Saturday, 25 May 2013

Ramp Route, East face of Clach Glas

 Clach Glas, one of the finest summits in Scotland
The smell of wild garlic was overpowering in the warm sunshine at the entrance to the sea-cave. The gentle lapping of slack water with no wind and a slight heat haze over the sea….it was odd to think I was here to kill time, waiting for the fresh snow to strip off the East face of Clach Glas.

Have I ever "killed time" more productively than my climb in to the Spar Cave? I shall cover it in a future blog post, but it proved to be one of the most incredible places I have ever seen in my life. There aren't words. 

 The very long "Ramp Route" (Moderate**)

Fresh morning snow on Clach Glas (left) and Blaven

During my stunned walk back to my car, I vaguely noticed how much warmer the air was feeling. Perhaps yesterday's snowfall would be on its way to shifting? It was…and my thoughts started to drift slowly back to the original purpose of my day.

Clach Glas is arguably the hardest summit in Britain to reach. Anyone who has completed its full traverse will have nothing but superlatives for its quality, a mountaineering route without peer save for probably the main Cuillin Ridge Traverse. Climbing conditions on the Cuillin have been poor this May and I have been limited to where I can climb…but I was eager to return to Clach Glas via a different route.

The route climbs the rocks to the right of the gully, the slants right underneath the central tower
 Sgurr nan Each

The summit of Clach Glas from the South-East

"Ramp Route" (Mod**) is one I've wanted to climb ever since seeing the superb photo of its crux in the recent SMC guidebook. I always find that soloing "Moderate" graded mountain routes can vary so much - they can often be very straightforward and laid-back to solo, but their situation amongst their surroundings can change things a lot.

Looking back to Clach Glas from "the Putting Green"
The right-hand ramp climbs the crack right of centre
The huge wall that overhangs the upper part of the route

I found every single move of Ramp Route straightforward to solo, but yet it did give a niggling feeling of slight stress  throughout once I'd started the main difficulties. It felt a lot like climbing on the West face of Aonach Dubh in Glencoe - a gradual rising sense of commitment the higher you climb, the topography confusing, yet "in your face" at the same time.

Fresh snow starting to strip off Am Basteir

 The Great Prow of Blabheinn

As is often the case, the crux wall was the most enjoyable and cleanest section of the entire route, and nicely dry before the wet snow that would greet me on my un-sure traverse of the upper face to reach The Imposter. Hardly a respite though, as the infamous descent of the South Ridge of Clach Glas followed, plus over 1000ft of slippery scree from "The Putting Green".

I'll certainly be back to climb on Clach Glas again, it seems to leave you wanting to come back for seconds.


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