Friday, 6 June 2008

South Ridge Direct, Cir Mhor, Arran.

Now, Graham being Graham, had some idea of what this climb was all about. Long had been the hours spent pouring over the guide books and descriptions of this route, and long had been the time that it had been on his wish-list. Jeff being Jeff though, had never heard of it. Short had been the minutes looking on-line at Google's findings, and short the time spent actually thinking what an undertaking this might prove to be. Short, in fact was this pair's experience of 400 m, 10 plus pitch routes at any grade at all, much less 400 m 10 plus pitch VS 5a routes on remote Scottish granite. Was that enough to dissuade us though? Enough to cause even a momentary lull in our eagerness to slog for 2 hours down Glen Rosa to the foot of The South Ridge in the sweltering furnace of that great day( well alright it was warm ), midge plagued and thirsty as we were? Er.. no.

The route looked fantastic as it came into sight on the walk-in and as we geared up at the foot of the ridge, the rising wind served as a natural counterpoint to our rising excitement and anticipation ( blimey ! ). So off we set, with a single 60 metre rope, Graham leading the first pitch. This was accomplished easily enough and as the party of climbers seen earlier seemed to have gone round the corner to Sou' Wester Slabs, it seemed as though we might have the route to ourselves. This in fact proved to be the case and what a rare treat to spend a day on a climb like this with nobody else in sight.

We swapped leads on the subsequent pitches, enjoying great quality climbing on pristine rock. Slab sections could be quite run out with little gear, but the beautifully clean granite gave superb friction and confidence. The route also twists and turns quite a bit too, so our long rope proved very useful. So, in fine style ( in terms of climbing rather than route finding ), we made our way to the foot of the famous "S Crack" pitch.

We had planned that Graham would lead this one but " the best laid plans of mice and men....." etc, meant that rather than faff with ropes it would be Jeff's lead ( yes, Jeff had got the last pitch but one, a bit wrong and built the belay too soon ). But what a pitch ! The photos really do not do it justice. Hard and quite strenuous, but intensely satisfying climbing. A bit technical in places with good gear, Jeff revelled in both the climbing and the exposed position ( This is Graham's pitch next time we go....and we WILL go again...). This , of course, meant that it was now Graham's lead on the (in) famous " Y Crack " pitch........

Looking up from the belay we reckoned that it didn't actually look that bad. The crack's are quite short- about 4 metres- and don't look as exposed, overhanging or brutal as they prove to be on close acquaintance. Graham gave it a real good go, falling off a time or two before we swapped leads. As it was, Jeff only managed it by blatently pulling on a piece of in-stitu gear, in addition to shameful use of belly and knees. That's the 5a bit then.

Oh but on they went these happy pilgrims, ever on and ever upward, pitch after exposed pitch, into the teeth of the rising wind, which took 20 meter loops of rope high in the air, almost pulling it from tired hands( put some gear in then Jeff ). Long, long pitches with the leader out of sight and vain shouts gone unheard in the shriek and clamour of wind and granite and sudden gusts after brief lulls close to plucking hapless frail men from their tenuous perches( this would have been about the time that Graham need a pee and you know what they say about peeing into the wind.............), until they reached the grassy terrace just below the Rosa Pinnacle with just two more pitches to the very top.

So we shook hands, packed up and started the long walk down.

Now if leaving out the Rosa Pinnacle seems a bit anticlimactic, it didn't feel it at the time. We knew we would be back to do Sou' Wester Slabs in a day or two and planned to do it then. Also the lateness of the day and the tiredness of the legs and the longness of the walk back down the valley, never mind the hungryness off the belly and the eagerness to get to the pub, all made us feel like it was a great time to go.

And it was. And it had been. A great great time on a great great climb.