Wednesday, May 30, 2007

New Topos & Mini-Guides

New Scottish venue... mmm

As part of my ever-expanding list of Scottish bouldering venues to place in the new Stone Country Companion, some intrepid folk have kindly donated some topos and mini-guides to their favourite areas. I thought it would be good to place these online on the Stone Country site as downloadable and printable .pdf files as the authors would like some feedback on repeats, opinions, classic problems, variations, eliminates etc...

I'll put more on the satellite map as I go along, but here's a few articles and topos you can find as easter eggs...

Cairn Liath - by Betaguides (Gabbrofest folk)... thanks to Lee Robinson
Muchalls Shore by Stuart Stronach
Glen Lednock mini-guide by Kev Howett
Ben Ledi mini-guide by Kev Howett
Dumfries & Galloway - article by J Watson
NE Bouldering - article by J Watson

Muchalls Shore

Flying Pig V2 - Muchalls Shore

Thanks to Stuart Stronach for providing a topo for this pleasant NE bouldering venue... I'll place his topo on the main website for download at

Here's what Stuart says of the area:

Muchalls Shore - It’s a few miles south of Portlethen – a broad pebbly beach with assorted boulders, craglets and pinnacles that now offers nearly 100 problems, mostly very easy but with a few up to V5. As such, it will hopefully attract those who find the Portlethen circuit a little too intense, and/or those new to bouldering. The mostly friendly landings also make a pleasant change from the boulders and rocks on other coastal spots. That said, there are a few problems which require a ‘shallow water soloing’ mentality, including Chris Fryer’s Smile Around the Face.
Downsides? Well, it’s more tidal than Portlethen, so barnacles can be a problem when the tide is out, and the problems are spread out over a larger area.

Potential for more problems? The area immediately north of the current developments is a complex arrangement of through-caves and arches which provide some very steep rock. Some of it is crumbly, some of it is greasy, but there are areas which could yield some much harder problems than have currently been climbed. There is also potential for some sport routes to be done on the landward face of the massive stack/headland out to sea from the descent path.

The main developers have been Stuart Stronach, Amanda Lyons, Chris Fryer and Rowie Beaton, with the odd contribution from Ben Tye, Andy Inglis, Matthew Bernstein and Dave Bruce.

Location is grid ref 903916 - 903913

Friday, May 25, 2007


Michael Tweedley crimping the Tombstone, Ben Ledi

Scotland is notorious for 'invisible' repeats, that is, folk doing problems and moving on quietly, which in many ways is a humble and respectful response to climbing, what does it matter as long as you enjoy it?

Still, I believe a good boulder problem should be given a nod occasionally. Also, it is often hard to guage where Scotland is in terms of bouldering development. Dumbarton may be the test-tank for the hardest problems and well-documented and repeated (or not!), but who is out there repeating the stunning lines around the rest of the country? Well, plenty it seems.

Niall McNair is an opportunist. He won't mind me saying so - it reflects his on-sight philosophy, one of the few Scottish traditional climbers who takes any opportunity to climb as he finds it, attracted by 'the line'. In bouldering terms he has been quietly repeating the classic lines around the country: last year he repeated King Kong at Dumby, Kayla at Portlethen & the Thirlstane's Chinese Democracy - as well as bagging the first ascent of Tombstone (Font 7b+) at Ben Ledi. This year he nearly repeated (the last hold was soaking) the hard Out of the Blue at Loch Lomond in 'picnic-style' ie. while out walking (no mat/beta/brushes etc.), he also despatched The Victorian and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels at the Trossachs on a single visit... all these done Bristol-fashion!

Niall McNair on the Narnain boulders

It's good to see Cubby back in action after his injuries and operations... Dave Brown visited him in Glen Etive, where he repeated his own 7b problem on the Micron boulder by the shores of Loch Etive. This crimpy, slopey granite testpiece looks a cracker and is a good low one for those of us with less-bouncy knees and hips! Hopefully we'll see some topos or more bouldering photos from Cubbyimages - the site now has some galleries and photographic prints can now be bought direct online.

Cubby's traverse on the Glen Etive boulders...pic Hotaches

In the North East, Richie Betts has been scouring the backwaters of Strathconon and Strathspey, bouldering away, putting up some fine new lines (a new Font 7a+ at Duntelchaig, for example). He also repeated Malcolm's Arete at Torridon, followed shortly by Lee Collier... these Celtic boulders are some of the best in Scotland and Malcolm's Arete (named after a nonchalent flying ascent by Malcolm Smith a number of years ago) is becoming a classic... try standing underneath it and you'll see how steep and slopey it really is!

Richie Betts on The Mission, Torridon

Michael Tweedley has also returned from injury and made short work of some classic new lines, repeating the Lost Valley's Helicopter - a crimpy dynamic 7a on the Leaning Bloc. He also completed The Zealot at Glen Ogle, a fine roof 7b, and the Rose Traverse at Cullen, another testpiece 7b.

It is good to see the remoter corners of Scotland receiving some higher grades... Ardgour, Glen Nevis, Torridon, Portlethen all showing promise and continuing development. What with the youth coming through strong at the climbing wall comps and on the sports crags, let's hope we see some cutting-edge bouldering escaping the confines of Dumbarton in the future (no disrespect to those who have achieved so much there!).

Any other news or repeats, please let me know

Monday, May 14, 2007

Torridon Classics

The Celtic Knot - Font 6a on the Conundrum Wall

Ian Taylor's recent topo of the almighty Ship boulder and Richie Bett's ascent of the 'gritstone testpiece' that is The Mission inspired a revisit to the Celtic Boulders at Torridon, despite feeling weak from a month off bouldering. The weather was chucking down showers all over the east and central area of Inverness, so I took the new European road to Torridon from Garve, making it in about half an hour. Warming up on the Celtic boulders, Richie appeared over a rise like some square-backed hermit crab with all his mats. Unkindly, I threw him on 'the Celtic Knot' a classic little Font 6a sandbag. Behind this 'Conundrum' wall is the giant Spaceship boulder with its easy slabs, however its steeper wall has two excellent slab lines, pulling over a wee roof to wobbly top-outs on barely sufficient slopers.

It was time to visit the Ship boulder. This giant lump of clean Torridonian rippled sandstone looks nothing like a ship, but it does float like one in the boggy fringe. Mats, tarpaulins, towels and patio-building is required to enjoy this boulder, but it's worth the effort. It looks more like a deflated muffin from the oven, but its leaning prows and vertical walls provide some of the best problems in the area.

Richie on Malcolm's Arete - a classic Font 7a on the Ship

In return for my chuckles on the Celtic Knot, Richie pointed me at The Mission. Despite being psyched all over to try and repeat this awesome vertical wall, I was in no condition for Font 7b+ - to be successful on this you'll need torque, tension, technique, long legs and arms, steely fingers and an eye for deadpoint dynos. Richie demonstrated some moves, twisitng his body into curly-wurly shapes trying to find the crucial toe placements. See the wee vid below from Ian Taylor of some early redpoints on this problem from Richie.

We played about on Malcolm's Arete, the classic leaning arete of the Ship boulder (the other is Squelch Font 6c). A weakening sequence of dynamic pulls gains a high sloping shelf from where a crux rockover to a pinchy pebble allows a throw for the top... Richie managed in a few goes and leant over the top with a Cheshire grin... a fine effort on a nails 7a from Malcolm Smith!

Mike Shorter turned up with his Mum and scared her silly as he rocked over the slab of Swamp Monster (Font 6c)...she stopped her embroidering for a minute while he sketched over on wet shoes too far right above a bad landing. This problem is excellent from the sit start, with a rock out left onto the slab as soon as you can! Good effort from the lad, keeping it together and showing promise on the harder aretes...hope to see you back there again soon, Mike. The place deserves some more attention... it is one of the jewels of Scottish bouldering. Just bring your midge juice and Skin-so-soft!

The sun was dipping behind murky clouds and midges were threatening, so we moved around a few blocks to find some new problems. I had always fancied the leaning prow on the mezzanine behind the Ship boulder, but the landing is horrific, so I worked out a problem to the left, which is an enjoyable sequence through the hanging ramp with a fun rockover finish - Bench Press (Font 6a+).
With the humidity rising and skin going pink, we decanted to Annat to try Tweedley and MacLeod's classic 3 Streaks. This Fontainebleau-esque grooved wall is a choice 7a+ and requires the full complement of bouldering skills. Richie managed the problem after working out the blind sequences and reaches required to get in position for the top groove. I gave up and took pictures, feeling like my first visit to Font... humbled and spanked!
For a picture gallery visit:

Friday, May 04, 2007

April Bouldering News

Chahala sit start Font 8a

I guess I'll add a lot more to this when I get some more news but while I was away in Chile, some more big numbers were graffiti'd to Dumbarton: Dave succeeded on the oft-attempted sit start to Chahala...Font 8a! Lots of body tension, finger strength, clamping and wild throwing required. Dave also added a new sitter under the Mugsy headwall called Set in Motion at 7c+ though you might need the holds pointed out, it seems to share holds with Spam. Anyway, well done to Dave for a rich vein of bouldering form over the season! He also repeated Kayla at Portlethen, which makes it the fourth after Tim Rankin, Luke Fairweather and Niall McNair? Methods and grades apparently vary from 7c to 8a... all a stramash of numbers really, let's just say the line is good and it's nails!!

DaveMacLeod on his own 'Set In Motion' 7c+ at Dumby

Chris Graham has been busy cleaning up the open dot projects from the Stone Country book...I deliberately added a few project lines to encourage people to do them and Chris certainly has been putting the book out of date faster than I can write a new edition! He rattled off the 7c's of The Sword at Morar, Out of the Blue at Loch Lomond and now a fine V7 roof line at the Corrie boulders, see the video below. The right hand line is still to go, and there is also a V5 version of this problem using the prop boulder underneath and travelling left on jugs to a shot-hole finish. More details on Arran coming soon.

Samson Stone - Perthshire

Thanks to Kevin Howett for the beta on this stone...

Samson’s Stone (825220)

This single glacial erratic lies in a field on the north edge of the woods of Creag na Gaoith, west of Crieff. A subsidiary hill is clearly identified from miles around by the vertical monument of Sir David Baird, thrusting from its summit.

The boulder is rounded schist, not particularly high, but offers short vicious problems on small holds and a desperate traverse.

It lies in the field, just off the track. Access it as for the monument path, but contour off left 50m up the path. The south face (facing the track) is very low and an easy step gains the top. The problems are described from here rightwards.

1. Slap Head V3 (6a) S Muir 07.05.03

From the big bucket, gain the rounded lip of the boulder on the left and traverse it left to pull onto the top at the easy side.

2. Slap Them Thigh’s V2 (6a) K Howett 15.04.03

From the big bucket hold gain the open scoop above.

3. Shooting Crows V5 (6b) T Carruthers 08.06.03

SS on the round pocket and a sharp hold for the right hand. Move up right into a big shallow hole, then direct.

4. Runnel on Empty V5 (6c) K Howett 15.04.03

Towards the right end of the north face is the line of a shallow scoop containing a vertical runnel. SS on two small holds above head height containing tiny pebbles. Bridged footholds. Pull up into the striking runnel and a further hard move to gain the top.

VARIATION: V3 (6b). SS at the same point but using the pocket down and left to help get established.

5. Beefcake V5 (6c) K Howett Nov 2003

SS on a flake crack and undercling in the base of the arete right of ‘Runnel..’. Vicious pull directly up the rounded arete to reach sharp holds and finish direct.

6. The Hollow Lamb V3 (6b)K Howett 15.04.03

SS on the flake crack undercling as for the above route. Vicious pull to get a foot established on the hold on the right, then out right to the flake. Finish up the slab direct.

7. Dragging Excess Wool Around V4 (6a)

K Howett Nov 2003

To the right of the flake, near the edge of the wall, SS on an obvious handrail, then move leftwards on small holds (not using the top of the boulder) into the big flake of Hollow Lamb, then step left again onto the arete at the sharp holds of Beefcake. Move round into Runnel on Empty to finish up the wall to the left of that route.