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Sunday, 17 January 2010

No off day: Sun rock blues direct IV,6

To be honest, it could have been an off day: The freezing level was reported to be at 700 m rising to 1200 m, precipitation and a southwesterly wind were forecast and so I warned Adam Henly, Arno Alpi and Tim Chappel that we may end up doing a walk. Also I suggested to go to Glen Clova to avoid a long drive for little or no climbing. In the glen winter corrie, which can be seen from the road, looked very good and it still looked very good higher up.

Arno and Tim enjoyed the day doing some gullies (photo by Arno)...

...whereas Adam and I opted for a buttress route. We decided to do Sun Rock Blues IV,5 instead of Wild Cat Wall where Brian Duthie and Sandy Sampson had added a tech 7 direct variant last year. We decided against Wild Cat Wall because the headwall caught the sun and we were worried about icefall. Here is Adam approaching the wee buttress of Sun Rock Blues (left and above of him).

We did a more direct version of Sun Rock Blues at probably IV,6 which is shown in red whereas the original route is shown in blue.

The corner system at the start was was steeper than it seemed at first glance. Here is a photo of the start taken by Adam. Note the sling around the root...

The right hand side of the buttress led to a desperate overhang with little for feet and axes and I thought that this was way too tricky for tech 5. Here I am reversing the climb up to the overhang. The photo was taken by Arno...

... this photo, again taken by Arno, shows the position of the climb dwarfing me whilst switching to plan B.

A traverse to the left allowed to climb a less difficult line to a belay below a blocky chimney. Due to taking the wrong way and due to the large amount of snow the whole pitch took ages but Adam did well seconding. Pitch two started with a lovely, blocky, well protected chimney followed by a 20 m runout on steep turf before a good hex runner belay. Adam took a photo of me in the blocky chimney...

... Arno took one of Adam belaying at the bottom of the chimney and me climbing the turf above...

... and I took one of Adam while he was approaching the belay.

The third pitch of the original route traverses left and then up to avoid the steep ground above but we didn't bother to read the guidebook as we remembered that the tricky climbing was supposed to end on pitch 3. So I took a steep, turfy ramp more on the right using a sling around a couple of icicles as the only piece of protection. A rock wall at the top blocked progress and the options were an exposed traverse to the right or an overhanging corner above and possibly something on the left. I got a good hex below the overhang and a good nut that would protect the inital moves. There were some small footholds on the prow on the left and the wall on the right and at the top there seemed decent turf so that the way through looked like wild but doable climbing. I started by laybacking off a hook in a crack and a turf placement to place one foot high and managed to get into a back and foot position before pulling over into a turfy groove and then towards easier ground above. An excellent pitch with an airy, exciting crux which is probably tech 6 straightening out the original climb and adding a crux. Probably a well over the top description but we enjoyed it! Adam did very well to climb this pitch. He then quickly led through to the plateau.

Unexpectedly a very good day for all of us even although the amount of snow made the climb both look pretty but slow to climb. It didn't snow over night and the existing snow was well bonded so that there was no avalanche danger (it would change quickly if it snows). The wee variation is worthwhile for those that have extra energy to spare. With cold nights the turf should probably stay frozen for quite a while because there is plenty of snow to insulate it.


Anonymous said...

Henning, i too did this line last year (not sure of the date yet) but came in from the crack right at the base of the crag - thin feet. The roof section that you backed off was tough, though found a bomber hook under the roof and was able to balance sufficiently high on the left wall to get a tool in something over the lip, had to commit to that and hope for more; feet sketching on slab to right after a big pull. Prob. a case of sheer will as i didn't want to be defeated by tech. 5. This poss. harder i suspect, certainly equal to many 6 moves i've made. Followed your top line by co-incidence partly to avoid stepping left over steep ground and that pitch looked poorly protected. Mind you thought the turfy/ice groove pretty poor for gear anyway. As you say at the top of this the only reasonable escape was through a mini roof w/turf thankfully above.
Guess the whole feel was more like V,6 for me given plenty of climbing and runout sections.
Good seeing your pics.
Cheers Richard Biggar.

Ryan & Henning said...

Richard, I have e-mailed Andy Nisbet about this and said that the credits for the FA of the direct version should go to you. Can you maybe contact him as well?
Cheers Henning

Anonymous said...

I'll do that Henning, not sure how much is new though- just thought the crack at the base should be in and you're finish seemed just as logical as the other.
Cheers Richard.