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Andy Turner onsighting the second, crux pitch of The Secret (X,10, 70m, 2 pitches), as viewed from the top of Gargoyle Wall. Turner established the line on Monday, December 10; it may be the most difficult winter onsight in UK history. [Photo] Sam Loveday

On Monday, December 10, a cold, clear and sunny day broke in the Scottish highlands, providing perfect conditions for Andy Turner, Steve Ashworth and Viv Scott on an impressive, hard new route on Ben Nevis. The Secret (X,10, 70m, 2 pitches), established high in the Creag Coire na Ciste area, home to some of Scotland’s hardest mixed climbs, takes the imposing crack line just left of Darth Vader (VII,8) in the Number Three Gully narrows. It may be the most difficult onsight of a winter climb in UK history.

The route had been attempted by other very strong climbers, including Rich Cross, to no avail. Turner led the first 35-meter pitch, which he thought harder than the crux pitch of Sioux wall (VIII,8) (see the December 1, 2007 NewsWire for recent news on this climb), of which he made the first full winter ascent. The main pitch, also led by Turner and also 35 meters long, Steve Ashworth thought significantly harder than Knuckleduster (VIII, 9) (see the March 5, 2007 NewsWire for more on this climb). Turner has not yet graded The Secret. When asked for a speculative grade on Monday evening, a 9 was mentioned–and Viv Scott, who has onsighted grade 8, raised his eyes and pointed up a lot further. We await Turner’s verdict. [On December 13, Turner proposed a grade of X,10. –Ed.]

Turner employing unusual “modern” technique on Pitch 2. [Photo] Viv Scott

The route required various modern mixed techniques–can openers, resting with elbows hooked over axe and some unusual slippery knee-scums–which are elevating the standard of hard Scottish mixed climbing. The route was climbed leashless. “Once in a while in sport, the bar is significantly raised,” Simon Richardson commented on “These events are rare, but this [ascent of The Secret] is such a moment.”

Turner named it The Secret, having kept it under his hat for the last year, waiting for the right conditions and a day off work to have a go.

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