Climbing all 84 (or 81, 82 or 83??) routes in the book Classic Rock together over 29½ years
Linda Biggar on pitch seven of The Long Climb, Orion Face, Ben Nevis. We did this route on 1st September 2022 as our last Classic Rock route together. Having got the book as a wedding present we eventually decided (...like, maybe 10 years later), to climb them all together. We'd already done 10 or 15 of the routes together so at least wee were not starting from zero. It's been quite an epic journey, something like 330 pitches of roped climbing, at least 25 abseils and two falls. Done!
OK, so some people have done this feat quicker than 29½ years, some like Jamie Fisher and Anna Taylor in as little as one summer using a bike. But we had other stuff to do as well and we did not even get started until the early 2000's, having got married back on 4th September 1992. There were no real rules to our challenge, just that we had to climb them all together (with or without other friends involved). A big thanks to all the friends who climbed some of the routes with us over the years, Alec, Hum, Jackie, Kate, Kenny, Mike, Nesta, Patricia, Tigger and Twid ......and with sadness for the couple of friends, Kay and Ian, who climbed some of the routes with us but who are no longer here.
Celebrating in the the Clachaig Inn, Glencoe, the day after The Long Climb.
The first route we did together was Labyrinth on Arran, recorded by us only as being done in May 1993. But with a bit of detective work (historical weather data, other log-book entries for May 1993, etc.,) I think I have pinned this ascent down to Sunday 2nd May 1993. I've no photos of Labyrinth, so here's one taken on the second route we did together, Agags Groove on the Buachaille, climbed as a three with Alec Keith.
Agags Groove on Buachaille Etive Mor, 1993. Cameras and photographers were pretty rubbish in those days.... as was climbing equipment!
Linda at the top of The Long Climb, making the final quite tricky move onto the plateau of Ben Nevis.
Ben Nevis Summit, 1st September 2022. It was great to finish on top of Scotland's highest peak. The usual queue for the selfie was long gone, as it was about 7pm by this time. The Long Climb is loooonnnngg! We also climbed Scafell Pike and Snowdon on the way round Classic Rock, still the only time I have been up Snowdon.
Myself on Ardverikie Wall, Laggan. One of our favourite, perhaps THE favourite, Classic Rock route. An awesomely good climb.
Selfie at the top of Ardverikie Wall, taken in 2002 before selfies became much of a thing.
I'd say that 90% of the Classic Rock routes are great, and quite a few do get **** in modern guidebooks. Other top favourites of ours include Clean Sweep, Integrity and the Cuillin Ridge in Scotland, Tophet Wall & Moss Ghyll Grooves in the Lakes. Black and Tans at the Roaches, Main Wall on Cyrn Las, Creag Dhu Wall at Tremadoc, Doorpost at Bosigran and the Devils Slide on Lundy. It is a great shame we don't have photos of them all, but over half were climbed before we had a digital camera.
Linda on Doorpost at Bosigran in 2010.
John Biggar leading Moss Ghyll Grooves, Scafell, 2013.
The Cuillin Ridge and Inaccessible Pinnacle, Skye. Photos taken on our second traverse in May 2016.
The Devils Slide, Lundy, Devon, October 2010.
Will o'the Wisp. It just was not at all classic. It seemed very pointless and definitely not worth such a long drive!
Piton Route. For all the horrendous polished limestone and the "urban" atmosphere.
Parsons Chimney. It was just very problematic and we climbed it in very poor style with lots of grunting, groaning and gasping!
....AND THE UGLY
Bowfell Buttress, climbed in cold wet weather in May 1996 with at least 6 others. Complete with a short but scary slip when my foot skidded off a greasy, polished hold a long way above a runner.
Clachaig Gully, which we bailed out from as it was so utterly unpleasant.... humid and damp, greasy rock, vegetation in abundance, midge-hell plus swarms of keds... yeuch!
Linda leading the crux of Great Gully on Craig yr Ysfa, Snowdonia. Another ugly route that seemed to be 90% grass. This overhung exit pitch is about the only actual rock climbing on the route!
AND FOR ALL THREE......
THE GOOD , THE BAD & THE UGLY AT THE SAME TIME
The Chasm was all three at once, and the only route we had to make multiple attempts on. This photo is of Pitch 4 or 5 on our 3rd attempt in 2014 on a day when it was not entirely dry. A couple of pitches later Linda fell about 10m when a hold gave way and sprained an ankle, so we had to bail out. The first attempt was abandoned because we had got soaked on the 2nd pitch and I was getting very cold. Second time around we were more cunning. We carried dry clothes to change into after the soaking on pitch 2 and chucked a bin-liner of wet clothes back down the pitch to be collected later! ..... but then the midges got to us! Third time around we were even more cunning and abbed in above all the wet bits, joining the route below our previous high point.
Finally climbed on the 4th attempt in superb weather on 1st September 2021 with a lot of help from the excellent IFMGA guide and friend, Twid Turner!
Hardest Route - The Chasm wins hands down. Three retreats, one ten meter fall, hypothermia, midges.... seemed like we were never going to get there!
Twid leading the Converging Walls Pitch on The Chasm, Buachaille Etive Mor.
Most Pitches - The Chasm again, 17 pitches.
Longest Route - The Long Climb (our actual distance climbing was 470m). Contrary to the guidebooks it seemed longer than The Chasm and what is left of Clachaig Gully above the rockfall area.
Longest time to complete - The Cuillin Ridge, 19 hours
Bivouac beneath the Inaccessible Pinnacle on the Cuillin Ridge. The only Classic Rock route that took us more than one day. This photo is actually from our second time along the ridge in May 2016. We first did the ridge over two days in May 2001.
Easiest Route - In terms of difficulty of climbing, probably Tower Ridge when we went back to do it in summer, but it is a long day out still.
Thrutchiest route - Parsons Chimney at Almscliffe
Most committing route - The Long Climb. The difficult route finding starts 300m up, and it would be very serious to retreat from there.
Earliest in the Year - Tower Ridge, done on 13th April 1994 in Winter conditions.
Earliest in summer conditions - Great Gully on Craig yr Ysfa on 29th April 2011
Latest in the Year - Needle Ridge, done by us on 12th November 1995 with Kay and Kenny Livingston.
First route climbed - Needle Ridge 1884
Last route climbed - Will of tthe Wisp 1972
Most Popular route (according to UKC) - Flying Buttress at Stanage
Least Popular route (according to UKC) - The Long Climb
Hardest Grade (UKC consensus) - The Chasm, hard VS or easy HVS.
Hardest Pitch - Both Central Climb and The Clean Sweep now have pitches graded 5a. We thought Piton Route and Climbers Club Ordinary were both nearly 5a as well.
Easiest Route by Grade - Tower Ridge (in summer)
Shortest route - Topsail at Birchen Edge, 12m
Pitches completed by us (best guess) - 329
Total Length climbed counting only the pitched climbing on the Cuillin ridge - 8750m. This is just a best guess as we missed a wee bit of Nea and the top of Clachaig Gully, but we took an extra long route on the Long Climb! Over 50% of the climbing is in Scotland, probably more like 75% if you count the whole of the Cuillin Ridge too.
Days from first route to last - 10,714 days!
Actual days spent climbing - 71 days, includes approaches to high camps for Squareface/Mitre Ridge, The Talisman and The Long Climb
Worst midges - Nea, Clachaig Gully and surprisingly the top bit of The Long Climb.
Myself climbing the nice bit on Sou'wester Slabs on Cir Mhor, Arran, 2002.
Descending from the Weeping Walls on Aonach Dubh, Glencoe after climbing The Long Crack.
On pitch one of The Talisman, Creagan a'Choire Etchachan, Cairngorms. This was our second last route, climbed in very hot weather in August 2022.
North Face Route on Buachaille Etive Mor.
A'Chir ridge, Arran, I think taken on the day we climbed Labyrinth in 1993.