Thursday, December 09, 2010

Southern Highlands Freeze

It's been a good week for the Southern Highlands winter scene with ascents of early season classics such as Inglis Clark Arete, Monolith Grooves, Menage a Trois and Salamander Gully, with many ice routes coming into nick such as Taxus, Quartzvein Scoop, Eagle Falls (above) and Eas Anie.

Highlights of the cold spell were as ascent of Messiah on Creag an Socach by DJ Brigham and Thom Simmons on Sunday 5th and an exciting new winter ascent of the Brack's summer E3 Mammoth by Guy Robertson and partner on Tuesday 7th December, more to follow...

'Mammoth' FWA

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Snow Fever

It's happening again. No-one expected last year to so gratuitously confound our winter expectations of this globally warmed era of hair-dryer westerlies and 'freezing level above the summits' forecasts, as though our precious 3000ft arbitration had forever sunk below the flirtation of ice ever again, but it's been panoramically sub-zero for nearly a week! Ad my God, the fickle Eas Anie has been climbed as close to November as I can recall.

Like thousands of others, I grew all goose-bumped as the deeper blue animations sank down from Scandinavia and a stubborn Arctic flow bullied in to the Atlantic seaboard and fought a frontal war with big ciruclar guns called 'high pressure', ranked in battalions like Zulu, but in isobars. I traipsed giddily along the Fhidhleir ridge last Saturday before the snows came in and watched with delight all week as the snows filled the air with prawn crackers (borrowed metaphor, thanks Lee!) and it seems our gullies have their 'classic season' stockings already filled.

A breathless and pecking snow-plod up the Inglis Clark ridge on the Brack  this Sunday saw some testing leg fitness and usual over-optimism - we found the turf insulated, the gear buried and the snow trap-dooring all over the place, but hell, it's early season fever and it looks like a good one. Bring it on!

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Friday Review - WHO OWNS SCOTLAND

You would be mistaken for thinking that Scotland was the land of enlightened land access and ownership for all, given the high profile success of community-spirited buyouts such as Eigg, Gigha and the recent campaign against Donald Trump's Despicable-Me impersonation (if only it were impersonation). 

But things are not as they seem and a new book which has opened my eyes to the deep land injustices of Scotland (not just the Clearances) is Andy Wightman's 'The Poor Had No Lawyers - Who Owns Scotland And How They Got It', published by Birlinn.

Andy is a longstanding campaigner and investigative journalist who runs the excellent website Who Owns Scotland, dedicated to a transparent listing of all the landowners in Scotland and how they got the land. The book to accompany this campaign is a follow up to his 1996 book Who Owns Scotland and goes a lot deeper than many landowners would feel comfortable with. It  is refreshingly polemic for such a detailed analysis of 'feus', 'non domino titles', 'superiorities', 'entails' and all other manner of highly dubious legal tricks implying righteous ownership of our lands and commonties.

In a deeply researched account of the history of landgrabbing in Scotland, Robert the Bruce does not quite appear the hero some would make of him. Bruce was a murdering warlord who parcelled up Scotland for his own gain and influence, selling off land under feudal tenure to foreign lords and royalty, disenfranchising the people from a barely bawling Scottish state. The centuries fell one after the other as the rich and influential sold off a Scotland they simply did not own. Nobles colluded with the church and the Reformation helped 'legalise' their ownership by highly dubious acts such as the Acts of Registration and Prescription of 1617, 'sealing' land ownership in the hands of the rich who could afford Edinburgh lawyers and felt that a brief tenure of land (20 years!) was enough to claim the deeds to it. And so it went on through the tragedy of the Clearances until, all too belatedly, we had the Abolition of Feudal Tenure Act in 2000.

In that longue durée of 8 centuries, Scotland's land, totalling 19.5 million acres, lost over 10 million acres to 1550 private landowners in estates of over 1000 acres! And it has not slowed down -  modern land grabs by the rich have attempted to seal off land for private use, tax benefit and corporate expansion. Andy Wightman feels the law must go a lot further to protect our common land from total disappearance: land laws must be repealed, Crown rights should be abolished, Land Funds and Land Policies should be enshrined in statutes for the benefit of communities and our new devolved government should set our Law Commissioners the task of reform on the scale Lloyd Goerge once attempted.

We may have National Parks, the Right to Roam and the new Community Buyout rights, but the bald facts are that Scotland is still at the mercy of overpaid law firms, absentee landlords, the self-absorbed rich and far too few enlightened enough to hand back something to the people.

The book is an essential read for all of us who want to live in the Scotland we imagine... it can be bought from Andy's own site here >>>

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Pinnacle - Review

The latest film from Hotaches, The Pinnacle is a welcome historical tribute set amidst our normal dietary blizzard of modern Youtube ascents and techno-sodden bouldering movies.  Tracing one epic week on Ben Nevis in 1960, and the two climbers who took to the wintry corries of Ben Nevis (Jimmy Marshall and Robin Smith), it brings into focus a clear Scottish ethic that climbing is about the landscape, the adventure, the friendships and the moment...something which Jimmy Marshall insists is the core lesson of a lifetime in the mountains - that climbing is not about the noise afterwards but rather those brief moments of unseen joy in the mountains.

This filmic tribute is in essence a remembrance of Robin Smith, a luminary climber of the 1950s and early 60s who sadly lost his life in the Pamirs in 1962. In one of the many poignant interviews in the film, an older but still rugged-looking Marshall describes Smith's climbing prowess with an undiminished clarity of remembrance, describing him as possessing 'startling brilliance' on the rock and ice. Had he not been outlived by Jimmy, Robin would have gone on to climb just as many legendary ascents in Scottish climbing, and in this particular case Smith's early demise does not romantically exaggerate his boldness, talent and  vision.

The legacy of routes he did leave behind reads like a climbing version of the illuminated Book of Kells: Shibboleth, Smith's Route, Yo-Yo, Orion Direct, The Bat, The Big Top, Pigott's Route, The Needle... and so on. These routes, in most folks' guidebooks, lie underlined and starred but mostly unticked! Three of these are hard winter classics on Ben Nevis, climbed in that one special week in February 1960 when the two had the mountain largely to themselves - Marshall describes The Ben in winter as a 'wedding cake' and this is an apt metaphor for two climbers who combined a very special mountaineering marriage of skills. That week they entered a time of legend through the simple dedication of men with axes and gloves and nothing more than a length of old rope between them.

The film takes great pains to highlight this week as a watershed as much as a pinnacle of winter climbing achievement in Scotland. The routes that Smith and Marshall climbed were the last (and hardest) done in the old style of step-cutting without front-point crampons. This laborious style of climbing is the only moment in the movie where the two modern tribute climbers - Dave MacLeod and Andy Turner - look decidedly common and discommoded. They quickly return to their modern front-point crampons, curved drop-head axes and ice-screws for protection, all of which is roundly booed by entertaining old-schooler Robin Campbell of the SMC.

As the two modern lads smoothly tick off the daily diet of historical climbs, in lean but benevolent conditions on the Ben (something the producer Paul Diffley must have been thankful for!), the void between the new and old eras yawns open and it becomes apparent how our expectations, staminas and prorities can change so much in 50 years. Marshall talks of the difficulties they faced as irreversible in many instances and Ken Crocket provides some honest testament to how even three days on the Ben can wear you down dealing with fear and death at every climbing moment. The depth of fitness and inner resolve to climb for seven days on such an alpine set of cliffs (and pack in a day's Munro-bagging and an arrest for stealing dominoes in a Fortwilliam pub) is simply staggering to our modern sensibilities. The walk they did on their 'day off' leaves Macloed and Turner lost in the dark scrabbling for map and compass, exhausted, dehydrated and, in Dave's words, with their 'legs singing'.

The film is a rare jewel of climbing history and and a visual treat for the guilty armchair mountaineer! It ends on a grand panorama of Andy Turner topping out on the Ben Nevis plateau to a stunning Scottish winter horizon. It leaves me with a feeling of profound longing for those special mountaineering moments that become ever more rare and inaccessible.

Our greatest danger lies in growing reliant on exterior motive and engineered moments, rather than the indelible purity exhibited by elegant climbers such as Smith and Marshall. Thankfully, The Pinnacle never loses sight of this and both Dave MacLeod, Andy Turner and the production team should be proud of their tribute week on the Ben. The Pinnacle captures something very fleeting about the games climbers play and the joys they discover.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Bouldering in Scotland 2010 - High End stuff

There has been lots of new activity as usual this year in Aberdeen, the NW and Dumbarton Rock in particular. Some venues continue to expand their repertoire such as Glen Nevis, Glen Lednock and Torridon and Applecross, with Coire nan Arr the best of the bunch in terms of rock quality and stunning new lines.

Cubby, Dave MacLeod and Donald King found some good accessible conglomerate bouldering south of Golspie at The Mound, Loch Fleet (NH 766 978).

Macleod's Arisaig cave was a hardcore find and Dave found some high-end training traverses on immaculate quartzite. His two main problems there were At Eternity's Gate 8b, Triangulation 8a and All the Small Things Font 8a.

The sea-cliffs at Aberdeen continue to provide meaty testpieces and good traverse training. Tim Rankin did a new problem on the roof just right of the Big Grey boulder called Delirium at 8a+, very slopey and condition dependent through the lip.

Delirium 8a+ Clashfarquhar - pic Tim Rankin

At Coire nan Arr, Richie Betts discovered the Universal, a 7b of immaculate red Torridonian sandstone, as well as a handful of good circuit problems and mid-range grade classics. Hopefully we'll have the guide out in 2010 for this incredible area!

The Universal, Coire nan Arr - pic Richie Betts

At the end of the autumn season, Richie succeeded on his project high on the slopes of Glen Torridon to bag the almighty prow of The Essence 7b+, which was shortly repeated (after 3 dedicated Scotrail weekend journeys from Glasgow!) by Murdo Jamieson.

The Essence - Torridon - pic Richie Betts

At Dumby, Will Atkinson and friends set about the Mugsy roof to create a whole new breed of problems linking up traditional classic lines. Perhaps the best is Nice &Sleazy 7c, linking up Mestizo Sit, Mugsy traverse and Malky...not a bad line at all! Malcolm Smith also crushed out the obvious link of Pressure into Firestarter to give Firefight Font 8b.

Harris saw some particularly avid attention this year, Dave MacLeod climbing Proclamtion 7c+ at the Clisham boulders, plus a few new problems at Sron Ulladale in between trad epics.

Proclamation, Clisham - pic by Dave MacLeod

Mike Lee did his usual touring of remoe spots and quietly climbed some hard classic lines... at Glen Lednock he did a lovely 7a called Afraid of the Wave, a kind of direct of the Wave problem. He also did numerous eliminates at Dumbarton, including the excellent 7b+ Le Tour de Technique.

Afraid of the Wave 7a - Glen Lednock - Mike Lee

I'll add more if I hear of anything but next up is a feature on the new circuit problems - you know, the ones most of us can do!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Benmore Glen

I spent a fine Sunday amongst the early Autumn snowcap peaks of Ben More and Stob Binnein,  stomping round the giants of Benmore Glen. In summer, this area would make a good venue if you can stomach carrying mats up this far to protect some of the highball lines. The  landrover track from Benmore Farm makes this higher glen reasonably accessible and an hour's slog at most. Some good short steep roofs can be found on the bigger blocs such as the Heather Head. There is some sound clean stone as well as the usual lichenous schist found on higher altitude stone, as though it needs a rhino skin to protect against the withering bealach winds.

The best rock was found on the giant of the upper glen - the massive and lonely Benmore Bloc which can be seen from the old rotten footbridge as you gain the higher glen. Sitting in the bowl of the upper glen under the Bealach, it has four distinct and just about boulderable faces (in terms of height). The bloc has some fine easy lines, some hard mid-range classic '7th grade' lines and some futuristic lines on its steep north face. All the landings are good (while other stones are typically boggy). The best stones are: the Heather Head boulder just uphill of the old bridge; the Ben More boulder itslef and the Bealach blocs.


View Ben More Boulders in a larger map

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Dumbarton Guide - Now Published

Stewart Brown's guide to Dumbarton Rock and Dumbuck has finally arrived! It is an 80 page, full-colour guide to the complete bouldering and sport at Dumby (and Dumbuck).

Stewart's efforts to reclimb (and clean) many forgotten as well as classic lines means the beta for the descriptions is very fresh and in many cases cleaned up from the 'fuzzy logic' of some mysterious lines and grades that had lain dormant for so long. All grades have been rationalised and updated, but it is Stewart's dedicated efforts to add his knowledge and detail that will save a few of us from battering away at hopeless sequences! The guide offers the most comprehensive tick-list to date for the sport and bouldering at Dumbarton, with 211 dedicated problems, plus all the sport and a little of the best trad. Circuits have been updated and included (Yellow through to Black) and projects are included, as well as feature classics, photo-topos for each boulder/sport face and some fine photography from Jonathan Bean of - thanks Jonathan!

The guide is exclusively available through this site at £6.99 plus some P&P with first class next day delivery in the UK. It's an essential guide book for the Dumby afficionado and the visitor alike. To get a copy just follow the Paypal trail >>>
Sample of the Introduction:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fontainebleau Notes

Fontainebleau in October. It's like Christmas morning for boulderers, stepping out of the hire car and running into a pile of rocky presents and tinsel leaves under a pine tree. You get the idea. And despite the barricades and strikes and French indignation at the 'retraites', we made it there and back again. Arriving at Potala's ochre rocks in perfect autumnal stillness was, in Colin's words, 'as good as it gets'. Then the fun began...

The actual physical and debilitating ache of climbing every day in Fontainebleau for nearly 10 days has tramsformed into a nolstalgic ache (and lingering tendinitis!), but it was magical to have clear cool blue skies and crisp conditions to hand every day. Resting consisted of working through blue and orange circuits as it would have been criminal not to climb. Blistered pinkies from the sand at Cul de Chien led to customised rock shoes with flaps which allowed a day at Cuvier on some harder lines, but the Joker still spat me off with a perennial disdain.

To be honest, in such good conditions, it was more fun just traipsing through the forest getting away from the crowds and finding lonesome boulders with stunning lines, or just working my way through the circuits. The forest was truly at its best and walking in the footsteps of Denecourt, Millet and Stevenson only added to the mystique. There's much more to Fontainebleau than just the climbing...


Ban Lieu Nord 7a

La Vie D'Ange, Cuvier 7a

Le Surplomb Allayaud, Jean des Vignes - surely 7a!!!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Back on the Boulders

Well, it seems we are well into bouldering season again and despite some hefty rain showers, September had some pleasant days as the leaves turned golden and the air cooled and cleared after the mugginess of August. Time to get off Willie Arrol's sports walls and get the boulder mat out again.

Richie Betts took advantage of some fine weather to revisit the Coire nan Arr boulders in Applecross, some of which look like the most perfect rock imaginable. A visit to try The Universal (below) is high on my list, but time and weather has so far conspired against a visit to the north. Hopefully we can get the area mapped and topo'd for the new Torridon and Applecross guidebook for next year.

The Universal - Photo by Richie Betts

Speaking of guidebooks, I've just received the proof of the Dumbarton Rock guidebook by Stewart Brown. It looks terrific and I should have stock by mid October in time for those returning from Fontainebleau to test their mettle... it's an 80 page guide and so far the most complete guide yet to the bouldering (it also includes the sport routes and Dumbuck).

Below is a wee vid of a good 7a eliminate of the Zig Zag sit . I dug some stones away and this allowed a better position for the tricky first move of the sit start. I think a good digging session might link the base of this to the black cave...anyone brave enough to dig down further under the Eagle boulder?

And check out Betaguides new bouldering venues in the UK: this site is a terrific resource for the itinerant boulderer and has plenty of PDF topo's embedded in its pages.

Monday, July 26, 2010

North West New Bouldering

A week's ferry chasing on the ERT fares saw us through Moidart, Knoydart, Skye, Harris and Lewis, ending up in Ullapool. It was good to see Harris getting some bouldering attention, especially Aird Mighe, which is a terrific venue on the Golden Road, where it is almost impossible to keep your eyes on the road as you wind from Tarbert down to Rodal. I suspect there are some superb gneiss roofs hidden in this wilderness of water, light and rock. A walk through the vastness with binoculars and tent is a must for the next visit, though I am conscious that once in this eye-level maze, I might never come out again!

A new topo for the accessible Aird Mighe can be found on Scottish Climbs, I managed the excellent short roof problem of Crystal Voyage, which feels hard in the summer heat as the ultrabasic crystalline nature of the rock makes it a bit soapy. 6c in winter I'd say, but you'd probably not want to be here in winter, unless you have tent pegs to stake out your mat and tarp. The crag is typical of Harris: a rounded barrel of glaciated gneiss, but what makes it attractive to the boulderer are the undercut roofs that lead out to the walls.

Aird Mighe - Crystal Voyage 6c

In Ullapool, Ian Taylor and friends have been busy developing new routes and bouldering all around Coigach. Ian has produced an excellent new booklet guide to Ullapool New Routes, including the excellent technical bouldering at Ardmair, new routes at Rhue, Reiff, Ardmair and Rubha Dunan. The superb photo-topo booklet is a worthwhile addendum to the SMC Northern Highlands North. You can buy a copy in Ullapool's only real Outdoor shop at Northwest Outdoors (opposite the post office and beside Costcutters) , as well as Ian's Ullapool Bouldering guide.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Craigmore Bloc

Not to everyone's taste, this great little crag is a little mossy and north facing (dank in winter, midgy and humid in summer), but it does have a selection of fine technical boulder problems. It is one of my favourite spots when conditions are right, such as in June this year, when the long dry spells crisped the moss off the rock. I've put a PDF guide on the Boulder Scotland website, or click on the link below and print out. Unfortunately the humid July rains have returned the crag to a slippy, mossy jungle, best wait for the weather to dry again before a visit.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Summer Offer: Yearbook 2010 only £3.50

The Stone Country Yearbook is now available at half price. If you want a copy, it can be purchased through Paypal with Freepost and will be dropped through your letterbox next working day.

It includes sports updates and topos for The Orchestra Cave, Red Wall Quarry, Dunglass, Ardvorlich, Rob's Reed and bouldering for Shelterstone, Applecross, Trossachs and Glen Lednock, amongst many others.

£3.50 Freepost 1st Class

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tripping Up Trump

Donald Trump has ridden roughshod over a huge groundswell of protest to turn part of the North East coast into yet another enclosed artificial space (a golf course). Corporate purchases of land in Scotland should be resisted - we won't get our free access statutes back if they are bought for developments. It is a modern form of the Clearances, just very insidious and smoothed over with massive PR. Don't be fooled by the 'jobs' or 'local money' argument, profits are going into offshore accounts of Trump and his cronies....

Check these guys out who are fighting against it, sign up and at least give your voice to it. Could be your local crag next...

Tripping Up Trump | Tripping Up Trump

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Rock That Keeps On Giving

What I keep returning to in bouldering is its ability to absorb our imagination and its open-ended nature. Dumbarton Rock, despite its heavy historical footfall, still keeps giving new 'lines'. In bouldering, there is a crucial core to enjoying it and this is the simple sense of play. The eliminate philosophy of deciding what lines to climb means a single lump of rock can provide limitless entertainment and fun. There aren't any restrictions as to line - it is the movement and quality of moves which counts, which is why we can get so absorbed by graffiti-scrawled rock in a tawdry industrial setting and still feel like we are lost in a new world. This focus on the actual climbing rather than the line dictated by the architecture (these are always the obvious aesthetic lines which are climbed first) means anything is possible and any move can be as good as another: the rock doesn't really care which way you go, after all. Hence the birth of traversing, such as the classic Consolidated Traverse, which opened a whole new game at Dumbarton.

A case in point are the new 'link-ups' and traverses which seem to be the future of Dumby, as they provide this 'custom-climbing' approach which allows you to choose what problem you'd like to climb, a bit like a supermarket with hundreds of brands - just take your pick. Take the Mugsy Cave, for example. Chris Houston began linking and eliminating holds in new sequences with problems such as Houston, We Have a Problem (best name of the year!) and then Will Atkinson (and Malc Smith, amongst others) stepped in and linked up some old classic problems and suddenly we have a mini-Bowderstone! An example of Will's open-eyed approach is this classic link-up of Mestizo Arete, Mugsy Traverse and Malky, which he called Nice & Sleazy. It links a series of aesthetic (and hard) moves on a typically slopey and archetypal chunk of Dumbarton Rock:

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Delirium at Clashfarquhar

Tim Rankin succeeded this spring on the big roof project at Clashfarquhar. With repeats of OPSDS (Optimus Prime SDS), this is another 8th grade on a growing tally of high end problems on the Aberdeen coast. The problem lies on the prop boulder roof just to the right of the Big Grey boulder on the Clashfarquhar platform. Tim describes it thus:

Delirium 8a
The obvious perma chalked horizonal prow of the platform with a prop boulder under it. SDS at the base of the prow at an obvious crimp. Slap out right to slopers on the lip and continue out the prow via powerful slapping and hugging to a desperate move off a poor sidepull gains the first real hold! A final hard move gains jugs on the finishing arete.

Delirium Crux Pic Tim Rankin

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Lost Stones - Strathan Mor

Ron Dempster tipped us off about these massive blocs on the way to Carnmore, underneath the trad arete of The Beanstalk (HVS) on Beinn Airigh Charr. The boulders in the foreground look good for a few big lines and who knows what lies in the jumble? They lie just to the west of Loch na Uamhag on the northern side of Beinn Airigh Charr, just off the path on Strathan Mor.

View Strathan Mor Blocs in a larger map

Friday, May 14, 2010

Arran Bouldering Guide

Due to some requests for more information, I've put together a wee bouldering guide booklet for Arran. This is available free on the Boulder Scotland site via the Arran page and the Issuu PDF webpage. You can click on the demo below and download the complete document for free. It's an attempt to inspire more dedicated bouldering on Arran as there are some king lines which really should be seen to... there's plenty of good circuit bouldering and plenty of development left for all.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Big Stone Country - New Blog!

Guy Robertson & Adrian Crofton, editors for the forthcoming magnum opus on Scottish Climbing called BIG STONE COUNTRY, have started a blog for the book, along with a call for material and photography.

Above all, we are seeking dramatic crag photography or interesting action shots - if you feel you have a good photo, check out the list of crags on the blog and send any sample jpegs in the first instance to John Watson at Stone Country.

The project is effectively a community book, designed to pull together everyone's enthusiasm for and experience of Scotland's best climbing cliffs. If you have any stories, photographs or articles, please don't hesitate to get involved.

Check out the crag list and the articles on the BIG STONE COUNTRY BLOG.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Glen Gyle

Tom Charles Edwards has been beavering away at the top of Loch Katrine in Glen Gyle, developing the boulders here. The pleasant glen is remote but Tom seems to have unearthed a few gems, check out his new problems on Scottish Climbs.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Cullen Bouldering Update

John Brown was kind enough to send a new topo of the Cullen Caves bouldering, as well as a video of his new problem 'Twister' (see below). If anyone wants a copy of the PDF guide, I'll put it up on the Boulder Scotland website soon, or just email me and I'll send it on. Thanks for the updates, John!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Betaguides Site

Just a nod to the growing list of topos and info on UK bouldering at the Betaguides site. Lee Robinson is slowly pulling together the complete wilderness bouldering resource. Check it out or visit the Betaguide blog.

I really liked the look of this new North York Moors venue at Camp Hill, this problem looks like a mini version of West Side Story...

Lee Robinson on Phileas Fogg 7a+ Camp Hill Boulders

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Triangulation 8a at Arisaig

Dave MacLeod climbed the obvious steep crack from deep out of the Arisaig Cave on April 19th. The crack is a new classic from standing at about 7a but the deep cave start made moving into it a real conundrum even for Dave. Another bomber contender for the best 8a in Scotland - on immaculate rock in a stunning setting (look out for resident otters if you're there). The name of the problem might refer to the navigation methods to actually find the cave!

Firefight by Malc Smith

Malcolm Smith has done another incredible link up at Dumbarton called Firefight 8b. It climbs the Pressure cave then finishes up Firestarter. The hardest way through this cave had previously been Dave MacLoed's Pressure which finished up Smokescreen at 8b. Now that a slightly easier variation finish to Smokescreen (7c) was found by Alan Cassidy, Malc continued his journey to find the hardest link-up lines at Dumbarton and logically added Firestarter (8a) as the natural 'hardest' finish to the cave! Thanks to Will Atkinson for recording this on the video...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Rum Bouldering - Hallival Blocs

From the Dibidil path all the way up to Coire nan Grunnd under Hallival lie hundreds of the cleanest boulders in Scotland in a wild lunar landscape of volcanic scale . Pristine 'allivalite' rock which feels grippier than gabbro - salt and pepper coloured, sculpted for the climber, generous grades on ridiculous angles and some big lines and perfect boulders... I hope to get back in the summer with Hamish Fraser who is working on a complete guide to this astonishing array of blocs.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Perfect Conditions at Craigmore

Bone dry rock, moss crisp and , woods in bloom, bees buzzing round the willow, barn owl in residence...'HYMN TO NATURE!!' as Clambton might say... all in all a perfect morning at Craigmore. Here's a wee vid of the classic Wizard problem, feeling a little wobbly for an early season highball!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Lendalfoot Bouldering

Revisited this neglected wee coastal venue on a fine hot day with a cool sea breeze to dry the tidal boulders. Reclimbed a few old problems and have described the best here, named in absentia of any actual history - they have been done before. Paul Savage visited here years ago and I suspect his '8a' project was the black wall - a leaning tidal highball roof and wall.

Lendalfoot Boulders NX 134 906

Lenndalfoot is a summer shingle beach venue with a terrific view out to Ailsa Craig. The boulders along the beach provide limited bouldering with a few choice problems and some hard projects on the central black wall boulder. It is immediately accessible from laybys on the beach at Lendalfoot, a few miles south of Girvan on the A77. There are three sectors: the northern being the best with the Orange Walls and northern leaning ‘pinnacle face’, the central black wall boulder (tidal) and the village boulders and walls to the south. Summer is best when a drying breeze dries out the weepy shale.

 1. Toffee Nosed Bastard Font 6c
Northern sector. Orange Walls northern ‘pinnacle face’. SS and climb the steep tapering toffee bulge via a long reach off an undercut to a diagonal crack, use holds in this to slap up to the left arête to gain reluctant jugs over the top left.

Pinnacle Face of the Orange Walls (Toffee Nose)

 2. Toffee Nosed Traverse Font 6b
SS on the far right of the pinnacle face of the Orange Walls and traverse hard left to gain the left arête and rock round this. Excellent technical lock offs and presses, the footholds are poor if the sand is high!


Friday, April 09, 2010

All the Small Things - Video

Here's Pete Murray's taster of Dave on his new 8a at Arisaig:

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Rum Bouldering

The Hallival boulders have finally seen a bit more of a concerted action, here Chris Everett highballs it out in this remote corrie! Topo on UKC

Arisaig Cave Project Sent

Dave MacLeod took advantage of a rest day to arrive at the Rhu Cvae fresh to complete his journey into darkness with the link up of the big cave project, citing it as a long 8a and a superb trip on perfect rock. The angle of the quartzite is punishing all the way and clever footwork and full-on technique is key. Check out Dave's blog for updates on this cave.

Malcolm Smith's La Saboteur Dumbarton

La Saboteur is the latest hard link up by Mal Smith at Dumbarton, an 8a+ climbing Sabotage and finishing left along Mike Lee's French-inpspired Tour du Technique, further colouring Dumbarton's reputation as the black Fontainebleau - Mais oui, c'est noir...

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Filming in Morar

Pete Murray and myself travelled up to meet Dave MacLeod at his '8c' cave in Morar. This secretive and impressive venue took us a while to find, but was obvious once we did - a 50 degree walled quartzite cave with no moss or drips or lichen and a singular line of chalked holds disappearing into the triangular darkness - Dave's 8c project. I pulled on a few holds the first day and tried one or two moves, but the sheer brutality and power required was too much and we let Dave show us his rubric of moves and contortions that allow the cave to be climbed. The 'easiest' lines appear to be butch 7a's and the top level is close to Dave's idea of Nirvana - long power-plays and complex link-up sequences. We bagged some good film and a short interview about the place which will be forthcoming in a new short film from Pete Murray, to go along with a new collection of writing on bouldering from Stone Country.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Exploring Mull

A few fresh days walking on Mull exploring the excellent granite on the Ross, the Carsaig cliff path and the Gribun area amongst others. The bouldering and cragging is great, for more details see Colin Moody's site.

Here's a map of some popular bouldering areas and some photos from the trip.

View Mull Bouldering in a larger map

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Stone Country Walks

As part of a new series of books, Stone Country is expanding into other areas aside from just bouldering, though there will be plenty of new climbing books coming out. The walks books are designed to follow themes in the landscape and vary wildly. Here's an example of a good geology walk on the Isle of Arran, for example. Boulderers might want to pay attention!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Arran Bouldering Guide

Here are most of the best boulders on Arran in a slideshow, we're working on the guide which will be available at Stone Country soon.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Limestone on Arran

From Sannox to Lochranza Coastal walk

There is precious little limestone climbing in Scotland - the huge massif in Assynt has some potential, but at least in terms of bouldering there is something closer to home. I checked the geology map of Arran, which looks like a dartboard of colours around a swollen granite bullseye, and on the outer rim on the north east is a long coastal strip of limestone between Sannox and Lochranza. This is a mini-wilderness, with no road and the trail leads far away from the tourist strip of the Arran loop road.

The 4 to 5 hour walk is fascinating in itself, the trail leading through old red sandstone to the Fallen Rocks which are a jumble of conglomerate boulders with maybe some potential, climbing the hill in a monolithic jumble to the giant crag of Creag a Chais (rock of cheese!). However, things change suddenly to limestone and just past the fallen rocks on the left is a sandstone/limestone sandwich forming a steep roof with some great looking problems once cleaned and out of winter dreep. A good spot for summer camping and bouldering.

At the picturesque Laggan cottage further along past Millstone Point there is another good clean roof of limestone beside the cottage, with a few boulders uphill of this providing some good sport.

From Sannox to Lochranza Coastal walk

Make sure you head along to the ruins of the old salt mine to check out the fossilised footprints of a giant centipede (300m years old from the Carboniferous age of monsters) - it was 2m long with a girth over a foot across: the tram trail of this beast is impressive, certainly not something you'd want to come eye to eye with on topping out...

Arthropleura Giant Centipede

At the Ossian's Cave area there is a good sandstone boulder on the turf by the shore with some nice straight-up problems and a roof or two.

The path meanders around the Cock of Arran and through the labyrinth of giant scree at An Sciodan, finally depositing you on the pleasant pebble beach of the Fairy Dell. One good conglomerate wall and a sea boulder provides a girdle DWS over aquamarine waters.

By the time you hit Lochranza, the long loop round to the bus-stop is a slog and there was no pub/shop open for refreshment... time your bus run back to Brodick carefully!

View Sannox to Lochranza Coastal Walk in a larger map

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Cat Scree Crags

I have glanced at these crags many time passing along the Loch Lubniag road, trying not to wipe out bikers as I veer over the white lines. They are really obvious just across the water above the new fancy chalet community and there may be sports potential. I certainly haven't heard of any trad action there.

I walked up today into the impressive steep wilderness of Sgearnach a Chait (the 'Cat Scree', presumably there are or were wildcats here) to check a couple of walls named on the OS map as Creag na Comh Sheilg. I got bogged in poor cleared forestry ground, which blew my mojo a bit and I retreated. However, it seems there is one particularly impressive 25m sport wall at a hellish angle above the larch forest (which might be a better approach from further north along the shore path). It looks featured and clean and might be worth a drill, does anyone know this wall? it's above and left of the impressive but messy lower crags which might provide hard sport as well...

Here's the Googlemap:

View Sport Crag at Loch Lubnaigh in a larger map

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Udlaidh - oodles of ice

Beinn Udliadh has continued to fatten and form some of the best ice in years. We passed a pleasant short day in the corrie on Tuesday with parties on almost every major route: Quartzvein, Cut throat, Peter Pan, Sunshine, Green Eyes, Junior's Jaunt, Doctor's Dilemma etc, with Organ Pipe wall looking particularly fine and the Smirk in as well. Expect it to be busy however - we saw 15 cars parked when we arrived and popular routes were fairly chopped. Little cornicing and the tops were well frozen with the finishing neve good.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Jacksonville Royale

What is the finest hillfood in Scotland?

You will have your own favourites. I guess it's all about the situation - how battered you are, how thirsty or simply how hungover. You will have gathered this is not a post for you muesli-munching banana-peelers who demure at the sight of amber bottles and frying pans.

Two days in Glencoe absorbing some fine and traditional weather alike leads to different conclusions on this. A wet day of sleety rain with sodden feet frozen from bare-footing it through a frozen river or two (cursing the forgotten wellies) and I'd murder a flask of French Onion soup for some reason. The end of a sweaty walk-in and the blue Power-ades work a treat for the thirst. Babybel cheeses seem inordinately fun to unwrap in a private moment - little parcels of chewy cheese that remind me of 'No-Entry' signs as you unpeel the wax strip.

Or winegums found congealed together in the bottom of your chest pocket (with glove fluff) are the best for winter belays, I'm convinced on that one.

In the evening, stuck in the bothy and choking on a stuttering fire, the sound of a primus coming to life and a can of beer cracking is mighty close to perfection.

Or the first pint in the Kingy and a bowl of salted chips. Brown or red sauce according to which Scottish city you hanker for the most.

And the breakfast of champions? Two Lorne sausage 'squaries' interleaved with the cheapest, most orange Kraft cheese slices (melted to a fondue consistency on a high heat), squeezed between two flattened wholemeal rolls (the healthy concession). I will have to add the caveat that they taste better after beer than before.

Long live the Jacksonville Royale...