Chris Dale on the first winter ascent of Snoopy:VII.Mainreachan Buttress,Fuar Thuall:Photo Andy Nisbet©
" I call to Pete, "I can't stop here." Do I mean I want to reverse the last 25 feet? Or that I expect him miraculously to reassure me that this little perch is indeed a stance? He says, "What's it like round the corner?" I lean out from my good left-hand hold and peer round the shattered rib to my right. It is like a badly bombed cathedral, with stubs of flying buttresses far below, cracked walls angling out of sight at my eye-level, broken gutters spilling debris onto us from above and out of sight. Twenty feet below there are little ledges with some grass. But it would take Extreme. maybe impossible, climbing to reach them. The arete above me which runs down to my shattered rib might go but it would be desperate to start. I'd have to pull up on those terrifying loose pinnacles. And who knows what's up there? It's a perfect case of the devil you know. A ragged crack-line leads off on a traverse at our level. It makes sense to at least set out across the 25-foot bay of nearly vertical rock between my corner and its counterpart across the way. I shout to Pete, "I'll try to traverse from here," and set off, wishing I had something real as an anchor instead of that wee wire in shaky rock — if I fall, Pete will hold me, but if the corner collapses it could cut the ropes . . . It is so sheerly necessary to move, in the teeth of whatever risks. that the risks themselves shrink into finite factors. Each one is no less but no more dominating than the things that are going for us. We know that the line has been climbed before. by Boysen and Alcock (but which line. exactly?). We have plenty gear and we know- to use it. Above all, the flow of momentum draws us upwards, magnetised by the grand size and shaping of this scarp that rears into the blue summer sky powered from below by memories of how often we've set off upwards and usually made it.'
This Friday...David Craig suffers dry mouth syndrome riding the bare back of a Scottish giant.