‘On The Edge’ – 5 reasons I Love Ridge Climbs

The Cuillin ridge, Skye.

The Cuillin ridge, Skye.

I still get a thrill when looking at a striking mountain ridgeline. Aesthetically pleasing and well-defined, it’s not surprising that many ridges attain classic status; their names often becoming as famous as the mountain itself. Think about the Kuffner, the Hornli, the Mittelegi, the Cassin and the Peuterey; all great journeys that every aspiring alpinist dreams of.

 

  1. Strong Line

I still get a thrill when looking at a striking mountain ridgeline. Aesthetically pleasing and well-defined, it’s not surprising that many ridges attain classic status; their names often becoming as famous as the mountain itself. Think about the Kuffner, the Hornli, the Mittelegi, the Cassin and the Peuterey; all great journeys that every aspiring alpinist dreams of.

 

  1. Views From A Ridge

With the ground dropping away on both sides, the views from a ridge are rarely for the faint hearted. The great Scottish ridges, the Aonach Eagach, the Skye ridge, and An Teallach, involve climbing close to summit height for long periods, giving breath-taking views into remote corries and down to the ocean. Subtle, moody lighting and a sense of unspoilt wildness just add to the magic.

 

  1. Short Roping

For me, the exhilaration of climbing a ridge comes from finding a good rhythm and covering big distances with few stops. If the team trusts each other to do the basics right – to move safely within your limits, to keep the rope tension between individuals correct – ridges can often be perfect terrain for ‘moving together’. On big alpine ridges, the only way you will get to the top and back before dark is by moving together, or what guides term ‘short roping’. Continual movement also means you’re more likely to stay warm.

 

  1. Ridge Climbing Skills

Being on a knife-edge mountain ridge definitely sharpens the senses! While some modest ridges are known for having standard mountain ascents, there are many that require expert skills and judgement.

 

  • Should you move together or stop and fix a belay?
  • Can you find the way?
  • Do you have the ability to negotiate difficult technical walls of rock or ice?

 

You could be a brilliant technical rock climber but not have the right skills for tackling a long, complex ridge. Conversely, you could be a respectable scrambler but not be able to handle tough technical sections of a ridge. Ironically, although clear and well defined from a distance, some ridges can involve quite complex route-finding when actually climbing them. In bad weather, particularly high winds, the difficulty of a ridge can increase dramatically.

 

  1. Sense of Commitment

Coming down a ridge (if that is the only way to descend) can often take the same time as the ascent. Sometimes descent is too difficult so the only way to escape is to carry on, and often there is only one way to negotiate the terrain, with no escape points.

 

It’s the combination of these elements: being able to move relatively quickly, the sense of exposure and commitment as well as the often brilliant views they give that, for me, make ridges stand out.

 

 

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