Sunday, 3 January 2016

Top routes of 2015

Its been a brutal welcome to the real world this year with working definitely putting a dampener on productivity. Thankfully, a combination of some occasional sunshine and some dedicated partners has meant I've manged to drip feed my obsession and get out and do some of the routes which have been on my hit list for a while. Compared to last year there has certainly been less 'E's and more 'V's in 2015 but absolutely no compromise in the amount of enjoyment! So in no particular order, here follows the top 10 routes I've climbed in 2015..

South Face Direct (VS 4c) Chair Ladder, West Penwith
If you only have time to do one route at Chair Ladder then look no further than South Face Direct. It climbs straight from the sea to the highest point of the cliff in 4 pitches of steep corners and overhangs, which are all blessed with some of the biggest holds you’ve ever seen! A tremendous route is every sense of the word and well worth the long drive to the middle of nowhere..

High on the crux groove of South Face Direct (VS 4c) down at Chair Ladder

Emma just topping out from the sensationally steep 3rd pitch of South Face Direct (VS 4c)

 Anvil Chorus (VS 4c) Bosigran, West Penwith
The ultimate layback! The fantastic 3rd pitch provides a fantastic challenge up the central crack before a wild traverse rightwards leads to the finishing mantle. It’s also set at one of the most atmospheric crags in Cornwall so you couldn’t ask for much more!

The 3rd pitch crux corner of Anvil Chorus (VS 4c) down at Bosigran
Blank (VS 4b) Rosa Slabs, Isle of Arran
The true meaning of the word. Set far from the road high on the side of Goatfell, the Rosa Slabs are an archetypal Arran crag. A taste for adventure and a love of steep heather are vital qualities an ascensionist must possess, and that’s without considering the route! This swathe of glacially scoured micro granite offers several 3* multi-pitch mid-grade routes with the best being Blank (VS 4b) and its harder variation Blankist (HVS 4c). The former of which culminates in a heart stopping finale up the final slab with zero holds and zero gear, just pure friction. Amazing!

The rather 'blank' last pitch of Blank (VS 4b) at the top of the Rosa Slabs on Arran

Sol Armer soaking up the sunshine on Dogleg (VS 4c) on the Rosa Slabs
 Diocese (VS 5a) Chair Ladder, West Penwith
A real fight. This 4 pitch monster tackles Chair Ladders’ Bishops Buttress head on going straight up the huge leaning central corner. An elegant start soon leads to one of the most arduous squeeze chimneys/intimidating laybacks in the West Country. If you’re not gasping for breath at the belay you didn’t do it right!

Tophet Wall (HS 4a) Gable Crag, The Lakes
This route needs no introduction and is a true mountain classic. Best saved for a sunny morning with great company.

The steep first pitch of Tophet Wall (HS 4a) on Great Gable, Lake District
Sacrosanct (HVS 5a) Sanctuary Wall, Torquay
Although it’s not the best route, the crag certainly is. With most other routes being E4 and above, saying this route has a devious line is a major understatement. It climbs through one of Torquay’s most intimidating venues on some of the biggest holds in the world, with just enough looseness to keep your palms sweating. If you fall off, you’re probably going for a swim!

Sanctuary Wall down at Torquay. Sacrosanct (HVS 5a) breaks through the lower overhangs in the center
then climbs the steep slab to the top in 2 brilliant pitches  
Original Route (VS 5a) The Old Man of Stoer, NW Highlands
Justification that sometimes 3 stars just isn’t enough. Climbing Original Route up the Old Man of Stoer has to be one of the best days adventuring you’ll have anywhere! You’ll need some swimming trunks, a tyrolean, 60m ropes and almost definitely a haggis. The route climbs this sea stack in as many as 5 pitches and although appearances may suggest otherwise, the rock is sound and the gear is exactly where you need it.

The Old Man of Stoer (no I'm not talking about Rafe!) in the NW Highlands. Original Route (VS 5a) climbs the
stack in as many as 5 pitches and requires a swimming start! 

The approach to the climb on the stack is via tyrolean which has to be fixed first. Luckily for me Rafe drew the short straw and had to swim across! 

Rafe Osborne on the steep first pitch traverse of Original Route (VS 5a)
Midnight Cowboy (HVS 5a) Baggy Point, Devon
Slab central. 3 pitches of superb Culm with an ice cream shop on the walk out. Bliss! 

Edward Tonkin just finishing the crux sequence on the 2nd pitch of Midnight Cowboy (HVS 5b) at Baggy Point, Devon
Jack the Ripper (E1 5b) Stac Pollaidh, NW Highlands
Like gritstone, but huge! I climbed this route with Rafe after driving up from Devon after work. We got to the base at about 4am and were still gearing up to go by 7am. It’s a brilliant route that has a bit of everything, and has one of the best top out views of any climb I’ve ever done!

The view at the top. Not bad really!

Rafe cruising the crux 3rd pitch on Jack the Ripper, NW Highlands
Direct Nose Route (HVS 5b) Sgurr an Fhidhleir, NW Highlands
At the time, getting to the top was out of necessity rather than desire. Wet mossy rock and hanging gardens were the flavor of this adventure topped off by a route description for seemingly a different crag. However this ~300m monster has to be one of the purest natural lines in the UK, climbing the entire elegant prow of Sgurr an Fhidhleir from bottom to top. The top few pitches provide some pretty good and nerve wracking climbing but it’s mostly choss so if you’re after another Centurion perhaps look elsewhere! All things considered this still has to be one of the best mountain challenge I’ve done in Scotland.

Sgurr an Fhidhleir, NW Highlands. You can guess where the route goes! 

Starting up the wet and mossy lower pitches of Direct Nose Route (HVS 5a). At least when your moving you're not
getting midged! 

Looking down the crux section of Direct Nose Route (HVS 5a) from the top of pitch 10

Climbing through steep ground and hanging gardens on Direct Nose Route (HVS 5a)
Overall its been a pretty good year with 91 routes ticked totaling around ~200 stars and probably countless more pitches completed. I'm hoping 2016 will be just as productive and with my recent purchase of numerous Lakes FRCC guides I'm thinking that's going to be my main target area next year. Watch this space!   

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