Riding the Storm

Iain Small pulling through the bulges on the first ascent of a new VII,7 on Beinn an Lochain, Arrochar. This steep crack-line cuts through the front face of the buttress containing Edge of Darkness. (Photo Simon Richardson)

Several years ago, my good friend Chris Cartwright suggested that there was a new route to do on the front face of the Edge of Darkness buttress on Beinn an Lochain in Arrochar. This attractive feature lies on the North Ridge of the mountain and is bypassed on the left when walking up the hill. Being in such a prominent position, it is rather surprising that it has held out for so long (although I suspect it was a well known objective amongst Southern Highlands aficionados), but to the best of my knowledge it was unclimbed.

Iain Small and I were looking for a suitable objective in the Souhern Highlands for Sunday January 9, and this seemed to fit the bill. I’ve climbed on most of the Arrochar hills but had never been on Beinn an Lochain before, so I was keen to visit a new venue. Iain on the other hand had climbed various routes on the mountain and was well aware of this potential new line.

The snow storm the night before left the approach up the North Ridge deep in new snow, and it was slow work approaching the crag in the teeth of a north-westerly gale. We were on the verge of turning tail, but the foot of the crag was sheltered, so we uncoiled the ropes and gave it a go. It was a long time since either of us had last battled with Arrochar mica schist, but Iain pulled out the stops and made a powerful lead of the first pitch, before I found circuitous way through the upper half of the buttress.

The climbing was so contorted, awkward and strenuous that afterwards Iain suggested that the route was upgradeable, but in the end we settled on VII,7 – a rather enigmatic grade that doesn’t give too much away!

About Simon Richardson

Simon Richardson is a passionate Scottish winter climber
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6 Responses to Riding the Storm

  1. Stuart McFarlane says:

    I think I know this line, tat in chimney? Dave and Erik tried this, many years ago, bailed above chimney. I traversed out from Saxifrage Gully, along turf ledge, climbed up turfy buttress, before I knew Erik.

    Then Erik and I, got talking one day, decided we should join these, got the forecast wrong on the day in question, never set foot on it again.

    I’m guessing, steep moves between clumps of turf, did any off them break off?? Other than turf pro, was they’re any cracks/rock gear between these? A bold lead, that Iains good!!

    Well done


  2. Erik Brunskill says:

    well done Simon and Iain, best winter line on the crag. I had a history with that front face, 2 attempts, crap turf. You timed that well, I had actually pointed Mr Robertson towards it now that I am in the land of zero mountains but millions of trees πŸ™‚ very surprised it is only VII 7!!

  3. Chris says:

    Great to see this done and, like Erik, would have thought it would be harder. Rather than the first pitch I always thought the top pitch could be the concern, no obvious way to go!

  4. Erik Brunskill says:

    Hi Chris, I know for a fact there is a way through the top roofs as I deliberately went there for a walk in a summer evening to catch the sun hitting them at the right angle! I could see there was a crack. of course depends which actual line they took…. I’m not sure if it was the line I was attempting? cant really tell from the photo. unfortunately my attempts were during the green winter years (remember them?! how easy is it for folk these days! πŸ™‚ ), turf was murder to get good enough and it is very turf reliant πŸ™

    • Simon Richardson says:

      Hi Stuart, Erik and Chris – many thanks for the enthusiastic comments. There are two parallel crack-lines on the buttress. We climbed the left and I think Erik must have tried the right. They looked about the same in difficulty but the left appeared to have more options at the top.

  5. Erik Brunskill says:

    Hi Simon, i have definitely done the crack that Iain is on in the photo before, if you didnt find tat on that line then it may have been done since my attempts? Now i know you did the left line then the grade you gave it isnt such a shock. the right hand line aint VII! if it is I’ll eat my toupe πŸ™‚

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