Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Reiff In the Woods - The Main Issue drops!

Well done to Richie Betts for sending the very obvious project at Reiff in the Woods! The severely overhanging wall has a mid-height rail, from where the lip seems to test your commitment to the jump as the landing can be dangerous if not padded and practised... here's Richie's description of completing the line:
'As for the grade.....well I'm not really sure. I was thinking around V8/Font 7b 'cos I cant really climb any harder than that! I guess comparing it to things on grit that seems about right, although it took me lots more goes than most of the Peak district dynos (Deliverance, Buckstone etc) but I think that's probably down to conditions and the landing. It's one of those....could be V6 if you are tall and like dynos or V9 if you aren't and don't. I was hitting the lip on every attempt but holding the swing is the crux... Barry pointed out that the temperature had really dropped just before I did it, maybe this made the difference. It probably took around 50 attempts in all over 4 or 5 visits, which is the most I've ever spent on a problem.'

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Static and Flow

At last! After a stalled bouldering season, the high pressure has nudged in and settled the skies, the weeps are finally shrinking and withering at Dumbarton. While the Aberdeen crew have been lucky to have had dry conditions at Clashfarquhar, here on the west coast Dumbarton has been green and soaking for two months. Today I managed to get down and find some dry rock, working a few moves with Dave on some suddenly obvious unclimbed lines - it always surprises me that a little time off from a favourite venue refreshes your 'eye' and you see things that were not obvious when you're there all the time. Anyway, a small step as I managed to get the heel on the project again and 'look' at the next hold (yes, even that's an improvement to a boulderer) with Dave managing to go further and throw for the final move, which resulted in a couple of spectacular dynamic body swings, the resulting coiled tension propelling even the spotter into the brambles... a lot of pent-up energy after the dark ages of this autumn!

Static and flow at Dumbarton once again...

Saturday, December 09, 2006

40 days and 40 nights...

...of rain... which has put paid to the Scottish bouldering scene for this year... everything is weeping and green, we need a benevolent high pressure to restore some normality to the bouldering scene, everyone's frustrated by the deluge, and it doesn't look like stopping. Grabbing windows of opportunity between the fronts is the only option and running the animated satellite forecasts is like watching the old broken back of Scotland being whipped by sadistic Atlantic fronts.

That said, I squeezed in a pleasant afternoon at St Bride's wall near Strathyre... a quartzy bulging wall with perfect landings and some good testpieces, just after the parking for the Ben Ledi walk-in. It is not extensive, but in bad weather it is only two minutes walk and facing south, so it's worth a visit when the higher boulders are not worth the risk. It catches the sun and a few hairy-knuckled gestures from passing white-vans, which you can feel free to return.

The main lines are fingery straight-up highballers, but traversing right and descending the quartz crack is more sensible after the rain has greened off the top-outs. Projects remaining include the low traverse (broken holds may have made this harder) and the Bulge direct ... (may be the line climbed by Kev Howett in the 80's 'Grey Matter') - this is a fingery looking nightmare into the 8th grade somewhere... with quartz nubbins and slopers from hell thrown in! I managed to tackle the bulge from the quartz seam side, cranking up a nice crossover sequence on the seam to a high and unhelpful sidepull, where body tension allows the feet to smear on and the sidepull becomes operable. Slapping out right to the said quartz sloper, a moment of insecurity follows before better holds come... an excellent Font 6c+/7a, let me know your thoughts!
Let's hope we are due some higher pressure...

Friday, November 17, 2006

Climbing on Mars

From: Scottish Mountainner 25

Climbing on Mars
By J S Watson

‘Like morality, mountaineering ethics looks to be a matter of discovery rather than
decision, and to some degree always a matter of conscience.’
Rai Gaita – ‘Sacred Places’

What if we colonised Mars? Think of all the new rock, the new gravities, the new climbs? And what about ethics; what lessons would we bring from Earth-climbing?

It could be argued that we are more ethical climbers these days and ‘ready’ to colonise: we have a well-documented knowledge of the do’s and don’ts around this inanimate, oblivious stuff called rock and ice. We know we are not supposed to take drills to mountain crags, or retro-bolt others’ more vital achievements. Most feel secretly guilty pushing winter climbing onto bare summer rock routes. Or we watch films, instead of relying on the traditional mythic story-telling, to reassure ourselves the ‘purity’ of ascent is guaranteed. We resist hammering and hacking at the stuff because we know we’re just not strong enough. And we repeat routes while respecting their historiography (we revere the term ‘classic’ and carefully delineate ‘extreme’ grades).

We can get away with nothing, it seems, because we know so much. We have a history and ethos behind us now and something by which we can gauge our present ambitions. Some would say we should be behaving ethically because we know better. Or is this not the case and not supposed to be the case? The hills are about freedom, some say: they do not have to bow to history and its ethical tapestry of occupation (in other words, throw your guidebook away). To put it bluntly, are we doing our common knowledge justice, or are the hills and mountains simply, as they would have been originally, our own virgin challenges, where we bring, maybe even create, our own ethics? Whose right is it when we approach the mountain?

Maybe this question is unanswerable: it is like asking you not to imagine the colour red. We can’t plead ignorance either, as any traffic cop will tell you: ‘excuse me officer, what Highway Code?’. In fact we hunger for information, just so that we don’t go wasting our efforts over something someone has already done, or we want to know exactly which RP will fit in that knife-thin crack. Most of us would admit to wanting to know the ‘beta’, even if that simply means ‘has the mountain been climbed?’ ‘What grade is it?’ is now more common than: ‘Has anyone climbed that?’ My point is, how should we react to this wealth of information and how much should we know?

From my own personal experience ethics comes from the things you’re most proud of in yourself, so therefore you must first do something you’re proud of. Your first lead, for example: you’re pumped ragged above some inexperienced gear-placement, but you hang in there, work out the moves and do the route. You ascend. Now imagine someone bolts that and at a future date in a future pub, a climber new to the sport, says: ‘Oh yeah, I’ve done that as well, hard second clip, eh?’ Ethics can turn you to murder.

The big question here is: how do you unlearn such occupation, how do you educate that sense of what the route used to be?

To answer this, it is a matter of forgetting. I have had times when I’ve forgotten the guidebook and my partner and I have on-sighted walls and these have been dangerous and happy and more worthwhile activities than all the ‘head-points’ in the world. I am in mind of a Ben Nevis buttress called Carn Dearg, where, on pitch two of the ‘classic’ route called ‘Torro’, the topo I’ve ripped out of the guidebook goes fluttering from my pocket and past my second like a nostalgic piece of ticker-tape. We both experience pangs of horror at the sudden onslaught of the unknown and retreat is actually discussed. Hunkering under the roof of the belay, it takes a while for us to slough off the cape of fear and actually climb. Needless to say, it is all there and we on-sight the rest of the route, forgetting all the way, and it is easily the best route in the world when we top out.

So, another part of me says we should sometimes ignore the rights of history, or certainly its excess of detail. Then again, maybe humility is intrinsic to climbing: sometimes I feel better when I know a route has had many thousands of ascents and I can maybe revel in its original atmosphere as my ego is drowned in its histories. Those days can be very happy when there is nothing to boast of but plenty to revel in.

I have stood at the bottom of routes and counted winking silver bolts and felt saddened. And it is predominantly a sadness about all this hubris and desire to colonize rock for the self, to name it, to grade it, to attribute it to oneself. We all know mountaineering needs its hubris and appetite and machismo, or some things would not be attempted. We know the history of climbing is predominantly about hubris: maybe it is not the mountain we are trying to conquer but others and their disbelief. That can be admirable but we must always remember the vitality is in the climb and how the climber meets the mountain. The summit is always a lonely place and so it should be. Summit photographs never quite seem to get it. And climbers say notoriously inexact things about the whole affair. ‘Because it’s there…’ is not what is meant at all, I’m sure: we just can’t express the whole complexity of the mountain and the climber. Which is also good, because through our history we see that this thing is quite inexhaustible and can always be approached at a personal level.

History brings us different gravities. Older climbers – The Bell’s, the Murray’s and the Cunningham’s - appear to us as having climbed somewhere else, almost as though on Mars, yet we touch the same rock. It is maybe impossible to truly climb ‘free’ in these days, but it is worth noting that climbing is something only you personally can be proud of: it is all a story of discovery and conscience.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Rock Poker

Dave MacLeod on 'Smokescreen' original method

Alan Cassidy has reported an intriguing new version of Dave MacLeod's Smokescreen, originally a desperate Font 8a+, it has now been reclimbed at a more amenable grade of Font 7b+ . Alan said he discovered a go-again slapping sequence that got him up the crux hanging slopers.

It goes to show that there are often other perspectives to problems, and that it is worth trying all sequences on your projects just in case... it also shows how rich our climbing world is... other people can often produce radically different results and it is worth absorbing as much as you can from watching other climbers. It's where you learn all your technique after all. Well done to Alan for discovering a sequence that will make this tespiece more accessible, I hope Dave is not too disappointed to hear the news... it won't make Pressure any the less impressive, but will mean there is an easier finishing sequence. That said, finishing up Firestarter is the next big challenge in this never-ending game of rock poker!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Spanish Interlude

You would be forgiven for thinking Spain a hot limestone potato balancing on the nose of Africa, too hot and steamy for bouldering, one for the sports climbers maybe. Well, a little research and googling dragged up some interesting counter-points. The mountains are cooler, anything over 1000 metres and the Pinus Negris forests hide boulders and rocks entirely alien to the geological bully that is limestone, and the temperatures are more convivial to holding slopers. What I found hidden up here looked suspiciously like the clean red Torridonian sandstone of the North West of Scotland, nestling in the cool shade of pines. There was one online topo and a few photos that persuaded me to book flights to Valencia. The place? - ‘Albarracin’.

Albarracin is a remarkable medieval town perched precariously on rocky slopes in a deep valley in the Montes Universales. These mountains lie west of Teruel (two hours drive north from Valencia airport) in the province of Aragon. A ten mile straight road along the Teruel plain leads suddenly into a winding limestone valley with deciduous trees and flowing rivers. The road winds up to the trumpet blast of the walled town that is Albarracin.

The town behaves like it was banished to a remote corner of the Spanish classroom, with its pointy dunce cap of a church spire. It crowds in on itself with charming introspection, narrow alleys and leaning houses provide a maze of trendy bars and restaurants, all perched on top of each other in a noisy palimpsest of classic Spanish architecture and culture. It is a fine place to visit in itself, but just outside of town, leading up to a rocky plateau covered in pine trees, is a choked gorge that wouldn't be amiss in a Hollywood western... large red sandstone walls and buttressed boulders leaning every which way.

A curious pink sign leads the way: ‘Pinturas Rupestres’ and a faded pictogram of some sort. We booked in to one of the many auberge-style hostals (there is camping and chalets available nearby as well) and I listened to the clang of church bells as I packed my boulder kit and wolfed down some bread and cheese. The wet weather front had passed and the boulders would be dry soon…

The road below the walled town breaks left over a river by the excellent basement Bar Molina de los Gatos (the local climbing bar with climbing magazines, bouldering photos, chilled locals and plenty flowing beer…) and winds up to the plateau and a large car park, where German camper vans and small huddles of boulder-mats suggest this is a major new European bouldering venue. The plateau is vast and disappears over rolling pine-clad hills with tempting buttresses peaking out on the escarpments. Most people come here to visit the remarkable 'pinturas rupestres', which turned out to translate as ‘cave-paintings’. The caged-off petroglyphs are good way markers for the boulderer and worth a circuit themselves… 'El Arquero' is probably the most evocative: a lunging archer with dangling appendage on the verge of the kill... other pictures depict the hulked backs of bulls, surprised deer, the hunt in full flow, the gentler beginnings of animal husbandry and other ghostly abstractions of a harder life in a place I now see with the leisured eye of the 21st century. I have come looking for a bouldering paradise in a rented Seat Ibiza… and am thankful for such luxury to enjoy parts of the planet such as this.

I wandered aimlessly and eagerly through the forest getting lured along by better and better boulders, chalked-up problems appeared here and there… the whole place reminded me of a Fontainebleau before the gold-rush. The only people I saw were mushroom hunters wandering in circles with baskets, occasionally shouting to colleagues when they found ‘rebollons’ or such-like delicacies. I was hunting for rock mushrooms, perfect shapes, morphic bells of movement as it were... I was not to be disappointed.

The red sandstone varies in quality, but the areas are extensive and good problems can be found round every corner, or in alleyways of boulders and walls. Landings are generally good and sandy, but you do have to watch out of the odd tree-root or embedded boulder. There are slabs, lots of roofs, rounded perched blocs and flying buttresses…the full gamut of the boulderer’s requirements for a classic venue. The weather is generally cool and sunny, though I had picked the wettest week of the year in November. Despite that, it dried off enough to bring the locals out…they were found in noisy encampments round new projects further afield from the obvious areas round the car-parks.

It is a large area that would take many visits to become familiar with, for the problems can be well-hidden and areas meld into one another. That said it is such a magical forest that comparisons with Fontainebleau would not be unjust. The rock is rough and climbing as technical as you could wish for. The best moments for me were bouldering alone, pulling moves to the aviary sounds of bird-song, the rock cool under the chalk, the juniper and pine incensing the air. It is a good place for a posse though, I came across plenty of pods of (mainly Spanish) boulderers surrounding particular test-pieces, arms outstretched spotting to the barked shouts of ‘Venga! Venga!’

Venga! Indeed…


There will no doubt be forthcoming guides to Spanish bouldering (possibly from Stone Country), but there is enough on the web to get you there and find yourself a few grudge-matches! The best topo I have found is at:

while there is also an atmospheric overview at:


Sunday, October 22, 2006


The 2006 Edinburgh Mountain Film Festival was packed and buzzing with anticipation, if not a little apprehension, after the bowel-loosening trailer for E11 came out some weeks ago. That pounding music, the slow-mo falls as they began... the sudden quickening wipe to the leg wrapping round the rope, the accelerating swing-in after 60 feet...crunch! I was wringing my hands as if I had turned up to watch a live car-crash.

But my climbing lasciviousness was gradually eroded as Hotaches Productions pulled off a major feat in climbing film-making: a 'real film' about a climber's savagely withdrawn successes and crushing lows as Dave MacLeod attempted (over two years) to climb the awe-inspiring line of 'Rhapsody' at Dumbarton Rock.

Paul Diffley has directed the film with feeling and pulled out some true performances from both Claire MacLeod and Dave MacLeod as the film delves into the personal traumas of obsession and the dangerous emotional tightrope of a climber maybe going too far... as Dave gets closer (or is that further?) from completing the route, their relationship becomes frazzled and we really want to know what climbing is truly worth... how far should we take it in pursuit of a dream? At what point do you say 'enough'? This is the real subject of the film - not the big numbers, nor the rock-speak, nor the rollercoaster moments as Dave takes each fall... the most emotional moment is a tenderly caught reconciliation as Dave calls Claire on the mobile for a 'lucky' belay... something Claire admits she should have done six weeks ago!

The incidental interviews with Niall McNair, Cubby Cuthbertson and others cleverly punctuate the film with historical context and some tension-relieving humour. The subject of the film is an E11 after all, and no-one can sustain 40 minutes of nerve-shredding footage of someone falling so horrifically.

The film footage and photography from Dave Brown and Steve Gordon is breath-taking, with the sequence of falls proving the centre-piece of the actual climbing footage. Still shots are interjected with live footage to create a paranoid apprehension of impending doom. The section where Dave consistently falls from the final hold is gut-wrenching every time... we know what is at stake by now and the heart-pumping score builds every time to the moment the hand slips... what follows each time is the stuff of nightmares. Nightmares someone actually filmed.

As pure climbing spectacle, this says it all about commitment. You know there is a deeper reason to Dave's climbing other than big numbers if he is prepared to take these falls. The film asks this question directly and persistently, which is why it wins me over. Claire proves a fantastic and sharp foil to Dave's often vague and increasingly unsure justifications for this route... as his motivation wavers and finds less and less reason for clinging to his obsession, Claire patiently explains the sacrifices and normalises Dave's extreme behaviour - these moments become at times the highlights of the film as we see Claire trying desperately to hold on to some sense of normality when her husband has plainly gone insane in a climbing kind of way!

There are no pretensions to this film: it in no way sets out to glorify extreme climbing or 'pimp' Dave's ride. The background is industrial and subdued, the music is sourced independently (check the credits and buy their tunes!) the extras are local (and amusing) - there is a sense of great things being achieved quietly in a vacuum of general ignorance and it becomes very much an internalised journey as we see Dave 'disappearing' emotionally and perspectively from the outside world.

I think we should be proud we have film-makers like this, prepared to put in so much of their own sacrifice to bring human struggle to light... the final redemption of climbing 'Rhapsody' was superbly conveyed, and hundreds of people appreciated the heartache involved with a spontaneous round of applause as Dave topped out on his E11 and shook with relief and disbelief at once.

This is a film about two people falling apart and coming back together. In its quieter moments, it is a love story that involves climbing; in its spectacular moments it is an unsurpassed climbing film that sweeps everything before it...

John Watson - October 2006

Buy the film at Dave's site:

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Font Inspiration

It's that time of year when your bouldering soul aches for the sandstone of Fontainebleau!

For those of you heading to Font for the autumn crispness, here's a little visual beta and inspiration - Chris Boutell cruising Le Toit de Cul du Chien Font 7a...

Monday, October 02, 2006

Classic Scottish Boulder Problems No.7

A grand day out on Lewis! Starring Si O'Conor and John Watson...oh, the classic roof problem at Port Nis which is 'Atlantic Bridge' V4 Font 6c...

Classic Scottish Boulder Problems No.6

Tim Morozzo climbing 'Maizie Gunn's' V4 Font 6c on the Heather Hat boulder Glen Nevis. Video:

Friday, September 29, 2006

Project Time

Angus cranks while Lambton rolls another...the Lost Valley, Glen Coe

After the wet spitballs off Hurricane Gordon, the weather is finally cooling down and projects tremble at the thought of crisp cold autumn conditions. If your tendons last out and you've ramped up the power, this is the best time of year for the Scottish boulderer, as long as a little luck plays out before the nights draw in.

Daev Macleod shows how it's done on Pongo Direct

Wearing the duvet again is a sign that things are focusing away from the rambling circuit-style bouldering of summer towards the microscopic attentions to projects: that pinky isn't on properly... drag of the toe makes a difference there... tagged the hold for the tenth time...heel-toe finally sticks and undercut is gained (SHOCK it was easier than you thought!)...your arse is too far out, suck it in boy...GET ANGRY at it...YET MORE finger-tape surgery... spend one whole morning trawling hardware shops for the perfect brushes and broom know you're in project time now...

John watson on Tim Palmer's power problem 'Manic Stupor' at Glen Lednock

Friday, September 15, 2006

Classic Scottish Boulder Problems No.5

Autoroof (Sit-Start) V5 6c+

Glen Nevis in the autumn is a truly special place for any boulderer. The fine-quality schist and excellent situation of High Crag, as well as a perfect grassy alp for landings, make this a favourite haunt of the dedicated boulderer. Dave Cuthbertson originally saw the value of this overhang and created some hard traveres such as Beatle-Back and Tinderbox, which are worth the walk up. The bouldering projects and straight-ups are hard, most problems above V8, but of note for a single visit is the excellent technical problem that is Auto-Roof.

Why classic? Well: the situation, the moves, the quality of rock... there are plenty of problems in the glen worthy of any top-ten list, but for me it sums up the whole feel of Glen Nevis bouldering very well... isolation, sound rock, a drying wind...

The problem finds a way through an impending wall to a jump-off niche where the route continues but eases off. The standing start, off an embedded boulder to the left, is Font 5 and requires good pressing power to gain a blunt undercling, then a slap right for another good but blunt side-pull allows a jug to be gained in the niche. Straightforward enough, enjoyable steep pulling...but it becomes a classic problem when you sit-start low down and come in from the right, making the good high holds problematically out-of-reach... which is what needs solved. The sit-start comes quick enough with good body-positioning and hand cleverness... an awkward finger slot for the right hand allows a quick powerful pull to a left-hand sloper/crimp, then a reach to a protruding flat block. Now the fun begins... gain the imperfect undercut to the left, position the toes and crank up the power to slap with your right hand to the higher holds of the stand-up. If you manage this move, it's straightforward to the top.

... about to reach through to the high undercut on Auto-Roof, Glen Nevis Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Classic Scottish Boulder Problems No. 4

Chris Fryer on The Peel Sessions - V4 6b Glen Clova

The Peel Sessions V4 6b Glen Clova

Though better known for the excellent trad cragging, no self-respecting trad merchant should pass this problem by if in the area. If you can flash it, you should be well good for E4 cruxes - it is the obvious leaning wall above the road on Glen Clova's biggest boulder. An excellent landing means you can start this at sit-level and fall off as many times as you wish at any point... a couple of brisk power moves get you off your bum, then a tricky press move to the left allows a good incut up comes a decision, either wimp out right on nearby jugs, or commit to the big move to a poor left hand-hold just below the lip. If you manage to hold it, keep your technique steady and mantle over the top. Sorting your feet position for the crux lunge is crucial (try a heel-hook on the sloper if you're feeling weak). If you're strong, you might want to try cross-handed... it's hard either way. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, August 31, 2006


"...there is no such thing as 'hard' climbing or 'easy' climbing - more of this needs to be understood. 99 percent of us end up being just climbers, not 'Rock Gods', but really we haven't stopped doing the same things. When we give up the idea of competition and start motivating ourselves with our own goals rather than others' expectations, it becomes apparent nobody was watching all that time... your belayer is most likely thinking about dinner, a warmer duvet jacket or the next lead... whether you've just cranked out an E8 headpoint or topped out on a gripping V Diff, as long as the motivation has been rekindled, that's all that matters. Climbing on your own, solo, or just bouldering alone is a great way to source the real elemental stuff - it reminds you of your own limits, the boundaries you've set up. It is just movement on rock, moving through our own internal maps and renegotiating these boundaries - the only one you can't bribe is yourself! Also, too much concentration on training can be a bad thing, make the effort to get out on the real stuff despite the weather. Again, go exploring.

Climbing is a holistic experience: friends, geology, the route, weather, situation, history... you can rely on other elements while your motivation wavers: help a friend on a route, go out with someone new to climbing, go exploring, learn about geology, read some history, absorb other elements and don't expect to be the best climber on the planet... there is no such person."

For others on the same topic:

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

New Areas topos

I've put a few new topos on the main website at including Kev Howett's guides to various Central Highlands venues. They are printable Word docs. and the authors would welcome any feedback on history, grades, repeats etc. - the weather's cooling down and some new bouldering venues are always a tonic for the jaded Scottish trad climber... time to get some power back in them bones!!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Secret Training Regimes of the 8a Climber - Part 1

Ross Henighan's hardcore regime has finally been sussed! Contrary to the belief that all Scottish climbers eat nails and train with 6-packs of Stella for weight-belts, Ross was caught red-handed in full pump at Dumby yesterday. When challenged as to what sort of training regime this constituted, Sleeping Beauty claimed his milk had been spiked:

Aye, it must have been the locals, man. They spiked my bru. There I was, on a 7c crux, when it just came over me... I had to lie down man, everything went wonky-coloured and I was away before my head hit the turf. The last thing I remember was Buzz playing 'Blackbird' on the geetar... the rest is all naked girls running after me along Dumby's golden sands. Then some numpty poked me... I was just about to show the girls my tattoo and aw... man, I'll never climb 8c if i don't get proper training...

Friday, August 11, 2006

Carn Liath Development

Mr Ben (direct V5)

Lee Robinson has been busy with friends at Carn Liath, mapping the jungle of boulders for a future guide. It has a full circuit now and some hard projects, well worth stopping at if you're anywhere near Portree - it gets the morning light and the rock is a lot kinder on your skin than the gabbro. Thanks for the photos, Lee, some absolute cracking problems!

Sheep Can Levitate V4

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Classic Scottish Problems No.3

Pump Up The Jam V5 6c - Sguman boulders, Glen Brittle, Skye

Described by first ascensionist James Sutton as a 'deluxe 10 m jamming crack' (since when is jamming deluxe!!), this line is probably the most 'climb-me' problem on the Isle of Skye. It is indeed a long jamming crack just above the ground, overhanging severely and requiring grit, single-mindedness and lots of tape.

It is also remote and is the finest example of what can be found if you take the Scottish bouldering approach: mat, boots, stove, go walking... it is located in the An Sguman east cluster (GR 443 184) just past the Coire a Ghrunnda burn, about 40 minutes from Glen Brittle campsite. It lies in a cave cluster, which is quite obvious from far away, small holly trees grow roundabout. It is an absolute must of a problem, as it is so unique - a kind of Separate Reality for Scotland (even in the Peak you'd be hard-pushed to find such a perfect 'bouldering' jam-crack a few feet off the ground). Every wish-list should have a jamming problem, it is a lost art and no climber is complete without attempting to master it, whether you love or loathe the technique, rock sometimes has no other hold other than putting your thumb in your palm and camming it all in...

The problem itself is a delight, starting on good jams, but soon becoming demanding and technical in how you sequence your jams and how best to hook your toes... with persistence it all comes together and you might find yourself at the final brutal pull through the nose - if you are canny enough and determined enough!

Remember, pain is just weakness leaving the body!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Shelterstone Circuit

This topo is a rough guide to good safe problems up to about V3 on the Knoll boulders underneath the Shelterstone. Please let me know of any other problems you might do or know of that are worthy, or any harder problems that have been done above about British 6a. Lots of problems have been done here and it would be good to get a consensus of the best circuit and best 'off-piste' lines, some of which lurk in the great jumble above the Knoll.

1. Easy arete on reddish granite.
2. Overhanging groove, moving left on higher jugs.
3. Short slab direct.
4. Bigger slab to the right, straight up.
5. Cube-shape boulder arete. Jump to start.
6. Right arete of the diagonal crack boulder.
7. Tiptoe r-l along the diagonal crack then reach high for jugs in centre of wall.
8. Overhanging groove.
9. Right side of sharp arete.
10. Lip traverse l-r of curved boulder.
11. Easy large slab left to right arete above small howff.
12. Short wall on pink crimps.
13. Lip traverse R-L.
14. Traverse crack from R-L.
15. The right hand side of the Nose.
16. The left hand side of the Nose.
17. Crack and arete.

Classic Scottish Problems No.2

Home Rule V3 6b - Dumbarton Rock

It is inevitable there will be a number of Dumby problems in any Scottish classic bouldering wish-list. As the years go by (and the layers of graffiti paint build up), this testpiece has maintained its notoriety despite the big numbers flying around. It is a simple enough direct line, rocking up on a polished edge for a frustratingly out-of-reach hand ledge, then boldly finishing up the suddenly bottomless arete on thankfully good holds. It combines technique, strength, balance, commitment and persistence: the trademark of any Dumby problem.

Redoing it brought back to me the subtlety of this problem. Due to its disproportionate polish (Dumby is after all famous for its polished slopers!), the crucial rockover edge requires a steady toe and a focused eye. The press with the left fingers on a good incut keeps the balance until the slimy pinch hold for the right hand comes into play. This hold is notorious for popping like a soap-bar and you slowly feel the tug of gravity, often snapping like a crab at the vanishing hold.
If it sticks, it allows the pressure to be placed on the toe, the leg extends, the press becomes a full-tension counterbalance - glance once at the rail (otherwise your head tilts you off-balance) and slap for it in as controlled a manner as you can with the right hand. Alternatively, fall into a lower-down edge and cross through to the good rail, though this feels more committing.

...the cigar can't be lit unless you finish up the arete. This is Dumby after all, and sometimes a good problem is supposed to give you a flutter!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Classic Scottish Problems No.1

Ardmair - Stones & Seaweed V2 6a

Okay, this is entirely subjective, but please make any comments and a consensus may develop (some hope!). I'll be posting candidates for Scotland's select 100 problems, with a film in mind... here's my first candidate: the Ardmair pocket problem Stones & Seaweed ss V2 6a.

First of all, I believe a good problem is one you remember long after you do it, one you will no doubt return to. In fact, any problem you really enjoy. It usually exhibits a natural line (though not always, it can be blank or an eliminate); it has enjoyable or unexpected movement (it demands 'solving'); the rock and holds are attractive or curious; it requires balance, power and subtlety in one; other people mention it in passing... there are lots of crtieria for a good problem, but these are my favourites, what are your's?

So, the problem. Ardmair is a beautiful beach north of Ullapool, with waves lapping on a pebble shore that has for aeons swirled against a roofed crag at the south end of the beach, giving smooth footholds and in parts soaring roofs to monkey through. This problem takes an innocuous looking bulge at the south end in the entrance to the cool ear of the first cave...

From a sit start at large smooth undercuts, a difficult smearing test allows a crank to a scooped pocket, which leaves you staring point-blank at the sidepulls you want your right hand on, only you find you can't let go of the undercut... a deft manoeuvre with the left foot allows a counterbalance to snap the just-good-enough sloping edges and a reach up to a right-hand hold (which is not as deep as you might first expect). A final grunt over the bulge and the rest is easy... a delightful little problem, not long, but uses the Torridonian sandstone's best features - slopers, pockets and rounded edges. Echoes of Font.

A word on the grading I propose to use. It is a trial system merging the simplicity of V grades and the technical nuances of Font grades. Also, I feel we should also import the 'feeling' between the E grading system for routes and its technical counterpart, we all know what E5 5c means... so this idea can easily be felt even in the hybrid bouldering system, eg. V6 6c might reflect a traverse grade, whereas V5 7a might reflect a short hard sequence... I also think it can reflect boldness, eg. V3 6b short but hard as opposed to V3 5+ long and committing...

Curious Things

While out hunting boulders and generally wandering around, I've snapped a few curious things on the way. Part of the joy of bouldering is finding serendipity in odd places: dead turquoise Volkswagens in the Alps, iron floats , psychedelic plants & stones, strange cloud formations, 'found' objects. Here's a selection of a few things to take the mind away from bouldering a while...

I'll post up some bouldering shots as well soon, new boulders, new areas.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Heatwave Stones

'Undiscovered Country', Murray Boulder, Glencoe

...some pics from high stones being developed despite the summer heatwave. There was a surprising find in Glencoe, also a new area in Arrochar and a picture of a boulder that looks like a Scottie dog, sent to me by the intrepid Lee Robinson on his annual pilgrimage to Applecross and Torridon.

Lee reports some cracking new boulders in Applecross, slightly further afield than the Kishorn boulders, but not too far away by all accounts... also some good bouldering along the coast south of Applecross. North of Applecross there is the huge cave at the MOD station, beside a fine beach, this is a super bouldering area if it rains, you can traverse back and forth at will until you're blasted.

Colin Lambton on 'Crush', Blaeberry World, Arrochar
New bouldering areas in Scotland are increasingly nudging up the contours, especially in a hot summer such as this. I noticed on Si O'Conor's blog that he has been busy at Clisham on Harris, some nice pics of the boulders there, how about a wee video or two Si? As mentioned, the Shelterstone is seeing some attention, and the high boulders around the Cobbler and Narnain are a little cooler if you can be bear the sweaty stomp. Good for losing a few pounds with a stuffed mat...
On a more accessible note, near Aberdeen, Tom Kirkpatrick added some good problems to fine new areas near Portlethen: Cammachmore and Arnot Boo, where the haar will keep things cooler. They are a mere five minutes walk from the car or bike - check out his topos on the wiki at

Also worth a look is Ardmair crag near Ullapool, with some fine obvious problems on the crag as well as some hidden bouldering on the boulders underneath the crag - a little warm and tick-infested at the minute, I believe Ian Taylor has the gen on this area, maybe worth a topo when the bracken and insects die back in September.
Glen Rosa on Arran has also been visited - hopefully a topo of the best boulders here will be forthcoming. It's a glen littered with superb problems on fine stones, some secret gems and also some very blank slab projects! Coming soon...

Friday, July 21, 2006

Cairngorm Potential...

There's a great Dylan Moran gag about 'potential' - leave it alone, don't mess with it, that's what it is - Potential! You start screwing with it, you're likely to ruin it all...

which is how I feel about my bouldering sometimes - lots of energy and plans and optimism - the reality is a little trickier. Take the Shelterstone, for example, a tremendous mountain crag, (The Needle, Steeple...) you go here for these classic routes and the beauty of howffing in the Loch Avon basin, but who considers the bouldering? Most people who have climbed here have bouldered on the litter of giants beneath the crag - Julian Lines has done a pile of problems, Gary Latter etc. - a lot of climbers have quietly bouldered here a little when visiting to climb the bigger routes. I'm sure Robin Smith even warmed up on a few aretes.

But in terms of pure bouldering? Very few bother, what with the walk-in - a three hour trek, especially with boulder mat - and you most definitely don't want to tear ligaments or worse in this corrie - it's a LONG crawl out and don't expect your mobile to help you out - it will be good for playing golf or pinball on till the batteries run out, that's all.

But there is potential, and lots of it. There's an excellent circuit of safe problems up to Brit 5c on the boulders on the grassy knoll below the main scree - I'll post a topo soon for this. There are also some choice Brit 6a and 6b problems on the steeper walls, again with reasonably safe grassy or boggy landings, but there are some well-hidden roofs and almighty prows to be climbed by, yes, you guessed it, those with potential!

If you are planning a bouldering trip here, there is no need for a tent. Take a warm sleeping bag stuffed in your mat, as there are loads of howffs - it's like a stony version of Hobbiton for God's sake! Take a stove and something good to eat, and a quarter of your favourite hooch to sip on the excellent beaches by the Loch. The midges are not west-coast style and there's usually a breeze. To get there? Take a map and compass in case... park at the the ski centre, walk along the excellent track into Coire an t' Sneachda, over the 'goat track' under the cliffs and straight across the grassy plateau and down the steep Coire Domhain past Hell's Lum crag- you'll see the boulders ahead on the perfect grassy knoll, below the giant boulder that is the eponymous 'Shelterstone', though there are plenty of contenders for this name! Find a nice spot to howff, then go bouldering... the circuit problems all have tell-tale pink wear on the crucial holds. Classics include the diagonal tip-toe crack on the 'Stream' boulder, the crack by the 'Pool' boulder and various flying aretes... I'll post some photos end of the summer.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

'Gabbrofest' out now!!

Right now, several square miles of wild boulderfields are lying amongst scree slopes and moorland on the Isle of Skye...

Not a bad intro! This is a labour of love and serious attention to detail, a quality addition to the bouldering topography of Scotland. James Sutton and Lee Robinson have produced an excellent map-guide to the bouldering on Skye, bringing clarity to the jumble of boulders in the great gabbro corries. The first thing that struck me was the simplicity of the layout, an A3 fold-out that packs neatly into a waterproof sleeve. Bird's-eye-view maps at 1:2500 scale locate you easily, numbered boulders refer to hand-drawn boulders, clearly marked lines and full descriptions, with V and Font grades... 39 diagrams, 150 problems... packs a punch all right.

If that's not enough, there are GPS locators for the boulders. The main areas described include:
Culnamean, Ghrunnda Boulders, Coire Lagan and An Sguman. Other areas mentioned are: Carn Liath, Skinidin, Elgol and An Caol on Raasay, though the concentration is rightly on the rough gabbro of the Coires. There are some excellent pics of classic problems such as Duck Boulder Arete, Snake Attack, Pump Up the Jam, Criss Cross and a classic shot of Ben Wear wiping off The Chieftain face out!!

I noted the inclusion of Si O'Conor's 'hard' problems with interest, having had my own share of frustration in trying to give Si the benefit of the doubt when it comes to cutting-edge problems. There is no doubt these lines exist as 'lines' and have been located by James, though Si still has to take responsibility for his claims and provide some core evidence of actually linking and climbing them. They are insanely blank propositions even to an experienced eye and to date Si has smoke-screened everyone who has tried to climb with him or film him on these problems... the author's own photographs are not enough to suggest full ascents. I guess James and Lee have shown a similar philosophy of generosity (describing Extradition, It's Over and Paper Tiger etc). Future guides and literature will not be so generous, I fear.

To get back to the guide, however, it is a thing of dedication and communicates the esoteric enthusiasm for gabbro bouldering... this is one of the wildest and most beautiful bouldering venues on the planet. You don't need a rope and rack to come home beaten up and exhausted by endless movement. There are hundreds of new problems to go at out there, but the circuit of problems described will cut your bouldering teeth (as well as your skin!). All-year round bouldering is possible due to the friction, though you won't want to be caught out on a still evening with the flying sharks... a dry winter day or a breezy summer afternoon are perfect here. The scenery gets you every time...

The guide should appear on the shelves of the outdoor shops soon, but to get a copy contact James directly at or check out

Well done boys... good production and an inspiring inventory of passion!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Cammachmore - New Aberdeen bouldering

Having been partly developed by Tim Rankin but unreported, over the summer Tom Kirkpatrick has further developed this schist bouldering venue. It has larger boulders than Portlethen, meaning some highball finishes and problematic landings, as well as some deep-water soloing possibilities, but the best problems are safe and on good rock and there are some satisfying traverses. Tom will put a topo on the wiki at

Tom's description:

Cammachmore Bay Bouldering

Chilled out bouldering venue, just south of Craigmaroinn. The Bay gets all the sun going and nesting puffins can be seen on the cliffs above and seals and porpoises in the water below. The climbing is on a variety of large and small blocs and walls on beautiful water washed schist. A good spread of grades is available. The only draw back is that mats and good spotters are definitely required.

The boulders can be approached in two ways. At very low tide by heading straight down the path towards the sea from the turning area at Downies, turning left at first col on the ridge to Gorillas Head, heading toward obvious ‘yellow headed’ boulder, then walking round the bay past The Dark Side boulders to the main area. If not possible then follow costal path north briefly before heading straight down vague path in the centre of headwall of bay. Time 3-5 mins.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

No maps, no topos, no blogs...

Imagine a climbing world without any documentation, or need for it... it wouldn't look much different: the high peaks would still look untrodden, the rock faces immutable and unknown, the boulders just attractive lumps of swirling geology. We would come across signs of climbing only on close up: chalk marks, rusted pegs, bolts, rotting slings and wonder what sort of experiences they had found, what successes, what failures: the act of having to imagine your way forwards is always preferable than following an arbitrary trail laid down on paper. You can get too divorced from it by proxy, which is why it is important to simply go exploring on your own: bouldering, soloing, walking: and not take any maps, or topos, or blog cut-outs... just finding your way on a good day over some fine rock is enough.

Not that I want to knock sales of guidebooks or anything, but Scotland is still a land of adventure and summer is the time to get out and do just that. On a sunny day on a remote peninsula, for example, you can cover a lot of rock and in the evening catch some fine sunsets, if the midges don't send you indoors early. It is a time not to fret about repeats, grades, ascents and non-ascents.

A point of note: I was tending to a call of nature when I heard two noises like burst tyres behind me. When I turned, I caught two porposies breaching yards from the shore. In the clear water, I could see their languid eyes and their lithe black bodies roll effortlessly between their world and ours. I wondered what internal map they were following; if this was part of a porpoise-circuit maybe. I wondered if they saw me and puzzled at what internal tugs I was following in my own weird, heavy world of colour and light... then I got one of those moments of lucidity: they were simply enjoying the flat calm, the rolling, the breaching, the clarity of water - all the things a porpoise does well they were doing well. So assured, I went back to some random climbing.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Ardvorlich pics

Jo George on Dilemma 6a Ardvorlich Walls

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Ardvorlich Hidden Walls - Sport Climbs

The Climbing.

If you're looking for a F6a-6c venue to ease the radical jump between indoor and summer trad in the mountains, this is an excellent venue: sportingly bolted 15m technical walls that will improve your onsighting ability and work your head round to the idea of climbing above gear. The climbing is never desperate - all very steady crimps and pockets on two excellent sunny walls and the bolts come just when needed! Many combinations can be created by mixing the routes up a bit to allow a bit of traversing experience... the rock is excellent schist, if still a little dusty - a little more traffic will help. Usually gets a wee breeze to keep midges off - the bracken in summer makes approach more difficult.

Where are they?

GR 323 123 Landranger 56

Being only forty minutes from Glasgow, and ten minutes from the roadside, this is an idyllic sport venue on the west bank of Loch Lomond. A knoll behind Ardvorlich B&B hides twin west facing walls - this is a few miles north of the Inveruglas tourist spot on the Loch (by the Power Station). Park in a lochside layby on the right just before the signs for Ardvorlich BandB (if you miss it, you can turn here). Cross the road and jump the fence, head uphill to the landy track. Follow this left across the railway, then back right uphill. At the first swithcback you'll see the walls across the fields beyond the burn. Bash over here in about five minutes. There are four lower offs - take long slings to extend these over the edge if top-roping.


Left Wall:
1. Carnage - 6c - The wee roof is butch: a bolted boulder problem which can be extended to a 7a by bouldering in along the break and boosting for the jugs at first bolt. Lower off third bolt or step onto next route!

2. That Sinking Feeling - 6b - excellent technical climbing up the left arete, step right, crux move to big layaways (careful belaying needed here), then jugs and clip, then truck to the top through good holds in the groove right of the wee roof.

3. The Groove - 6a - good climbing up the juggy central groove and pocketed headwall, veer left at top to mantel out.

4. Drifting from the Shore - 6b/6c - the bulge and headwall direct, the crux bulge can be worked by travelling right and back left once over. Good headwall crimping. FA Graham Harrison

5. Lake Lomond - 6a - right hand route - climb up behind saplings to a crux step left onto wall and follow the pale wall all the way to the top - one of the best lines here. Traversing left from the tree to finish up Drifting is worthy too. FA Colin Struthers

Right Wall:

6. Dilemma - 6a+ - The furthest left line crosses over the next route at about half-height. Pull on by quartz pocket (crux) and follow bolts to a thin section travelling up and right, then straight up to lower-off. Super climbing.

7. Snake Eyes - 6a - Pull through central roof and climb up and left to junction with Dilemma Step down and traverse left to bigger holds and follow quartz straight up to sapling, easy right to lower-off.

8. Magic Carpet Ride - 6b - The half-bolted, half-pegged right hand route through the steepening overlap near the top to the apex. You'll need your trad head for this one. Keep your nerve between bolts and pegs - the climbing is never desperate.

9. Abstinence VS - the far right crack, first climbed by Ross McRae

History: These walls were originally climbed trad up to about E3 by J. Watson, C. Lampton and G Foster. As they demanded crux peg placements and had generally poor gear, it became an accepted bolted venue. The left wall was bolted and climbed by Graham Harrison (Routes 3-5), the right wall mainly by John Watson, who also added a few more bolts and lines to the left wall, as well as ring-bolt lower offs . The grades may feel a grade harder to onsight.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Akita Boulders

Dave MacLeod has kindly revealed where the Akita boulders are: check his blog at:

These are seriously clean and steep boulders, with some superb projects and excellent mid-grade lines. The whole of the far Northwest is littered with crags and stones like this, as if some climbing God sprinkled them out of his boulder box... it's a long way to go for most, but look at the quality of the rock that awaits you...

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Boulderer Translates Mountaineer Shock

News from Lakesman Tim Carruthers that his translated autobio. of Heinrich Harrer is nearly ready, hopefully October. Looking forward to it Tim...

Book Description
The first publication in the English language of the autobiography of one of the world’s most well known adventurers: Heinrich Harrer who died early in 2006. Best known in book circles for his bestsellers Seven Years in Tibet (1953) and The White Spider (1958), this book brings to life those and his many other adventures. Heinrich Harrer, traveller, explorer and mountaineer led one of the most extraordinary lives of the twentieth century. He famously spent Seven Years in Tibet (made into the film in 1997 starring Brad Pitt as Harrer himself) and was tutor, mentor and a lifelong friend of the Dalai Lama. He made the first ascent of the notorious North Face of the Eiger in 1938 (told in his book The White Spider). The Eigerwand had been a scene of carnage in the years preceding Harrer’s success - an achievement partly overshadowed by the perennial debate over the extent to which the climbers were ‘sponsored’ by the Nazis. In this dramatic autobiography he brings to life all of his adventures, from the early days of climbing in the Alps, through his time in Tibet, to his later expeditions including exploring the Congo with the King of Belgium and travels to remote parts of Asia, South America and Africa.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Applecross New Problems

Tony Simpson and Mike Adams were on tour in Scotland and claimed a few new lines at the Applecross boulders. They climbed the wee hanging groove on the downhill face of the Kishorn Stone, at about Font 7b V8 - very hard without a cheat-stone!

Mike Adams also found a solution to the big project on the Russell Boulder. Says Tony:

Mike (after some persuasion that he could pull on) did the undercut project, heading left from the undercuts then back right at around Font 7c+ / V10. I failed to do this due a bad finger injury but was trying the direct undercuts to flake/edge (Lh) small crimp (Rh) then flat edge (Rh) (seemed clean but very hard maybe V11 Font 8a)

There are fine hard problems from the lads and well done to them for persevering and sampling the delights of the North West.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

New Kid on the Block!

Kayla, Tim Rankin's V11/12 at Portlethen (the hardest line out of The Pit), has been reglued and reclimbed by local 19 year old Luke Fairweather. Luke has only been bouldering a year and a half and is already in the otherworldly bracket of Font 8a and above - this is a desperate problem and rated by Tim Rankin as his hardest, and Tim has put up some hard Font 7b's and 7c's, and he rates this as the pinnacle of his Portlethen bouldering. Luke's enthusiasm and dedication has brought him early rewards - let's hope he creates a few classic problems of his own in Scotland while he is here. Dumby is next on the agenda for Luke...

Monday, May 15, 2006

Spring News 2006

The Thirlstane has been maintaining its popularity for repeats of Sav's old problems (my God, that sounds dated already, I can still see Paul cranking Font 8a's on the Ibrox wall at will in the 90's, as part of his circuits!) - though the exact sequences and rules for the hard eliminates such as Chinese Democracy and Shrinking Violet remain to be clarified - I would say if it feels easy, you're using an illegal hold! That said, there have been impressive repeats: Tim Carruthers (June 2003, repeating Shrinking Violet and Tied Up and Swallowed) and Tim Rankin on SV earlier this year and just this month Niall McNair completing CD, admittedly finding an 'easier' sequence by using a logical foothold that may have been 'out of bounds' on the original, but just remember how bendy Niall is - a monster rockover or mantel is meat and drink to him - I guess in Font they would call this problem 'morpho'. Well done to Niall! He says:

Dropping a line to let you know I have just repeated a certain hard prob of Paul Savage's- "Chinese Democracy" (given font 8a or v10) at Thirlstane which took me 3 short visits over the weekend. Dont know if you've tried this but I found it suited me with some houndini-esque contortions on the crux (as for Tied Up and Swallowed), thus i found it much easier than King Kong at dumbie.

Paul, if you drop in, let us know your sequence and eliminate rules - I know your 8a's are no scooshes...!

Paul Savage on his own Chinese Democracy

There have been rumours as usual of hard problems in Skye, as well as promised film footage from Si O'Conor, but this has not materialised online or on anybody's doormat as a CD - which is unfortunate, as some good raw uncut footage of Si climbing his own problems might resurrect his reputation from the dead.

More positively, James Sutton has nearly completed his Boulder Map of Skye, entitled 'Gabbrofest' - I've seen a proof copy and it looks an inspiring piece of kit to stuff in your mat... a lot of research has gone into it, so I hope everyone buys a copy once it is available. Check out for news on publication.

At Portlethen, Tim Rankin climbed Kayla Font 8a, named after his new baby girl, but in a tantrum of pure power, local hotshots snapped the heel-toe lock hold, so it's back to project time Tim boy!! I'm sure Clashfarquhar, or one of the the new NE venues will give up another desperate NE testpiece soon enough, or even a harder repeat of same problem?

At Loch Lomond, Tim Palmer climbed the dirty lip of the boulder by the Rob Roy Cave sign, giving Is That All There Is? V7, after coming close on The Bottler Arete project... some large boulders lurk further along the path, with excellent projects, but it's a hike to get to and an infested jungle come June-September. A dry spell in Spring or in October is the time to explore this peaceful jumble.

Ian Taylor did a few new problems at Reiff In The Woods: the best of which are Clach Mheallain V6, which takes the arete that Pebble Mill avoids, and the excellent Teewhuppo V4 - the highball arete on the Patio boulder which is also the start of the Breathalysyer. He also clarified a few eliminates at Ardmair - one of which John Watson completed to give a second ascent, but possibly by different sequence, of the excellent roof traverse of Cup Run V6/7, in honour of the mighty Gretna of course.

Craigmore came into condition only for a few magical days this cold, wet spring, and John Watson unearthed the 'invisible' problem of Merlin Font 6b - the wall just left of The Beast. A technical little gem reminiscent of Bois Rond bouldering, this adds another classic Brit 6a/b to the circuit of problems around this grade. Completing the circuit is as good as a Font Red circuit, just use your imagination a bit! I'll put a guide up for this soon, for Glaswegians who actually rate this brilliant little crag as a bouldering/soloing venue, all three of us!

Merlin, Craigmore, Font 6b

Allan Wallace has been busy putting a topo together for the Campsie boulders, so we look forward to that - if you like to boulder between V0 and V3, there is an excellent circuit. Colin Lampton, John Watson and Pete Murray brushed and climbed most of the obvious lines in the last few years, and Allan has added some problems in the V0-V3 range, so it's good for an enjoyable circuit on a breezy sunny evening after work - head up there and climb at will - some of the problems, despite being wee, are good fun and well settled by now, so don't be snippy about weathered basalt - it is Glasgow after all and not the Peak!

Craig Henderson has been beavering away at Larbrax - hopefully by the end of the summer a good circuit will be established. It is a tidal venue and needs a careful watch of the BBC tide tables for Portpatrick - only a few miles south: the crags are described in the Lowland Outcrops SMC guide - the bouldering obvious at low tide.

At Dumby, in the vertiginous shadow of Rhapsody E11, Dave MacLeod found a new 7b on the back arete of the BNI boulder, called Sugar Rush, and after someone took a chainsaw to the Sycamore tree on the Eagle boulder, Steve Richardsoon climbed the excellent revealed groove of Torino Sun, at an amenable Font 5 plus. Steve was not party to the chainsaw masscacre however!

Steve Richardson on "Shattered' V7, Dumbarton

Any other news, please let me know, even if you enjoyed or hated a venue, it's good to hear what you think of the rock and the venues, aside from the Forum politics and backbiting.

Oh, and a wee taster film for the book Stone Play can be found on the main website as of May 16th... the book is on schedule for late 2006.

Sunday, April 16, 2006


1. HIGH TRAVERSE - V3 - from far right, traverse on good holds all the way left along the higher lip of roof.
2. ELIMINATE TRAVERSE - V5/6 SS - from Right Bulger eliminate big holds and traverse to far right and up.
3. MIKE'S TRAVERSE V7/8 - an eliminate traverse of the lower lip of the roof, starting from the Smiley hold, no back wall on roof allowed for feet. Excellent and hard.
4. CUP RUN V6/7 - from low down on roof shelf, gain higher shelf slopers, then reach back twice on tan crimps RH, crux slap left to tan sloper, continue to jugs far left. Good moves and apparently there's an easier sequence with devious heel-toe jams if you're canny!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Ardmair Beach

Just north of Ullapool, over the hill from Rhue, is the restful pebbled beach of Ardmair. There is not-so-restful bouldering at the south end on the excellent roof, which stays reasonably dry even in heavy showers. Across the road, the Ruins area contains Mike Tweedley's two excellent roof problems, Corkscrew and Crucifix (on the obvious propped roof 100 metres along the fence). The problems appear in the Guides section at and Ian Taylor has done a good topo as well for the beach crag. Here's a photo-topo and descriptions of the straight-ups at the beach - all done from a sit-start they give roof-monkeys a dozen or more work-outs. Various traverses can be done along the lip, from a grade of V2 on the higher holds to V7/8 on the lower holds, depending on where you start and what holds you eliminate. Ian Taylor and Lawrence Hughes have done most of the link-ups here, but feel free to create your own variations - it's that kind of bouldering wall!

Updated topo April 16th 2006 - thanks to Ian Taylor!


1. THE POCKETS - V3 SS - small pocket on top of seam to shallow pocket and over on jugs.
2. THE LEDGE - V1 SS - climb through undercut nose.
3. PEBBLEDASH ROOF - V1 SS - climb from slot under the wee rectangular roof straight over.
4. RIGHT BULGER - V2 SS - from low undercuts climb up!
5. SMILEY - V3 SS - climb through the smiley hold also using crimp on right.
6. BEHIND YOU - V3 SS - from small corner reach back to hold below juggy finish.
7. USE YOUR KNEE - V3 SS - from cramped start at back of big corner, gain left crimp and use cleverness to static the jug on lip.
8. REACH FOR THE SKIES - V2 SS - from lowest shelf slopers match roof jug and slap for sloper out right, cross through and up.
9. WATCH YOUR BACK - V3 SS - from low slopers, gain jug on roof (RH) and crank to lip block LH, find better finger slots to finish up jugs.
10. CHANGING THE LOCKS - V4 SS - from higher shelf slopers, gain crimps in roof and slap upwards to better holds. Clever heel-toe makes it easier.
11. CUP RUN DIRECT - V5/6 SS - same start as above but gain crimps with right hand go-again moves, crux slap left to tan sloper, keep going left to footless slap for jugs on far left. Maybe easier with different sequence.
12. BOULDER-DING - V4 SS - Far left roof. Starts at a big undercut then cuts straight on through Cup Run. Really good moves using a toe hook in the undercut.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Invisible Lines

Sometimes you think it's all been done, there's nothing left to do. it takes dedicated eyes to spot new lines and problems, especially somewhere as worked as Dumby. Yet again, Dave MacLeod has pulled out another good problem, this time a clean, natural line, no eliminate. On the 'dirty' side of the BNI boulder, just right of the scrotum-shrinking 'Nadjilation', is the overhanging arete that is now the chalk-ticked technical excellence of 'Sugar Rush' Font 7b. Dave says: A technical wee number that kept us busy for an hour or so. The landing ain’t so bad with a couple of pads and spotter but it’s a good pure arête line – not many of them left at Dumby ...

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Super Size Me

The excellent cold and dry conditions in February and early march has allowed Dumby to see some hard repeats, Dave Redpath on Pongo Sit-start and Dave MacLeod on Supersize Me. The question remains, is there an 8c lurking at Dumby??? Here is Dave on his repeat:

"It was put up by Malcolm Smith last June (I was getting close then too but he beat me to it!!). It takes a big diagonal line across a 40 degree face on the boulder, linking up several problems with no let up. Basically Font 7a traverse into Pongo SS. Up this (Font 8a) and reverse the traverse of In Bloom (Font 7c) into Slap Happy Font 7a to finish. About 30 moves in total."

Dave has now done all three Font 8b's in Scotland, the other two being Pressure and The Perfect Crime, both at Dumbarton Rock.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

New Portlethen Testpieces

Tim Rankin has climbed the hardest confirmed boulder problem in the North East, and Portlethen's gnarliest creation so far, at V11. Here's the news from Tim himself:
'...heres the description and as for the grade I don't care but am tempted to give it a provocative 8a+ based on other things I've worked but it must be there abouts 8a/8a+.
This problem takes the challenge of the widest part of the Pit roof from the back then climbs the faint hanging arete feature to finish up "The Pain" Start sitting at the back wall under the widest part of the roof on the right side of the Pit. Desperately pull on using an undercut and a small side-pull, grab the good hold on the lip and power up and left to gain the good undercut and an easier finish straight up.'
February 2006
Tim Rankin has been busy with Chris Adams, best buddy Mark and new Devon boy 'cool-hand' Luke, who is eating up the local testpieces. This well-bicepped North East crew have created some truly hard bouldering monstrosities at Portlethen and Clashfarquhar recently. Latest to fall is Tim's long-term project coming out from the cave into The Pit Right Hand... the crux is a series of undercut reaches and power step-ups on smears. A taped up pair of denims on the right leg is crucial for holding an unlikely knee bar. This is a power problem which requires high-tension accuracy like a drawn bow... a modern classic which awaits a first repeat... Oh, he called it Georgie Boy (after his poor-boy underwear!) and it is a hard Font 7c+ or V10 if you want another number. Two British 7a moves gives you an idea what's needed!
Georgie Boy V10, Portlethen - Tim Rankin
On the wild soaring roof below The Pit, Chris Adams cranked out backwards from the mezzanine to gain the lip. Wild heel-hooking and tenuous sloper moves lead to jugs on the nose which gives EDGE OF REASON at about V7/8. Take plenty of mats and spotters, as this is a line which demands commitment! Rated by all as one of the best in the area...
Chris Adams on the first insane moves of his own Edge of Reason

Tim Rankin on Beyond the Edge of Reason

Tim Rankin put his shoes back on and showed us how to do the low eliminate of this line BEYOND THE EDGE OF REASON V9, which attacks the awful looming sloper below the jugs on the nose, continuing round into the groove. Cold conditions and a good spot are essential to break through this crux sequence.

Luke, cool as you like on the sloper lip of Beyond the Edge of Reason

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Trossachs Classic Problems

A number of new venues over the last few years has transformed the Trossachs from a traditional cragging backwater to a rediscovered gem of modern bouldering philosophy. The main areas are Loch Katrine, Stronachlachlar, Ben A'an and Ben Ledi.

LOCK STOCK AND BARREL V9 - Dave Macleod's testpiece on the Sebastopol boulder. This gut-buster sit starts under the blunt arete and hooks and slaps up to a desperate slap for the sloper on the original V2 problem of Sebastopol. The true cave start remains a big number.

BOOMER V1 - the excellent and remarkably easy dyno (if you commit!) on the Fence boulders at Stronachlachlar. From a handrail, wind up the spring and boom for the apex jug. Try not to let your feet helicopter you off, stamp your foot on the wall as soon as you can!

TOURIST TRAP V5 - Loch Katrine - From a sit start on this arete, gain a two-finger sloper with a long reach, then figure out the best body position to grab the lip holds. Traverse left to escape this trap!

WATERCOLOUR CHALLENGE V3 - Bob Ewen's excellent pocket problem on the well-hidden stream boulder at Loch Katrine. Snap up to the pocket, gain a side-pull and good footwork should lead you to a high ledge and direct finish.

NAVIGATOR V3 - Sebastopol Boulder, Loch Katrine. This sit-start on the main wall requires you to get into a deep Egyptian and poise before your slap to the sidepulls which leads into the right-hand groove of Sebastopol.

PALLBEARER V2 - The Ben Ledi boulders have lots of good highball problems. This one takes the south wall of the highest boulder and requires a long confident reach and strong left arm. The best problem here is actually Scott Muir's 'Dawn Wall' V3, the left hand-groove on the Sunstone, but I have no pics of that as yet.

STAND-UP COMEDIAN V5 - An esoteric gem on the Ben A'an boulders, this takes the sunny west wall of this boulder from a sit-start at the obvious ramp. A diversion right allows the lip to be regained and a frustrating slap up and right to improving holds is the crux.

JAWA TRAVERSE V3 - Loch Katrine - superb technical foot manoevres on the north wall of the Jawa boulder. Traverse the handrail from left to right, finish out right or by reaching up the original jawa to make it V4...

FIGHT CLUB V4 - Loch Katrine - the first boulder you come across on the south west shores of Loch Katrine, this obvious challenge climbs right from a jug through poor slopers to a hard pull over the bulge. Heels and cool conditions are your tag partners.

NAMELESS PIMP TOY V7 - Stronachlaachlar - the traverse of the Long Boulder at the foot of the forest above Loch Arklet. This combines the cruxes of three straight-ups, linking them togtether to create a sustained left to right traverse. Start at the left edge of the wee cave and finish far right at the juggy groove. The lip traverse on the boulder behind this one is Dave Redpath's excellent 'Virgin Suicides', about the same level of difficulty.