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...