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!