Photograph courtesy of Andrew Amphlett
In the heart of the Cairngorms lies a very special place: the Loch A’an basin. Surrounded by towering cliffs of alpine magnitude and containing some of the most precious upland habitats in Europe it is like nowhere else in Britain. And because it takes quite some effort merely to hike into this amazing, remote landscape, it retains a quintessential wilderness quality, a little bit of the Arctic surviving deep in the Scottish Highlands. As a consequence, even for the most experienced of mountaineers, a day spent climbing on the steep granite slabs of the Shelter Stone Crag or Hell’s Lum is a rare and intense experience, one which burns in the memory long after shorter, more humble roadside crag routes are forgotten.
These remote climbing grounds thus remain very much the preserve of the dedicated expert - which is why the live televising of an attempt to make a major first ascent here is unprecedented. It also explains why The Great Climb is likely to prove a once in a lifetime opportunity for non-climbers: a chance to gain an immediate and vivid insight into the thrilling nature of high mountain rock climbing – and the special qualities needed by those who choose to take up the challenge.
The centrepiece of The Great Climb will be an attempt to make a brand new extreme route up Hell’s Lum Crag by one of the world’s very best climbers, Dave Macleod. He’ll be ably partnered by fellow Scot Dave ‘Cubby’ Cuthbertson.
Meanwhile, across the corrie floor on the majestic Shelter Stone Crag three other teams of elite climbers (plus one beginner!) will follow established but spell-binding routes up this intimidating precipice.
Canada’s Barry Blanchard and Spain’s Araceli Segarra will climb the long, hard classic route ‘Steeple’. Leading South African climber Ed February will partner new school Sheffield-based climber Ben Heason to climb a modern extreme route ‘Stone Bastion’. Finally local mountain guide Graeme Ettle will show climbing newcomer Jenny Graham the ropes on the half-century old test-piece ‘The Citadel’.
It promises to be a day to remember – not just for the climbers – but for the millions of viewers worldwide tuning in or watching via the internet.