Steve Perry, Helen Rennard and Andy Nisbet have established the first grade VIII winter route on ???, Invernesshire, with an ascent of a three-pitch climb named Shapeshifter VIII,8.
Steve had failed on the line last winter after trying to lead both pitches too soon after breaking his leg and ankle. Eager to return as knowledge about the line spread, Steve began forming a team. He told UKC:
'Andy knew about my attempt and suggested breaking the top pitch into a more realistic two pitches. We asked Helen to come along as she is attempting 40 grade VII or above routes this winter to celebrate her 40th birthday and we were keen to help out. This was Helen's 4th day out on the bounce after climbing Himalayan Shuffle and Kindergarten Corner at Mullach nan Coirean, then Piranha on Aonach Mor, phew!'
Despite Andy feeling ill and the weather not playing ball first thing in the morning, the team decided to continue. The route is on an overhanging buttress nestled in the ampitheatre between Drystane Ridge and Deerhound Ridge. Steve explained:
'The buttress is gained via a bold, turfy rake which Helen quickly opted to lead as Andy still wasn't 100%. The pitch is much trickier than it first appears, but Helen made good use of her recent winter mileage and climbed it in no time. I led the 2nd pitch which begins with a vicious overhanging crack (crux) leading into a groove and then finishing with a thin technical mantle traverse to a large flake belay.'
Steve continued to lead on pitch three, where the crack line continues up an overhanging wall into some tenuous torque moves leading into a wide crack-cum-chimney, which finishes with a 'bellyflop' mantle onto the top.
Summing up the line and its difficulty, Steve told us:
'The route was excellent and Andy was well happy he'd carted on. We knew he would for a new route. Myself and Andy were slightly unsure of the grade of this new line but Helen confirmed it was harder and better than her last three routes. We agreed on the name Shapeshifter VIII,8*** after a fantastic hike back to the car under the rare Blood Red Wolf Moon.'