Integrity (VS)
Sron na Ciche - 859m

Monday 28th July 2014

Weather/Conditions: Misty, but pretty calm and dry. Not bad all considered, but Integrity might have been even more stunning with the view straight down the cliff!
Distance/Ascent/Time: 8.7km / 900m / 10h 20m
Accompanying: Dave

From the hill bagging of my first week on the Outer Hebrides, Dave eventually arrived at the airport and it essentially turned into a rock climbing holiday. The first few days we climbed on the sea cliffs on Lewis. Then we went to Harris and climbed on Creag Mo. I had a ferry booked back to Skye, so we took that over and spent an evening climbing at Elgol.

It was an amazing fear-inducing trip, and a lot happened. We never climbed above VS, yet climbed in such varied situations, on various rock types; sea cliff one day, mountain the next. Established super classic one day; new route another... Having also not gained my confidence yet, I actually spent the entire time sh***ing myself.

This day climbing the side of Sron na Ciche was one of many, and we did the classics; Arrow Route and Integrity. The day was misty, but not wet. Walking into Coire Lagan was pretty impressive, and we had a solid route finding task on our hands to get to the slabs surrounding the Cioch. I was still pretty amazed we were going to do this - even a year ago on my Munro Round I'd have harboured no solid ambitions to come and climb routes like Integrity. But how things change, and once decided, it was not something I was going to pass off.

Following a hell of a slog from the campsite, we located the traverse line into the base of the Cioch slab. This brought us to the base of Arrow Route, the cliffs above sweeping out of sight. Dave took the first pitch, but Arrow Route is really all about the second. Now a Diff should be an absolute romp for me, but I found this one a challenge. I'd follow lines of weakness on the slab to find them run out and to find myself run out of gear for some metres. Having placed gear going up in one direction, I'd downclimb, and go another way - and thus, armed with microwires and microcams, I must have got the best part of ten (or more?) pieces of gear in a climb that is known for really having very little of it!

I found a way eventually (aptly enough - 'straight up', like the guide said anyway. Should have paid more attention) but by the top I was mentally exhausted. Still in mist, and up alongside the Cioch, we stopped for a break. Dave was to take the first pitch of Integrity. Following a break, we set up a belay, he headed up the initial cracks, then disappeared out over the lip. He commented later as this being one of his most breathtaking moments in his climbing so far - looking up, and seeing at least 30 metres of arrow-straight crack line disappearing off into the mist.

I found this pitch slightly more tame for the fact I had a top rope above me. Bit by bit I shuffled up the gabbro on it's pitted surface. Dave had spaced the gear out; he'd needed to conserve on such a long pitch. After breaking past the roofs, I arrived in a little recess where Dave had set himself up, a single solid spike anchor being our belay.

And then I headed on up the second pitch of Integrity, and our final pitch of the day. I'd been somewhat worried I'd get overwhelmed by this pitch. But I just kept plugging gear, partly shocked at the immensity of the situation we were in, and I was here, climbing so far above the ground. Confidence ebbed in as I got higher, willing this thing to go. It would be a cracker of a pitch. Dave came up after me, and I snapped a picture as he came over the top. A picture though won't convey how that feels to be atop something as grand as what we'd just climbed up. The picture above is just Dave in the mist. Never mind. :-)

I looked at the time; shocked to find it getting on 7pm. The climbing had absorbed our day. With thoughts of a final top-tier pitch abandoned, we packed things and scrambled up the Glacis to safe ground atop Sron na Ciche. Climbing gear was put away, and I got the map, the compass and guidebook out. The task here was to locate the descent gully leading down to the foot of Sron na Ciche as we'd left one rucksack at the foot of the route.

I'd watch the compass deflecting as we walked, then restore itself to normality. I'd tick features off against the description and watch the map as well. All in all it was very arresting, interesting work. Over the summit cairn of the Sron, we eventually came upon the bealach. It was time to dive off left and descend. And just as expected, the scree gully was where I wanted it. It was a fun bit of navigation in a place where traditional methods are so challenged. We picked up the stashed rucksack (not without a moment of worry) and then descended.

After that, we left Skye, and drove back to the mainland, eventually pitching the tent late at night at Loch Oich. The following morning we headed to Dunkeld for some classic VS climbing - now seeming so polished and controlled after the places we'd gone to and seen. How times change.

Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 11.20am Glen Brittle parking
(2.30) 1.50pm Foot of Cioch slab
(7.35) 6.55pm Top out on Integrity
(8.00) 7.20pm Sron na Ciche
(10.20) 9.40pm Glen Brittle parking
Written: 2016-09-13