Frosty Eyebrows on Crest Route

Stob Corie Nan Lochan car park was unusually quiet this morning. Even though we had an early start we thought we would be joined by a few others at least. Jamie has had his eye on Crest Route (V,6***) for a while and after a failed attempt last week he was desperate to get back for a second go. A few years ago I had also climbed the first pitches of what we thought was crest route (still not sure were we did go). We decided to escape that day since I was belaying off a single old rusty peg. I honestly never thought it would be a route that I would contemplate coming back to lead.

This morning I felt good and psyched for some hard climbing but as we approached the route doubt began to grow. Jamie did point out that the weather wasn't entirely optimal for hard climbing; low visibility, blowing a hoolie and plenty of fresh snow.

Jamie got us established on the route with an easy first pitch, which had a interestingly cheeky move at the end of it. Once I joined on the belay Jamie I was able to get a look at what we were up against, it looked good, it looked possible and it looked like it would go without too much difficulty. After climbing up an awkward flake crack you arrive at a slab which has two parallel cracks running down it and each only wide enough for an axe pick to fit in. After the slab there is a vertical groove which had steps intermittently spaced all the way up it, which I thought would be the easier bit.

After getting on top of the slab I found myself wanting some protection although I was in a precarious position. I opted for the quick fix piece of mind Bulldog (a metal hook shaped like an axe pick) over a dodgy piece of frozen turf. After I put my mind at ease I forced myself up the groove, bearing down on my axes due to the lack of footholds. I was swinging hopelessly for something which eventually came and with no other options I put my faith in my axes I committed everything to them and by tapping my feet up the wall and heaving myself over the block I managed to get over the easy bit. What followed was another ten metres of what felt like an eternity to get myself to the belay. By this time Jamie hadn't been able to move for the best part of an hour so even he admitted he was feeling the cold.

Jamie got to work on the third pitch and plugged away at it methodically digging and stepping up bit by bit as the cold crept into my body. After not moving a muscle for a long time (another hour-ish) and not getting any break from the constant wind blasting at us, it was safe to say I was cold. When I finally did get to move I was groggy and stiff. Mid crux of the pitch of the last pitch the hot aches started up and even though I wanted to get off that route I forced to stop and let the pain pass.

As soon as I topped out the wind died and the Sun came out and I was rather glad and pleased that I had managed to lead my first V,6.

Jamie pulling on the second pitch

Moving on to the third pitch

Victory shot

The obvious black line in the middle is the route we dug out.

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