Uisdean Hawthorn



Shadhavar FWA VIII 9


My phone beeps it's 4:15 pm, just as I start the van. I read the text, it was from Iain asking if I wanted to go and climb in Glen Coe tomorrow. I phone him and say "yes". Quickly changing my plan from driving home, to driving to buy some food in Fort William. I had just finished a day’s climbing on Ben Nevis. Murdo Jamieson and I climbed Sioux Wall, a VIII,8 on number three gully buttress. No wind, blue skies and topping out at half two had all made for a pleasant day. Murdo even admitted enjoying himself! I am feeling fairly fresh and pretty psyched for tomorrow. It’s 19 hours since I got the text. Now I’m wishing I could change my answer. I'm upside down looking at Iain below, as my axe slowly rises and falls on the end of my leash. I reach up, grab the rope and pull myself upright. Frustration boiling over as I smash the hammer of the axe still in my hand against the rock. I was placing a wire when a foothold broke, resulting in me falling 5m and flipping upside down in the process.  “Useless, heavy snow over everything in the flared groove. It’s all useless underneath because it isn’t frozen!" - I say in a mood. I pull back up the ropes and begin climbing.  I somehow manage to grovel up the rest of the disgusting groove. I make a move out left, escaping the flaring groove. Suddenly I feel like I’m climbing normal terrain.  Relief waves over me as I climb on solid secure placements to the belay.

We started the walk-in whilst it was raining. Breaking trail through deep heavy snow. I had just climbed what can only be described as a grovel pitch. I can’t help but think how today is definitely type 2 fun. However, my mood improves as Iain seconds the first pitch of Unicorn, confirming that it was in bad condition. By the time Iain leads off into the unknown, I have food inside me and the belay jacket on leaving me feeling quite happy. He climbs ten more metres of Unicorn until it is possible to traverse right into the pick-width crack of an E3 Shadhavar, first climbed by Iain Taylor and Tess Fryer in summer 2013. I do what feels like 100 belay dances. Iain calls "safe!" just as darkness is falling. I reach the traverse, I swing out right and battle my way up the 30 metre crack as best I can.  The laser-thin crack requires tension on my axes all the time to keep them in place. I struggle to keep my feet on the tiny edges as my head torch casts a shadow over them. Half way up the crack I wrestle to remove a bulldog, glad of an excuse to sit on the ropes and let my pumped arms rest. Eventually I win and it falls out of the crack, allowing me to continue to the belay as fast as I can. It’s 7:30 PM before we get back to the car park satisfied, tired and soaking wet. I can’t help but think just how contrasting the last 2 days have been. Iain was particularly cheery after successfully on-sighting a hard new route, and after a bit of debate decided to grade it hard VIII, 9

ScottishWinter.com report click here Shadhavar FWA


Enjoying myself on Sioux Wall ©Murdo Jamieson



Murdo cruising up Sioux wall



The view from the top of Sioux Wall.



Stob Coire nan Lochan with its winter coat on.



Me just starting the grovel pitch of Unicorn © Iain Small



Iain seconding the fist pitch of unicorn. 



Iain making it look easy.