Stob Dearg (Buachaille Etive Mor) - 1022m
via. Curved Ridge

Tuesday 17th July 2012

Weather/Conditions: Strange weather - overcast but cloud above summits all day. Threatening rain but never really did so beyond spots. Good conditions for a quick hill!
Distance/Ascent/Time: 6.4km / 750m / 2h 30m
Accompanying: Alone

I did Curved Ridge for the first time on the encouragement of James, who I was staying with in Fort William. He gave me some info on it and suggested it would be easily possible for me. It was quite a thought! Prior to having doe it, all I knew about the front face of the Buachaille was that sweep of unbroken cliff, rising off the moor and climbing continually until it reaches the very summit of the mountain.

So I approached with some trepidation. James gave me some info as to how to approach and I got on my way, parking up at Alltnafeadh around about lunchtime.

I headed off at pace, taking the "climbers" path to the east face for the first time, looking up at the cliffs. Not a lot is revealed of the Crowberry Ridge area until you are right around, but I arrived at the Waterslide as expected and got my first view up the face. My feeling was one of slight confusion. James had told me you had to go to the right of the birches in the centre of the face before cutting back left, but I must have heard him wrong, surely? It seemed much more logical to follow the ramp leading leftward? Things weren't quite matching up and I deliberated for a moment.

I phoned him to double check, and the result of that conversation was "no mate, that's D Gully Buttress you're looking at!". Woops. Nearly strayed onto the wrong terrain. But now I'd checked it with him, I had a good idea of where to go.

A slight regret about this trip is that I didn't write about it closer to the time. I've done Curved Ridge so many times now that I see it as a romp, and can remember everything about it. But on my first acquaintance, I really didn't see it this way. It was something I treated with much respect, and took with care. Before breaking new territory mentally, there's always an accompanying feeling of intensity, and when you top out, whatever you just did suddenly falls within your comfort zone.

The reality with Curved Ridge was that when I got out the top, I felt no exposure, I felt no issue with the climbing, and it had all seemed, well... easy. A couple things I did however note - Easy Gully (to the right) is not such an easy escape route, as one book I own says. It's full of choss and awkward jammed chock stones. I think I'd rather just descend Curved Ridge itself. And secondly, Curved Ridge winds a route around the mountain, so when you climb you don't feel the full exposure of the face. This was surprising, as the exposure is the first assumption you make when you see the front of the Buachaille.

As I approached the top I ended up on the phone to Dougie, who seemed glad when I told him what I'd just done. I took a moment on the top, a second to cool down. But I wasn't hanging around: I wanted to see what time I could get car-to-car!

So I headed down the normal route, walking bits and running others. En route I seemed to strain something in my chest, which became apparent when I finally stopped at the car (2h 30m) and started to drive home. Suddenly, a pain flared up and became distracting almost to the point that it was hard to focus on driving. You do think of the worst scenarios when you end up with intense chest pain. For a while I was a little worried. I stopped in at Bridge of Orchy and phoned Sam, (a paramedic) who eased my mind having burdened her with questions. It seemed to be just a tweaked muscle of sorts. In the end, all was fine.

This was the end of a week-long trip which would have been fantastic on it's own. But in the two weeks following this, I went to Bute twice, played two gigs in England with StillMarillion and did a five-day round of the 18 Cairngorm Munros. No rest for me in the summer of 2012!

Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 1.15pm Alltnafeadh parking
(1.30) 2.45pm Stob Dearg
(2.30) 3.45pm Alltnafeadh parking
Possibly out by a margin - see Geal Charn times

Written: 2015-08-04