walkhighlands

Share your personal walking route experiences in Scotland, and comment on other peoples' reports.
Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.

An Idiot's Guide to Curved Ridge

An Idiot's Guide to Curved Ridge


Postby houdi » Sun Dec 05, 2010 9:10 pm

Munros included on this walk: Stob Dearg (Buachaille Etive Mor), Stob na Broige (Buachaille Etive Mor)

Date walked: 08/06/2009

Time taken: 6 hours

11 people think this report is great.
Register or Login
free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).

Not so much a Walk Report as an Idiot’s Guide to Curved Ridge. I have concentrated my report on the ridge itself. The traverse of the full walk across the top of Buachaille Etive Mor I have left to the pictures.

This is a route to put hairs on your chest or so I was told all too frequently before I attempted this classic scrambling route up an equally classic mountain. To be brutally honest, I had nightmares about Curved Ridge thanks to over-exaggerated reports of its difficulty. Make no mistake, it is no route for hillwalkers but, as a scrambling route, its bark is definitely worse than its bite.

The hardest part about Curved Ridge is finding it. You can make it out quite clearly from the road but once you’re up there amongst the ridges, walls, and buttresses it causes quite a bit of head-scratching. Finding the Water Slab is the first obstacle. Approaching from Rannoch Moor, there is a car-park immediately after the Glen Etive turnoff. For the past couple of years it has been closed to the public and gated off to enclose some plant equipment (although it may well have reverted to being a car-park again, I’m not sure). I would say this was once the preferred parking point for climbers doing the Rannoch Wall and other climbs in that region because a pretty substantial path goes out the back of the car-park and heads in a straight line across the River Coupall and directly to the Water Slab. Obviously, no one will want to use this path (even if the car-park is accessible again) unless they plan to do Curved Ridge and descend the same way. Instead, park at Altnafeadh and take the left fork in the path after the white Lagangarbh cottage which rises gently as it contours around the bottom of Stob Dearg towards Glen Etive. You cross a couple of wet gullies which could be mistaken for the Water Slab but you can ignore these as you already have a foolproof marker in the path coming up from the car-park I mentioned earlier. Simply keep following the main path until it meets the other one coming up from that car-park on the main road to your left. You are now at the Water Slab. Easy, eh?

The way ahead now continues up a wide scree gulley of cream-coloured stone, but there are paths going everywhere and it’s difficult to know which one to take. Avoid going left. At the Water Slab you are already past Curved Ridge so going left will only lead into difficulties. Keep going up the scree until you find any decent path which goes to the right and back over the top of the Water Slab (although at a higher level) then keep following this route which should take you steadily up and to the right until you are at a point just below and to the right of the Rannoch Wall which is easily identified as a sheer wall of rock detached from the bulky North Buttress. Curved Ridge is to the immediate left of this. However, you have to bear in mind that you are looking at both the Rannoch Wall and Curved Ridge almost end on and this makes identification more difficult. Now make your way up towards the Rannoch Wall and things will become more clearer. Before you reach it you will notice a gulley separating it from the next ridge of rock on the left. This is Curved Ridge. The gulley is easier to cross higher up. When you stand on the edge of the gulley you will see a small scree path on the other side which ends at the start of Curved Ridge. The rock is shiny through lots of boot and crampon wear and is quite unmistakable.

You start climbing Curved Ridge end on by following a line directly up the edge of the gulley which is now on your immediate right (having crossed it earlier). I have heard it is possible to ascend the gulley but I can’t see the point of this as the rock on the ridge itself is sound with really good holds throughout. This gulley separates Curved Ridge from Rannoch Wall of which you now get a close-up face view. People have reported being able to chat to climbers on the wall, but I have done Curved Ridge several times and never seen any climbers on it. I did encounter a party of elderly gents ascending Curved Ridge roped up and I was forced to step over the top of them. They probably thought I was marginally insane!

When the gulley ends in a narrow vertical channel (avoid this channel as it’s invariably wet) step off onto a flat ledge to your left. In front of you is the so-called ‘crux’, a vertical wall, which is only vertical on the right hand side nearest the gulley. Go left until you can pull yourself up through a cleft in the rock. The holds are pretty good, although I had to use my knee at one point. Bear in mind that the crux is not particularly exposed as there is a decent platform below you. Yes, it will hurt if you fall but you will not go plunging down the mountain despite what some people might have you believe. Above the crux is the final part of the Ridge, similar to the lower part with lots of good solid holds. At the top of this final section you step off to the right onto a scree path. The path splits a bit further up. The main one goes up to a col on the main ridge below the summit and this is the most popular route. It is not the best route, however.

The right fork in the path goes uphill behind Crowberry Tower which itself rises up in front of you and cannot be mistaken. It is possible to climb Crowberry Tower from the front by taking a route which slants up diagonally from left to right (I have indicated an approximate route on picture Curv7 but this is only from memory and is not very accurate), although it would make more sense to go across the bottom of the Tower and tackle it from the right hand side. I haven’t actually met anyone else who has done the front route and most people climb the tower from the back. Follow the path behind Crowberry Tower and go right up to the end of the path until it ends at a small rib separating it from a gulley on the other side. There is a sort of narrow ledge (with good hand holds) which starts from here and, again, goes up diagonally to the right until you can scramble up on to the top. A word of warning here – when descending this way make sure you follow the ledge all the way back down until you can step off safely on to the top end of the path. Do not be tempted to step off early as the ledge is not so easy to follow coming back down.

It is also possible to climb up the end of Crowberry Tower instead of going behind it. This looks relatively easy but the rock becomes loose about halfway up and more care is needed if you fancy an attempt at this route. Again, I have never heard of anyone else trying it this way.

Even if you do not do Crowberry Tower, I can thoroughly recommend taking the path behind it as a way to the summit rather than the traditional scree/col route. When you reach the rib at the top of the path behind the Tower, turn to your left and, with Crowberry Tower now directly behind you, there is a very easy scramble up to the summit. There is a clear path up through the rocks and, after the first section, you will not even have to use your hands as you can step up the rocks directly to the summit shelter and cairn.

Curved Ridge is a fine scrambling route, although much shorter than I had imagined. You are already halfway up the face of Stob Dearg before the scrambling begins. On my last ascent I went from the start of Curved Ridge to the summit in 40 minutes and that included climbing Crowberry Tower. Don’t be put off by the horror stories. I met a girl climber going across the Aonach Eagach with her boyfriend the day before I first did Curved Ridge. She seemed to regard the crux as a major obstacle. All I can say, is if she had problems scrambling up the there then she would be better sticking to her ropes and pulleys and leave the serious scrambling to us amateurs. Believe me, the crux is something and nothing. And there are definitely more challenging scrambling routes than Curved Ridge. Very enjoyable though and it does have a real ‘free climbing’ feel to it. Do it and enjoy it as it’s a pretty impressive way to reach a summit cairn!

Curv1.JPG
Classic View – Stob Dearg


Curv2.JPG
View from Altnafeadh


Curv3.jpg
Red Route – via Curved Ridge & Crowberry Tower
Green Route – via path to col & summit ridge


Curv4.JPG
Closer ‘head-on’ route view


Curv5.JPG
Honest, it’s easier than it looks!!


Curv6.JPG
Looking down from Curved Ridge


Curv7.JPG
Front route Crowberry Tower


Curv8.JPG
Looking down from Crowberry Tower


Curv9.JPG
Back of Crowberry Tower


Curv10.JPG
Stob Dearg summit cairn


Curv11.JPG
‘The Ben’ from Stob Dearg


Curv12.JPG
Bidean & the peaks of Glencoe


Curv13.JPG
Etive Hills and a distant Ben Cruachan


Curv14.JPG
Stob na Doire


Curv15.JPG
View down Coire na Tulaich


Curv16.JPG
Stob Dearg from Stob na Doire


Curv17.JPG
Glen Etive


Curv18.JPG
Stob Coire Altruim & Stob na Broige


Curv19.JPG
Descent path to the Lairig Gartain


Curv20.JPG
Loch Etive


Curv21.JPG
Looking back over the ridge from Stob na Broige
houdi
Scrambler
 
Posts: 288
Munros:93   Corbetts:1
Grahams:3   Donalds:2
Sub 2000:2   Hewitts:74
Wainwrights:48   
Joined: Aug 29, 2010
Location: South Devon

Re: An Idiot's Guide to Curved Ridge

Postby Glenrothes » Sun Dec 05, 2010 10:48 pm

At last, someone who tells it as it is................. :thumbup:

Thanks Houdi for bringing the memories of several years ago flooding graphically back - brilliant guide!!!
Glenrothes
 

Re: An Idiot's Guide to Curved Ridge

Postby Milesy » Sun Dec 05, 2010 11:11 pm

Good report. A lot of people have problems finding curved ridge and many have found themself on D Gully Buttress which is the next buttress to the left and had an epic as it is a good few grades higher.

For anyone fancing going up Curved Ridge here is a picture I took from the North Buttress which makes it easy to identify (line of people exluded haha)

P8080071.jpg
Milesy
Mountaineer
 
Posts: 1516
Joined: Jun 12, 2009
Location: Airdrieland.

Re: An Idiot's Guide to Curved Ridge

Postby houdi » Sun Dec 05, 2010 11:16 pm

Thanks G. I've been meaning to do this report for some time as I had a bit of a nightmare trying to find Curved Ridge the first time I went up there.

Milesy, I think you should have kept that photo to yourself. I don't even fancy going up there looking at it from that angle :lol:
houdi
Scrambler
 
Posts: 288
Munros:93   Corbetts:1
Grahams:3   Donalds:2
Sub 2000:2   Hewitts:74
Wainwrights:48   
Joined: Aug 29, 2010
Location: South Devon

Re: An Idiot's Guide to Curved Ridge

Postby skuk007 » Sun Dec 05, 2010 11:32 pm

Thanks Houdi, still sounds and looks a bit scary. I'm guessing it's completely possible wihout ropes then?
User avatar
skuk007
Hill Bagger
 
Posts: 1419
Munros:44   
Hewitts:8
Wainwrights:16   
Joined: Aug 24, 2009
Location: Bristol

Re: An Idiot's Guide to Curved Ridge

Postby houdi » Sun Dec 05, 2010 11:45 pm

Technically, it's very easy and does not require ropes. As always, it depends on the individual's confidence in this kind of situation. My mate Stu needed roped up twice - once on the first stage beside the gulley and then at the crux. Can't understand why, to be honest, but he is a soft Southerner :)
houdi
Scrambler
 
Posts: 288
Munros:93   Corbetts:1
Grahams:3   Donalds:2
Sub 2000:2   Hewitts:74
Wainwrights:48   
Joined: Aug 29, 2010
Location: South Devon

Re: An Idiot's Guide to Curved Ridge

Postby houdi » Sun Dec 05, 2010 11:47 pm

houdi wrote:Technically, it's very easy and does not require ropes. As always, it depends on the individual's confidence in this kind of situation. My mate Stu needed roped up twice - once on the first stage beside the gulley and then at the crux. Can't understand why, to be honest, but he is a soft Southerner :)


Just noticed you're from Bristol, skuk. Best take two ropes in that case :lol:
houdi
Scrambler
 
Posts: 288
Munros:93   Corbetts:1
Grahams:3   Donalds:2
Sub 2000:2   Hewitts:74
Wainwrights:48   
Joined: Aug 29, 2010
Location: South Devon

Re: An Idiot's Guide to Curved Ridge

Postby malky_c » Sun Dec 05, 2010 11:54 pm

Good report. You are correct - once found, this is a very straightforward scramble.

Definitely worth approaching from the east though so you can try and spot it before getting to the foot of the hill. On my first visit, we went in from the west, and were so far off it was ridiculous.
We ended up following the line shown below. Nice scramble and all, but :oops:

Curv2.JPG


Apologies for butchering your picture!
User avatar
malky_c
 
Posts: 5738
Munros:282   Corbetts:222
Grahams:219   Donalds:71
Sub 2000:229   Hewitts:255
Wainwrights:102   
Joined: Nov 22, 2009
Location: Inverness

Re: An Idiot's Guide to Curved Ridge

Postby houdi » Mon Dec 06, 2010 12:10 am

I had a look through a 'Scrambling' book last year and there are several scrambles up and around where you indicate, malky_c. One of them was a Grade 1, I believe. Your route probably followed one of those? No probs about the pic. It's good to hear about different routes.

As well as the route finding problem for Curved Ridge I am trying to cut through all the hype. I hardly slept the night before I did Curved Ridge (first time) worrying about it. I couldn't belive how easy it was. People who are not as confident should use a rope for reassurance. However, they shouldn't worry about the technical aspect. The crux is no more difficult than the 'Bad Step' on Crinkle Crags and the rest is a pretty easy scrambling grade. I nerver take any notice of the hype now. I heard the same stories about the Liathac pinnnacles and they were a doddle.
houdi
Scrambler
 
Posts: 288
Munros:93   Corbetts:1
Grahams:3   Donalds:2
Sub 2000:2   Hewitts:74
Wainwrights:48   
Joined: Aug 29, 2010
Location: South Devon

Re: An Idiot's Guide to Curved Ridge

Postby Milesy » Mon Dec 06, 2010 1:09 pm

It is more exposed than some of the other (even harder ridges) though. The North Buttress is more sustained and has multiple chimneys of equal or harder difficulity as the Curved Ridge crux, but is no where near as exposed feeling due to the buttress being rather broad and there being no sideways exposure. Curved Ridge although easier gets it three stars due to its position and feeling.
Milesy
Mountaineer
 
Posts: 1516
Joined: Jun 12, 2009
Location: Airdrieland.

Re: An Idiot's Guide to Curved Ridge

Postby over2u » Mon Dec 06, 2010 4:19 pm

cheers for the very detailed pics etc, looks like you had a very interesting day :) Looking forward to attempting these hills come spring/early summer. Saved this thread to my "walks to do" folder :D
over2u
Walker
 
Posts: 39
Munros:20   Corbetts:3
Sub 2000:4   
Joined: Nov 30, 2010

Re: An Idiot's Guide to Curved Ridge

Postby houdi » Mon Dec 06, 2010 8:33 pm

Yeah, fair point Milesy. I grew up scrambling the easier parts of Stannage Edge as a kid and I sometimes forget the exposure aspect. Exposure or heights don't bother me in the slightest. I don't even take any notice of the exposure when I'm scrambling which is probably a good thing. Not easy to teach anyone to ignore the exposure though. It's a sort of inbuilt thing, don't you think?
houdi
Scrambler
 
Posts: 288
Munros:93   Corbetts:1
Grahams:3   Donalds:2
Sub 2000:2   Hewitts:74
Wainwrights:48   
Joined: Aug 29, 2010
Location: South Devon

Re: An Idiot's Guide to Curved Ridge

Postby LeithySuburbs » Mon Dec 06, 2010 8:45 pm

Thanks for this detailed description Houdi :D . Reckon I'll give this route a go tomorrow :lol: .
User avatar
LeithySuburbs
Ambler
 
Posts: 1895
Munros:251   Corbetts:50
Grahams:26   Donalds:33
Sub 2000:39   Hewitts:14
Wainwrights:23   
Joined: Feb 19, 2009
Location: The Capital

Re: An Idiot's Guide to Curved Ridge

Postby skuk007 » Mon Dec 06, 2010 9:40 pm

houdi wrote:Just noticed you're from Bristol, skuk. Best take two ropes in that case :lol:

...and an army of climbing buddies. :)
User avatar
skuk007
Hill Bagger
 
Posts: 1419
Munros:44   
Hewitts:8
Wainwrights:16   
Joined: Aug 24, 2009
Location: Bristol

Re: An Idiot's Guide to Curved Ridge

Postby mountain coward » Thu Dec 09, 2010 1:32 am

Absolutely superb description! Just wish I had the confidence to do that kind of thing but I'm afraid it's way too steep for me. The crux gully looks the easiest bit to me as at least you can wedge yourself in - I like gullies for that! :D
mountain coward
 

11 people think this report is great.
Register or Login
free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
Next



Walkhighlands community forum is now advert free

We need help to keep the site online.
Can you help support Walkhighlands and the online community by setting up a monthly donation by direct debit?



Return to Walk reports - Scotland

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: John Sinclair, Paul Webster and 31 guests