I have just returned from Scotland where I have spent the week as a host at the BMC Winter International Meet.
Over the course of the week I had the privilege of climbing with my good friend Paul Sass from Germany, Ryo Masumoto from Japan, and Marcello Sanguineti from Italy.What inspires me about these meets is the high level of motivation amongst guests to get involved with the styles and practises of the host nation and get into with the spirit things – there is a real sense of intrigue about what on earth goes on in ‘Scottish Winter’!
Although the hills are small, the adventure they pack in far outweigh their size. The hoar, rime, verglas, spindrift, wind, rain, and generally chaotic/unpredictable elements guarantee a truly memorable experience. A day out in Scottish Winter is unforgettable. All the emotion required to find, climb, protect, finish, then descend a route mean that by the time it’s all over you remember it.
European/North American climbers are used to climbing longer, harder, and (possibly) better ice than we have to offer, so it was the mixed climbing that was of particular interest. Who else in the world climbs on rock, ice, snow, and turf covered in rime?! M-Grades don’t convert when the crux of many of our routes is just finding the protection + holds underneath a layer of snow. That isn’t to say that any of the guests fared badly – far, far, from it…
The fitness and skill of all those that I climbed with shone out. Each had a solid background in climbing or mountaineering and – most crucially – a good head. Just because they hadn’t done it before didn’t mean that they couldn’t put two and two together (and quickly!!). It was inspiring to watch Paul Sass climb Savage Slit (V, 6) and Fallout Corner (VI, 7) in quick succession, Matsumoto cruise the second (direct) pitch of Tough Guy (VII 7), and Marcello’s reaction to seeing the Triple Buttress of Ben Eighe. In short, the meet reminded me of what I enjoy most about living in the UK and climbing in Scottish Winter as we are blessed with such variety.