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.