The Sting – Finally Repeated After 20 Years!

Chris Cartwright on the first ascent of Golgotha (VII,7), Creag an Socach, Ben Dorain in March 2000. The pronounced rib of the summer line Scorpion can be seen above and directly in line with this, and slanting up rightwards to the skyline, is the corner of Scorpion taken by The Sting. This corner has been described by Stuart McFarlane as the 'finest pitch in the Southern Highlands'. McFarlane started up the first pitch of Golgotha on his first attempt to repeat The Sting last month. (Archive Photo Simon Richardson)

Winter climbs are like buses. A route waits 20 years for a repeat, and then two come along together!

After failing to climb The Sting on Beinn an Socach on the Bridge of Orchy cliffs the previous weekend, Stuart McFarlane returned with Gary Houston and Sam Burns on Sunday December 5 and completed the route. This should have been the second ascent of this Graham Little-Kev Howett addition from 1991, but the trio were in for a surprise. Stuart takes up the story:

“I was slightly disappointed to find someone had been there before us, but there was no evidence of our abseil gear. This time Sam led ‘the finest pitch in the Southern Highlands’ with modern tools (Fushion 2’s), commenting that he’d found it quite insecure and harder than the grade suggests. Kids these days, climbing without an adze! On the way home, we stopped for chips at Tyndrum (best fish supper in Scotland), bumped into Susan Jensen and Iain Small. They had climbed The Sting on Saturday, also finding it ‘harder than V,6’. When asked did they find my abseils, Iain went out into his car and handed back my gear. What a nice couple! May I suggest, when the new Southern Highlands Guide goes to print, The Sting is graded VI,7.”

Postscript 13th December 2010: It looks like I was a far too hasty in declaring the ascents of The Sting last weekend as the second and third. Tim Neill emailed me yesterday to say that he climbed the route with Keith Ball last February. “We also did Deliverance on the same day which was excellent,” Tim explained. “It seemed the most natural and obvious way leading to the excellent ice groove described in Promised Land. Back to The Sting. We laughed afterwards as our ‘quick Grade V to finish the day’ turned into a race against the dwindling daylight. The name becoming obvious in retrospect. We assumed it to be a regularly climbed route as it was in the selective guide and also the second pitch seemed like it had lost crucial turf due to lots of ascents. A good value route!”

Tim is certainly right about earlier ascents because Helen Rennard told me today that she climbed the route with Rob Greenwood in January 2003.

So I’m intrigued now – so who did the make the second ascent of The Sting? Drop me an email, or add a comment, if you know of it being climbed before 2003. Also does anybody know of second ascents of Antichrist, The Enemy Within or Golgotha? I’m assuming that Defenders of the Faith, Dave MacLeod’s superb addition from 2006 has not been repeated, but I maybe I’m wrong about that too!

About Simon Richardson

Simon Richardson is a passionate Scottish winter climber
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7 Responses to The Sting – Finally Repeated After 20 Years!

  1. Simon Richardson says:

    Oops! Looks like I was incorrect about the second ascent of The Sting. See postscript added on 13th December to the original post.

  2. Toby Archer says:

    Myself and Ed Ewing got some way up the Sting in either 95 or 96. After reading Simon’s article in High around that time suggesting that climbers should minimise their use of pegs, I had made the ethical/very silly (delete as appropriate) decision not to carry any. This resulted in me trying to lead the (I think) second pitch and repeatedly falling a short way on to an RP whilst failing to make much headway up a ramp. Looking up a Howett article on the FA of the route in an early 90s Climber it mentioned ice on that ramp. It’s probably a good thing that we never got any higher as we could hardly climb V,6 let alone VI,7 – and I presume it is the ‘the sting’ that is the 7 bit? It supposedly needed big gear as I remember we invested in the biggest hexes before giving it go.

  3. Simon Richardson says:

    Hi Toby – Good story! Yes, I remember that article. It was a piece of self-chastisement after I’d left a peg in a Cairngorms summer route. My climbing partners would laugh if they read the article now as I typically insist on carrying a large selection of pegs, although to be fair, I normally climb winter-only lines and rarely make winter ascents of summer routes.

  4. Stuart McFarlane says:

    Toby, you were crazy to go onto Socach without pegs!! That ramp had verglas on it, both times I climbed it, would have been much easier with ice, thankfully (now) protected by an insitu angle, seconds couldn’t remove!! This section had the thinnest moves, though off verticle, reasonably sustained above too.

    The corner above (Scorpion), very sustained, steep, hexes usefull, though managed to place smaller gear to supplement, keeping hexes for the last section ‘the sting’ just in case. That ‘interesting move left’ is mega pumpy, comparible to the crux of Tilt, hence VI,7.

  5. Toby says:

    Stuart – yeah probably, but it was all Simon’s fault as I was young and easily influenced by the stars in the magazines! 🙂

    The only route I completed on that crag was the Glass Bead Game. I remember thinking this was excellent at the time, but I don’t think we used any pegs on that either. Neil found a very cunning thread though, threaded with a warthog, to protect the crux move!

  6. Graham says:

    Think we nearly climbed The Sting yesterday, but was bewildered by the guidebook description and topo for the last pitch. At the top of the brilliant, but pretty stiff short corner (p4), we found ourselves on a big ledge not mentioned in the guidebook. From here I climbed up and right into a wide groove, where due to a slabby dead-end lowered off an insitu hex prob only 10m from the top. Think it was possible to finish up left of my line, past a spike and through a shallow niche.
    Anyone know if this is the correct finish? Think it would have been a lot more obvious in the daylight!

    Excellent route regardless but agree it is probably harder than V,6 compared to the few others Ive climbed.

  7. Stuart McFarlane says:

    Hi Graham,

    From that big snow ledge, walk left (starts to slope downhill), pull onto the slab above, follow shallow left facing corner. The climbing consists of mostly flat hooks and is rather unnerving, especially when the hardest moves, are below your first runner!!

    Yep, corner superb, first time we reached this ledge, also in dark and snowing, had difficulty locating where last pitch went, hence we bailed too!!

    Nearly went there on Sunday (Prophet), instead went to Brack, started up ‘best route in Arrochar’, especially since you thought it was good (I’m glad that consensus shall be removed from future edition!!?). Finished up Great Central Groove, via the original ice chimney, now there’s …….. in Arrochar!

    Would like to get in touch with you.


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