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 firstname.lastname@example.org or check out www.betaguides.com
Well done boys... good production and an inspiring inventory of passion!