Tuesday, 12 December 2017

My Top Routes of 2017

It’s been a turbulent year to say the least. New job, new home, more friends, different life. So much has changed. Through all this thankfully some things have stayed constant, namely a love of early mornings and chronic fear of lazy Saturdays! Moving back to Scotland was definitely at the top of my priorities for 2017, however I was surprised by just how quickly it all happened. Before I knew it the job contact was signed, the tenancy was secured and my boxes were packed and all by mid February. Everyone up here is so awesome and so friendly, I know the friends I've made will be friends for life!

Somehow amongst all this chaos over 100 climbs have been ticked, comprising of innumerable pitches, countless walk-ins, abseils and other faff. 

As I’ve not done one of these since 2015, I thought I’d also include some other particularly memorable favorites from 2016 as well as just the ones from 2017. So in no particular order, here are ten my most memorable climbs from 2016/2017.

Moss Ghyll Grooves (MVS 4c) Scafell Crag

Perhaps one of the most famous 'MVS's in the country. This outstanding route climbs an immaculate series of grooves and corners up one of the Lake Districts biggest mountain crags. Its a north face, so takes a while to dry and even longer to be warm enough to fully enjoy, but when its 'in' its totally worth the wait. Made all the better for having the approach start and finish next to the Wasdale Head Inn, which is perhaps one of the best mountain pubs in the world! 

We climbed it in four pitches, with the second '4c' pitch being the pick of the bunch. More photos here http://wainwrightclimbing.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/a-reoccurring-theme.html

Rob finishing the first pitch of Moss Ghyll Grooves (MVS 4c)

Botterill’s Slab (VS 4c) Scafell Crag

Yep, that's right, another one on Scafell Crag! Bit of a theme running here isn't there? A steep start, a bold slab and tones of history, what more could you want? Its also worth noting this climb was somehow first done in 1903 by a dude in breaches with an ice axe.

More photos here http://wainwrightclimbing.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/nowt-but-us-up-here.html

Matt enduring a steep start on the first pitch of Botterill's Slab (VS 4c)

Matt moving delicately up the outstanding second pitch of Botterill's Slab (VS 4c)

Scafell Crag in the glorious spring evening sunshine

The Wasdale Crack (HS) Napes Needle

Another route that needs no introduction. Being basically one of the first landmark climbs in the British Isles its a must do for any big mountain crag climber and beside, who wouldn't say no to a big pinnacle! lol.

Pointing out the line of the Wasdale Crack, Napes Needle
The route itself is pretty polished as its popularity is probably unrivaled, however don't let that deter you, as its one of the most interesting and airy summits around!

The Dubhs Ridge (Mod) Skye

Being nearly 1000m in length, the Dubhs Ridge rightfully claims to be one of the longest rock climbs in the UK. It comprises of vast swathes of beautiful scoured gabbro slabs rising straight out of the Courisk basin, running up to the summit of Sgurr Dubh Beag and beyond to the main Cuilin Ridge. I could go on and on about this route but the things you need to know are;
  1. The easiest way to get there is by the seal watching boat from Elgol
  2. The rock is amazing, with some of the best friction slab climbing anywhere I've ever been
  3. The abseil from the top of Sgurr Dubh Beag is pretty exposed and definitely gets the blood pumping
  4. Getting up is the easy bit
  5. Getting back down in time for the last boat is definitely the hard bit! 

Looking at the route from the Courisk basin below. The route follows a committing line right up the middle of the slabs for nearly 1000m
The 'must do' crack high up the Dubhs Ridge

Emma making the steep abseil of the top of Sgurr Dubh Beag

The Edge (VS 4c) Loudoun Hill

Maybe the most little-known super classic VS in the whole UK? This lonely route is essentially a massive pinnacle attached (well mostly anyway) to the side of a mediocre central belt crag, but provides one of the most exposed VS climbs about. The gear is all slings and the holds are all pinches. Most think it deserves E1 4c, but I think it depends how much you trust a sling on a flat hold..

More photos here http://wainwrightclimbing.blogspot.co.uk/2017/11/loudoun-calling.html

Gregor right on it on the The Edge (VS 4c) at Loudoun Hill

Engineer’s Slabs (VS 4c) Gable Crag

A route for the mountain crag connoisseur. Engineer's Slab sits on one of the highest (and coldest) north faces in the entire Lake District. The high angle of the face means its less 'slab' more 'really damn steep!' with the line following a series of steep cracks before finishing up through the capping overhangs in humongous V shaped cleft. Often wet and more often green, this was one that I had to wait quite a while for until the stars aligned and opportunity presented itself.

More photos here http://wainwrightclimbing.blogspot.co.uk/2017/09/moss-slime-lichen-and-looseness.html

Looking up the 'slab' from the base. The 'slab' is probably at a fair angle at the base but by half height its almost vertical, and by the top, is practically overhanging! 

Looking down the last pitch of Engineer's Slab (VS 4c) with Matt making some very exposed moves out to the arete above the void!

Walk on the Wild Side (HVS 5a) Auchinstarry Quarry

Usually no matter how good a single pitch route is, I don't find it satisfying enough to make it totally memorable. Walk on the Wild Side in Auchinstarry quarry however is the exception. Super thin and super bold slab climbing on perfectly formed positive edges.

The route sits hidden away in the back of Auchinstarry Quarry, which is probably the best crag in Kilsyth(!). Although it has a bit of an industrial wasteland feel, the crag is quick drying and only 10 minutes from the M80. Its also home to some other super cool routes like Trundle (VS 4c), Promontory Direct (HVS 5a), Red Lead (VS 5a) and Orange Flash (HVS 5a).

More photos here http://wainwrightclimbing.blogspot.co.uk/2017/08/walk-on-wild-side.html

Nicholas on a route called Red lead (VS 5a) which is another brilliant route in Auchinstarry Quarry just round the corner from Walk on the Wild Side
Fran seconding the upper slab of Walk on the Wild Side (HVS 5a) with another team to the right on Trundle (VS 4c)

East Face Route (E1 5b) Old Man of Hoy

Ever since seeing a picture of this monolith in a talk by Leo Holding, I knew climbing this route was going to be one of my life's ambitions. We battled rain, wind, vomiting birds and awkward ferry times but got to the top and I've never felt so elated, the route lived up to the hype and in my mind is the definition of what adventurous climbing is about.

That whole area seems to have a massive wealth of climbing that's completely untapped. I can't wait to go back.

More photos here http://wainwrightclimbing.blogspot.com/2017/08/hoy-lifetime-tick.html

The Old Man of Hoy, the UK's largest 'sea stack'. This photo and the one after next were taken by Tim Simons, who happened to recognize our colour trousers on the ferry back to the mainland and we exchanged e-mail addresses! 

The first pitch of East Face Route (E1 5b), Old Man of Hoy
Moving through steep ground on the 'chimney pitch' of the East face Route (E1 5b). Photo Tim Simmons.

Waiting for the ferry off Hoy.. Job done.

Skeleton Ridge (HVS 4c) The Needles, Isle of Wight

Some of you may have never heard of it, but almost all of you will have seen it! So you know that amazing lighthouse shown on program intros on BBC1 which is surrounded by those massive white chalk rubble piles, yeah Skeleton Ridge is the bit behind it that runs to the old military lookout, and yes people have actually climbed on it!

Its got choss, its got giant abseils, its got sea birds and its got more exposure than you can shake a stick at. A perfect day out surely?

We got the ferry from the mainland and cycled across the island to the campsite closest to the route. After finishing the route the next day we headed to the pub and drank 12 pints between us, by which time we'd both forgotten the horror of the day and now I only look back with warm fondness.

Although the route is probably closer to VS than HVS its pretty high consequences... If you abseil in and you've got the tide wrong, you can either climb back up the abseil rope and probably die or wait for a rescue which will never come and also probably die. Since the gear is essentially in white mud, if you fall everything will rip (including the belay) and you'll probably die. If pull too hard on any of the holds, it will probably break, you will fall off and you'll probably die. If you decide its all too much half way up and abseil off, the gear will rip and you'll probably die. Alternatively you could pendulum abseil, but then again the tide will have come in and with all that heavy gear on you won't make the mile swim to the beach, so you'll probably die. Getting the hint? If none of this puts you off, go and do it, its the best day you'll ever have by the seaside.

More photos here http://wainwrightclimbing.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/skeleton-ridge.html

Racing the tide to the base of the route. The sea

The white crumbing knife edge. Photo credit Rob Steer
Moving through a difficult section a' chavel! Photo credit Rob Steer

Hairy Mary (HVS 4b) Suidhe Biorach, Skye

Finally, the last route on the list and by no means the least is Hairy Mary on Skye's west coast. At a glance, I'm sure your first thought is why go sea cliff climbing next to maybe the best mountain range in the world? Well the answer is that Skye also has some of the best sea cliff climbing in the world too! Conjured through water, fire and ice over millions of years, Skye is the juxtaposition for any scientist who would elsewhere disregard the idea of divine creation. From the elegantly carved monolithic mountain pinnacles to the majestic thundering zawns and towering sea stacks, it does beg the question that if the big man does exist, was he into trad climbing?

Anyway, if you're on Skye and the weather is pish, check out this place. Suidhe Biorach (near Elgol) as its sheltered from winds and rain alike and makes a good back up if that mountains are shrouded in shite. While you're there, check out Jammie Jampot which is another amazing VS. To be honest were either of these routes any closer to 'civilization' they'd be mega classics.

So that's it. Another year come to a close. Sometimes things have gotten pretty tough, and there have been so real lows, but thankfully my friends and family have been there to pull me through keeping me focused on the highs.

I guess that's it then. So long to all the worries and heart ache of 2017. All in all, its been a great year. I can't wait to see what the next one has in store.

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