MCofS Climbing Ethics Debate - What Future for Scottish Winter?

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Kevin Howett - 17/11/2003

The Ice Factor, Kinlochleven,
Monday 29th December 8pm.


  • John Mackenzie President of MCofS and prolific new router


  • Chris Cartwright exponent of hard, new, winter-only lines
  • Dave MacLeod bringing a modern rock approach to winter
  • Scott Muir traditional ethics, but also supports a place for Drytooling
  • Kevin Howett a concerned rock climber with a conservationist view (and MCofS National Officer)

A Scenario:
The Met Office forecast with Heather the Weather is giving the Scottish people warnings of bad weather with freezing temperatures, winds from the north and some snow fall. So, climbing conditions should be good then!

You wake at 5am, drive in the dark to then slog dreamily uphill against the elements towards a chosen cliff, inspired by thoughts of dribbling blue ice, rime or hoar frosted buttresses and frozen turf. The Scottish Winter Ethic, espoused by the main protagonists, movers and shakers, new routers and enthusiasts, writers and defenders of The Faith is part of your unconscious psyche; walk to the bottom, climb upward on-sight, no rests, no top-roping, no bolts; on a line that has a winter appearance.

Out of the gloom the cliff emerges, bare black rock except for snow lying on the ledges; or the route was climbed yesterday and any snow sticking to it has been wiped off; or there is no real depth of snow but the turf is frozen; or theres some snow, but its unconsolidated and the turf underneath is soft; or part way up it thaws slightly and the light covering of hoarfrost melts. Do you back off and wait another day, or do you continue and call it a traditional winter ascent?

Or does your idea of the future of winter climbing involve the ascent of that classic mountain rock climb, The Giant, Cougar or King Rat on Creag an Dubh Loch, or The Pin on The Shelterstone, or Torro on Ben Nevis? Quality rock routes that would rarely if ever become wintry. Do you think its OK to place pegs in these routes? Or do you think that bolts now have a place on mountain crags to push technical standards in Scotland to the limit? Do you agree with headpoint ascents such as The Tempest, Glen Coe or Logical Progression, Arrochar? Do you think that the MCofS guidance on winter climbing is wrong or irrelevant?

Have your say on what makes Scottish Winter Climbing special at the worlds biggest INDOOR ICE CLIMBING venue.

Free Prize Draw to anyone attending the debate, win a pair of either Mountain Equipment Vertige axes or the brand new Camp Awax ice tools (worth 200).

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