Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Winter climbing at last - Hookers Corner and The Vicar

Me on P1 of Hooker's Photo:Murdoch Jamieson
Me on P1, Murdoch Belaying Photo: Ian Stewart
New year started with a bang of firework, this year we were in Aviemore celebrating into the small hours.  With New Years day a write off for winter climbing it seemed like the right thing to do.  Fortunately I didnt have to wait long until I could get up far too early and haul a heavy rucksack to a cold windy cliff for some mixed climbing.  On arrival to Coire an Lochain in the Northern Cairngorms, Murdoch and I had a few ideas in mind but Murdoch was really set on The Vicar (VII,8) but on close inspection it was choked with ice making gear very hard fought.  Instead we opted for an easy, short day on Hooker's Corner (VI,6) which was brilliant climb neither of us had done.
Murdoch on P2 of Hookers...harder than it looks
Me in the groove on P1 of The Vicar Photo:Murdoch Jamieson
The morning alarm didn't feel too early on the 4th.  I was psyched and ready for a good day of mixed climbing with Murdoch.  We headed back to Coire and Lochain as it was much whiter that other crags.  With a day of thaw and a bit of a blasting from the wind the crag was in excellent condition.  The Vicar (VII,8) was on.  'A Lochain Test piece' it said in the guide book, Martin Moran claimed it was harder than Ben Nevis's 'The Secret' (VIII,9)!  Having only done two route's this season I started to think I was being a little ambitious.  Murdoch had fallen off this route in a previous year but was keen to put it to bed.  With only two pitches to the top I took the first, an icey groove into a nice VII,7 cracked , vertical wall leading me to a ledge below the steep crux pitch.
Me heading out there on P1 Photo:Murdoch Jamieson

Murdoch, took the rack, he moaned, wished he was sport climbing and then despatched the main pitch in great style, almost making it look easy.  I joined him on the top, elated to have climbed the route clean.  It was by far the best route I have climbed in the Cairngorms to date, despite being short, it has everything.  It was such a good day because finally Murdoch can tick the route off, once and for all.
Murdoch heading up the crux pitch, I didnt get many pictures as I was being an attentive belayer!

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