If you have a 1.3 litre R-reg Skoda Felicia and fill it with people and kit, will you be able to drive it to the top of Britain’s longest/highest/steepest mountain pass? Obviously, no. Or at least, not without it overheating at least three times and needing to wait in a layby with the bonnet open, radiator fan wheezing, like a fat Labrador on Scawfell on midsummer’s day. Fortunately, and about an hour later than planned, Jones, Steev, Fran and I finally made it to the car park at the top of Bealach na Ba in Applecross. Our objective: Patey and Bonnington’s Classic Rock masterpiece, Cioch Nose (Severe****) on Sgurr a’ Chaorachain.
Fortunately, the weather forecast had North West Scotland as the sunniest spot in Britain for Saturday, so we were in the right place. With at least three teams in front of us on the route we took our time about it and relished the climbing. Steev and Fran climbed in front of Jones and I, meaning it was a very sociable and friendly day out, despite the ‘out-there’ nature of the line for the grade. Obviously, it’s a great climb, four pitches covered in huge holds and good gear, made all the better by finishing up the A’Cioch ridge above the climb proper. This adds another 100-odd meters of VDiff/scrambling followed by some towers and gaps to skirt round/down/over/up.
We camped just below the Bealach na Ba car park on Saturday night, barbecueing sea bass and overlooking Skye, Eigg and Rum. Who says that low-budget climbers have to survive on super-noodles?
Me on Right (HVS 5b*). Photo: Steve Crawford
Nearlly there.... Photo: Steve Crawford
So, despite still not climbing any properly challenging mountain routes this year, I feel like I’m beginning to break into the E2 grade, something that I had really wanted to happen this summer. Also, as Jones gets more confident we’re starting to climb some of the easier classics that I’ve never done, like Cioch Nose. All in all, mustn’t grumble, really.