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Hot Aches and Scottish Grade VIII, 9 Start Winter Season

Apache (VIII,9 100m), Ben Nevis, Scotland. The “imposing” mixed line was established on November 13 by Steve Ashworth and Paddy Cave, kicking of a promising winter season on “The Ben.” [Photo] Steve Ashworth

On November 13, Steve Ashworth and Paddy Cave set out for Ben Nevis (1343m) with a plan to warm up for the winter climbing season and to put up a new line adjacent to the Sioux Wall on Number Three Gully Buttress. Despite howling spindrift and stormy skies, the duo climbed 100m in three pitches, establishing Apache (VIII 9, 100m). In the Alpinist 22 Mountain Profile, Simon Richardson describes the grade VII to IX climbs on Ben Nevis as “the hardest routes in Scotland.” For a description of Scottish winter grading see the Grade Comparison Chart.

On a previous trip to the area, Ashworth spotted the “barrel-shaped wall split by a straight crack line” just right of the Sioux Wall. Branching off from Thompson’s Route (IV 4), Apache climbs a pitch to the base of the wall before ascending the “blank, gently overhanging wall to gain the steep crack.” A final pitch follows the crack through a roof and onto easier alpine terrain, topping out on the buttress. Dogged by hot aches (Queen’s English for “screaming barfies”), the pair finished the climb soaked and chilled, but exhilarated.

While Ashworth has put up several new climbs on “The Ben,” including Knuckleduster (VIII 9, 120m), The Secret (X 10, 70m), and The Sorcerer (VII 8, 140m), this was Cave’s first new line in the area.

Apache is “an imposing line, climbed in the best style in the worst weather,” Ashworth said. “To get such a good blast of full Ben Nevis conditions on the first route of the season was great.”

Editor’s Note: With such a stout climb done in good style so early in the season, we cannot help but predict a stellar winter in Scotland. Have at it!

For up-to-date conditions on Ben Nevis visit The Epicentre.

Sources: Steve Ashworth,

Paddy Cave negotiates a steep, icy crack on the second pitch of Apache. [Photo] Steve Ashworth