggle' buttresses to a good rock belay.
Pitch 2. 50 m. Climb left and then directly up the steep wall to the icefall above. Climb the icefall in an exposed position to reach easier ground. A stunning pitch.
Pitch 3. 50 m. Easy climbing to the top remains.

When we climbed Sun Rock Blues two weeks ago we noted that there was no climb in the recess to the right. We discussed trying it at the weekend but the forecast suggested snow and a strong NW wind which meant avalanche danger. Adam, Robbie and I went nonetheless, ready to change plan if required. We were rewarded with an icy Clova and no avalanche danger as it hadn't snowed. Here is Adam walking towards the rising sun...

... and here is Robbie at the bottom belay. A lot of snow had thawed but with two and a half days of sub zero temperatures icicles and ice were everywhere, the neve was decent, the turf perfect and high on our route was an icefall.

Here the first pitch looking up with Robbie taking the photos...

... and here looking down the first pitch with Adam climbing.

Here a wee rest before pitch 2.

Pitch 2 is the crux pitch. Left on neve and then all of a sudden the wall to the icefall. It was steep from the word 'go', bomber placements on turf and ice, torques in icy cracks and steep moves with often little for the feet. Neve on the mini ledges which had to be partially cleared to get a bomber placement in the turf below. A nut here, a peg, hex, warthog, sling around a wee flake, all in strenous positions. Technical mixed climbing and just enough gear to keep going. Then in an exposed position 10 m of tech 4/5 water ice to reach the easy climbing, a decent hex and a photo of the climb below. Spot Adam and Robbie belaying. It was as steep as it looks. A stunning pitch.

I found a half decent belay and now that the tension was gone I became careless and sent my Nikon D300 all the way down the hill. It is not a nice view to see an expensive SLR in an Ortlieb bag first slowy and then quicker and quicker racing down a neve slope to disappear at high speed.
Adam and Robbie battled up the pitch and at the top we agreed that this was a sizeable step up from the tech 6s we had climbed. The last pitch was grade 1 and when arriving at the floor of the corrie Adam found my camera which, despite a long fall, still worked as if nothing had happened. Buy Nikon!

We met in the Clova Hotel which is recommended and started to think about names. 'The Clova mix', 'Clova mixer', 'Clova trauma' and 'Clova allsorts' were mentioned but did not made it into the final round. 'Nikon killer' seemed good but as I hadn't managed to actually kill it we decided on 'Moon Ice Jazz' as 'Sun Rock Blues' was the line next to it. We were sure about tech 7 but unsure whether a route with one money pitch deserved an overall grade of VI. However, pitch 2 is sustained and strenuous and the gear is sometimes hard won and it felt harder than Stirling bomber. Adam also thought that grade VI would be a 'health warning' so we settled for that. Stars? If there were three pitches similar to the second then it would be an oustanding route. But there weren't. So no, one or two stars? We thought it was worth two because pitch 2 is inescapable once committed and the climbing and the positions are excellent especially with the 10 m icefall, a truly mixed pitch, not just snowed up rock. Hopefully it'll get another ascent and then we'll know whether it is overgraded, overstarred and overhyped.