The annual BMC International Winter Meet based from Glenmore Lodge was held last week bringing roughly 40 climbers from over 25 countries together with winter climbers from around the UK. This year climbers came from countries such as Switzerland, Canada, South Africa, Israel and Japan, going to show the international significance Scottish winter climbing now enjoys.
The meet aims to attract all levels of experience and ability, from newcomer winter climbers to top end athletes. During the week each visitor is paired up with a host for the first part of the week then a new host for the second part. In previous years these teams have often put up hard new routes or gone on to do significant repeats.
With the notoriously fickle conditions Scotland receives, planning an event like this to coincide with good weather and good conditions is an impossibility and unfortunately this year the weather was not the best. On the run-up to the event a period of rapid thaw stripping most of the crags that had seen good conditions during the previous few weeks. Not wanting to be beaten by the warm weather people went out rock climbing or dry tooling during the first few days.
By Wednesday colder conditions were returning giving everyone the first opportunity to get out in the hills and for many their first experiences of Scottish winter climbing. Teams visited Torridon, Ben Nevis, The Northern Corries and some other locations in what was often very challenging conditions. There were many failures due to the stormy weather and conditions but a number of climbers managed some impressive ascents nonetheless.
Tom Livingstone and Ian Welsted (Canada) climbed The Gathering in very strong winds. Dave Almond and Luka Strazar (Slovenia) the next day climbed Never Mind (Winter) when 120mph wind gusts were recorded on the summit of Cairn Gorm.
Over on The Ben, in pretty awful conditions, Raphael Slawinski (Canada) made an ascent of The Secret opting to climb the route in 1 pitch. The route has had at least 3 ascents this year using this approach.
Each night there were fascinating talks where climbers shared stories of what they have been getting up to all over the world. These included:
- Simon Richardson: A presentation for the international guests, an intro to Scottish winter climbing
- Uisdean Hawthorn (UK) on his climbing
- Raphael Slawinski & Ian Welsted (Canada) on Canadian winter climbing
- Prerna Dangi (India) climbing in India
- Erik Eisele (USA) on climbing in New Hamshire
- Nuno Goncalves (Portugal) winter climbing in Portugal
- George Voutiropoulos (Greece) winter climbing in Greece
The meet regularly cultivates many friendships that last well beyond the week itself. All in all the event was a huge success thanks in large part to Becky McGovern and Nick Colton from the BMC for organising the meet and Glenmore Lodge for providing the accommodation during the event.