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

Sunday 11th May 2014

Weather/Conditions: Generally pretty good weather, still feeling spring-like. There was the threat of showers, but they never came to much at all.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 10.7km / 1220m / 4h 50m + 2h
Accompanying: Struan, Craig and Ian

A day out up Curved Ridge with Struan, Craig and Ian. I'd been reading a lot on moving together technique and suggested to Struan we give it a go. I wanted to try moving on terrain while placing runners, so the rope was always clipped into some kind of protection. Curved Ridge would be a good training ground as it's a place I'm familiar with. Craig and Ian were up as well, and the four of us set off for Curved Ridge - Ian and Craig would head up in front of us solo, and we'd see them some time later.

At the foot of Curved Ridge, I pulled the gear out. It felt like a fair amount to haul up, but then I guess it always does. Struan had no experience in climbing, so I would be up front placing gear. He might not be a climbed, but he definitely wouldn't fall off, which can be catastrophic for the climber at the back as it drags off the front climber. My other request to him was to keep the rope tight always!

I'm not entirely sure he got the point of it. We moved up, quite slowly as I'd stop periodically for gear. He'd keep moving until there was slack at his feet. And still I'm not sure he appreciated the scenario. I took a huge amount of learning from the whole thing, but if you're just taking out the gear and waiting on terrain you could solo, maybe it isn't so engaging? I certainly found it surprising how safe I felt. In principle it sounds a bit mental if you've never done it. And it can quickly become dangerous if you don't do it right. But having a rope on and being attached to someone just worked for me, and I immediately could understand this technique's application in other scenarios.

More than anything, I felt I was expanding my knowledge, right here, doing something that I hadn't done before and would benefit from. Soon enough, Struan and I scrambled up the gap under Crowberry Tower and then onto the summit, which was predictably mobbed with folk.

I don't recall the descent, but once everyone was down at the car and driving off, I decided to take a return trip to the Buachaille. They thought me mad as I announced I was going to go back up the Buachaille again. But I had a thought: find that GoPro I dropped a couple years before!

Back on the hill, I took the east face path, then scrambled up to the foot of North Buttress. I had a good search around, but predictably found nothing of that GoPro. I probably never will, now. I also scrambled up the first of the steep chimneys, before realising I wasn't in the soloing mood and it wasn't the day for it today. So the summit of the Buachaille would wait - not that I was at all bothered, having been there a couple hours before.

Instead I traversed across below the east face to the foot of Curved Ridge, seeing some climbers high on Agag's Groove, watching the dark clouds piling in over the cliffs and spits of rain coming down. I realised my mood had gone dark. Things were a touch stressful at this point in life and a hill day wasn't sufficient to shake it off. In fact, I looked out over Rannoch Moor, anxious. It was like I'd lost something: lost some of the magic? I felt flat, and only waited to get in the car for the long, empty drive home. And so I did.

A couple years down the line, and I think I perhaps partly wrongly attributed all this to the Munro Round. It lingered so long and immediately in my memory. But at the same time I left university, and the period following was a time of uncertainty, and slow and massive change. For me, this eventually, and happily ironed itself out.

360° Panorama

Stob Dearg
Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 9.55am Alltnafeadh
(3.05) 1.00pm Stob Dearg
(3.25) 1.20pm Stob Dearg (left)
(4.50) 2.45pm Alltnafeadh

(0.00) 4.20pm Alltnafeadh
*walk to foot of N Buttress, cross to Curved Ridge and descent*
(2.00) 6.20pm Alltnafeadh

Written: 2016-03-27