Greg Boswell has climbed a new route in Cairn Gorm - Cairn Lochan named Banana Wall (XII). Graded at XII/12, the route is only the second ever to be given a XII rating in Scotland and follows a steep, curving wall between Fallout Corner (Winter) (VI 7) and Bavarinthia.
Scoping out the route with Dougie Russell back in December 2013, Greg climbed eight metres up the route but then downclimbed, believing the line to be too hard. Earlier this season, Greg returned with Guy Robertson only to be beaten into submission once again by the difficulty of the climbing and the sparsity of gear.
On the same day, Greg and Guy discussed the groundfall potential of the line and opted to take a closer look at the gear on the route by abseil inspection.
"I never thought I would do this on a winter line, as the Scottish ethics are very much in favour of the “Ground Up” approach. But I laid out some very stern rules in my head and decided that if I wanted the sport to keep progressing, then maybe this is not such a bad idea. I really wanted to climb this route but didn’t want to go into unchartered territory that was so overhanging and end up getting hurt."
Due to the steepness of the wall, however, the abseil was limited in allowing Greg to get close to the route.
"The second you have left the belay you are in space and free hanging and despite placing a few pieces of marginal gear to keep me in a bit, it was obvious that I was going to get nowhere near my climbing high-point to see if there would be any protection to aim for."
Returning last week, Greg's gains in fitness over the course of a successful season (including his trio of hard new routes climbed onsight - Messiah (X 10), Range War (Winter) (X 10) and The Greatest Show On Earth (X 10)) gave him the confidence required for a rematch with Banana Wall, alongside friend Masa Sakano.
Following a gutsy first attempt and a huge fall which left him suspended in the air, Greg refuelled on the ground and tried again, this time completing the route and making a historic first ascent.
"I moved up the wall again, feeling much more sluggish and tired than before. I eventually found myself high on the steep headwall above the crazy overhanging lower section, and far above my last runner. I committed to a heart in mouth sequence of thin hooks and shallow torques and tried to see a way to gain the belay ledge, but even this was not an easy task. After a big rock-over where my foot nearly skittered off the placement that definitely would have ejected me from the crag, I mantled up onto the sloping ledge and WHOOPED with joy! I had done it. One of the hardest looking lines I had seen in winter and I’d got up it on my second proper go!"
Greg graded the mixed climbing on the route at M11, claiming Banana Wall to be at least a grade or two harder than The Hurting and Don't Die of Ignorance (both XI/11). He settled on XII/12 and claims to be open to change if anyone is brave enough to make the second ascent...
UPDATE: The UKC Scottish Winter route grade scale now goes up to XII, thanks to Greg!
Read more on Greg's blog.