Petestack Blog

21 July 2011

The Autobahnausfahrt Enigma

Filed under: Climbing — admin @ 11:11 am

So yesterday might have been Wednesday (who knows when you’re on holiday?) but, graced by the fine evening which Tuesday lacked, it made a good surrogate Tuesday for the Polldubh Club at (guess where?) Polldubh. And I climbed the first three pitches of Autobahnausfahrt on High Crag with Noel, finding them dirty and feeling harder than their given grades of 4a, —, 4b, with the route apparently needing more traffic to keep it ‘nice’ (NB we’d both soloed it before, but not for many years and neither of us would have done last night!). So it came as no surprise this morning to discover a note (re. the middle tier of High Crag) in Gary Latter’s Scottish Rock stating that:

The routes are a little bit dirtier than the more popular shorter routes lower down, but not unduly so.

However, this post is not so much about Autobahnausfahrt as Enigma (a fine Sullivan/Clough route on the cleaner upper tier of High Crag), which searching this blog should tell you I’ve climbed far more often. But it’s also a route that appears to have been accidentally ‘airbrushed’ from the history of Polldubh climbing and (through cumulative misreading of something started with the best of intentions) completely swallowed up by Autobahnausfahrt. So let’s take a look at the strange history of the ‘Autobahnausfahrt Enigma’…

  • Enigma was climbed at Hard Severe by Terry Sullivan and Ian Clough on 11 April 1959, with Enigma Direct (the better way) added by Clough in 1962 and described in the 1970 Schwartz/Wright guide (the only place noting the distinction?).
  • Autobahnausfahrt was climbed at VS (with combined tactics and a point of aid over the upper tier roof) by Klaus Schwartz and Brian Chambers on 2 September 1969 and again described in the 1970 Schwartz/Wright guide (possibly also the only place with a clear description of the third pitch).
  • With the aid being removed from the upper tier roof of Autobahnausfahrt by Kenny Spence and Rab Anderson in 1981 to produce the much harder Auto Roof, Autobahnausfahrt is described (to produce a consistently-graded combo) in the 1985 Grindley guide as finishing up Enigma. But, with the note explaining this unfortunately not on the same page as the route description, the accidental elimination of Enigma has begun…
  • Skip forward another five years to Kev Howett’s Rock climbing in Scotland (1990) and we find a Kinloss Grooves/Autobahnausfahrt combo that’s actually a Kinloss Grooves/Enigma combo, with first ascents credited to Clough/Sullivan and Schwartz/Chambers when they should be Clough/Sullivan and Sullivan/Clough!
  • Forward again to the SMC’s Highland Outcrops (1998) and the Autobahnausfahrt description gives the unacknowledged Autobahnausfahrt/Enigma combo, where looking up 1969 in the separate first ascent list will tell you that the FFA of pitch 4 (as Auto Roof) was by Spence and Anderson, but not that pitches 4 and 5 are actually Enigma. And yet the information is buried there (where no-one not in the know will be looking for it) under 1959, where you’ll find the solitary reference to Enigma in the whole book (it’s neither listed as a route in the main text nor mentioned in the Autobahnausfahrt description) as ‘now included as the second last pitch of Autobahnausfahrt.’
  • Forward again to the SMC’s Scottish Rock Climbs (2005) and Latter’s Scottish Rock (2008) and you’ll find both describing the whole combo as Autobahnausfahrt (credited to Schwartz and Chambers), with Enigma conspicuous by its absence and the accidental ‘airbrushing’ complete.

So does it matter? Well, I say yes! Both Sullivan/Clough and Schwartz/Chambers partnerships are important to the history of Polldubh, but Enigma’s a great little route in its own right (the best and cleanest part of the new ‘Autobahnausfahrt’) and deserves to be recorded properly. So (making an open plea to future guidebook writers here) please can we have Enigma back?


  1. “Autobahnausfahrt”?! And I thought you were starting to brush up on your German, in time for your support at the Devils! You know that Thomas swears in German when he gets annoyed about his support crew?! See you soon. Silke

    Comment by Silke — 21 July 2011 @ 3:16 pm

  2. It’s OK, Silke, I know what it means, and doubt you’ll be surprised to learn that Klaus Schwartz, who put the route up and is now our first Honorary Member of the Polldubh Club, is German…

    As for Thomas, think we’ve got that wired… Angus said just threaten him with bug spray and hot Accelerade and he’ll do whatever we need him to! ;-)

    Comment by admin — 21 July 2011 @ 3:32 pm

  3. Had forgotten I’d posted something about this to the UKC Forums before…

    Comment by admin — 22 July 2011 @ 11:32 am

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