West Flank Route (E1)
Cir Mhor

Tuesday 20th September 2016

Weather/Conditions: Good, dry weather. Cloudy, temperate lower down and bit cool higher up (climbing in jackets)
Distance/Ascent/Time: 7.7km / 700m / 9h 05m
Accompanying: Tom

Day two on Arran. We awoke to sunny skies at our Glen Rosa campsite with the prospect of another good day of climbing ahead. Our intention was West Flank Route, an E1 which makes a good counterpart to South Ridge Direct.

We walked in with the rucksacks feeling heavy as always. Beneath Cir Mhor and at a prominent rock, we dropped one bag and took only what we needed for the climb. West Flank cuts a route through the great slabs on the lower left hand side of the buttress, actually a better route than South Ridge Direct I thought; more difficult, but also more sustained, consistent and balanced.

At the foot of the overlaps, we racked up and I took pitch one. I don't know what was going on with my style, but I found I just didn't have the 'right way' to go about climbing this. And I didn't really want to get into a scary war of thrutching, squirming and smearing to do it. I spent a while getting spanked by the pitch, then came down.

We changed over and Tom went for it instead. It didn't sound pretty, but he made it up this 'traditional' pitch in good style, and also climbed it a lot better than myself!

The following pitch was a pretty modest pitch, and not always with perfect protection. The pitch climbs a crack scoring across an otherwise blank slab and from the ground it looks unbelievable.

It was a nice pitch, and at the top, I took a belay in a corner under an overlap.

The following pitch (#3) would be my crux. It gets the hardest technical grade (5c) but it isn't the crux - that goes to #1. It began with an overlap into some butch corners, then emerged out onto a slab. By this time you are also rather high up. The technical crux comes near the end, but I got a pile of good gear in then made a little committing 5c step leftward, to a point where I found easier ground and a belay.

Tom came up to join me. He took a further pitch (#4) up corners, then I 'went long' on the final pitch, running out a fair bit of rope to reach easy ground. I must have gone at least 40 metres to a terrace on which I belayed.

Trad climbing always consumes time, and the day was getting on when we reached the terrace. We walked to the summit in the evening light.

We descended to the west, then dropped underneath Cir Mhor to pick our bags up. West Flank Route is brilliant, though I didn't enjoy doing so poorly at the squirming on pitch one. Never mind!

It was almost dark when we got back to the tent, and sat outside in the calm silence cooking dinner. A brilliant day, fully absorbed into the hills.

Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 10.55am Glen Rosa campsite
(1.30) 12.25pm Foot of West Flank Route
(2.40) 1.35pm Tom starting up P1
(7.35) 6.30pm Top of West Flank Route
(7.55) 6.50pm Cir Mhor
(9.05) 8.00pm Glen Rosa campsite

Written: 2017-08-18