/ NEW ARTICLE: The Long Reach - A day on the Etive Slabs

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UKC Articles - on 08 Aug 2012
Neil following the rising traverse above the roof on pitch 3, 4 kbIn this article Neil Foster describes an adventurous day out on the classic Etive Slabs. These perfect blank walls are home to many bold friction climbs, and their low angle means that climbing is possible almost anywhere... if you can keep your head. Did Neil?

"The crack wasn't really a crack, any runner placements were more illusory than real, and the climbing was extremely precarious and sustained. Worse still, there was a layer of lichen on the holds, making it hard to adopt the relaxed style that was really needed..."


matt perks - on 08 Aug 2012
In reply to UKC Articles: Just the same experience for me - though that pre-dates UKC logbooks by a few years. The Kev Howett guide (can't remember the title but it was brown and was a Scottish selected climbs guide) we used has a crag diagram in which, in comparison to the more recent SMC guide, the upper section of the crag is displaced something like 15 m either right or left (can't remember which way it is). Maybe the newer guide is accurate, or maybe this is one of those mistakes that somehow gets promulgated from one edition to the next as the author tries to match up their own experience, the view of the crag, and the previous description, and ends up with some sort of compromise. I also recall being told, by a Scot, that the most important sentence about grading in that guide was "Kev Howett was born in Northumberland..." Spartan Slab is really good, for your next trip!
Cuthbert on 08 Aug 2012
In reply to UKC Articles:

Excellent article although major tiltage on some of the pictures.
rlines - on 08 Aug 2012
In reply to UKC Articles: I like how the author recalled vowing never to go back. I climbed the Long Reach a few years ago and I too vowed never again. The route does strange things to your head, walking back to the car I was sickened and shocked to my core about what I had just done, but I was euphoric and buzzing at the same time.

Never again!
Plungeman - on 09 Aug 2012
In reply to Saor Alba:

Can't really blame him though; I spent a day up there in May and realised after a while that when I looked sideways I was subconciously tilting my head about 15 degrees towards the angle of the crag, effectively making the slabs look shallower - putting it upright just made me scared so I went with it for the rest of the day. I think if I'd been taking snaps it'd look completely flat!

Nice article though, actually makes me want to go back!
john yates - on 09 Aug 2012
A great read Neil, thanks
Adam Lincoln - on 09 Aug 2012
In reply to UKC Articles:
Anyones thats been of late, what are the midges like this time of year. Wondering if the place usually gets a breeze?
Claudia - on 09 Aug 2012
In reply to UKC Articles:

Thanks for writing this up, Neil. It's great to read an account of REAL climbing; experiences that I can relate to, and not just really hard climbs or first ascents in other countries.

Gordon Stainforth - on 09 Aug 2012
In reply to Adam Lincoln:

In my experience the midges in Glen Etive in July were among the worst I've ever encountered - and that was just a photographic trip. I had to bail out after a couple of hours, having only taken a few shots along the side of the loch below the slabs. But I went there on another occasion, another year, and I don't remember any midges at all - so maybe there was a breeze then, or more likely, it was outside the midge season.
Ally Smith on 10 Aug 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

I'm another punter that has had a minor epic on the Long Reach. I took a stance too soon after the 2nd set of overlaps and should have known better than to continue climbing with a skyhook runner...

Having looked back at the proper guide and not our black and white photocopy (pink, light green and white lines all look the same colour in a B&W copy!) it seemed we climbed one of the 5c pitches of Angel to reach the top overlap.

The top overlap was climbed in gathering dusk, and the epic was completed by not having headtorches and groping around in the dark trying to follow the descent path by feel alone. A 120m abseil (2x60m ropes joined) saved the day and we collected the ropes the next day after bivvying by the loch.

With regards to midges, we went at the end of Sept after the first frost and we hardly got bitten at all. Another trip there to kayak in early was a disaster and we ran away to Fort Bill to buy head nets.
nniff - on 10 Aug 2012
In reply to UKC Articles:

I my first pair pair of Boreal Fires for the first time on this route. They replaced a pair of red and yellow Hanwag Crack Specials. I tried the Hanwags first for a few feet. Came down, put the Fires on and off I went, with a huge smile on my face
Wee Davie - on 10 Aug 2012
In reply to Adam Lincoln:

Midges can only fly in winds less than 6mph. If it's fairly still they'll be horrific. If you can get decent wind speeds forecast you'll be fine. I was out last night in the Southern Highlands and the wind dropped a few times- murder!
Wee Davie - on 10 Aug 2012
In reply to UKC Articles:

Yeah, a good article about an excellent venue. Has anyone seen the Dave Birkett video where his missus ridicules him for backing off a 5a padding pitch at Etive?
Kevin Woods - on 10 Aug 2012
In reply to Wee Davie: I was on top of the Buachaille yesterday evening with a slight breeze and midges. Got down to the the bottom at dusk, not a breath of wind and no midges, figure that?!
Skyfall - on 10 Aug 2012
In reply to UKC Articles:

Great read that.

I've only done Spartan Slab but it brought back some happy memories; and probably why I've never had the balls to return for the harder stuff !
Wee Davie - on 10 Aug 2012
In reply to Kevin Woods:

I'd have bet money you'd be needing a blood transfusion in still conditions up there right now.
Were you in direct sunlight? They don't seem to like that.
metal arms on 10 Aug 2012
In reply to UKC Articles:

Cracking read. Thanks for taking the time to tell the story Neil.
john irving - on 10 Aug 2012
In reply to UKC Articles:

Lots of people got lost following Kev Howett. I remember responding to shouts for help when relaxing on the Coffin Stone, running up to the top of the crag and absieling down to rescue the leader who had crossed the upper overlap as per the long wait (as described in the articel I think), then traversed right for 100 feet without gear, then moved up between wet streaks.

I have never been able to work out a way across the second overlap at 5b between the sandwiched wall (long wait 5b), and the square wall at the right hand end on Pause. There is a curious inset corner (left facing) with a big jug at head height. Has anyone got up onto that and crossed the roof. If so. Chapeau.

Nice article

jon on 10 Aug 2012
In reply to UKC Articles:

Well done Neil.

I remember being there once, (hundreds of years ago), some guy had fallen off something - Spartan Slab, I think - and really hurt himself. He was carried out by the Mountain Rescue. We walked down to the car park a few minutes afterwards to be met by some rubberneck in a big car who asked in a posh accent "Was he experienced? Was he wearing breeches?"
Wee Davie - on 10 Aug 2012
In reply to Jon:

It's one of those places you hear loads of tales about. I've dropped top ropes to leaders in extremis (as many will have). I belayed one guy who arrived shaking to my stance, reached into his chalk bag and sparked a Bob Marley Extra Strong. The git never even passed it.

Styx - on 10 Aug 2012
Etive Slabs look like fun, a bit like the granite slabs in North Carolina such as Laurel Knob and Stone Mountain but with more protection.
Chris Craggs - on 10 Aug 2012
In reply to jon:

I did it similar time ago. I don't remember getting lost or is being especially tricky, maybe the guidebooks were better back then!


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