Neanderthal was one of those routes I really wanted to do, a classic, an adventure. Several cars were parked for SCNL but none for Lost Valley, perfect, it was a beautiful day and we’d have the Coire to ourselves.

The first, easy pitch with the big corner of Neanderthal (VII 7) looming above.

I led the easy first pitch into the cave and got settled in below a sofa sized block that looked ready to part company with the cliff while Francis led the delicate and bold pitch above. Seconding this I felt cold and intimidated at what was to come.

Francis on P2 of Neanderthal (VII 7)

The classic shot, dachsteins and everything!

I psyched myself up for the lead and as I set off Francis offered some encouraging words – “I think the belay’s good but it’s all relying on this insitu hex I can’t really see”. Ok, I thought, I just won’t fall off!

It took a third of the pitch to calm my nerves and I became really psyched, the climbing was awesome. The gear was a bit fiddly in places and not terribly inspiring, but I felt safe-ish. I reached the overlap near the top of the pitch, clipped an insitu cam and spent a while trying to back it up, to no avail. Tentatively pulling over the roof I found bomber sticks in some ice and made some strenuous moves to the top. What a pitch.

Starting the crux pitch of Neanderthal (VII 7)

One easy pitch and we were on top, having just missed the sunset, a great route in the bag.

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