Raeburn's Buttress Direct (Difficult*), Sgorr Ruadh. The steep and obvious crest.
I'd been weighing up the idea of soloing this route for months, totally inspired by photos of its imposing and dominating profile. Now I was stood underneath it, and the temptation to take the easier non-direct route to the left was pretty strong. My first attempt to start up the initial steep wall had not been encouraging, I couldn't seem to find a way to get established on the sloping holds of the wall…and doubts about soloing it were rapidly strengthening.
An impressive and beautiful route.
The first wall. Down-wards sloping rock everywhere.
Something clicked in me, and I realised I would rather turn around and walk away altogether than climb the route by the non-direct and easier option. Failure did indeed appeal more than a hollow victory. I wasn't here to come back from the route feeling disappointment…the climbs that have become personally significant are the ones which you should do in the best style, or maybe not at all.
The stunning Sgorr Ruadh. Raeburn's Direct is the right-hand skyline.
Then all the doubts and conflicting thoughts evaporated, and moving upwards was all there was. 50ft up and I was so relieved I had committed to that move off the ground…this felt fantastic. After a ledge I reached a slanting ramp and crack line that looked unlikely, and again I was forced to look twice.
Getting established on the first wall and committing to the direct.
The ramp and crack that gives access to the second tier of the buttress.
It is a climb of two halves, and the upper towers and ridge are far looser and more vegetated, and I was glad I waited for a heatwave to climb this route. On a route with such a presence and noble shape, it doesn't matter if the quality of the climbing itself isn't consistent. These are the kind of routes that really inspire me, the ones with great lines and character. If this was Ben Nevis, this would be the North-East Buttress.
A grass ridge leads to the upper towers
The second tower
The third tower
As someone who always solo climbs, I regularly ponder what drives me to repeatedly put myself through the stresses, doubts and dangers that can be involved. Sitting at the top of Raeburn's Buttress Direct yesterday, I wondered if is really all just about experiencing the total and unique calm that comes after soloing a route that you have longed after, had doubts about, been scared by. There is no feeling quite like that.