The weather gods shone brightly on the International Winter Meet during the last week of February. After a dismal early winter, the February storms plastered Ben Nevis and the Glen Coe mountains with snow, and the ensuing frequent freeze thaws produced some of the best ice conditions for several years.
This was a relief to the 28 guest climbers from 22 countries and their 28 British hosts who went on to enjoy six non-stop days of winter climbing notching up ascents of 150 climbs including six new routes. The Minus Face was in excellent condition, and routes were climbed from the North-West to the Southern Highlands.
The SMC representatives on the meet, including climbing hosts Neil Adams, Andy Inglis, Tim Miller, Callum Johnson, Scott Grosdanoff, Tim Elson and Emily Ward, were at the forefront of this activity and involved in all the new routes. The most significant additions were Calculus (VIII,8), a direct route on Minus Two Buttress that breaches the band of overhangs at one-third height, and first winter ascents of Gralloch (IX,10) and Scimitar (VII,8) on Garbh Bheinn. Although the climbing conditions were good, the weather was wild, and the avalanche danger ramped up through the week. This caused Event Coordinators Al Todd and myself some concern, but everyone returned safe and sound for a final celebration in Aviemore on 28 February.
The Scottish International Winter Meet had been run on a two-year basis by the BMC since 1997, and had become a key event on the world mountaineering calendar. It had not run since 2016 and was revived by members of the SMC. The Alpine Club and BMC provided funding, Salewa kitted out the hosts, and the event was hosted by Mountaineering Scotland.
Previous events were based Glenmore Lodge, but this time the Mountaineering Scotland and the SMC provided hut accommodation in Mill Cottage, Raeburn, Lagangarbh and the CIC, and climbers rotated between the huts. Thanks to the various hut custodians and to SMC Meets Secretary David Myatt, who arranged all the accommodation sufficiently far in advance. Heather Morning, Chris Huntley, Dave Broadhead, Robin Clothier, with assistance from Doug Hawthorn (together with his mother Carole and son and daughter Echan and Marie) and John Higham, took on the crucial 'hut host' roles keeping everyone fed and watered. The food was both excellent and plentiful, and being handed a glass of gluhwein from a beaming hut custodian after completing a route on the Ben was a novel and very welcome experience. Staying the CIC Hut will never be quite the same again!
The meet was a major success. Great routes had been climbed, ideas shared, friendships made and partnerships formed. Our international guests had been given a magnificent taste of Scottish winter climbing and left with huge smiles on their faces. And amongst the hosts and organisers, there is already talk of another meet in winter 2022.