Ticks in the Glen – Polldubh Crags

29 May

Spring is a great time to go climbing in Glen Nevis – warm dry rock and a distinct lack of midges! It turned out to be even hotter than expected, so we enjoyed two superb days of single and multipitch routes on a bit of a Polldubh grand tour. First up was Heatwave (S) on Cavalry Crack Buttress, a four pitch route which we used as an approach to Secretaries Buttress higher up the hillside.

Debs dispatches pitch one of Heatwave, the natural choice given the weather


Pitch 1 is shared with the arch-classic Storm (HVS) which we climbed a few years ago but is still firmly imprinted in the memory, highly recommended!

The short traverse on the second pitch takes you onto the slabs of the frontal face


Immaculate slabs on the fourth pitch of Heatwave


After Heatwave we headed further up the hillside to Secretaries Buttress gunning for an ascent of the notorious Super Direct (HVS). Knowing well its reputation we thought it prudent to get our eye in on the easier Secretaries Direct Route (S) first. This turned out to be fantastic with climbing up corners, cracks and slabs and a number of friction moves. A slight detour allowed us a cheeky top-rope of the gearless 5b slab, Twitch (E1), which succumbed easily enough but left us both totally bemused – how can a sustained, 5b effective solo be E1?

The superb quartz crack on the second pitch of Secretaries Direct


Easy climbing but amazing views and situations at the top of Secretaries Direct


In hindsight Twitch should have given us a bit of clue about what to expect on the Super Direct. Debs cruised the first pitch to belay below and left of the overlap at the start of the crux. Placing the cams in the waffer-thin flakes above the overlap I was not exactly happy – I envisaged falling from the thin moves way above the cams, blowing them and the flake, before tumbling down the slabs below to finally swing around the side of the buttress! With escape an easy option, we did just that.


Debs cruising the bold but surprisingly easy first pitch of the Super Direct


Beaten but not defeated we moseyed sideways across the hill looking to gain the top tier of High Crag for the final pitches of Autobahnausfahrt (VS). The guidebook revealed the anatomically-named Cervix (VS) would deposit us on the Skypilot ledge and allow access to the route

The face says it all – steep, vegetated and loose crack climbing is followed by a squeeze-chimney on the worryingly named Cervix


The inspirational Sky Pilot traverse on the top tier of High Crag


Autobahn’ was fairly disappointing in the end with exceptionally bold yet easy lichenous slab climbing, although we admittedly didn’t climb the lower pitches.

Day two found us partially naked on the side of the road begging strangers for a pair of tweezers. Slightly unorthodox perhaps but what concerned us more than the indecent exposure was the number of unwelcome guests we had covering our legs! Trousers were tucked firmly into socks for the remainder of the trip…

Easy but bold climbing on Pine Wall’s perfect rock


A trip to Polldubh wouldn’t be complete without climbing the classic VS’s on Styx Buttress – both Resurrection and Damnation providing the highlights of the weekend. Brilliant slab climbing on Resurrection gradually morphs into a corner before the angle kicks up to a spectacular steep finish. Damnation is much more a route of two halves with steep climbing and an outrageous roof  leading abruptly to a delicate slab finale.

A classic of the crags and one of the best single pitch VS routes we’ve done – Resurrection


Utterly outrageous at the grade, Damnation follows an overlapping groove to pull through the roof onto a bold slab


Our final route on Styx Buttress was a less-travelled line called Fidelity (VS). The initial groove gave quite serious climbing with some loose rock, before the route opens out and heads direct up a clean slabby shield. The crux was thought-provoking on tenuous technical grass!

Short but very sweet – Tear follows a steep crack though bulges and overlaps where smeary footwork is key


We finished up with the popular Tear before scampering down and heading back to the East coast, tired but satisfied and well impressed with Polldubh – we shall be back!

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