17/05/2012 13:00:41

Words by tcsh

North West Scotland Road trip

We had been meaning to do this trip for some time now and have on a number occasions looked at the forecast and gone ‘no, not going to happen this time around (again!)’. But decided to ignore whatever the weather was saying and head up anyway (I yet again didn’t win with the suggestion of a climbing trip to a much warmer climate abroad!) We were ready to get what we would be given this time, and it pretty much paid off.

We headed up early Sunday morning, had a few hours break from driving by doing some routes on Polldubh Crags, Glen Nevis. This place is a great spot with easily accessible climbing from the road, making it some of the finest road-side cragging in Scotland. There’s a lovely atmosphere there, along with good quality routes. A few of our recommendations for here would be:
Pine Wall, Severe, 4A (lovely rock, low in the grade – a great introduction to the area)
Resurrection, VS 4C (on your feet climbing, well protected)
Damnation, VS 4C (steep start then lovely slab afterwards)

We then headed further North to Applecross. Our aim for this area was to do the Cioch Nose on Sgurr a’Chorachain. This is a V Diff (can be made slightly harder with the direct start, which is recommended), and has a long ridge continuation after the climbing finishes. We would really recommend in doing this upper ridge continuation, especially if you park at the top of the pass, head down into the Coire, and climb all the way back out. Plus it’s really fun, there was one part which we pitched, which I think gets about a V Diff, after that it was nice scrambling ground, going up and over various knolls back to where you started! A great end to the route and a grand mountain day out!

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The Cioch Nose in profie The 3rd pitch Top of climbing, great views!


We stayed the night in Applecross, then headed up to Torridon. We had one big objective for this trip and that was to visit Diabaig. A crag we had heard much about and we saw why! With immaculate Gneiss rock, Diabaig offers some of the best low-lying cragging in the NW highlands. With routes ranging from VS upwards this crag is situated next to the sea (but non-tidal) gets the sun for most of the day and is quick drying. It had to be one of our best days out cragging for a few years! The routes we did there were:
Evasion, VS 4C*

Route Two, HVS 5A****
The Black Streak, E1 5C*** (deserves 4 stars!)
Route One, HVS 5B**
The Pillar, E2 5B**** (the best by far! Low in the grade, open wall climbing, the wall from below doesn’t look possible, but it just keeps coming and coming!)
The routes on the main cliff (Route one, Route Two, The Black Streak) are all 2 long pitches, all can be abseiled off which was handy. The Pillar is a long 45m pitch, it was certainly intimidating from below, was fairly sustained but just really enjoyable!

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Beautiful position! The Black Streak The Pillar


Looking back, we wish we had spent more time here, Diabaig was such a nice place to climb and it was sad to leave it! We then headed further North the same evening and camped over near Gairloch, deciding where to head the next day. The weather wasn't looking particularly promising, so we had a leisurely drive over towards Reiff. Stopping on the way at Jetty Buttress, a very much road side crag, with really good routes worth doing if the weathers looking a bit unstable and/if you needed a bit of a lazy day. We carried on up to Reiff, doing a few routes on the Pinnacle Area,

Hy Brasil VS 4C and Westering Home E1 5B that evening, ready for a more productive day tomorrow. The weather forecast was not too good for the morning so we headed up for a scramble on Stac Pollaidh, a really prominent peak, quite small in comparison to other Scottish Peaks, but a really worthy mountain to go up for a short day, we were up and down in under 3 hours, with views from the top not to be missed. In the afternoon, the sun peeped out and we got over to Reiff for a few more climbs, and did one of the better VS’s there called Black Gold, VS 4C, on amazing black grippy rock, a beautiful slab climb. The only downside was that it was a  North facing cliff, so can be pretty chilly (it was for us anyhow!). The next day, we headed further up Reiff, to a cliff called The Leaning Block. Unfortunately when we got there, the tide was up high (it didn’t help with the westerly wind coming in) and didn’t seem to be moving anywhere fast, so not to waste more time, we headed further south down the Reiff cliffs to see what we could do. We managed to tick off some more good routes like Immaculate Deception, E1 5B, Sip from the wine of youth again, HVS 5A, Barrier Reiff, HVS 5B and a few of the VS’s and easy V Diffs around the Pinnacle area. Reiff is certainly a great location, the routes are quite short, mostly tidal and especially good if you operate around the E3/4 grade. But the Pinnacle area offers great little routes from M to VS to get started on.

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Beach near campsite at Gairloch Black Gold, Reiff
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Sip from the Wine of Youth again, Reiff Stac Pollaidh


We were hoping to head even further up North to the likes of Sheigra Sea Cliffs and Sandwood Bay, but the reasonable good weather had to end at some point and it did. We headed back to towards Ullapool for the evening and then again ended back at where we started, Polldubh Crags, Glen Nevis to break the journey back home up. The weather wasn’t brilliant so we did a nice link up of three Severe graded routes Pinnacle Ridge, Three Pines and Spike Wall and headed home.
We were very fortunate with the weather – we knew we could of been hit a lot worse. But just goes to show, most of the days the weather was forecasted to be a lot worse, but Mr Weatherman isn’t always right! You have to take a gamble sometimes, this time it paid off. Thank fully.

Happy Climbing!
Helen.