Topology of Cir Mhor
Cir Mhor is constructed of perfect granite on its western flanks and there are some basalt intrusions on the eastern flanks which have resulted in some of the interesting fault lines and features since Basalt erodes/weathers much more quickly than granite. The granite is Very Grippy and will probably remove some skin!
- The summit of Cir Mhor sports the Rosa Pinnacle. A beautiful pointy jumble of rocks which form a pyramid atop the peak.
- Northerly Aspect
- On the North Face of the mountain, overlooking Glen Sannox there are a number of broken slabs and terraces - this facet of the mountain gets little sunshine and the lines are of poorer quality than the Southern aspects.
- Southerly Aspect
The Southerly aspect overlooks Glen Rosa. It is complex and divided into five areas separated by grassy gullies and The Terrace:
- Caliban's Buttress lies to the west of the main rock mass and joins it just below the terrace on the western flank of Cir Mhor.
- The Upper East Face faces SE and is bounded on the left by th obvious fault line of Old East (VDiff). To the right of Old East is a large monolithic wall. This face catches the sun for most of the morning but will be in shadow from about 1pm when the sun goes behind The Prow
- The Lower East Face faces SE and is bounded on the right by Old East. There are chossy, grassy slabs at the bottom as well as a well defined corner which give access to South Ridge.
- South Ridge is the ridge down the centre of the rock mass. It has some beautiful VS pitches at the bottom and is generally VDiff near the top.
- The West Face holds the cleanest, longest slab routes on Cir Mhor as well as some nice roofs/overhangs. There are prominent groove lines and the face captures the sun from about 11am until sunset.
Sub Rosa Gully is the steep grassy gully that runs underneath Upper and Lower East Face. It can be descended to reach the climbs or ascended with care from the bottom. Not a reccommended descent route from Cir Mhor, hazardous when wet!
The Prow is the fin-like pinnacle of rock at the top of South Ridge. It casts a shadow over Upper East Face in the afternoon.
The Terrace is a wide grassy ledge that slopes down from the shoulder of Cir Mhor, across the top of the west face (underneath The Prow etc) to meet South Ridge. Routes on the west face either end here or on South Ridge where the going is VDiff. You can walk off/onto The Terrace from Cir Mhor.
Slings, Cowbells (big hexes - 8,9) and a #4 Friend are indespensible for belays on many routes. Other than this a fair rack of mid-sized friends/hexes and he usual rack of nuts etc should be handy. Take at least 4-5 slings - there seem to be lots of thread placements.
- Labyrinth - Upper East Face (VDiff)
This climb is recommended after a dry spell. If there's been any rain and you want to do this route wear Mountain Boots not rock shoes!
If you're planning to carry a rucksack I'd reconsider... if it's dry just descend the gully in rock shoes - it's probably better to climb this route in real boots anyway - there's no smearing and a good toe jam wil make many pitches much easier!
Descend Sub Rosa Gully until you find a big rock corridor next to the monolithic wall. The fun starts here. This is a classic climb in every sense: interesting and old with varied pitches and styles of climbing.
- Enter the corridor and take the first left! The first few moves really set the scene for later on. Make your way easily up to the big wall and belay at the right-hand corner under a right-trending diagonal groove.
- Climb the groove on rock then grass until you are level with a scary looking traverse back to the left.
- An unprotectable traverse back across the route goes on for about 10m. Belay at the other side.
- Climb up above the belay on good holds to reach a grassy ledge. Another corridor leads to a chimney containing two sets of chockstones. Belay somewhere comfy.
- Make your way through the corridor to the chimney. First bridging, then back and footing in a side chimney make your way up to a grassy ledge. Belay (and optionally haul up any rucksack you brought!)
- Climb the rest of the chimney more easily (but with interest) past the chockstones and into the Eeyrie to belay. (You may need to haul the rucksack again depending how big it is.)
- A ledge (just around the right side of the Eeyrie) traverses horizontally right for 10m (optional belay) before a grassy rake leads up and right to a few large blocks and a short thuggy chimney. Belay at the blocks.
- Climb the short chimney with no gear then scamble to the top.
The next 3 pitches were probably climbed as a single pitch originally. If you're not placing gear and using a hemp rope you can do that too!
Descent from the top is down the West flank. An easy angled groove leads down the slabs then across right and down. You should now be above The Terrace and the top of Sub Rosa Gully is jut around the rocks to the East (good path).
- Fourth Wall (Severe)
Fourth Wall is normally described as five pitches but it is equally suited to being climbed in only three which is how it is described here.
The route starts in the grassy bay level with the foot of Caliban's Buttress. There is a prominent, wide sweeping groove which leads off up to the skyline.
- Climb the groove for 50-60m to belay on a nice natural belay ledge (next to a curving overhang) just above an easy slab. The line is obvious. Up the groove to the skyline then repeat. Very nice! Very straightforward.
- Continue up the groove for about another 40-50m to a large plinth beneath a scary looking (unprotectable) chimney. Belay beside the plinth, not at its top.
- (4b) From the top of the plinth you should see a delicate traverse R - follow this on small holds for about 6m (v small friend useful) until you can climb a very protectable groove/crack to The Terrace.
[Note 1: on the slab beneath the OH is the open corner/cracks of Sou'wester Slabs - you can see its short traverse R about 10m below your belay.]
[Note 2: just behind your stance there should be a traverse leading down and L which goes across to Acrtic Way.]
- Sou'wester Slabs (VDiff)
A beautiful line up perfect granite!
- Climb the first 50 or so metres of Fourth Wall but don't climb all the way to the skyline. After about 40m keep an eye out on your R for the short traverse to the open corner (there's only one - the rest of the slab is blank!).
- Traverse a couple of metres then climb the corner and cracks above to a spike belay. (~ 20m)
- Climb the obvious parallel cracks to the R edge of the slab and drop down to the lower slab - follow a R trending groove and belay beneath the big OH (~ 30m)
- Traverse easily R for ~10m to join South Ridge Direct
- Ascend South Ridge Direct to The Terrace (VDiff)
- South Ridge Direct (VS 5a)
This is the cracking line up the crest of Cir Mhor which separates the East and West flanks. Most of the difficulties are encountered in the lower pitches at the S (4c) and Y (5a) cracks.
- Caliban's Creep
Caliban's Creep is a somewhat famous route, but as has been remarked elsewhere, it isn't brilliant... I'm sure you can make your own mind up though...
- Starting at the foot of Caliban's Buttress climb the slabs trending leftwards by the line of least resistance. Belay at the corner.
- Walk past the broken wall then gain a steep groove which flattens out. Look for a rock tunnel next to a vertical wall - go there and belay.
- The creep is the obvious tunnel through the rock. Crawl through then traverse around the corner and along the small ledge to belay in the corner beneath the chimney.
- Climb the corner (the best, and a worthwhile, pitch)! Belay in the corridor above.
- Scramble to the top.
Cir Mhor also sports two climbs from Classic Rock and one line from Hard Rock. These are Labyrinth, Sou'wester Slabs and South Ridge Direct. There are many good routes on Cir Mhor, these three and a few others are described here - check the routes database for more info.