Climb a Route and Pocket a Rab Prize - Round 3: UK Routes with an Alpine Feel

This year Rab have teamed up with four of their athletes to produce lists of lesser-known but highly worthwhile routes from around the UK. In an effort to get people out of their comfort zones and into some less polished, less familiar venues, we are offering prizes to those who go and seek out these less popular lines.

The third list in the series has been penned (after many drafts and some sage advice from UKC's very own Rob Greenwood), by insatiable all-rounder Calum Muskett. We asked Calum to put together a list of routes in the UK with an alpine feel. Commenting on his criteria for an alpine-like route, Calum said:

"Does it have to be loose? No. Long? No. Memorable? Yes! The list has been revised and toned down several times to avoid any deaths or serious injuries from my climbing recommendations but hopefully, it won't be considered too mainstream.

I know the routes near my home in Wales the best and can't recommend these obscure vegetated battles enough, or, at all? I've gone a little bit less esoteric with my selection of routes in Scotland, although, from my experience, I'd say you're still unlikely to see anybody else climbing on these routes most of the time. Rob Greenwood, who has the same enthusiasm for esoterica as I, has helped me pull out a couple of excellent 'under-appreciated' routes in the Lakes in the same vein as the rest of my list. I can't say whether or not you'll enjoy the routes below – but you'll definitely remember them!"

Cal's Climbs


1. The Great Arete (E5 6a), Llech Ddu

This mountain classic has one of the most finely positioned crux pitches in Wales. It's on the nearest crag to my home in Bethesda and boasts an impressive collection of reeds, loose rock and vegetation, which may be why I don't seem to make it up there that often! One of the little-known facts about this route is that it was soloed onsight by the understated Doug Shaw years ago, which remains one of the most impressive solos I've heard of in the UK! I remember taking Gabby, my wife to be, up this route one slightly chilly summer's day. I'd casually packed a half rack of gear and decided to link pitches together so that we could climb the route more quickly. Unfortunately, an epic amount of rope-drag ensued when I combined the second and third, crux, pitch. I had to untie from one of my half ropes one-handed at the crux and continue to the summit. Long-suffering Gabby had to second on just the one half rope.

2. Angel Pavement (Severe), Mynydd Mawr

Mynydd Mawr, on the side of the Nantlle Valley, is a curious, isolated mountain, home to one of the best fell races in Wales. It's also home to a lot of good quality climbing, all of which is rarely ventured onto. The Angel Pavement is a wonderful adventure up some quartz-streaked slabs. The belays can be a little difficult to arrange, and the rock is not beyond suspicion, but the positions are amazing, and it's not far from a good pub!

Didn't need all that gear...  © Nick Manasseh
Didn't need all that gear...
© Nick Manasseh, May 2018

3. Western Gully (Severe), Ysgolion Duon

Best known as a winter crag, Yr Ysgolion Duon in the Carneddau should probably stay that way. Western Gully is one of the best winter routes in the whole of the UK. In summer, its quality is only amplified by a great atmosphere, tricky crux, and excellent quality of vegetation. It's best climbed on a dry day, preferably after a number of dry weeks, but if you like your climbing sporty, don't let the rain put you off!

Table Direct (2nd pitch) Cadair Idris  © THE.WALRUS
Table Direct (2nd pitch) Cadair Idris
© THE.WALRUS, May 2014
4. Avernus (HVS 4c) – Trwyn y Gorlech

Contrary to popular opinion, the UK's mountain crags are not the best place to train for the Alps, it is, in fact, our sea cliffs which have the added complexity of tricky approaches, bad conditions and long days out that will best prepare you for an alpine epic. Avernus bridges the gap between sea-cliffs and mountains due to its length and character. The rock is loose, the climbing fairly-atrocious, the risk of being covered in guano – high. If you haven't been put off, then you are probably stupid, in which case this route would be an excellent choice!

5. Cyfrwy by the Table Direct (Diff), Cadair Idris

This fantastic link up on Cadair Idris is well worth a visit. Cadair is a special place to climb on a sunny day and you can quickly leave the crowds behind off the main tourist route to enjoy this wonderful climb. It's best enjoyed after a dip in the lake below.


A wet day in the lakes saved with this classic!   © petegunn
A wet day in the lakes saved with this classic!
© petegunn, Jan 2010
6. Segeant's Crag Gully (summer) (Severe), Sergeant Crag

This classic winter route retains much of its character in the summertime, except that you're not supposed to use ice axes and crampons! An odyssey of grass pulling interspersed with bits of rock.

7. Extol (E2 5b), Dove Crag

Despite its 'classic' status and appearance in Hard Rock, Extol seems to have fallen out of popularity in recent years. A shame, because it's a great route on a classic crag.


8. The Talisman (Summer) (HS 4a), Creagan a Chorie Etchachan

This remote route in the Cairngorms is best combined with a night spent in the Hutchinson memorial hut which lies beneath the crag. The Cairngorms are full of inspiring mountain routes – Squareface, Mitre Ridge, The Needle, The Savage Slit, Eagle Ridge… I could go on at some length. What makes Talisman special is its relative remoteness, open and genuinely varied high-quality climbing.

Finishing up the 3rd pitch on the exposed arete, superb!  © Steven Andrews
Finishing up the 3rd pitch on the exposed arete, superb!
© Steven Andrews, Sep 2013

9. The Long Climb (VS 4b), Ben Nevis

A wild journey up one of the biggest rock faces in the UK. This route takes no prisoners and has been the scene of many an epic - so don't take it on lightly! The climbing and rock is mostly excellent, although in places route finding can be tricky… and be mindful of the odd loose/booming block.

About to cross the 'snow patch' to reach Orion Face Ben Nevis before 6 hours of shocking weather  © buffalo606
About to cross the 'snow patch' to reach Orion Face Ben Nevis before 6 hours of shocking weather
© buffalo606, Jul 2014

The Long Climb: crossing the Rubicon on the approach.  © jimorothy
The Long Climb: crossing the Rubicon on the approach.
© jimorothy, Jun 2010

10. Raven's Gully (Summer) (HVS 5a), Buachaille Etive Mor

The first time I ever saw the Buachaille was when I was a young lad doing the West Highland Way. From our campsite at the King's House the Buachaille looked magnificent, a perfect mountain reflected in the pools of the upper Etive. There are some mountains that you remember the first time you see them: Cerro Torre, the Matterhorn, the Eiger. They don't need to be the highest, but their shape, position and history make them compelling. The Buachaille is no different and whatever your grade, you'll enjoy the wonders of this mountain. Curved Ridge, Agag's Groove and Shibboleth are amongst the best in the country at their respective grades. Raven's Gully, however, is an adventure. A journey into the bowels of the mountain over slick rock, claustrophobic climbing and boulder chokes. Once this Damoclean odyssey is overcome, the expansive views from the summit are something else.

11. Cioch West/Cioch Nose/Integrity (VS 4c), Sron na Ciche, Coire Lagan, Cuillin

This enchainment, best climbed as part of an integral to the summit of Sgurr Alasdair, is perhaps the best route of its grade in the country – I shit you not! The quality of the Gabbro in the Cuillins is incredible, made for climbing with grip-like Velcro and superb features. The Cioch is probably the best feature in the Cuillins, a jutting prow made famous in the Highlander films and usually with toy swords in-situ for you to pull off your best Sean Connery impression. The best climbing on this route is left until last with the incredible crack of Integrity. Not so hard and very well protected, but what a position! If you continue up the ridge to the summit then beware of one more tricky step which you may require the rope for and, if you still have time, why not climb the King's Chimney and Inaccessible Pinnacle on your way back to the car?

n.b. the prize pockets will be discreetly placed, will avoid interfering with the climb itself and will be visible only when on/finishing a route. Any unclaimed prize pockets will be removed after the end of October, so there's only a limited time to claim your prize. This will also be the deadline for submitted photos, so hurry up out there and happy hunting!

Claiming your prize is simple (in theory). We've hidden three waterproof pockets on three of the routes from Calum's list. Climb the route, retrieve the pocket and you'll find details inside of how to claim your prize.

For those that get there after an even more eager climber has already retrieved the pocket or who find that their chosen route isn't one of those with an accompanying prize pocket, never fear, you can still win a prize. Simply take a photo of yourself on any of the routes from the list and upload it to the 'Rab Routes' UKC gallery. We will pick our favourite entries to receive a prize. Bonus points, as always, for creativity and gurning.

All winners will be offered their choice of size and colour in one of Rab's favourite jackets - the Alpha Flux.

Perfect for changeable conditions from early Autumn right through to late Spring, the Alpha Flux is a lightly insulated, highly breathable, mid layer. Made with the super-soft Polartec® Alpha™ "Direct" 90, you can be sure of core warmth while stretch fleece side panels allow full freedom of movement keeping bulk and weight down.

Learn more about the Alpha Flux here: Men's / Women's

Men's Alpha Flux
© Rab

Women's Alpha Flux
© Rab

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Add Climb name Grade Height Crag name
The Great AreteE5 6a ***?Llech Ddu (Black...
Angel PavementHS 4b **183m• 5Craig y Bera
Western GullyS ?Ysgolion Duon...
AvernusHVS 4c ***250m• 9Trwyn y Gorlech...
Cyfrwy by the Table DirectVD ***?Cader Idris (Cyfrwy)
Segeant's Crag Gully (summer)S ***170m• 4Sergeant Crag
ExtolE2 5c **?Dove Crag (Dovedale)
The Talisman (Summer)HS 4a ***100mBen Macdui -...
The Long ClimbVS ***420m• 11Ben Nevis
Raven's Gully (Summer)HVS 5a ***?Buachaille Etive Mor
Cioch WestS 4a ***215m• 7Sron na Ciche
Cioch NoseVD **40m• 2Sron na Ciche
IntegrityVS 4c ***76m• 2Sron na Ciche
7 Es
33 stars
46 pitches

1 Sep, 2018

Segeant's Crag Gully (summer)

Was hoping that I wouldn't have to repeat that one! 


1 Sep, 2018
The Long Climb


Not sure it's advisable to climb this at the moment due to large amounts of loose rock? I think there's been a couple of rescues there this year. 

Has Callum climbed it recently?

1 Sep, 2018

seconded. think it is rather irresponsible encouraging people to climb this in search of a prize, it will get someone killed!

many a classic route in the alps is no longer climbed at the height of summer due to the mountains thawing and falling down. the same applies here, the Orion face should be steared clear of outside of winter.

1 Sep, 2018

The trouble is that Long Climb is far more likely to give an alpine like experience than any of the other routes in the list, and with any loose rock encountered obviously contributing to that. I'm sure that, just as with real alpine routes, people are perfectly capable of making up their own minds about trying it.

2 Sep, 2018

I think many people are drawn to it blindly for the 'classic rock' tick and misleading descriptions of 'sound rock' like calum's in the article. it has about a pitch and a half of solid rock and the remaining is wet slimy choss!

people cant make their own sound judgement when they are mislead by articles like this. this article is comparable to encouraging people to climb the cosmiques arete right now by saying that they can make 'their own sound judgement' on its stability. Utterly irresponsible!

since when did 'alpine' become synonymous with dangerous choss? many classic routes in the alps are on sound rock. 

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