This account is in Matt’s own words, about his long awaited, dream climb up Mega Route X.
Scottish winter climbing is about patience, waiting for the right conditions, climbing well, having a goodish weather window, and making the time to go. It’s a lot of balls to juggle.
Mega Route X has been on my list of dream routes to climb since I first swung an ice tool 20 years ago. I watched the film, “The Edge - 100 years of Scottish mountaineering”, featuring Dave ‘Cubby’ Cuthbertson. He made Mega Route X look easy. He was using leashed tool and Dachstein mitts so I thought, “How hard can it be?”
Over the years I have been looking at the route, watched it start to form, only to then see it fall again as a thaw rattled though. I have spent weeks in the CIC hut when it has been in mega condition, only for there to be so much snow that it was too dangerous to get to the start of the route.
Then last season I finally managed to juggle all the balls and at an end of a week's private guiding with Martin Benny, a friend and regular climbing partner, we climbed Mega Route X.
On the day
Yes, I was nervous. I had wanted to climb it as Cubby had, enjoy it, savour every moment. I had been waiting years to climb Mega Route X.
Conditions in the mountains had made it a tough week. A lot of snow high up on the mountain meant a lot of dodging dangerous snow. I had to think outside the box to come up with safe objectives. I had been watching the route all week and finally the snow had settled, it was possible to have ago.
It was quite simply, MEGA!
It was steeper than it looked, or how I’d imagined, on the first pitch; and on the second, I had to bridge a way up the steep wall to the top. Talk about amazing first-time placements - the ice was so good my front points were sticking first time.
Then with one swift abseil, Martin and I were back on the ground, both with huge grins on our faces. As I walked away, I took the time to look back at the route, after all I’d waited so patiently to climb it.
It was worth the wait, and quite simple mega!
Regards to all, and wishing you a very Merry Christmas!
After kindly taking the time to tell us about his dream route, we grabbed Matt to ask him a few questions:
What’s so special about Mega Route X?
Well, it’s a sort after route, hard, but not by modern standards. It’s just that it has a real history and presence. It’s scarce too because it requires certain conditions to create those incredible ice walls. For most advanced climbers, it’s one to experience. I’ve always aspired to climb it.
What preparation did you do?
Martin and I climbed Mega Route X at the end of the 2019 season, so I was fit and strong from doing various other climbs around Europe throughout the season. I’d worked through various grades of climbs before going for it.
Is there a course at Plas y Brenin that would help people prepare for a climb like this?
Please be aware that the courses listed below are currently unavailable for booking due to Covid-19 restrictions
Mega Route X is an advanced-level route, so yeah, I’d recommend the Scottish Performance Winter Climbing course, which is based at the Alltshellach hotel in North Ballachulish, Fort William. It takes in various challenging routes on Ben Nevis, with five days of climbing that covers plenty of miles and aims to break the Grade V barrier. This course is very popular and booked up quickly for 2021, but if you get in touch via the course webpage using the link above, you can go on the reserve list, and if there’s enough demand, we’ll put on extra spaces.
If you're only just starting out in winter, but have an aspiration to take on winter climbing routes in the future, I’d recommend the Scottish Winter Mountaineering course, also based at the Alltshellach hotel. It combines practical instruction with the ascents of many of the finest summits in the Western Highlands, so it’ll develop your winter skills on steeper snow and winter scrambling terrain.
Or you could book a private guide with one of the Plas y Brenin team and have some personalised, bespoke instruction.
Thanks to Matt for taking the time to share with us his experience of Mega Route X.
Find out more about Matt - Mountaineering and Rock Climbing Instructor at Plas y Brenin National Outdoor Centre.
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