Dave MacLeod had a productive two days of Scottish winter climbing last weekend in the Southern Highlands, making the first winter ascent of Southern Freeze IX, 9 on The Cobbler and repeating Mammoth IX, 9 on The Brack.
Southern Freeze is a summer E2 first climbed by Ken Johnstone. The line first caught Dave's eye in 2002, when he made an unsuccessful attempt, but vowed to return with improved fitness.
Climbing with Helen Rennard, the pair made the difficult journey south in snowy conditions to begin the climb at midday on Saturday. The initial crux pitch proved testing, but Dave put his recent training to good use to overcome the tough lip section. Writing in his blog, Dave explained:
"The same delicate, pumpy and at times scary two hours later, I arrived back at my highpoint. But this time, either with recent training paying off, or the benefit of experience, I had power left in my arms. After a short rest I climbed quickly and confidently across the bulge, finding the hooks more quickly than I expected. I didn’t take more than a split second to take in the exhilarating position on the lip. I was far too busy grunting and eyeing up the tufts above."
After just two hours' sleep due to squeezing 18 hours of work in between, Dave made another journey down south with Helen to tackle Guy Robertson and Greg Boswell's Mammoth IX, 9 on The Brack.
Having not had sufficient time to scope out the line, Dave accidentally missed the initial 10m pitch, which lay further left to where he started up. The following tech 9 crux pitch was laced with ice, making for some interesting protection:
"Guy had mentioned perfect protection but the crack today was choked with ice and not accepting gear readily. On the overhanging part, I got a killer no-hands kneebar which helped a lot to buy me enough time to fiddle wires into the icy crack. Later, Helen said she just touched them and they fell out."
Commenting on the quality of the lines, Dave wrote:
"Both routes were a brilliant reminder of how good Southern Highland mixed climbing is. Mammoth is a fantastic pumpy line and quite low stress since it’s well protected. Although we annoyingly missed out on the first bit, the climbing on Southern Freeze was a good bit harder overall so I think I’ll suggest IX,9 for that as well."
Dave also questioned the grading of two of his previous new routes on Ben Nevis:
"I’m also beginning to wonder if two of my new routes on the Ben back in March (High Pressure Crack and Red Dragon) could potentially be IX as they had harder climbing."
Despite a promising start to the mixed season, Dave is shortly off to warmer climes in Catalunya for some sport climbing.