/ Overall standard in Scottish winter climbing

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sphagnum - on 10 Oct 2017

Consider 3 of today's trade routes on Ben Nevis;

Tower Ridge
1894 - first winter ascent. 5 hours
Nailed boots, manila rope, wooden shafted ice axe

Green Gully
1906 - first winter ascent
Reputedly the hardest ice climb in the world for some 15-20 years
Technique - step cutting

Orion Direct
1960 - first winter ascent. 8 hours (approx.)
Technique - step cutting

First ascents all by the leading climbers of the day. Each of these routes now often receive tens of ascents per day during the winter season by climbers who might described themselves as 'punters' or 'weekend warriors'. Equipment, technique and style are clearly very different now, often the time taken to complete the route can be variable too.

I know there factors to take into account here, but overall is the general standard and competency levels in Scottish winter climbing increasing, declining or staying about the same?
Michael Gordon - on 10 Oct 2017
In reply to sphagnum:

Once a sport or activity has become relatively popular, general standard will always be fairly low as most people aren't very good compared to the best. That said, nowadays the number of folk climbing mid-grade routes (IV-VI) has increased hugely, and really you could say the same, relatively speaking, for the higher grades. My guess is that now general standard and competency levels will stay about the same.

It's really hard to compare with the early days - general standard then was higher but that's only because less people were involved and proportionally more of those who were were decent.
smithaldo - on 10 Oct 2017
In reply to sphagnum: In the main venues you could argue that the standard is increasing but the competency decreasing.

planetmarshall on 10 Oct 2017
In reply to Michael Gordon:

> It's really hard to compare with the early days - general standard then was higher but that's only because less people were involved and proportionally more of those who were were decent.

Yes, this. Also, particularly in venues like the Ben, classic routes become progressively easier to climb as the season goes on - if conditions are good. Climbing Point 5 in pristine, fat conditions would be an entirely different proposition from that later in the season after many tens of ascents. You're only likely to find those conditions now in less frequented venues in the NW.


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