Sgorr Ruadh’s Crimson Buttress

The line of Crimson Buttress (VI,7) on Sgorr Ruadh. Brown Gully (III) is the obvious gully line on the left, and Parallel Lines (III) takes the right branch starting from just below half-height. (Archive Photo Andy Nisbet)

When Andy Nisbet made the first ascent of Woundwort on Sgorr Ruadh earlier in the winter, he’d noticed an obvious icy chimney near its start leading up left to some pleasant grooves and ramps on the crest of the buttress, so on Sunday February 20 he went to have a look with David Bell. Andy was expecting the route to be Grade IV but Crimson Buttress turned out to be a rather more challenging VI,7!

“Approaching up the Central Couloir reminded me that there was some steep ground which I’d chosen to forget,” Andy told me. “The first pitch via the chimney was pleasantly suitable but it led to a groove with bulging steps. Still, there might be flakes embedded in turf. I stepped into the base of the groove and couldn’t get off the ground – not a good start. After a bit of indecision, I tried on the left. After some more indecision, I leaned off a dubiously wedged block, trusted my feet on a sloping foothold and entered the groove. Further indecision about whether this was a good idea, I pulled over a bulge and got stopped again. At least there were good runners behind larger wedged blocks but I failed to find any good placements above.

Traversing right was the only option but the continuation groove looked little better. Somehow you mustn’t stop until all options have run out, and the first hold on the traverse was good. The only snag was the second wasn’t as good and now committed, the third definitely wasn’t and I was now 3m away from the runners and more committed. But then my luck changed and I could just stay in balance to reach turf. The continuation groove was reached, runners were good and there were fine torques and placements in the back. We’d cracked it!”

To finish the route, they crossed Parallel Lines and climbed the buttress on its left.

“It is not a major route,” Andy concluded, “but I like the climbing on Sgorr Ruadh. Sometimes it’s very helpful for sandstone and sometimes not!”

About Simon Richardson

Simon Richardson is a passionate Scottish winter climber
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