Please see for our continued blog and browse our full site at

Thanks for your support
Jason Bonniface,

Sunday, 24 October 2010

September 2010 - Ben Hope Scrambles (Brown's Ridge & Petticoat Ridge)

The publication of the SMC guide, Highland Scrambles North, to scrambles in the northern Highland's has added a new dimension to the possibilities in the area giving pointers towards routes and faces that in the main I just wouldn't have looked at.

The book details two scrambles on Ben Hope's north-west face; Brown's Ridge and Petticoat Ridge. The face is complex and the approaches to Petticoat Ridge are not too obvious on first sight. Also on the face is Bell's Ridge ("much harder than scrambling") which merges with the mountains main north ridge a little below the summit. The merged ridge has a difficult and exposed rock step just above where the 2 ridges join.

Interactive map showing the approximate positions of Brown's Ridge to the north and Petticoat Ridge further south.

Ben Hope is mainly tackled by its southern flank which doesn't do the hill great justice. In reality it is a wild beautiful hill with much more to offer. These photos and illustrations are intended to shed some more light on the routes on the north west face and north ridge.

Ben Hope from Hope to the north taken in the early evening. A classic view of the hill and one that does its northern and western ramparts justice.

Ben Loyal from the south west on the Hope to Altnaharra road.

The north-west face of Ben Hope in summer and winter. Highland Scrambles North details two routes of approach to Petticoat Ridge, one from the base of the face via the "rake" and one a descent from the summit. I climbed Brown's ridge and then used the line of descent described in the book, and marked here, to get to Petticoat ridge.

The lower section of Brown's ridge. I believe the route described in Highland Scrambles North is the left hand of the 2 marked higher up, but alone without a rope, I opted for what looked like an easier less exposed variation to the right.

Brown's Ridge rises to the minor top on Ben Hope's north ridge (spot height 819m).

The summit area of Ben Hope from the minor top. The north ridge's exposed rock step seen here on the right hand skyline just above the point where Bell's Ridge joins the main ridge. The obvious grassy gully a little to the left has a path kicked in to its turf and provides an easy summer route which can turn into an entertaining snow and ice gully in winter requiring ice axe, crampons and care.

A close up of the tricky rock step (graded V. Diff). It doesn't look too bad in dry conditions but there is a big drop below to the right.

Highland Scrambles North describes the descent from the summit plateau down the "first major ridge south of Tower Ridge" as "intricate and serious". Care is definitely needed to identify a safe route down though the ground on the route described isn't actually too bad.

I wouldn't try to find it for the first time in mist though!

The lower section of Petticoat ridge. The lowest rock step is graded Difficult and I didn't explore it, joining the ridge instead using the "second grass rake" seen just right of the middle of the photo and avoiding the vertical block above by ledges to the right.

The upper section of Petticoat Ridge on the left skyline - an interesting series of blocks without great exposure unless you venture to the north side of the ridge. It joins the main north ridge just above and south of the rock step leaving just a few easy steps to the summit plateau. The tower of Tower Ridge is obvious on the upper right of the photo.

By the way, I should probably add some sort of disclaimer on these routes and the blog in general. The photos, illustrations, descriptions and views expressed in this blog and on our main website are given in good faith for information only and any use of them are at the readers own risk. Whilst we make significant efforts to ensure the accuracy of the information provided we cannot guarentee complete accuracy. These are serious routes requiring good levels of fitness, navigation and some technical ability. The degree of techinical difficulty will vary hugely dependant on season and conditions. You should not venture on to them without well founded confidence in your own abilities.We accept no responsibility or liability arising from reliance upon the information.

See more photos at

Prints of all Scotland-Landscapes photos are available to buy online at Photobox.

Jason Bonniface, 24/10/2010