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Páramo Sapiens – a winter climbing adventure


The day dawned clear and cold as we left the car park at Sligachan and took the path towards Sgurr Bhastier through iced up puddles crunching under foot. Following the right side of the Allt Dearg burn, we soon reached the snowed up slopes under the north face. A few days before I had been climbing on the lower buttress and had come across this excellent looking route, but armed only with nuts and a bulldog I decided we were not “hard” enough to attempt pure ice, so reluctantly left, but you know what happens in your mind… … Your only mission is to return before anyone can “steal” that coveted first ascent! Unfortunately, (for him) my friend Murdo has a proper job, so couldn’t do mid-week, so like any conscientious climber I quickly decided to find a new best friend. With conditions this good it proved to be a doddle. Matt and John, better known as Skye Adventure made up the team and what a team… full of fun, always an advantage on the belays climbing as three! All too soon the ice “reared” steep and forbidding above us and after scratching around for a belay and uncoil… (I mean untangling the ropes!) my new compatriots decided it was my lead, said with a smirk (no smirk without fire I always say). In these circumstances it’s best not to show panic, so with a deep intake of breath and a few choice words to myself, I attacked the ice with gusto and waded through thigh deep powder snow to the bottom steepening. Ice screw placed, the tools sank easily into the bomber ice and I was “off” on my adventure. Nothing better than doinking your ice axe in some 5,000 year old foliage hanging on in a hostile terrain! Sweating profusely, mouth dry, I am soon joined by my partners and after a bit of backslapping we ponder what we’ll call this little gem for posterity. Since we had a theme for these cliffs, starting with a route I called “Je Suis Charlet” as it was just after the attacks on Charlie Hebdo. It didn’t take long to settle on “Páramo Sapiens” as a quick perusal of our gear revealed us all to be wearing Páramo jackets and trousers which we all find to be warm and comfortable both climbing and snickering on belays. A quick bite to eat whilst admiring the view and it was time to head back down through the virgin snow, before daylight deserted us. “Páramo Sapiens” IV 4 north face Sgurr Bhastier, Black Cuillins, Isle of Skye

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