Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Ullapool Bouldering

Ian Taylor has produced an informative and accurate guide to the bouldering round Ullapool. It includes the classic areas such as Reiff, Reiff-in-the-Woods, Ardmair and Rhue, but also some more recent venues such as Cnoc Breac, Tigh-na-Mara, Ullapool Hill and the Goat Boulder. The area is almost exclusively Torridonian Sandstone, which is similar to but redder than gritstone, it's older and harder and isn't as green... so this is truly a gritstone climber's mecca.

If you visit these areas you will also find as many projects and new rock as you could wish for. Ullapool is a fine base for exploring Torridon, Coigach, Assynt and the far northwest...the camping is good, the beer is good, and even if the midges are bad in summer, areas such as Reiff tend to catch the windiest, sunniest weather, so it's an all-year-round venue for the boulderer.

To get hold of a copy, pop in to North West Outdoors in Ullapool (01854 613 383), at £8 (plus £1 p&p), or contact Ian at

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Dumbarton Spring 2007

Sanction - Dave Macleod, BNI Boulder -Font 8b

It's been an early start at Dumbarton and folk are making progress, I'm very close to bagging my long term nemesis that is Pongo SS, but the weather has turned wet again and this problem is a weeper - figuratively and literally...

however, I heard that Malcolm Smith made the second ascent of Pressure while Dave MacLeod completed the roof section of his project on the BNI boulder - Sanction is the left side of the roof (Sabotage the right) which is a hard Font 8b, the link-up through the Perfect Crime start will make it Dumby's hardest...

Meanwhile, Alan Cassidy despatched King Kong - a frustrating Font 8a which is very easy to fail on at the last moves. 'Justice!' is Cassidy's comment on the whole affair! Michael Lee is also making progress on the Consolidated traverse, so we should watch for him eating through the grades...

Michael Lee working the end of Consolidated

On a weirder note, Dumbarton it seems is threatened by flood-tides, the driftwood each year (this includes girder-size planks, slabs of sheet iron and the usual flotilla of Tennent's cans...) is rising higher and higher, it is maybe pertinent to imagine that these boulders will one day be underwater? Would make Pongo a bit easier, with a snorkel...

Sinking! - Pic by Dave MacLeod

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Mission to succeed...

Richie betts on The Mission - Torridon - pic by Ian Taylor

Scottish bouldering news that has filtered through to me on the drip-feed...Richie Betts has been the most committed blocboy this month with the first ascent of the oft-spied project of the rippled wall on the Ship boulder, Torridon Campsite... he managed to find a sequence trending right on this very blank wall and thought it Font 7b+, probably worth V9 for the commitment to this far-flung corner of the bouldering pantheon. Here's the story:

Just got back from Torridon where I managed to climb south face of the ship boulder via the slim groove on the right hand side. Ian pointed me at this a few weeks ago and it's a great line, visible from the road as you come down the Glen. It looks like it should be fairly easy as it contains the only real features/holds on the face, and these look massive compared to the blank wall to the left which is just covered in shallow ripples and pebbles. However...It ended up being much harder than it looks, reachy, crimpy and tenuous. I wanted to climb as direct as possible into the groove and found a 'French' start off the mat, stepping on and catching a crimpy pinch thing, then spanning out right for a good crimp. Turn the pinch into a sidepull for the left hand, work feet up and go again for a smaller but positive crimp with the right. Then left foot up onto a smear and slap up into the groove with the left hand for a good crimp just under the obvious flat jug. Get the jug, match it, build the feet up and over with the right hand for the spike on top. Job's a good 'un.

Check out some cold-looking attempts here:

Ian Taylor has also been back at the bouldering round Ullapool, mentioning a good V7 on the crags/boulders above Ullapool, as well as bagging the end-section of his project at Ardmair Ruins - look forward to the news of the link-up Ian! Hopefully Ian will do us a topo or two for the bouldering round Ullapool...

Tom Charles-Edwards finally cracked Turbinal Nose at Glen Croe, saying it is maybe 7b+ if you're's proving a popular project problem and one of the gems of Glen Croe.

Dumby - King Kong falls to Godzilla! Alan Cassidy,, linked this classic hard problem at Dumby on a fine day in February, when Dumby finally comes into good condition and loses its green dankness. The crisp dry conditions helped Alan despatch this with typical powerful aplomb...well done Alan and good luck on the Pressure link-up...

Carrick Castle continues to be worked, though the projects are so hard that there may not be much news for a while...however, there is a supposed Traverse of the Gods on the crags up there, so hopefully we'll get some photos soon.

Colin Lambton on the crux of Galtee Merci, White Stones, Rannoch Moor

John Watson found some new lines in Glen Coe, the highlight being a V7 on the Rannoch Moor stones, named Galtee Merci - a superb granite roof with holds!! The boulders and problems are pretty obvious as you pass the burnt forestry on the Rannoch moor, and yes, the boulders are bigger than they look.

The Prow - Kildonan Gabbro - Arran - Claire Youdale

BTW there are girls bouldering too, lest I be accused, but really there should be more new stuff from the lassies, come on where are you? Claire Youdale is living on Arran and working round the venues there.. she reports enjoying the gabbro of Kildonan... lots of very enjoyable problems here, though usually there is a fine cushion of sand under the walls.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Far away... close up

What is it about some stones? They can look meaningless from a passing car window -you stop, pull the binoculars to the eyes just in case and they still look ignorable... a lot of boulders you walk into shrink to sad lumps like deflated footballs. However, I've long learnt to keep an open eye and mind...sometimes you are rewarded, the stones swell in size, you downsize next to them as though you stepped through a shrinking machine - I'm convinced there are cosmic wormholes next to some of these things! Point in case: I pulled up at some boulders I'd spied in the burnt tangled wreck of an old forestry plantation, convinced they weren't worth the effort and was pleasantly surprised to find one of them at least almost highball... with some super slab problems and a clean granite roof (with holds!) which proved to be a superb V6.

It's been a good period for boulder hunting - tall blue skies and still cold days when you sweat into your boulder mat and your fingers enjoy the dry rasp of chilled rock. Folk have been busy working projects or exploring new areas and I like to think of all these touched stones going on like lamps across the country... it's all just a temporary illusion of course, but it's meaningful for that day, turning the stone a different colour for a while... why not?

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Klem Loskot visits Scotland

Well, if you weren't there, you missed a treat... Klem Loskot came to Edinburgh on part of his UK tour and entertained us with a dry wit and some truly gob-smacking films and images of bouldering, deep-water soloing in Mallorca and Croatia, pipe-skiing in Salzburg, surfing and bouldering in the Seychelles, the landscapes and people of Hampi, Australia, South Africa... this man has travelled, hunting down a paradise of play and movement with an unstoppable conviction. His thought-provoking films, 'shot from the hip' with a tiny camera, were an the animal's eye POV of hard bouldering, extreme ski-ing and delightful surfing in perfect turquoise tubes. As for the bouldering: close-ups of hands dug into tiny holds, or wavering shots of dream-like dynos, twisting body-tension, full torque power and primal yells (the DWS full-body dyno in Mallorca, makes you swallow your own throat)... if you don't get to catch him, he does have an excellent book of his images and words, available from his own website:

Friday, February 02, 2007

Sunshine and Stone

Guess the glen...

The boulderer's idyll... seems like a while since we've had it...a sustained high pressure has dried out some of this extended autumn wetness (winter?) and I found myself on the flank of a glen, arm up against the sun ricocheting off a pylon, boulder mat throwing me a wobbler as I balanced over a barb-wire fence, following the sheep trails again... absorbed in that out-of-breathness as I toiled through steep heather to a spied shadow of steepness. Distant ribbons of vanishing snow on the Tarmachans like a sketched-out caricature of mountains, everything back in its place and the climbing simple and coming easily with renewed motivation, the body twisting eagerly and the hands hungry for the emery-rub of garneted rock. My eyes are always close to my hands when bouldering and I notice the little blood-nicks on my knuckles that the schist steals off me... you clock these little things and welcome them's what makes bouldering special and personal, throwing shapes and finding the locks, chalking up holds and doing the dot-to-dot, like some over-cosseted and earnest kid pointing out all the capitals of the world on a map... we really do take it all too seriously sometimes, but bouldering is only properly done when it is child-like -no real thinking, just instinctive and impetuous movement and the delusion that the rock is taking you seriously... being spat off makes me laugh and I shake my head at my arrogance ... but what I pleasingly don't notice is the sun has passed over the hill and the shadows begin to swim up my legs like an ink-stain...