Sword of Gideon VS 4c – Beleach Na Ba Applecross/ Cioch Nose
This is a Tom Patey classic climb Sword of Gideon. It’s a mountain route at VS and is rather unusual for Scotland as it is at an altitude of 600m but is in fact only a 5 minute walk from the road. This climb can be seen from road
Sword of Gideon.
125m, 4 pitches. Park at wee parking spot just below switchbacks on road.
The first pitch is up the easy rock below the climb proper. Head left up crack/ramp at start of first pitch. Interest on first pitch dwindles after those first few moves. Quite bold at the start. 2nd (crux) pitch starts at the ledge, which can be traversed into if avoiding first pitch. Follow the crack up, then traverse left to belay stance. Fairly good gear. Committing 4a/4b move at start of 3rd pitch on good gear. Straightforward after that. 4th pitch starts at ledge, go straight up. Poss to link 3&4, but scope for good belay at top is poor. Better gear for belay at top of pitch 3.
The Bealach used to be an unforgettable drive up or cycle along one of the most dramatic roads on mainland UK, rivalling many a Swiss mountain pass and with terrific views across much of Wester Ross, the whole of Skye, the Islands of Rum and the Outer Hebrides. You will NOT forget this drive or cycle as long as you live. Sadly in my view the NC 500 has changed all that and in height of summer it is a procession of Camper vans, cars and motor cycles it am just being elitist?
It is composed of rough sandstone on the South Face that rises steeply from the road when a bit wet it can make things a bit tricky higher up. I have done the route before once in the wet and found it a bit wild and Dan and Pete had been on it as well a few times. The last time we were there we abseiled off old age and it was very wet and greasy.
The route description says:
“gives easy delightful climbing up to the Base of the steep middle section which forms a clean steep reddish wall.”
That may be true when we were younger and braver.
The first time we climbed this route and then we headed over to the Classic Cioch Nose after dropping into the Coire that was a great day.
The Cioch Nose – The climb description 450 feet, 7 pitches. First ascent Tom Patey and Chris Boonington August 1960
The first time I climbed this route was 1980 when I was up with RAF Valley MRT from North Wales. The day before we had climbed the Torridon Trilogy; Beinn Eighe, Liathach and Beinn Alligin a big 12 hour day. We were up for a 10 day grant. It had been hot and we were tired and staying at Lochcarron in the village hall.
One of the lads who had only got the weekend off Dave Tomkins and had been with us on the Trilogy wanted an easy day. It was decided to climb the Cioch Nose at Sgurr a’ Chaorachain. It was already a classic 3 Star route.
We had a leisurely start as we were still aching from the previous day’s efforts. We parked by the main road and walked into the cliff, it was still very warm. The view of the route is with you all the way in and looks pretty wild and intimidating.
We took my dog Teallach he would wait by the crag and enjoy a leisurely day or so we thought. Even he was tired.
There was no path then to the route and we worked our way up the steep ground to the beginning of the climb.
I had been climbing a lot in Wales so this easy “Scottish Diff” would be no problem.
The guide book was a bit vaguer than the description nowadays. Right from the beginning It was an adventure on steep sandstone with some wonderful situations and great climbing.
The traverse out onto the wall on big holds is superb and what a situation. It seemed to go on for ever, it was never to hard but what a place to be. That wonderful book Classic Rock had a great description of the ascent and the old Black and white pictures in big boots and hill bags made this a real mountain adventure. The belay ledges were spacious but in these days there was a lot of loose rock about. Care was needed and still is.
It was a leisurely day climbing that chimney, the steep wall and a real adventure. We continued up the ridge and found a wee pitch above that was pretty tricky.
We were dehydrated and tired yesterday’s efforts hit us. We descended a gully still damp and loose taking care as there was plenty of loose rock.
I was contouring round the ledges to get back to where we had left the dog. We heard barking and he had shuttled of to the Loch as the midges were at him. He was also dragging my rucksack that I had left with him.
He was fine and we headed back to the land rover as we came under midge attack.
We were the first back at the village hall yet it had been a long day as another group were doing the Torridon Trilogy. (in all 12 of our team completed it that trip incredible)
Poor Dave got a few hours’ sleep and then the drive back to North Wales for work epic. No Health and Safety then.
What thoughts do I have of that day? The midges were out but we caught a breeze higher up we took our time enjoying the situations. It’s a wild place the incredible sandstone rock architecture, the big belay ledges, my companions. Many on their first visit to the West what a place to be. Always the wildness of the corries, the climb and the views were outstanding.
This is a description
An absolute belter of a climb which is best done as part of the A’ Chioch Ridge continuation. Add a few long slings to a light rack. Park at the Bealach na Ba viewpoint and head for the obvious mast. Just short of the summit head east and take the steep path down into Ciore a’ Chaorachain. Be careful this can be slippy and a bit of loose rock. In my mind it is well worth putting on your helmet here?
This is from the UKC Website
“Descended into the Coire along the path and then Gain Middle Ledge by scrambling up A’ Chioch gully for 40m and then right onto a path, the start of the route is 20m past a series of low roofs and starts at an off width crack.
Pitch 1 (30m, 4a) climb the off width and then over some bulges trending left to avoid the small roof, climb a fine corner to a ledge and a choice of belays. Pitch 2 (20m, 4a) thrutch up the awkward corner at the far end of the ledge.
Exit right and climb easier ground to reach a thread belay on the one of the best ledges you’ll find in Scotland. Pitch 3 (40m, 4a) traverse right for 3m, enjoying an intermediate amount of exposure, and then up, past a peg runner, climb a series of horizontal breaks trending slightly left towards a chimney.
Climb and exit this on the right onto another large ledge with an excellent thread belay.
Pitch 4 (30m) go to the far end of the ledge (CN scratched on the rock) and climb a superb, but short-lived layback. Go right around the bulge and take the easiest line up to a chossy ledge and boulder belay. Pitch 5 (20m) scramble easily up and left over blocks to the false summit to a choice of huge belays.
Head towards the formidable-looking ridge continuation by dropping down the neck and taking the surprisingly easy to follow path up huge blocks towards the well-defined crack in the steepest section of the ridge. Avoid going left past the large gully. Pitch 6 (30m) climb the slab about 10m to the left of the large crack with an awkward move at half-height, to a comfortable thread belay. Pitch 7 (30m) climb up, trending right to easy ground and a choice of solid belays. Delightful scrambling over/around several false summits gets you back to the mast”. To me this is the best approach to me.
Over the years I have done this climb many times. Mostly this was with young team members on their first big mountain route. In these days it was not busy.
I often met Martin Moran the local guide who became a great pal. He was the most unassuming man always helping folk out on the route if they needed guidance. He is now sadly gone in an avalanche in India. Martin was also on the Torridon Mountain Rescue Team and ran a few exercises with the whole team on the route. It was interesting times as the team abseiled down via the various ledges.
This place will always have great memories to me of Martin and great days with so many others. Yet to see Teallach my dog in the Loch surrounded by midges and the remains of my hill bag will always be with me.
The last time I was here I was still recovering from an operation and left Dan and another pal below the start. I felt awful but enjoyed being in this wild place. A huge herd of deer were moving down the Corrie. I watched them and the boys climb the route wishing I was there and then wandered up the nearby Corbett Sgurr a Chaorachainn. Yet I was happy to be out and Dan has promised that at the end of the “Lock Down” we will be back.
In winter this is a different place but that’s another tale for a different day. I will leave you of the views, The Sandstone towers, the islands and the wild panorama of the Western Highlands.
As Donald Bennet says in his great essay in Classic rock “after the climb the temptation is to find a sheltered spot amongst the rocks and gaze westwards. It’s easy to be lazy after such a great climb” So true, so true.