Greg Boswell has made the third ascent of Dave MacLeod's 2010 route, Anubis XII, 12 on Ben Nevis, Ben Nevis. The route follows the line of a summer E8, Anubis, also first climbed by MacLeod. Visiting Swiss alpinist Dani Arnold made the first repeat of the winter line in 2016, climbing it on his fourth attempt in ground-up style. Anubis is the hardest winter line on Ben Nevis and one of only two routes graded XII in Scotland, the other being Greg's very own Banana Wall XII, 12.
A glaring blank in his ticklist, Greg had had his eye on Anubis for while and on January 30th attempted the line for the first time with Helen Rennard as conditions looked prime and very white. Two falls on that first day shook away the nerves, and Greg returned on Saturday with Robbie Phillips to complete the route in a leisurely time of 3.5 hours. With this ascent, Greg becomes the first climber ever to have completed two Scottish Grade XIIs. We sent him some questions to find out more...
I've wanted to try Anubis for a while now, mainly as it was one of the last big hard and already established routes left in Scotland that I had not climbed, but also because I really liked the look of the line and its position. The front face of The Comb is probably one of Scotland's steepest "climbable" winter venues and I wanted to sample its goods! The fact that Anubis take a very direct line straight up the buttress makes it cry out to be tried.
How did you approach climbing it?
So apart from focusing a lot of my training in the Autumn with this project in mind, I approached it like any other winter route. I had plans to climb with Helen Rennard anyway on the Wednesday and when I saw a post on Facebook showing The Comb to be in condition, I asked her if she minded me giving it a try. I really wanted to climb it in full on Scottish whiteness, so sometimes you need to drop everything when these routes finally come into condition.
I also wanted to climb the route in true Scottish ground up style. I am totally open to the suggestion of looking at small parts of routes on abseil if you think they are dangerous or you have failed on the ground-up attempts, but Anubis was too special to not give it a full Scottish Winter send!
I was super nervous about this though, as there is some nasty fall potential since you climb a long way through the steepness with your gear on the face below. It wouldn't be the best scenario if you fluffed it over the roof before you found gear!
How were conditions?
The conditions were perfect, if a little too white, if there's such a thing. With the route being very technical and on minuscule holds, even through the roof, the hoar-frost can make the placements invisible and impossible to see. This makes it very time-consuming and energy-sapping to sweep and look for where to go. But that's the joy and magic of Scottish mixed climbing. Thankfully the cracks didn't have too much ice in them for the gear, which was a bonus.
What's the route like? How does it compare to other routes like your very own Banana Wall?
The route is world class! The climbing is full-on straight off the ground. You have grade IX moves literally off the deck.
It is very sustained throughout and even when the angle gets slightly less steep over the roof, the climbing gets way more technical and thin.
I was psyched to do it and be able to compare it to my route 'Banana Wall', which is also grade XII, 12. I think they are very similar. Anubis has more concentrated power packed sections where as Banana Wall had "slightly" easier moves but more sustained sections between the steep rests. Banana is probably easier if you're super fit, whereas on Anubis you could blow it on the technical section above the bulge. I wasn't sure on Wednesday, but I'm happy they've both been graded right, they're just different styles.
You took two falls last Wednesday. Were they relatively OK or did it change your perception of the route?
Yeah, I basically got super flash-pumped on my first attempt. It was a really cold day and the route is full-on from the word go. I got through the roof and the run-out above the gear was scary, I hung about trying to whittle in the right gear and when I finally found something, my arms were shot. My second go of the day was a write-off as I was spent from my onsight attempt. Bearing in mind my high point was only 1/3 of the way up the pitch, I went away still very unsure as to whether I could do the route.
But the falls were ok, and the mental barrier of getting on the route was now broken, so I was slightly more relaxed on Saturday when starting up the route.
You were on it for 3.5 hours! How did you feel at various points on the route, and when you topped?
It sounds like a long time, which it kinda is, but it flew by. I was so consumed with trying to unlock the secrets of the climb and searching for holds that it didn't feel too long at all. I was thinking I needed to push on at one point or I might burn out, but success in Scottish mixed climbing is all about problem solving and working out the moves under a blanket of white, so this takes time.
I'm fully in debt to Helen and Robbie for taking the time to hold my ropes and they know I'm happy to repay the favour whenever they want/we're out again.
Did Dave or Dani give you any beta/tips?
No distinctive beta really, which is why I was so nervous to try the route. But that is the best way, it would have detracted from my ascent if they had told me all the gear and moves. They just sent me their own route descriptions as you would get in a guide book, as I didn't even know where the route went exactly when I messaged Dave looking for info a couple of seasons ago.
Well I'm off to Canada on Thursday for 10 days to climb with Jon Walsh, so that will more than likely be pretty damn good! After that I have a few open projects in Scotland to finish off and some I haven't even tried yet. But you'll have to stay tuned for more info. I doubt I'll be on anything as full-on as Anubis for a while though. Massive respect to Dave and Dani for their ascents! Very Inspirational!
Watch a video of Dani' Arnold's ascent on Anubis below: