Saturday, February 24, 2018

Scottish Classic 7a Boulder Problems: Craigmaddie

Thinking of the best lines in Scotland around the classic grade of 7a, which is rapidly becoming something of a warm-up for the indoor-honed youth these days, the usual qualities apply: aesthetic line, rock quality, features, moves, technique, trickery. However, sometimes not all of these need apply and the problem is classic despite being somewhat camouflaged from the standard qualities of a 'classic' boulder problem. There are many such problems at the sandstone venue of Craigmaddie where the rock quality is never perfect, the lines are generally not striking and are merged into vegetation, and to be fair many boulderers have just walked on by. But the outlook is superb and the climbing is often terrific. The best 7a at Craigmaddie? Many might say Abracadabra, but I find its lip-lunging a little repetitive and a bit morpho. My favourite would be Easyjet Direct - a butch roof problem on the higher tier which has a lie-down start in sheep shit, has no distinct 'line' and ends in a scruffy beg to the top on a lichenous slab. However, the moves on the solid rock roof section are superb and the whole thing is satisfying for some reason, plus it seems to be a popular problem as it exhibits two key markers of bouldering technique: finger strength and core strength. Plus a spare shoe or two for the ruinous heel-toe lock.

Craigmaddie: Easyjet Direct (Font 7a) from John Stewart Watson on Vimeo.

Saturday, February 10, 2018


It's an elusive juice - sporting inspiration. Athletes talk of 'form' and how difficult it is to peak to their optimum performance, as well as the mental glass ceilings they need to break through to achieve these goals. It's a lonely affair too. In the dark Scottish months when it's hard to feel motivated, some stories just show what's possible and perhaps how weak most of us are at forcing the issue (why we're happy to be bumblers!). Dave MacLeod has always inspired me, not because he is the 'strongest' climber or sends the hardest lines (he freely admits he isn't and doesn't). After a long recovery from a shoulder injury, he has just climbed Catalán Witness the Fitness which has to rank as one of the most intricate (and powerful) problems in Europe. Dave is used to roofs - he cut his teeth at Dumbarton on the likes of Pressure, and more recently the long roof problems at Arisaig Cave such as 4th Wave. Dave has written a terrific piece in Rock & Ice magazine about this experience. Time to set some goals for the season!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Mountains, Risk, and Volume

Many volumes have been written on risk from the point of view of Economics, Evolutionary Theory, Society, etc.but risk on the hills is becoming a lot more topical with the sheer volume of people approaching mountains as something akin to 'instant freedom' from the urban world or as a monetised escape. The recent criticism of mountaineering as rich people building their CV and measures to limit ascents of Everest, for example, have brought this issue to the fore. What are our mountaineering responsibilities and rights in a 'post-exploration' world?

Our author Francis Sanzaro (author of 'The Boulder'), now editor of Rock & Ice, has written an intriguing piece for the New York Times on our right to take risks in the mountains.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Boulder Scotland bouldering app

We've just signed a deal with Vertical Life to license Stone Country guides on their terrific app. Check it out and download to IOS or Android. Buyers of the book will soon find a stickered code inside the book which allows them a free download of the app. It's very functional, clean and easy to use, plus they have dozens of other guidebooks available to use on the app. We hope the app is available from January 2018. Those who have purchased the book already can email us for a code to unlock the app.