Standing at the top of The Godfather corner on Beinn Bhan, I couldn't help but feel this massive weight lift off my shoulders. I even had a slight grin beneath all my layers. But I made sure Andy wasn’t aware of this. By the time he reached my belay, I had reverted back to my typical dark grumbling self. Lucky for him, Iain only took five minutes to lead the easy pitch to the plateau!
On Friday, the plan went from a short sheltered icy route on Fuar Tholl, to an easy walk in to Meall Gorm, then to terrifying Giant's Wall on Beinn Bhan. I suppose climbing in a three made the idea of trying a hard route on a big badass scary cliff slightly less intimidating. Andy and I have been desperate to climb The Godfather for several winters now. Each season has come and gone, and neither of us had climbed it. As seasons roll on, my winter climbing ability has naturally improved, but my apprehension for this route was beginning to burst at the seams. Annoyingly, Iain had already climbed The Godfather a few years ago. So that narrowed the choice down to God Delusion or Godzilla. God Delusion was quickly ruled out. If we wanted to do that, we had to have left there and then and start walking. My sandwiches weren’t ready and so we couldn’t. Godzilla it was then.
None of us knew much about it apart from the fact it was a direct start to the Godfather. With the grade IX,8, I had my concerns. The numbers are the wrong way round. We thought that was just because pitch 2 involved some bold climbing which I seemed to remember Bullock waffling on about in some UKC interview. Well, that’s no problem, Iain can do that. After all, he was the 3rd wheel to the group so he might as well make himself useful. Andy and I didn’t want to die! A bit of background about Godzilla. It was first climbed by Nick Bullock, Guy Roberston and Pete Benson back in 2011. For more information check out The Bullhorn's blog. Since then, it has remained unrepeated.
We almost died on the drive over, but Andy did a good job in keeping the car on the road. During the walk in, I could almost feel the wind and graupel push me into a U turn. Iain conveniently brought the Fuar Tholl map instead of the Beinn Bhan map. Anyway, we found ourselves in the corrie at first light. The Giant’s wall loomed above. F*ck that I thought. We had taken 3 stubby screws. Gully of the Gods looks good…I never said a word.
Gearing up in the middle of the slope below the wall by a big block, this should be easy to find in the dark. How could we miss it? Hold that thought till later. With Iain jumping up and down with excitement about doing the second pitch, Andy nominated himself for leading first which was cool. This pitch was long with a fierce wide corner crack at half height. Good lead from Andy. It came to Iain and I to follow the pitch. So off I went. Just above this cruxy section I thumped my left tool into solid turf. Boom. Right tool in somewhere at the back of the ledge. Placing that tool, it just felt a poor rippy placement. I’m seconding, the turf has been bomb proof so far, I’m too lazy to re-swing. I learnt my lesson. I matched my right tool, and out it ripped. My lanyard came tight on my left tool, ripping it, snapping the cord. Whatever, I had one tool dangling, the other in the snow at the base of the crag. PUNTER error you idiot. Anyway, Iain threw me up my tool and I finished up.
Iain linked pitches 2 and 3 together which was cool. He seemed to find lots of small wires, a pecker and various other bits and bobs. I can’t comment, I wasn’t leading it. One would still have to commit to some hard climbing above it.
Climb the corner. Which corner? Aware that we joined the Godfather somewhere around here, none of us were sure exactly where from our sketched topo. I looked up and just saw this smooth corner covered in snow with no obvious crack or features. Just to its right, there was another corner which offered a crack along with a smooth left wall. At least there is kit in that to aim for. So off I went. Typically I got myself committed to the top. In fact, I climbed it, had my tools in the turf above, but no kit between me and the body breaking ledge below. I’ll just do a quick pull up and rock onto the ledge. Easy. Up I went, and realised this was a bit stupid. Some sense washed over me reminding me that a few hours ago a tool ripped. Back hanging straight armed, left foot braced on nothing, right foot dangling, I managed to get a few good wires at knee height. That gave me the confidence to continue on. Despite being short, it still provided some fierce, strenuous and pumpy moves to keep you working hard.
This brought us onto The Godfather now. Andy quested off up this steep pitch. It involved some pretty strenuous committing mantelshelf moves. I couldn’t help but think of my mentor, Paul Tattersall doing this back in 2002 with straight shafted tools, leashes, plastic boots. Respect.
This brought us to below the Giant’s most prominent feature; The Godfather Corner. My lead. I won’t lie, I had some deep fear lurking in me. Reading Martin Moran’s account, knowing about Pete Benson's fall from the top just filled my mind. Despite having climbed some harder routes in the past few years, this still never really gave me the confidence to say, I’ll be fine. All I’m going to say is, I treated it with the utmost respect it deserves. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it and I’ll let you go and climb it to have the same experience of history weighing on you!
That’s right, we left our bags in the middle of the slope by the obvious block. That won't be hard to find will it. Bloody hell. What punters. Up, down, across, up, down, across…'Is that it over there?' 'No'. Just what you don’t need at the end of a massive intense route. Iain found them. Good lad. Still a long walk out. But somehow I had this glow inside me which made the whole thing painless. My phone chirped as messages from the normal world reached it, I replied to some and ignored others ;-).
Back in Inverness I had the satisfaction of eating a few lettuce leaves, half a tomato, a few sticks of broccoli, some oat cakes and a tin of mackerel. Nothing like a sport climber’s diet to finish off a 19 hour day door to door.
God Delusion anyone?
This article first appeared as a post on Murdoch's blog. Murdoch is sponsored by Rab and Mountain Boot Company.