Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Beinn Tarsuinn - Meadow Face - Failed Winter FA (free-solo); Summit Gully (200m, I)

Vastness awaits

I feel it is important to record the failures as well as the successes.  

However, I returned home on foot (as opposed to in a body bag); in this sense, there was no real failure. 

For the past couple of years I've been having a sniff around Arran's Beinn Tarsuinn & the Meadow Face.  There's winter potential here.  And a few plumb lines nearby - which I'll highlight below.

One of my projects is to free-solo a new winter line on the Meadow Face.  I've been working on a few lines, and went on Sunday 7th (Jan 2018) to have a look at another potential line.  

The crag doesn't face the best way; conditions here are very fickle.  

I trust climbers reading this piece will appreciate the dangers of free-soloing a new winter line on the Meadow Face - especially any climber who has stood at its base.  The angle is stupendous:

As stated in the title - I failed on a route.  I'm not writing within this article exactly where the route is, as I plan on going back to complete it.  I've also omitted photos that would give away the exact location of the route.  It'll go at about tech 5 or 6.  Possbly 6, putting it in a (very) small group of 6's on Arran.

One photo of the central section that should give a clue to anyone who has travelled these parts:

I will admit that free-soloing & new routing are a potentially lethal combination.  Especially in winter, when conditions often determine one's outcome more than ability.  I had to downclimb the route c.220ft up due to conditions.  This was far more terrifying than any upward progress.        

In any instance RE keeping quiet about the route(s) I'm working, I'll share some useful info with climbers after this first section RE other possible lines on Beinn Tarsuinn.    

Short video I edited together of footage from the ascent/descent just below.  I've omitted any shots that reveal where on the face I am, but the footage does give a sense of what the route is like.  As can be seen - there's an iced-up slab - this is just off vertical, and lasts for c.70ft.  Downclimbing this slab was worrying.  There was also an awkward reverse-torque; thank goodness for the oversized Mountain Technology adze!  

Technically challenging climbing.


Beinn Nuis etc

Prior to the info on Beinn Tarsuinn, included below are some shots of the Nuis Face.  Given I was walking into Tarsuinn, the angle of various shots may reveal some interesting features.  I've also taken a number of profile shots of the Nuis Chimney.

And for those unfamiliar with Arran, here is the classic view of Cir Mhor from the Rosa Bridge:

And with prominent features added for reference:

Also interesting is the aptly-named Forgotten Tor.  This sits high up on Goatfell - see images below.

Goatfell from Glen Rosa

Forgotten Tor is the prominent buttress.  It gives some good winter fun

Forgotten Tor.  In summer it yields a Diff & VDiff.  I climbed it in winter last year, but didn't record it.  I'm going back soon for some sport; I'll film the ascent

OK, a bunch of shots of Nuis. Shot 1 & 2 are the same shot, with shot 1 detailing the most prominent features of the face (see the SMC guidebook for more details).

Nuis Chimney

Nuis, as seen from near the Meadow Face.  


Beinn Tarsuinn: Unclimbed Winter Lines

OK - now to the interesting stuff.  I'll share some lines here with other climbers.  

Looking to Tarsuinn: the Meadow Face is on the extreme R:

The terrace cutting across the face I girdled last year for the sake of familiarisation.  Also prominent is Summit Gully (I).  Same image, with details:

Lines 1, 2, and 3 are unclimbed.  

2 & 3 are plumb lines; 1 is slightly more contrived.

Route 1 is for those who like the perverse: there's a horrid off-width just above the Terrace.    

After failing, I went to have a look at line 2.  Unfortunately ice & rock were hurtling down the face at an alarming rate; I scuttled off to Summit Gully to salvage at least something from the day!  

Line 2 will likely be a notable Arran ascent.  The route consists of two distinct sections (lower = ice/slab; upper = snow gully).  Crux of the route is just after Tarsuinn Terrace, where one of Arran's most beautiful icefalls forms.  

Ice climbers will love this route.  Until this article, this icefall was unknown.  

Here's a profile:

Now that's a climb

I was surprised to see the ice touching.  Very disappointed to see it starting to detach as I was walking to the base of the route.  I don't mind taking a risk, but 10 tonnes of ice landing on top of me then being sent 240ft down iced-up slabs is slightly outwith the comfort zone!

Some shots of the route below, plus some general shots of the face/area (in no particular order).

Meadow face in winter

Route 2, lower section plus crux icefall.  Route 1 also contains an icefall, seen here in the lower shaded area

Route 3

Meadow Slabs

Route 2, full profile.  This is an absolute plumb line of a climb

Route 2 & 3, plus the Terrace

The icefall.  Very thin, and unfortunately detaching

Ice to the L of The Blinder....

Route 3.  Less prominent, but still worth a sniff

Beautiful angel-wing profile of the icefall

The deep gash at the base of Route 1 off to the far L

The distinctive dogleg of Summit Gully

Route 1 lower icefall in shade

At the base of Route 1 & 2

Route 2 needs a few days of freeze/thaw (after a wet spell), followed by a cold cloudy day.  Unfortunately I didn't have the cloud.

Alternatively, climbing the route at first or last light would/could work.  

Routes 1 & 2 will likely be notable Arran winter climbs.  

Given the cliff was spitting ice & he occasional boulder at an alarming rate, I scampered off to ascend Summit Gully to at least salvage something from the day.  


Summit Gully (c.200m, I)

Probably slightly longer than 200m, this is a stunning through-route.  Given the length of the walk-in plus the more popular winter climbing venues on Arran, I doubt the route has had any more than a handful of repeats.  

I'd thoroughly recommend it to those looking for some winter sport.  Also good belays if you prefer the reassurance of a rope.  

Some shots below.  

I filmed the route in its entirety; I'll upload the footage when I have spare time. 

Looking up Summit Gully from the base of the unclimbed routes mentioned earlier.  I contoured in from here to the base of the gully

Upper snowfield

Looking down Summit Gully

Topping out.  Climber abducted by aliens; any info, please contact Strathclyde Police
Looking from the Old Man.  My line of footsteps clearly seen in this shot
Looking back to Tarsuinn summit & Summit Gully


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