The Angry Corrie 7: May-June 1992

Not-so-sunny climbs

New route discovered on Stob Ghabhar: Red Sky Blue Sky - Grade 3++

A 120ft ice slab on the north face of the easterly ridge descending from Stob Ghabhar. At an altitude of approximately 2,400ft this pitch offers exceptional climbing on a 70-80 degree run.

Approach is made via the miners' track from Clashgour hut in Glen Kinglass, north by the Allt Toaig. After approximately 2 miles the face comes into view high on the left, the other side of a small stream. In poor snow conditions the last few hundred feet to the base of the climb can be difficult, so traverse right from the obvious gully. It should be noted that there are no safe belay points during the ascent so a sturdy constitution and a clean pair of underwear are regarded as essential. Also, to ensure that the complete route can be negotiated without fear of premature arrival back at Clashgour, a rope of over 119ft is recommended.

This particular route's first ascent was undertaken by two expedition mountaineers, "Flasher" McC and "Posy" W during February 1992 in almost perfect conditions...

Tradition dictates that to ensure a new route receives fair witness, a late start from base is advisable. Therefore our two heroes, having spotted the distant column of walkers approaching, set off at a nonchalant pace with thoughts of the forthcoming climb and - probably more importantly - the evening's beer-swilling and yarn-spinning that would, in the time-honoured fashion, follow. "God lads, it was hell up there!" etc etc.

It was late in the afternoon when Posy and Flasher, exhausted and suffering from mild altitude sickness, eventually reached their jump-off point, and even later by the time they had unpacked and adorned the vast array of implements essential to all self-respecting route-baggers. Confident that they looked the part and were being watched by the regulation-size audience, the rope was carefully uncoiled. Another 30 minutes passed as Posy desperately tried to unravel the mess of knitting at his feet, by which time Flasher, with mutterings of "what the **** is he up to?", decided he could wait no longer and started on his way. After a tense moment during which he entangled his gear rack in a complex set of belay knots necessitating the use of the aforementioned as a heavy sling, his stunningly athletic lead was accomplished in a record 5 minutes, viewed by the growing number of Sunday walkers whose attention was drawn by the distant flash of fluorescent yellow crampons.

Posy, who had by this time cut the rope into 3 pieces, untangled the mess and reconnected, took his stance only to realise that Flasher was already at the top, busily brewing-up. (OK - that's enough Hamish Brown references for one article - Ed.) So in order not to disappoint the gathering crowd he quickly bellowed a few unintelligible commands to Flasher who naturally took absolutely no notice, then assaulted the pitch himself. Posy hacked up the face with great gusto, dislodging the majority of climbable ice as he passed. One dynamic thrust with his ice-hammer found solid rock and stuck fast - an on-the-spot decision was made to leave the tool where it was, thus negating any future claims to a grade 3 rating! At the crux, Posy was seen to suddenly stop. The crowd below stood silent wondering if the seemingly frozen figure would ever move again - he appeared to be holding a long conversation with the remaining ice-axe. Had altitude sickness finally taken its toll?

All was revealed when, with a sudden flurry of waving arms and cries of despair, a previously unseen mobile phone cartwheeled down the face and disappeared into a huge snowdrift below. A great roar of approval from the milling throng greeted Posy's final complex moves - he turned and gave the usual salute in recognition. Flasher in the meantime had fallen fast asleep having supped all the brew and eaten every morsel of their high-energy rations, and it took some prodding with the sharp end of Posy's axe to bring him round - at least he was sitting up and assuming the correct belay position.

With darkness fast approaching, the apres-climb still to be enjoyed and a new route to be recorded, both climbers stirred themselves from their lair. A blistering pace was set by both men, eager to arrive at the local ale-house to savour the adulation of the lesser "graders", and of course the copious amounts nectar that would no doubt be on offer. So great was their enthusiasm that at one point Flasher fell ass over tit as his heavily-laden gear rack slipped from its rightful position to his ankles. Posy, on seeing this spectacle, laughed so heartily that he completely lost his footing and suffered an enforced head-first glissade straight into a rock - his ever-present hard hat most certainly saving his life...

The following morning, our two intrepid heroes were discovered by their base-camp manageress near Ba Bridge still arguing the toss over the subtleties of stellar navigation. She incidentally had assumed that they had given up their attempts at route-bagging in Scotland and were en route to the Kangri-Ko Himal, so had relet their room and was considering selling off the remainder of their belongings to cover their enormous bar bill.

Even so, she felt some sympathy as she told them the news that the face they had struggled against all odds to conquer the previous day had been climbed not 30 minutes after their descent by the entire audience of Sunday walkers who thought it was the standard route onto the summit.

Posy and Flasher were understandably devastated and in a fit of desperation Posy shrieked "I told you that orbiting satellites didn't count". It was a good job that Flasher was still wearing his headgear the way Posy set about him with his axe!

Despite the previous day's faux-pas and ultimate disappointment, P & F, their argument now settled, decided to return to the face in a desperate last ditch attempt to get something "in the bag". Unfortunately Lady Luck was once more on somebody else's side - a thaw had set in and Red Sky Blue Sky had once again become a waterfall. Most sensible people would at this point have given up. Not these two though, as even with the knowledge that belay placement upon non-solid objects can be a little tricky, they decided that a rock route of the VS variety would look good in the book and should be attempted. So, equipped with kedge anchors and cable, and adorned in their skin-tight diving gear, they set off.

Flasher and Posy were last seen hand-jamming up the watery face - they disappeared when only inches from the crux as a great body of Monday walkers on their descent from the summit overran them.

Rumours abound that Posy and Flasher have since given up climbing and are now running a small B&B on Muck!

Richard Wood

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