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The Modern Idiot FWA

In the top left myself on the airy p2 of The Modern Idiot with Jamie belaying in blue. Friends Jack and Ella below on Corniced Groove. Photo: Hamish Frost

As the corona-craze swept over Europe in mid March, myself and Jamie made an escape to the mountains. Knowing this could-well be our last outing of the winter we couldn't resist the forecast. Having never managed a route on Beinn Eighe and inspired by Jamie's run of routes with Dave Almond the week before, we decided to go to Torridon. If you are into steep mixed winter climbs then there is no better place in Scotland than Beinn Eighe, where the quartzite cliffs provide well protected climbing on positive thin cracks.

Photo: Hamish Frost

We met a couple of friends in the car park who were out on a photoshoot for Rab. The walk-in was made relatively easy with a high snow line and firm neve. We were relieved to see that on first glance the Eastern Ramparts were still holding some snow. The Far East wall, being steeper, looked considerably blacker extinguishing any ambitions there. We settled for a summer E1, called The Modern Idiot, ironic given the current situation. This was on the left hand side on The Eastern ramparts, which lay in the whitest part of the crag. The obvious feature being the band of overhangs which the 2nd pitch traverses under.

Photo: Hamish Frost

Jamie started up pitch 1 and after a steep roof at the start this went smoothly.

I then set off up pitch 2, which we knew would be the main attraction. On closer inspection, it was very blocky and we could possibly see why it was named, as it might be slightly loose in summer. But in winter the many cracks meant the climbing went through some very steep and gymnastic terrain at an amenable grade. The climbing got progressively harder the further I traversed under the roofs until they petered out and I was able to rest on a small ledge overlooking the drop below. From here, I climbed directly up the last section to a bomber belay. This was a very enjoyable pitch with great positions that felt more reminisent to European dry tooling than Scottish winter climbing.

Photo: Hamish Frost

The next day we climbed the classic Shang High. Tired from the day before we struggled up it, never quite sure if we were off route or not. Enjoyable all the same to be out on such a lovely day, knowing that it would be our last for a while. Once down that evening I packed away my winter kit for the season and a few days later the UK went into lockdown, I have barely left the house since.

Crystal clear morning walk over Beinn Eighe with Liathach in the background. Photo: Jamie Skelton

Description for The Modern Idiot

As for the summer route.

P1 25m VII 8

Start at the left end of an arch shaped roof. Climb through this and up to a small stance shared with Corniced Arete.

P2 35m VIII 8

Climb the right slanting corner above until forced to traverse under roofs with increasing difficulty until this is turned on the right.

P3 55m II

Romp up to the top.


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