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International Winter Meet 2020

Happy team at the top of the FWA of Scimitar.

Last week I took part in the International Scottish Winter Meet that happens every few years. It provides foreign climbers with a taste of winter climbing in Scotland while being partnered with a local who can help them to get to grips with a unique style of climbing. This is the first time the meet has taken place since 2016 and is the first time that Mountaineering Scotland have taken a leading role in organising the event in partnership with the SMC. The SMC's contribution were the Raeburn, CIC and Lagangarbh huts, which we alternated around in 3 groups of 20, spending 2 nights in each hut.

My role was a host and I was partnered with Damian Granowskie from Poland who I had the pleasure of meeting in 2018 when I took part in a ACG exchange. I missed the first 2 days of the meet and Jamie Skelton kindly filled in for me while I was gone. They had a good day hoovering up mid grade classics on Mess of Pottage.

Unfortunately our first 2 days together didn't go so swimmingly. A wade into Creag Meagaidh ended when Damian triggered a small slide. Sitting helplessly on top he was carried about 70m before coming to a stop. Unscathed but shaken up we discussed our options and decided to head back. Even if we found the base of the route it was blowing a hoollie, visibility was very poor and the descent could be avalanchy as well.

The next day Damian was itching to get a hard route under his belt and we were steered towards Minus One Butress Direct on The Ben. However despite the lower pitches being very fast due to large amounts of ice, the steeper pitches became a teetery, verglassed nightmare. So after 3 pitches we abbed off, another day walking back to the hut with our tails between our legs.

Defeated on Minus One Buttress Direct, time to go down.

In winter climbing you always have the choice of going for easier routes and succeeding most of the time or going for harder routes and succeeding some of the time. Being a local I was happy with the latter, but I was conscious that Damian was only here for a week. To make things trickier Damian was very ambitious, having told me at the start of the week "no ice and nothing below grade VI" and we didn't have ideal conditions either. As a result, the next day we climbed Route II into Route I, following the continuous chimney feature on the left of Carn Dearg. It was good to get a route in.

Starting up the last pitch of Route I.

The last 2 days of the meet we spent at the Lagangarbh hut in Glen Coe. First we visited Creag an Socach on Beinn Dorain. Only a short drive from Glasgow there wasn't much here that interested me and without a comprehensive guide we decided to climb an unknown steep wall to the right of False Rumour Gully. Our line was somewhere very close to Simon Richardson's The Enemy Within. However having spoken to Simon, it sounds like a very different route so we haven't yet decided whether it was something new or not. We came back to the bags for lunch and then went for an afternoon lap of Messiah, my 3rd time doing the route. Damian was happy to lead both pitches.

Questing about somewhere on Beinn Dorain.

The last day really made the week for me. With a high avalanche forecast myself and Neil Adams were stuck with where to go. We realised that we were 2 of the only 4 people to have climbed on Garbh Bheinn in winter and that it may be a good shout with a low altitude, south facing approach. In 2 teams of 3 we marched up in wild weather and were met by a very wintery looking crag. We had the pleasure of being able to pick the most striking line on the crag and know that it hadn't been climbed in winter before. This happened to be the summer VS Scimitar. This turned out to make a top quality VII 8 winter route, well protected with cracks that complemented the geometry of an axe. 10m to our left Pete Hoang, the Canadian, made a nail biting ascent of Gralloch.

Photo taken by Callum Johnson.

That evening we drove back to Aviemore where we enjoyed a dinner and party put on by Tiso. I really enjoyed the whole week and I'm already looking forward to the next winter meet. It was a really great opportunity to meet new people from far flung places, hear about the climbing they have and to catch up with old friends.


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