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Sapiens First Ascent

For much of this season Jamie Skelton and myself have been occupied by an unclimbed route on Lost Valley Buttress. A large unprotected section on the last pitch meant it took three outings before we finally plucked up the balls to climb the pitch.

The route revolves around a direct finish to the Neanderthal corner, which I had heard was still to be climbed. We also added 2 new worthwhile entry pitches to make it an independent route.

On the first attempt we were joined by Dave Almond. The struggle ended when I decided the route would be far safer with a few terriers and we should come back instead of climbing myself into a tricky situation or taking an ankle snapping fall. On round two we brought in Jack Morris to provide belay entertainment. It turned out there wasn’t a crack in the back of the corner anyway and the terriers were of no use. Jamie took over and gave it an impressive go, but climbed back down to the safety of the gear. However, he had an idea to help unlock the committing moves above. The key was to carry an additional axe. On the third go this was placed in a turf ledge and used as the only runner on the runout section. It was very likely just there as psychological protection, but it did the trick and I managed to switch my brain off and squirm up the icicle while my crampons skittered about on the slab below. Very relieved to have done it.

The crux climbs thin delicate ice in the back of a corner with poor feet and it becomes easier with more ice build-up.

We decided on a grade of VIII 7, this gives an indication of the serious nature of the third pitch with its long runout.


Pitch 1 VI 7 35m

Start 10m up and right of Neanderthal. Climb a corner for 20m to below a steep wall with an obvious crack. Initially climb the crack then move up and left, on good hooks, to belay at a large ledge.

Pitch 2 V 15m

From the left of the ledge climb steep turff then traverse left to the Neanderthal belay.

Pitch 3 VIII 7 35m

From the belay climb directly up the corner to a ledge. Climb thin ice in the corner (peg on right) to an icicle. Follow a chimney to below a roof and turn this on the right.

Read Simon Richardson's Scottishwinter blog post for more background on the route.


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