Vapouriser – Creag an Dubh Loch

I was in at the Dubh Loch 2 weeks ago to climb Vertigo Wall with some friends, and while we geared up, I spotted the direct looking nearly as icy as it was a couple of years back in the mega winter of 2010. I had half a mind to go for that but we had an arrangement to go do Vertigo Wall and I was just up for some quality climbing. Funnily enough while I was climbing the first pitch on the classic but who was to appear but Guy and Greg. I’d spotted two crossing the loch a good way behind us and thought it was more likely a team going for Hanging Garden at that late hour – Guy’s getting a reputation for sleeping in! While I was belaying I got a chance to watch Greg smoothly climb up the first pitch and snatched a few shots of him. Their ‘out the wrapper’ tools certainly proved very necessary on that thin ice!

1. Greg Boswell starting out

2. Greg Boswell on P1

4. Greg Boswell on P1

6. Greg Boswell on P1

7. Greg Boswell on P1

9. Greg Boswell on P3

 

Vertigo Wall, Creag an Dubh Loch

Ahhh, the mythical Dubh Loch in winter, what other cliff in the UK hold such a aura; remote, unpredictable, committing. Granite climbing at its finest, with the usual large dose of Scottish Winter climbing canniness required to find protection amongst those rounded flared cracks. Success here is just so much sweeter. The crag has treated me very kindly over the last few years with a lifetime experience on Mousetrap, and now Vertigo Wall, a contender for Britain’s finest winter climb.

The first few pitches went without incident, although the first 2 would be significantly easier with build up. A friend had dropped a comment during the week about the upper slabs on pitch 4 leading to the flake being ‘interesting’, and as it happened that lead fell to me. I was warned not to fall off as I approached the belay and one look at a tied off kingpin in a crack didn’t make me any less anxious about what lay ahead. I didn’t bother to look at the other piece, I didn’t need to know. The slabs were covered in 1 cm of ice which removed any chance off pro before the flake and I levitated up on shallow hooks to a wee blob of ice below the headwall. It took our shortest 7 cm crew and we all breathed a sigh of relief.

At first glance I thought about foot traversing the flake, but being clumsy I knew I’d probably knock myself off with my shoulder. Then I wasn’t too sure what to do, and finally I decided to just get down and battle with it, any which way you can, hands, tools, the lot. Hats off to Andy Nisbet and Alfie Robertson climbing this in 1977 over 2 days with a bivi. With that in mind, having climbed a few winter Dubh Loch pitches now including the crux of Rattrap, I’d say that Mousetrap was noticeably harder, longer, more sustained and teetery, but so much varies with conditions on the day.

Finally it wouldn’t be right not to mention that mad hare we met on the way in. It joined us as we drove up the Loch Muick road. If we sped up it ran faster, if we slowed it stopped in front of us. Switching the headlights off and back on revealed it sitting in the middle of the road staring at us like a demented fiend. Eventually after quite some distance we forced our way past it. Guess who joined us for another run on the way out?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dawn breaking over Glen Muick as we enter Central Gully on the Dubh Loch

Sunrise Glen Muick from Creag an Dubh Loch Central Gully

Mark Musgrove seconding the first pitch which would be significantly easier with build up.

Mark Musgrove on Vertigo Wall P1

 

Mark above the techy corner on the second pitch

Mark Musgrove on Vertigo Wall P2

 

Mike Mcghie on pitch 3.

Mike Mcghie Vertigo Wall

 

The guys on the flake traverse pitch.

 

 

Flake pitch on Vertigo Wall

 

Myself and Neil Morrison on Mousetrap in 2010. Photos by Simon Richardson.

 

Ross Hewitt and Neil Morrison on Mousetrap Creag an Dubh Loch in 2010

 

Ross Hewitt and Neil Morrison on Creag an Dubh Loch 2010

 

 

 

Auricle

A fantastic early season day heading out to the Northern Corries in the dark, watching the rose tinted sky at dawn and being treated to stunning views to the far North and West in the crystal clear air. The crags were magically plastered and with no wind, the climbing was really enjoyable.Sand Simpson on top pitch of Auricle in stunning conditions3rd pitch of Auricle

First pitch Auricle

Coire an Lochan no 4 ButtressCrux pitch of Auricle  - Sandy SimpsonP1030657