New Testpiece on Ben Nevis


The big lead on The Secret, a new route on Ben Nevis that may have been Scotland’s hardest winter onsight. Photo by Sam Loveday, courtesy of

New Testpiece on Ben Nevis

Finding excellent conditions on Ben Nevis, Steve Ashworth, Viv Scott, and Andy Turner made the first ascent of The Secret, a two-pitch crack line on the side of Number 3 Gully. The highly experienced trio has given the grade X,10 to The Secret, making it the hardest winter route ever onsighted in Scotland.

Ashworth led the “approach” pitch and said it was harder than Sioux Wall (VIII,8), a nearby route that he climbed for its fourth ascent in November. (Turner had made the second ascent.) Turner then led the striking 115-foot crux pitch, a frost-covered fist-to-finger crack on a vertical wall. Ashworth thought this pitch was “much, much harder” than Knuckleduster (VIII,9), which he established on Ben Nevis last winter.

To date, the hardest winter route onsighted in Scotland likely was Dave MacLeod’s Defenders of the Faith (IX,9).

Andy Turner works a knee scum on The Secret. Courtesy of

New Testpiece on Ben Nevis

Andy Turner cranks on the crux crack of The Secret. Courtesy of

New Testpiece on Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis mixed climbing has been enjoying a renaissance, as climbers bring modern rock climbing and M-climbing strength and skill to this hyper- traditional winter area. Last winter, during an international climbing meet in Scotland, Ben Nevis had three new Grade VIII routes established in a single day.

For more about the experience of winter climbing in Scotland, read the Rime and Punishment series on

Date of Ascent: December 10, 2007,

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