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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Small-World Department

Next month the British Mountaineering Council will host its biannual winter climbing meet in Scotland. I went to the last winter meet, in 2007, and not long ago I was reminded of this superb week when a guy sent me a photo of a familiar-looking cliff. I had attempted a new route on this crag on the final day of the 2007 meet.

James Edwards and I had joined two other climbers for an adventurous visit to Beinn Dearg in the far northwest of the country. We were hoping for new routes, but while the other international climbers enjoyed one of the best single days of climbing in Ben Nevis history, we found unfrozen turf and wet snow at this lower-elevation crag. One-hundred feet up our new line, it seemed obvious even to a foreigner that the route was not in condition. We built a poor anchor and rappelled back to the ground. I had no regrets: We managed to do another fine climb that day, the company was excellent, and riding bikes up and down the first couple of miles of the approach in the pouring rain, with heavy packs, was an unforgettable Scottish climbing experience.

This September I received an email and the photo above from Martin Hind, who told me, "The line you attempted with James Edwards on Beinn Dearg was climbed by myself and a friend of James a few weeks afterwards at VI, 6, called Salsa Saga, and was my first winter route in about two years. Quite bold climbing with some unprotected traverses at grade 6 proving the crux. James did another new line to the right on the same day."

I was happy to see the route completed, but Martin's email raised a crucial point. I had given James a tenner to help cover the cost of the gear we left at that anchor. Had Martin and his partner collected it? Yes they had, Martin confirmed, and after the climb they returned the gear to James. Edwards, you owe me a pint!

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