Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Skye (a land of myth much-missed)

In the early 2000s, a mysterious stranger began claiming a number of hard ascents, first in Glen Nevis (The Morrighan, Jupiter Collison...etc.)and then on the Isle of Skye (Extradition, It's Over etc.). In particular, the boulders of Coire Lagan held some great-looking lines which began appearing on a local blog featuring photographs of a lithe-looking climber on very steep lines, but usually static on one of the jugs and never on video. Many climbers had visited and tried the lines, coming back claiming they were futuristic and impossible. Dave MacLeod walked away from the mythical 'It's Over' with its wee undercut holds and obvious-but-out-of-reach double-sloper. The forums, for a year or two, were alive with debate as to who this stranger was and how the hell he had got so strong.

The legendary O'Conor blog, its posts notably created in the dark hours, like some intricate verbal death-star, has mostly been dismantled by its shamed owner, who was, at considerable expense and frustration, visited by John Watson on the Isle of Lewis to winkle out some element of truth to the whole debacle. Was this O'Conor the new Sharma? Him and his faithful dog padding up to the boulders, bivvying out in extreme temperatures, pulling off 8c problems 'out of the air'? Where did he train? How did he get so strong? Did the climbs actually exist? O'Conor, in person affable and persuasive, was at the same time evasive and only once put his shoes on in anger, struggling to get off the ground on his own 8a (6c) Atlantic Bridge at Port Nis (Watson flashed this and was bitterly disappointed to have to downgrade it so - he thought he'd pulled off a miracle). Who was the mythical 'Finn' he climbed with, who O'Conor claimed had spotted him on first ascents, but whom no-one had ever spotted themselves? The whole thing was an expensive outing for Watson (building to a whisky stand-off at 2am), who like others had been forced to mention these problems in early Scottish bouldering guides, giving the creature the benefit of the doubt... that he was indeed the Finn MacCool of legend, breakfasting on 8a's and crushing all under his fists of fury.

Well, things have quietened down a bit since those heady days, which is a shame since the online rants were legendary and much-missed by the Scottish climbing community. We wish Si well on his new ventures, whatever they may be - SBS extreme kayaking or some such -  and we are at least delighted to witness, on video, and indisputably, the reality of some of these climbs under the audit of peer-reviewed boulderers. Climbed by boulderers with a propensity for detail rather than tall tales, these legendary Skye problems now exist - thanks to Mike Adam for his dedication to such remote imaginings. But maybe, just maybe, the legend will return, tripod in hand, pair of old 5.10 Moccasyms in the other...?

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Archipelago Review

If you're interested in landscape writing, perhaps the finest collection can be found in the biannual literary magazine ARCHIPELAGO. It is published by Clutag Press and collects the best of landscape writing and poetry from the likes of Michael Longley, Tim Robinson, Robert Macfarlane and Seamus Heaney.

Issue 7, Winter 2012, contains a section from our very own Rathlin: Nature and Folklore, an extended version of 'Foorins and Cuddens' telling of the isanders' seabird-fowling and natural climbing skills akin to the 'guga' hunters on St Kilda:

'...some descended on homespun ropes from cliff tops, the ropes secured to an iron stake driven into the turf, or, in the case of one famous nineteenth century climmer (island name for a cragsman), from a rope tied to the leg of his horse.'

There is some terrific writing in this 'journal' of poetic landscapes. I liked Katherine Rundell's 'Ghost Storms', describing a Scottish storm ' a German opera, like a drunk with a gun.'

Tim Robinson is typically fractal in his approach to place names in Ireland in his essay 'The Seanachai and the Database', echoing the magic of Scotland's more mysterious Pictish/Brythonic/Gaelic pasts:

'The giving or using or remembering of a placename stands for the primary act of attention - a discrimination, an appreciation of uniqueness - that turns a bare location into a place. Thus a placename is a creative force, a word of power ... it sits at the centre of many webs simultaneously, a hyper-spider.'

Michael Longley never fails to draw emotional blood, his poem on dementia ('Insomnia') being particularly poignant:

'In the asylum
Helen Thomas took Ivor Gurney's hand
When he was miles away from Gloucestershire
And sanity, and on Edward's county map
guided his lonely finger down the lanes...'

This volume also contains Roger Hutchinson's essay in honour of Sorley MacLean's poem Hallaig. Raasay's clearances echo painfully from this poem and it is here translated by Seamus Heaney, for those not lucky enough to 'have the Gaelic':

The road is plush with moss
And the girls in a noiseless procession
going to Clachan as always

And coming back from Clachan
And Suishnish, their land of the living,
Still lightsome and unheartbroken,
their stories only beginning...

back through the gloaming to Hallaig
through the vivid speechless air,
pouring down the steep slopes,
their laughter misting my ear...'

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Perfect start to December

There is no better feeling than cyan-blue skies and the first winter shroud laid down on the distant Highland tops... the rock conditions have been perfect and holds which were soap-bars in summer now feel like emery boards.

Craigmaddie and Craigmore have been in good condition, with new link-ups and traverses for the locals creating grade confusion - everything in these conditions feels two grades easier, which is why Font grades can feel so hard in the heat (they tend to be graded for the 'magic day' of perfect friction).

Craigmaddie now has over 50 documented problems, from Font 2 through to Font 7c, with the sunniest winter aspect in Central Scotland. This makes it a glowing and popular venue for those who can't afford the petrol for 'The County'. For the Central belt boulderer, this venue offers an under-rated alternative to Northumberland sandstone and you can get over 6 hours of sun in mid December, if your skin lasts that long! Colin Lambton has added a superb direct finish to Easyjet 7a, making this the classic problem on the High Tier roof.

Craigmaddie Bouldering from John Watson on Vimeo.

Fiend here shows us some nice contortionism at Glen Clova :

Glen Clova stuff 1 from Fiend on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

RIP Patrick Edlinger

It's not about the shoes... (nor the camera...though that footless hang and chalk blow is iconic!!!)

also, good post on Bloc de Pierre here >>>

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Ben Donich 846 m (2,776 ft)

I'd always known there were big stones on Ben Donich - it's typical of Arrochar rock architecture with split schist crags and chasms and jumbles of scree giants  in corries - but I'd never gone up for a proper scout. So, with the forecast promising sun in between hail and snow, I squelched up the speedy north east ridge to the summit in under an hour, then backed down the craggy east flank towards the Brack, stalking the boulder clusters, giving sheep the odd adrenaline-shock. Arrochar schist is not impressive in the wet of midwinter, its lichen coat soaking up slime and soaked heather-bunnets dripping down cracklines. Nevertheless, finding such a bloc as this bodes well for summer projects and those who like solitude and king lines topping out at 8m over, for a change, reasonable landings...

Thursday, November 01, 2012

New book from Stone Country announced!

We'll be publishing an exciting new book by Francis Sanzaro in early 2013 and we've just got the cover (with thanks to Boone Speed for such a terrific shot).

The book's called 'The Boulder: A Philosophy for Bouldering' and it analyses bouldering in depth. It's an inspiring read, written with great clarity and poetry by a boulderer and academic philosopher who listens to what he does and is able to unfold the complex mental and physical origami that is bouldering. He explains to us what we're really doing, or perhaps what we are truly enjoying, when we boulder.

The more you think about bouldering, the harder it is to say what it is, but Francis has done a terrific job bringing a distinct voice to the sport. The book will be available in March 2013 and I'll put some sample pages up around Christmas as a taster.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


This 7a seems to get harder the more you try it...a real workout for the back and ribcage muscles!

Abracadabra from John Watson on Vimeo.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Long live autumn...

Long live such autumns: clear skies, frost-cold rock and an orange-filtered low sun. Finally the bouldering season seems to have kicked into gear... I've been projecting at Dumby before the sudden sunsets above Langbank on the other side of the Clyde, and enjoying the pseudo-grit of Craigmaddie higher up on the moors for a change of geology. It seems everyone else is burrowing into their projects and enjoying what free time can be stolen in the shortening days. A full afternoon at Dumby went by in stop-motion oblivion as the tide crept up to the sea boulder from a low tide... no better way to dissolve the stress of deadlines and office life.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Torridon Bouldering

It seems Torridon is maturing into Scotland's best bouldering venue considering all the qualities we associate with the sport: aesthetic rock, stupendous landscape, variety, king lines, accessibility (well, it's beside a B-road!). This autumn and winter should see another assault on the tiers above the village, with plenty of projects remaining and easier circuit lines galore. As Queen Victoria observed: '...not a lot of people come here.' Shame!

Dan Varian's new line 'Wee Baws'

Friday, October 19, 2012

Dumbarton Rock safety report

The recent geo-engineering survey  at Dumbarton Rock, commissioned by Historic Scotland, on the NW face (main climbing area above the boulders) has thankfully found no major instability and we hope that responsible climbing can continue as normal at Dumbarton. The report summarises the situation thus:

'The principal potential hazard noted at the NW inspection area is unstable blocks becoming detached 
from the face and falling onto areas below.  It has been established through visual inspection of the area that the rock mass is generally tight, and although there are a number of well developed joint sets, there is little evidence that the intersection geometry is creating significant viable or active rockfall events. This is not say that rockfall will not occur, as from time to time material will dislodge from the face due to natural processes, but these are likely to be relatively infrequent and are impacting areas with only transient pedestrian traffic. Given these criteria – infrequent rockfall events and infrequent transient pedestrian traffic - It is considered that the risks to members of the public, both below the castle and within the walls of the Duke of York’s Battery area, may be managed through regular inspection and monitoring. The risk of instability and damage to the castle infrastructure may also be managed in the same manner. The installation of rockfall warning signs at the base of the slope to warn the public of the risks would be considered appropriate.'

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

New problems in Font

Two new problems in Font, though one is a rehash of a Pepito 'lost classic' at 91.1:

Piège à Feu from John Watson on Vimeo.

L'Écossaise from John Watson on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Ethics and Development

Thanks to Chris Fryer for pointing out this video on ethics and development of climbing/bouldering in Mount Evans etc. in the US. Whilst Scotland is unlikely to suffer huge impact in terms of the volume of boulderers visiting new and pristine areas of our own Scottish wilderness, our responsibility is nevertheless undiminished. Places such as the Shelterstone, Torridon, Arran, Lewis, Rum etc. all have similar boulderfields to the one in this video.The  weather, remoteness and danger (snapping an ankle in a talus've a Joe Simpson on your hands) might all mitigate our impact on the environment, but it's worth stopping to think, especially for guidebook producers, film-makers and sponsored climbers, what are we promoting? How should we do it, if we do at all?

ABYSS - North America's Highest Bouldering from Louder Than Eleven on Vimeo.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Eliminate shame

We have come a long way from the original stand-up start, indeed this didn't exist as a concept until we sat on our arses to add a couple of moves to a tired old boulder problem. The sit start is now so ubiquitous it might be better to highlight in guides which problems start 'homo erectus'. We have by no means stopped there in the evolutionary journey backwards to be as prone as a flounder under a piece of rock for fear one single, aesthetic udge might be missed.

We created the traverse as a crabby, contorted pump simply for the fun of it, or to create our own bibliography of extensions: ben, jerry, tom...  Then came the crazy-golf world of the 'eliminate' which is kind of like an apartheid for holds, where mostly big holds suffer a deletion of rights.

The modern bouldering corollary to all this arbitrary nonsense is the link-up, the bastard son of the eliminate.

The traditonal idea of the line is, apparently, subverted and twisted out of all normal, mountaineery meaning by the sudden veer left, the drop-down, by the well-met 'no jugs' caveat; or by excising all idea of a natural line as soon as it becomes apparent you might actually be climbing something. It is usually an algorithm of grades or cruxes, climbing by numbers, but equally it could be the collection of satisfying moves and exotic postures, the limit being only how far you are prepared to leave your mother sport.

None of it matters a jot and it would only be natural to see a future of suspended-in-air slopers with no actual substrate, between which we happily one-arm like a gibbon in a fig tree, as the final evolutionary step in removing bouldering from the need for any summit. After all, we all grew up on those geodesic climbing frames, chasing each other round in circles, bat-hanging by the backs of our knees.

So why fret over the infinity of link-ups as an affront to climbing? In fact, right now I'm inspired to go and find the first 3-star downclimb into a sit start eliminate... no jugs allowed, of course.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Craigmaddie Flyover

Blissful autumn day at Craigmaddie, working through some classic problems and nailing down more aesthetic and less snappy sequences on the ! top tier. Abracadabra is definitely 7a, don't let anyone tell you any differentIf anyone can remember the beta for Farmer's Trust, Pete and I would love to know, we flailed about like demented goldfish... updated topo on the way.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Meall a' Choire Leith and Glen Lyon

This unremarkable and indistinct bump of moss is remarkable for its surroundings rather than the character of its summit. The more satisfying ascent (if not climbing Meall Corranach) starts from the Roro bridge in Glen Lyon, a few km east of Bridge of Balgie, with the recommended circuit going up the east glen and a grassy descent down to the west glen.

Glen Lyon

Park at the Roro bridge testing station and swing round the road to a T-junction, heading left towards Roromore. Just before the fence at the Allt a' Chobhair, follow the burn uphill by a fence through more interesting scenery than the farm track across the river. It leads past some glacial boulders to the old shieling village under Coire Ban's scree slopes. Follow the wall uphill to the Coire and either strike up left steeply, or follow the fence right to the blunt ridge of Sron Eich. A gradually easing angle leads south to the summit plateau of Meall a Choire Leith, which I think is named after the adjacent Coire Liath (the grey corrie) rather than the translation as the 'hill of the shivering corrie' (though that's more descriptive of a winter ascent). The panorama of Meall Corranaich to the south and Ben Lawers and An Stuc to the east is dramatic and imposing. 

An Stuc

Meall a' Choire Leith summit 926m

A grassy stomp leads down northwest to the tranquil Gleann Da-Eig past more shieling sites with the remarkable split rock of 'Fiann's Arrow', or the 'Praying Hands of Mary' (depending from which angle you view the rock, or who you talk to), situated at the base of the glen west of the burn. The twin-notched rock may be the eponymous feature the glen is named after in Gaelic ('Da Eig' -the two nicks/notches). 

Fiann's Arrow/Praying Hands of Mary

To the east of this is the rocky bump of Dun Chnocan, with a collection of large boulders and an interesting shepherd's cave with an arrangement of cup marks, bored into a silvery plinth at the best seating spot for waiting out bad weather. Who knows how old this is, possibly neolithic, as the glen would have been even grassier then and the peat unknown, so it would have been an isolated but fertile glen. The arrangement of the cup marks is interesting, a central large hole flanked on one arc with five subsidiary, shallower holes. It can be found as a roof shelter looking east down Glen Lyon at NN615464. My imagination resolves this as a single hole bored by a shepherd, the others representing, or perhaps added to, by his sons - a family tree. The fan-like geometry certainly invites interpretation, but the real meaning is lost. Perhaps they are no more than idle, bored doodles from long wet days as a shepherd, sometimes you feel this is as valid as more 'sacred' interpretations.

Cup Marked Stone Glen Lyon

Oh, and I found some good boulders as well. At NN622462, beside the Allt a' Chobhair, there are some attractive boulders, the highlight being the grassy patio'd roof boulder. The east prow is a good 6th grade pull and the central roof has a few similar grade exit lines onto the slab. Not high, but perfectly formed, I saw some signs of climbing but more brushing would help. The best development would be at the collection of roofs, walls and boulders round the contours at N614464, just south of the summit of Dun Cnochan. A track leads up to these from the east sheepfold of Balnahanaid Farm at Roro. Again, many need cleaned, but some rock looks very good - the red wall looks like a classic, if easier, 'West Side Story' and there is plenty of scope for short, butch roof problems.

Dun Chnocan blocs 1

Dun Chnocan bloc 2

Chobhair Roof Bloc

Gleann Da Eig Bloc 1

Dun Chnocan Red Wall

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Donegal Bouldering and Tweed's Port

A week in Donegal in late August is a dolly-mixture of weather. It certainly meant wind and the tent spent most of the week flattened under an invisible thumb of constant pressure. The bouldering around Dawros Head and Tramore is always interesting, with the sand levels playing tricks with your memory. The Tramore dunes have grown, for example, and totally covered one nice wall I used to enjoy as I couldn't for the life of me find it again. I felt suitably small, thinking how casually our efforts are buried by wind and time. It was no different for the neolithic and bronze age folk - a large finger of granite, which was once pointed on a hill as a marker or territory post, has lain buried for millennia by a giant sand dune which is only now walking its way east and revealing the top of the blinded stone.

However, Marmalade Rock in Loughros has some nice problems on walls and orange quartz, with the coves at Rosbeg providing some good steep, sea-worn schist, though mostly the the wind played tiddliwinks with my mats. And in Donegal chalk balls run away like tumbleweeds if you drop them... there is nothing more embarrassing than chasing a chalk ball down a beach, with rock shoes on...

I stopped off on the ferry home at Larne to climb on the big bloc at Tweed's Port, just north of Larne past Carfunnock park (no fun at all and full of squealing kids). I'm sure the locals have climbed on it, but it has four worthy aspects over a shore which needs heavy matting. The straight up lines are all fairly easy, on the four cardinal aspects. The east slabs tiptoe easily up over the tides when full. There is a south roof which provides some sit starts up to 6a and a a traverse of the west and south face is a good 6c if kept low. The meat of the bloc is a beautiful sea-worn north wall with what looks like some harder projects. I'd be keen to know of established problems if locals have climbed here, it's certainly the most accessible of blocs!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Craigmaddie circuit addition

The direct version of 'Chockstoner' problem on Craigmaddie's lower roof  -  a rather scrappy 5+ on the  left arete - is much more satisfying this method, stretching out to slopers from the foot plinth, then cutting loose to finish up The Nose (a 5 from standing jump). Hardish foot clamping and dynamic throws make this about 6b+, anyone done it this before this way?

Craigmaddie The Nose Direct from John Watson on Vimeo.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

August eggs and extreme Johns

As work on the new bouldering guide continues, the summer is often a time to explore and map and check out others' explorations. Tom Charles-Edwards is probably one of Scotland's most under-rated pioneers of the 'lost boulder'. A bit like Christophe Laumone in Fontainebleau, Tom often prefers solitude and exploration, stringing together king lines on remote blocs. It is thanks to Tom that future generations will have futuristic and adventurous projects to keep them busy and feed the rat when all the 'accessible' stuff is worked out by the 'car-boot raider' (park by boulders, unload 10 mats, flash all the 8a's, tick, downgrade, eat carrot, pack up and drive off...apologies for unfair caricature?!). 

 Tom Charles-Edwards on 'the Flying Pancake'

The Dinosaur Egg, Arrochar area

Anyway, Tom has suggested some very good ideas for the new guides, as I'm trying to develop a guidebook that does justice to the many tastes in bouldering and provide enjoyable circuits for the visiting boulderer in Scotland. Tom's idea is a simple one: the 'day-hiker/bouldering circuit', that is, using boulders to way-mark a day in the Scottish hills, combining the best of mountain and boulder. A small mat and pack lunch, a good topo (!), and off you go... some of Tom's finds may have big projects, but they also have achievable and impressive lines over good landings (a consideration for remote classics). Linking these together in an enjoyable walk is also a kind of perverted geo-caching, or perhaps a new form of orienteering...but suggestions for such trails are welcome (the Arran corries circuit is a big case in point, with the Rosetta stone as highlight). For  more on Tom's explorations, check out his Scottish Climbs page.

The Blaeberry, Coilessan

Glen Kinglas prow

Oh the Scottish weather. Woe to the projects. rain, humidity, heat, not good for any form of climbing...we took a chance on Craigmaddie's sandy gritstone, hoping that the drying winds after the downpours might have hardened the flaky, brittle sandstone. There were a few lip traverses we had our eyes on and in this heat we thought the rough sandstone might just be playable (as Dumby's glassy slopers were not an option). It proved the case and the jaded, overheated, August boulderer found some playtime on some projects. The 'cantilever' problem, climbed in extension by Colin Lambton as a technical 6c and woefully named as 'EXtrEMe John', is a worthy 6b in itself and the original problem before 'John' naively bought the car with the unfortunate number plate. It's on the Jawbone crag, taking the lower lip traverse from the niche, with one excellent crossover sequence in a cantilevered, horizontal position. Proof that there's always more climbing at a venue if you squint your eyes a little. 

'Cantilever', about to cross over...

Owl traverse variation

In this vein, the Owl Traverse is seeing a re-visitation with some crafty sequences to provide a harder project. As is 'The Nose' on the lower crag. This awkward arete/nose can be climbed from the corner at about 6a, rather scruffily escaping up to jugs, but a better, harder sequence, stretches out to the lip from the shelf, then cuts loose to a clamp and dyno for an excellent 6b+, with possible link-up connotations to the Abracadabra finish.

 The Craigmaddie Nose, 6b+ 

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Requiem for a Boulder Mat

It must be an age thing, but I found myself ogling new bouldering mats online, in preparation for patio-ing out my autumn project, when I just realised, jeez, I had another mat already. It was up in the Coilessan boulderfield, hidden under a roof. Was it? Or was I losing it? Bloody hell, how long ago was that, I thought? Three years? Oh well, best stomp up, hunt around in the hope of retrieving it, in whatever state it had been left by the Scottish elements. I seemed to remember leaving it under a steep project prow, fully intending to come back the next weekend... it was old and manky then, what hope for it now?

The plan was to do a good 10km stomp-around anyway, for it was way too hot for a bracken-fighting, tick-picking bouldering session, so losing some weight seemed like a good idea. I ran up the track for a couple of km, found the white post, stomped up through the 'bastard' tussocks and made a beeline for the giant boulderfield. Just getting here with a mat earns a 7a, I think - especially when the vegetation is in full camouflage outfit in July. This is a place with more projects than completed problems, you'll see why when you get lost in the maze of gullies, trapdoors, chasms, roofs and prows - lots  to come back to, maybe, but I always get here bushed, too hot and scared to death of the man-eating nature of the place. Jesus, even the horseflies were oversized, military-spec monsters!

I found a few more good landings and nice leaning walls, then found my mat, wedged like a geo-cached mattress between two boulders. It was UV'd to a sickly white, spotted with fungus and when I pulled out the foam, a flurry of confetti and scurrying mice disappeared into the blaeberries. Munched to death!

I stuffed in what was left of the guts of  the smelly, damp old Dropzone and carted it penitentially over the castle-cragged Cnoc Coinnich and back down to Glen Coilessan.

If anyone knows a good seamstress and upholsterer, let me know...

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Update on Dumbarton Rock access

MCOS and myself attended a meeting with Historic Scotland at Dumbarton Rock with David Mitchell (HS Director of Conservation), Ian Lambie, (District Architect for HS) and Stephen Gordon (Head of Applied Conservation at HS): they are keen to 'de-schedule' the crags and boulders so climbing can become official, but there are a few issues to resolve first. A geo-technical survey commissioned by Historic Scotland will allow a climber to accompany the survey to promote better understanding; there will be a council meeting with a climber representative to discuss landscaping; and any graffiti cleaning will be accompanied by a climber so no damage to holds is done (cleaning is a priority for the non-climbing crag face below Omerta). Cleaning methods will be discussed and whilst non-climbing rock might be blasted, climbing rock will use a non-damaging solution/steam cleaning method.

So, good news really and a real opportunity to keep our heritage alive at the Rock... thanks for everyone's help and statements, please email any concerns/letters/statements to me John Watson:

MCOS are of course involved, and their access officer Andrea Partridge will be at all meetings, but I will make sure bouldering/climbing gets understood as a valuable asset to the community. If anyone wants to get more closely involved or add to the literature we have to support climbing at Dumby, please do give me a ring 07546 037 588

John Watson

Monday, July 30, 2012

Raasay Classic climbed

Dave reports on his blog about the success and pleasure of bouldering in wild and haunting places such as Raasay. plus he bags a 7c+ classic, giving Raasay a big pin-marker on the bouldering map of Scotland!

Check out geolocation for the access (prow at bottom left of pic) >>>

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Coiregrogain Blocs

A very wet Sunday in the Arrochar Alps, so I put the running shoes on and took the long escalator-paced track up to the Allt Coiregrogain in horizontal, soaking drizzle. I'd been tipped off by Tom C.E. that there were some impressive blocs in the hanging glen between Beinn Ime and Ben Vane. He isn't wrong! Some giant stones with attractive, steep walls and flying aretes... the usual bogs might be an issue, but a dry week might make them just about approachable, if you like 5km walk-ins with big mats. Some nice camping spots, so perhaps a dry spring trip would see some big lines climbed. Apologies for the retro-style photo - the phone battery was so low, this was the only camera app that would work.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Summer Bouldering

The sandstone boulders under the cliffs of Raasay have seen some serious attention from top-end climbers Michael Tweedley and Dave MacLeod. Dave reported an amazing and very continental-looking project on the giant boulders round Screapadal. Dave reports on the stunning potential of the area in his blog:

'We spent ages looking round the boulders finding countless problems in the V0-V3 range that looked great, but not much for ourselves. But finally we stumbled upon one line that changed our psyche - the biggest, baddest Font 7c/+ roof in Scotland!'

Beastmaker Dan Varian has written a hilarious blog about the ups and downs of Scottish bouldering, cranking out some big new testpieces in Torridon and Applecross in June. Lovingly entitled '3 days in Paradise, 1 day in a Shithole', you can tell he wasn't impressed by Dumbarton! Don't worry, Dan, we feel you and are trying to get the place cleaned up! See here for further developments on the clean-up and development of Dumbarton Rock via the MCOS >>>.

Wee Baws, 7b, Torridon

Ann Falconer, Nigel Holmes and others developed some more accessible circuit problems at Coire nan Arr around the Dam boulder and on the excellent wee boulder across the loch, with possibly the cleanest rock in Scotland! The dam area is extremely accessible and has a good mix of hard lines, projects and perfect 4 to 6a problems. 

Ann Falconer on a Coire nan Arr traverse

In the south, a few Glasgow-based climbers have been developing Arran's remoter corries with some enjoyable circuit-style bouldering and the odd 'blankety blank cheque book and pen' i.e. any granite testpiece:

The Whangie has seen some attention as a summer venue for boulderers. This crumbly crag, long a classic trad ground for developing nerve and control on poor rock, actually has an enjoyable circuit of problems from Font 4 to 6c, with the Traverse proving a camouflaged classic 6c - very hard to onsight! If you're limited to an evening's bouldering and want to escape the midges, this will catch any breeze going and the outlook is biscuit-tin classic.

The Whangie >Andy's Lip 6a+

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Dumbarton Rock Update

It seems there has been some confusion and misinformation about cleaning of the boulders/crag at Dumbarton. Currently, the issue is in the hands of the MCoS, Historic Scotland and SNH, so please check for official statements on the MCoS website, the most recent of which is here >>> official news.

Whilst we may all have different views on how best to manage visual pollution such as graffiti - some would like to see it go, some feel it is part of the urban character of the place - the best we can do is represent our feelings on climbing heritage to the MCoS as our official access representative.

My own personal statement in defence of climbing here remains:

1. We LIKE the place and USE it a lot, in all seasons, so naturally want to see a balance between conservation and the rights of our climbing heritage.

2. We clean the place up independently every year and ought to be recognised, or at least consulted, when decisions are being made on 'cleaning' the rock, which, from our point of view, is a delicate topic - we treat the rock much more precisely than anyone e.g. sandblasting and/or chemical treatment could damage the rock and radically change the nature of many climbs.

3. This heritage is not notional - climbers have brought decades of sport, social inclusion and personal development on a uniquely independent scale to Dumbarton and its population. Many people, young and old, have enjoyed the mental and physical benefits of rock-climbing at Dumbarton Rock. We also might cite the achievements of Dave MacLeod who began his career here - arguably the world's best all-round climber.

4. Climbers are generally active conservationists and have the venue's long-term future at heart. If visual pollution by chalk is deemed a problem, we can change to eco-chalk, liquid chalk on hands, no loose chalk and police our own pollution. Climbers have also made significant efforts to counter their own erosion by using mats and gravelling out erosion channels.

5. Hundreds of climbers visit Dumbarton every year, FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD, as it is seen as a world-class crag - thus bringing significant revenue to the town through transport, shops, petrol etc.