Monday, 8 July 2013

A dawn solo of Finger's Ridge

Beating the heat of the day with a dawn solo of Finger's Ridge (Diff*)

No matter how much I love more obscure and unfrequented climbs, I've always felt the definite appeal of soloing certain classic mountain routes. Yes they can be overcrowded, polished and a bit too "obvious" sometimes, but they are usually classics for a reason.

Until last night it had never really occurred to me to climb Finger's Ridge before. I find the popularity of the Northern Corries a bit much usually, and I'd heard a few things about it being pretty unstable as a summer route. Yet it is probably the most classic route in the Cairngorms and I live here now…it would be rude to not go and check it out.

The corrie couldn't have felt more different at 6am this morning to how we all think of Sneachda. Complete stillness and warm silence, broken only by the chirping of snow buntings echoing off the cliffs. A totally calm and serene place on the warmest dawn of the year so far. This felt very unlike how I'd always imagined climbing Finger's Ridge would be like, the envisioned queues of roped teams no-where to be seen.

A peaceful, warm and silent corrie this morning

Looking up Finger's Ridge, to one of the Fingers above.

I'd been expecting loose rock and unstable blocks everywhere but was pleasantly surprised. Every hold was tested before being weighted, but I didn't come across more than 3 or 4 loose blocks on the whole route…. and therefore my second reservation about the route evaporating too.

The Fingers themselves form one of the most iconic locations in Scottish mountaineering, and it was satisfying to be there for the first time un-roped and alone. It's always a bit of a "moment" arriving at these parts of famous routes, the bits you'd heard about for years. It felt the same the first time I arrived at Tower Gap or the Forty Foot Corner on the Ben, the Imposter or the abseil off Pinnacle Ridge on Skye, the snow-areté in Staghorn Gully or the upper crest of the Great Ridge of Garbh Bheinn.

Looking back down on the ultra-classic Fingers themselves.

Between the Fingers
The crux wall at the end.
Being alone and on-sight soloing has always been hugely rewarding to me whenever I've been to these famed and classic parts of some of the big Scottish mountain routes. It is never quite the way you think it is going to be, and Finger's Ridge was no exception. It feels good to back home feeling slightly warmer towards the Northern Corries than previously.


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