The Great Escape (E8) onsight

23 May, 2016
James McHaffie onsighting the big pitch of The Great Escape. © Ray Wood
James McHaffie and Ryan Pasquill's first route on the Isle of Arran is one they'll be sure to remember, with an impressive onsight ascent of The Great Escape (E8 6b, 6c, 6b). The middle pitch of this route climbs the striking sheet of granite, situated below the summit of Cioch na h-Oighe (661m), on a crag known as The Bastion.

First climbed by John Dunne in 2001, it's since had a couple of ascents by the likes of Dave MacLeod - he wrote in 2010 "The best E8 in Britain is still The Great Escape on Arran by the way" - and Iain Small, but to our knowledge not in this style. Kevin Howett writes in the inspiring and highly recommended book from 2014, The Great Mountain Crags of Scotland: "An onsight ascent of this magnificent challenge remains one of the most exciting prospects Scottish mountain rock has to offer."

Hidden by cloud on the approach to the Devil's Punchbowl and with it having rained during the day previously, conditions on the crag didn't look promising. But after scrambling up a wet and unpleasant Ledge 3 to take a look, the cloud begun to break-up with the sun intermittently highlighting the ciff. Ryan led the "easy for the grade" first pitch to the ledge below the main challenge.

James then steadily worked his way up the slabby 'blankness' above with difficult route finding, a couple of skyhooks and some brushing of holds along the way, mindful of not wanting to blow the onsight before heading out left to the 'pincer flake' and a spectacular finale to the forty metre pitch. Abseiling back down from the belay on the shelf of Tidemark and removing the gear for Ryan to lead the pitch, meant James got to enjoy the moves one more time.

For Ryan who has recently spent more time clipping bolts at Malham than trad climbing, he found his calves getting pumped were more of a issue than his arms getting tired.

Ryan led the third and final sting in the tail pitch, with a couple of difficult moves above "ok-ish RPs" to reach better holds and the slab above.

left: James McHaffie on the granite sweep of The Great Escape's middle pitch. right: Ryan Pasquill figuring out the sting in the tail pitch. © Ray Wood