Callum Johnson - Scottish Winter Triple Eight

Callum Johnson - Scottish Winter Triple Eight

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Introducing one of the newest member to the Scarpa Team – Callum Johnson. In this blog we get to know Callum and find out all about his Scottish winter triple eight.

Meet Scottish climber, Callum Johnson – one of our newest additions to the Scarpa team.

Callum’s approach is to make the most of the natural environment whatever the conditions. Mixing trad with winter climbing, Callum is an all rounder. He says this is imperative if you want to make the most of the Scottish weather.

He started climbing when he joined the university mountaineering club. Exploring the local sea cliffs whenever he could, this exposure to climbing opened his eyes to the adventures on offer.

Callum loves to explore the climbing potential in Scotland, especially in the North West.

The North West of Scotland is one of my favourite places to climb, it always feels wild and remote. The rock quality is excellent and the sunsets superb. Any adventurous sea cliff climbing will always appeal to me, committing to a big abseil down to a wave washed platform, the salty smell and the crashing waves awaken the senses. The wildlife is often abundant and interesting, the rock is superb, seawashed and featured – made to be climbed – especially in the evening sun, with good company and tired arms from a long day.

Callum has already had lots of achievements in his climbing career including first ascents on; New Age Raiders IX 9 – Bidean Nam Bian, The Flying Fox VIII 8 – An Teallach, Take The Throne VI 5 – Creag an Dubh Loch.

However his latest project was bigger than anything he has done before.

For winter 2020/21 Callum set out his plan; to climb 8 grade VIII Scottish Winter routes on 8 different mountain crags in one season.

Before this challenge Callum had only climbed 3 grade VIII routes, so this seemed like a big challenge. However, having a clearly defined goal for the winter spurred him on.

Keen to kick the season off with a bang, Callum headed to Ben Nevis, where he made a second ascent of Curly’s Arete. This route takes a delicate line near the left arete of the Sioux Wall face for three pitches. A great route to kick off the project.

Next up was a new winter route on An Teallach, starting up an existing route, Silver Fox, thin technical and bold climbing. Then breaking right to climb new terrain; steep corners and technical slabby grooves to the summit.

Callum went on to conquer Never Never Land, VIII 8, Knuckleduster Direct, VIII 9, Omerta, IX 9 and New Age Raiders, IX 9 all before the end of 2020.

Scottish Winter Triple Eight

With the new year came new challenges. The late season conditions, coupled with running out of new options made the challenge even harder.

This didn’t stop Callum, he was back out in January ticking off more ascents including what turned out to be a second ascent of Mainreachan Buttress on Fuar Tholl. The approach is long, but snow conditions were favourable, with a stunning sunrise to distract their minds from the effort.

With a bonus grade VIII on Beinn Eighe and the Godfather on Beinn Bhan, Callum was close to closing off his challenge. With a big thaw coming at the end of February it was looking doubtful that Callum was going to be able to get his last route in before spring took over.

With temperatures dropping again and snow forecast, Callum identified one last possible venue to tick off his 8th route. Coire an Lochain, typically an early season mixed venue, it rimes up quickly. Late in the season It gave some unique conditions – lightly rimed up rock and dry cracks on the first pitch and then thin ice on the second.

Callum reflected on his season’s achievements,

This season I climbed 11 routes grade VIII or harder, this is far beyond what I believed possible back in November 2020.

It was great to have that focus running through the whole season, it encouraged the exploration of new venues and gave scope for getting into the finer details of predicting conditions. The complexity of the challenge continued to reveal itself throughout.

Callum Johnson

Callum isn’t stopping there. He is already planning bigger and better things for next winter.

This year I am switching focus slightly – I have always been an ‘onsight’ climber, this probably comes from a traditional climbing background and an enjoyment of the in-the-moment quick thinking problem solving. Whereas I am now keen to push my ‘red point’ abilities, something I have done very little of. It’s a whole different head game, practicing moves, rehearsing sequences then putting it all together.

Keep your eyes peeled for Callum’s next big project coming this winter.