Thursday, December 19, 2013

Dumby Bloc 300 out now

Dumbarton Rock, or Dumby as it is known to locals, is Scotland's prime urban bouldering venue. This is the first guide to document the complete bouldering at Dumby: the straight-ups, the traverses, the eliminates, the link-ups, the circuits and the test pieces, as well as the projects ... if you're visiting Dumby for the first time, or have become smitten with the place as a local venue, this is the guide for you!

Photo-topos, circuit maps, extended descriptions and historical notes provide the first complete tick-list for bouldering at Dumbarton - even getting to 100 complete problems will seem like an achievement, whilst ticking all 300 would be a world-class first. This notoriously fickle and difficult venue can safely be described as the spiritual home of Scottish bouldering.

We have stock available direct at £5.99 plus a little PandP from the bookshop page. Please note stock will be sent out up to Dec 23rd, thereafter only from January 6th, thanks.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Boulder - reviews and discount offer

“Finding a climber who perceives bouldering as a moving meditation, or one who values form and style far beyond difficulty, is a daunting task . . . bouldering needs its own analytical literature. In this book, Francis Sanzaro takes a significant step in that direction.”
John Gill, Godfather of bouldering & author

“… today, you rarely see much literature and reflection coming out of anyone. That just changed. Francis Sanzaro stopped what he was doing and took the time to reflect on bouldering and what it means to him and why he does it. The result is his impressive new book ‘The Boulder: A Philosophy for Bouldering’. In it, he presents some of the most thoughtful and interesting writing I’ve ever read about this sport. ‘The Boulder’ is a dynamic new addition to the body of climbing literature and philosophy.”
Andrew Bisharat, Editor, Rock & Ice Magazine

“The language we use to describe climbing is pretty rudimentary, relying on lots of waving of the arms. If climbing is to become a serious competitive sport – and it seems to be heading that way – then there will be major advances in this area . . . this book will confirm what we know already: that there is a lot more to bouldering than meets the eye.”
Dave Flanagan, author of ‘Bouldering Essentials: The Complete Guide to Bouldering’

“A brilliant book that everyone interested in moving over stone should read! At first it sounds like a difficult read, with concepts detached from actually "doing it," but Francis Sanzaro manages to describe complex ideas without ever losing touch to the challenge and joy of bouldering - highly recommended!”
Udo Neumann, author of ‘Performance Rock Climbing’

“’The Boulder’ explores the philosophy of bouldering, what it can mean for boulderers and how we can use this examination to improve both our bouldering and what we take from it. For many readers, discovering bouldering will no doubt have changed your life, but surely starting out in a new found activity isn’t the end of the story? There are many life changes to be found as you learn more and more about what bouldering is doing for you. I would expect most readers to be helped along this path.”
Dave MacLeod, author of ‘9 out of 10 Climbers Make the Same Mistakes

Monday, November 18, 2013

Dumby Litter Pick - this Saturday!

Go cleaning and climbing ... just to let you know there will be a Dumby clean-up this Saturday 23rd November 10am to 2pm (at the latest) - plenty of bods will make light work round the boulders and environs.

Linda Adam from West Dunbartonshire Council has organised a skip and all the cleaning gear like last time, including gloves, sharp-boxes, bin bags and those grabby things, so you just need to come dressed for a cold dry day, by the looks of the forecast. TCA will be organising events round this, to be announced.The council will strim the area of vegetation so we can make a decent fist of clearing the whole area again.

Some anti-erosion work may be going on so bring a bucket and spade if you like. There's plenty of gravel on the beach to place around some muddy holes which are forming under popular take-off aprons.

And it looks like perfect bouldering weather, so bring your kit as well! 

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Torridon Bouldering Guide

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Achray Blocs

Managed a short session in between the rain storms and autumn winds at the sheltered Achray blocs, just by Loch Achray and featuring a lung-bursting walk-in of 20 seconds! It's a limited venue to say the least but the quality of the problems makes it an enjoyable quick fix for the time-compromised, and it's a fine spot amongst the autumn colours of the Trossachs.

A topo can be found here >>>

Monday, October 14, 2013

Bouldering Essentials review

I am glad every time I see a new independent publisher - Three Rock Books (AKA Dave Flanagan from Dublin) - as it's a tough, odourless, online world for those who still like the smell of freshly printed gloss paper. Especially publishers who design and produce such quality books on bouldering as this, bringing another life-giving breath of literature to the genre.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Thirlstane Bouldering

The Thirlstane is an oft-forgotten caved crag on the Solway coast. In dry conditions, and with the tide right, the steep cave walls dry out and provide some steep and technical bouldering, a favourite for locals. Here is Stewart Cable's selection of some of the problems . . .

Monday, September 16, 2013

Recent bouldering videos Scotland

Some recent videos to get psyched for the autumn season:

Friday, September 06, 2013

Dumby in September

A fine spell in September for bouldering on the Dumby classics >>>

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Beinn Enaiglair Bloc

A man with a mission to climb the whole of the North West - Ian Taylor -  is also not afraid to carry a heavy mat 1 hour uphill for some highball aesthetics! Here is a video of him on a new and very scary-looking classic at the Beinn Enaiglair bloc:


Sunday, August 18, 2013

More summer bouldering in Scotland

Perhaps the worst time of the year to boulder in Scotland, July and August: midges still kicking about with the horseflies, the bracken at Jurassic height, the air humid and muggy, the rain biblical when it hits, impassable rivers in spate, the sun baking and lethargy-inducing. If you're not in the higher hills, it's a good time to head to the cooler coastal venues . . .

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Arran Bouldering - The Mushroom

Ben Brotherton has put on his civic-minded beanie and visited Arran with spade and brushes to help uncover the giant Mushroom boulder.

This impressive stone always suffered from a lack of decent top-outs, with many lines ending in jump-offs below sandy earth, turf, moss, other generic greenery and old tree stumps. Ben has now cleaned up many top-outs and the boulder is blessed with the precious summit experience. Here's a new 'complete' line from Ben showing the highball fun on the biggest holds you could wish for!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


The most debebilitating illness for any climber aside from the obvious broken bones, death and torn tendons, is viral labyrinthitis, an inner ear vertigo which is like stepping off a kids' roundabout and the feeling sticks. For weeks. A recuperative bout of doing nothing on a non-climbing island seemed appropriate until I grew so frustrated with inactivity I wobbled out of bed and set about the island like a lunchtime drunk looking for a pub. Gigha is a pretty island of meadows and rippled beaches, but it has little rock above chin height, and if it were a PC it would be a 250mb laptop from the 90s, in climbing bittage. However, it is not quite devoid of bouldering algorithms: the craggy trig point Marilyn of Craig Bhan has some white amphibolite slabs and the easy track up to the modest summit leads to some intricate and technical slabs and cracked grooves. An hour of rehabilitating wobbles on these slabs with friends spotting with big mats is the perfect antidote for stepping off the dizzy roundabout of illness. Thanks to Ann and Nigel for the support and tolerating a grumpy and hopeless layabout. Now, where's that cold beer...

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Dumbarton Rock Update

Dumbarton FC have made an access statement about parking at Dumby:
"We are still experiencing continual gypsy/traveller encampments and as such bollards will be installed within the next few days. The bollards will be up whenever the stadium is closed which will include weekends and the hours of 4pm-9am weekdays when the stadium is open." Gilbert Lawrie, Dumbarton FC.
Also, a new link-up on the Home Rule boulder: Art Attack 7b

Cobra sending Art Attack at Dumby 7b? from Chris Houston on Vimeo.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Craigmaddie Summer

Craigmaddie, the 'Northumberland in Glasgow' venue, really comes into its own in summer. Its rough sandstone is grippy and dries out nicely, leaving some of the damper winter roofs open for new lip traverses and deep cave starts. Colin Lambton, 'king of the lip traverse' and John Watson, unlocked the 'Stellar Adventure' lip traverse of the Sheep Pen left roof, which has brushed up well to give a classic outing...

Monday, June 24, 2013

Arisaig caves

Dave MacLeod's uber-beast training venue barely has anything below 7c worth raving about, but there are a few easier problems, which will be added to the forthcoming stone Country edition...

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Lennoxtown Roof

Top effort from Alex Gorham against the dank, the green, the midge and the hell of Scottish bouldering! The building should give you a clue if you are a Celtic fan...

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Rum Bouldering Guide

Rum is a magical island and one of Scotland's finest bouldering venues, with some simply awe-inspiring stones. Hamish Fraser and friends have developed most of the bouldering >>> A PDF guide can be downloaded here >>>

Friday, May 24, 2013

Scottish Bouldering Update Spring 2013

A long, cold winter extended the bouldering season into a chilly spring lasting well into May. If there is still ski-ing into May, it means then there is still good bouldering to be had.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Glen Croe - Spring 2013

Glen Croe has seen and will see some big new lines this year. Some big stones on the flanks of the Arrochar Alps should best be attacked in May before the dreaded beasts that can't be named...

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Dumbarton Bouldering Video from Chris Houston

Latest update on Dumbarton and the clean-up in a fine piece of film by Chris Houston, capturing some of the problems as well  - post-graffiti...

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Rum Bouldering

Anyone interested in big stones and bouldering really needs to check out Rum - perhaps Scotland's best-kept bouldering secret... but not for long thanks to Hamish Fraser, who writes:

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Boulder book - interview with author Francis Sanzaro

Here's the interview with 'The Boulder' author Francis Sanzaro - a fascinating insight into how to use thinking as a 'mental coaching' approach to  better bouldering. The book is available for purchase on the Bookshop Page >>>

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Dumby Clean-Up 2013

Well, it's all done folks, so no need to turn up on the Sunday. The weather was clement, the Council had strimmed back the brambles and we got amongst it, lifting litter, clearing fire pits, dumping old fences and carpets, rolling rocks, re-drifting driftwood, discovering odd items (satellite dishes, grit bins, lifebelts, the usual Inverclyde 'sharps' floating on the currents from across the water etc.)...

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

'The Boulder - A Philosophy for Bouldering' by Francis Sanzaro

Just published and now available! The new publication from Stone Country - 'The Boulder: A Philosophy for Bouldering' by US climber and philosopher Francis Sanzaro - is a paperback edition of 192 pages, with photographs, and features a foreword by none other than John Gill, perhaps the original guru of proper bouldering... 

Dumby Clean-Up Weekend

Saturday 20th April and Sunday 21st April. 10am - 4pm. 

Please come and show your support for Dumby by lending a hand getting the place cleaned up along with the local people of Dumbarton. The idea is to pick up litter and get the place looking a little tidier and maybe do some anti-erosion work below the problems, as well as some other work in tandem with West Dunbartonshire Council. There will be a BBQ set up to make a focal point which will be selling food and drink for after and some climbing may even happen! It shouldn't interrupt your climbing plans other than making you feel guilty for not cleaning and going climbing instead, but that's fine, you can join in for a bit if you're there.

Things will kick off from 10am on Saturday 20th April and Sunday 22nd at the waterfront area beneath the Eagle Boulder where the BBQ will be set up. Some bin bags, gloves etc will be provided but if you could bring your own that would be great. Exact details of what will happen each day will be announced here: TCA Facebook Event and you can sign up to attend there as well.

Let's get Dumby looking how it should!

A previous clean-up at Dumby...

Friday, March 22, 2013

Fontainebleau High Pressure

Ever since we did the Essential Fontainebleau guide, I have been overcome with a sense of dread that doing guides for this forest is putting far too much pressure on it, a bit like the woodcutters of the 19th century who paradoxically opened the unusually featured rocks to the the light and the painters of the Barbizon school...

Monday, March 11, 2013

Dumby cleaning first look

Well it all looks spanking new and freshly minted rock as it first was... and the lads are doing a good job to be careful with holds and 'historical' graffiti after advice from climbers. As for the climbing I think there may be a short window while it feels grittier, but no doubt shoe resin and chalk and weather, and budding Banksies, will see it back to good ol' Dumby glass.

Remember no climbing this week until after 5pm to let the guys finish their work.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Dumbarton Rock Closed for Cleaning 11-15th March

Just to let everyone know that Historic Scotland, who own the boulders and crag at Dumbarton Rock, have agreed to clean the boulders of graffiti, overseen by climbers so no holds are damaged. After excellent concern for our sporting heritage and good consultancy (thanks to Ian Lambie of Historic Scotland and Andrea Partridge at the MCOS!), I'll be attending the first day of cleaning on Monday 11th March.

I would like to ask climbers and boulderers to avoid climbing here in this period while the cleaning goes on, as for safety reasons parts of the crag and boulders will have to be cordoned off. I would ask all to respect the arrangements we've made on behalf of climbers, as much good work has gone on in the background to arrange the best form of cleaning and restoration. Unfortunately much of the 'historic' graffiti has vanished behind modern graffiti, so it's impossible to restore the lower 'layers' - it will all just have to come off.

This is a good opportunity (along with continuing local council development), to maintain good relations with Historic Scotland and improve Dumbarton as a visiting venue (or 'climbing park'). It is worth looking after our prime climbing heritage site in the Central Belt...

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Craigmore Rubik's Cubes

Mark Dobson on Jamie's Overhang Left 6b -  a forgotten belter
The boulders at Craigmore are tiny, the crag routes only a few metres. It is a place for locals only, for top-roping, not meant to be seen as anything other than diversionary. Travelling rock-rats shrug and do a couple of the over-starred routes on top-route, maybe pull a few of the more obvious problems and leave, thinking it a heap of dank green esoterica best left to, yes, you guessed it - the locals.

That's all fine with me and I'm not going to praise it to the skies and rate it as Scotland's last hidden secret - it's not. It's a north-facing crag. That usually keeps the crowds away. Everything bad about it is obvious on arrival, mostly: it's boggy, muddy, vegetated, slimy, midgy, repetitive, confusing, dark, chilly, always condition-dependent. Most happily affirm it is deservedly forgotten and overshadowed by its big neighbour at Dumbarton. But I love forgotten places and I go there to get away from it all, or climb with a few friends who have put the same time in here.

Colin Lambton on The Art of War direct 6c

It's not always the big, shiny things that are valuable. I've sat under the last pine tree at Jamie's Overhang for hundreds of hours over the years: waiting for the rock to dry; or just catching the last rays as the sun dips west in the afternoon; or blankly staring at the wind in the leaves; or looking at the pinkness of my tips, peeling off little chalky flaps of skin. I know the dimpled nature of every hand-hold, the failure-pressures of tiny foot slopers, the windows of core-tension and when they're needed; the secret tricks of linking no more than four metres of rock. It's as intricate as a Rubik-cube and I twist it round and round, mixing up its endless sequence of colours. Clouds scud past in stop-motion. I'm not in the slightest hurry to solve it, nor  am I aware of any solution other than just doing this. What would you be trying to solve?

I've done every conceivable eliminate on this little leaning bloc, on its 12 holds, mixing and matching to my own satisfaction and moving in circles, always absorbed, never fretting about concretions such as 'lines' or 'summits', the 'sends' are irrelevant as I've repeated them so many times. It is a repetition of simple knowing. 

Craigmore in a dry, crisp spell, under the pines, is as meaningful to me as the alpinist's glimpse of an iced-up north face, or the trad-junkie's gaze on a 100m rock wall. This just happens to be a pine-needle-covered lump of leaning basalt a few miles north of where I live, in a quiet corner of a crag under a pine tree. It has a wide but modest vista of the Southern Highlands. I couldn't give a fig if people thought it an insignificant piece of mossy rock. In fact, I'd much rather they thought that.

Jamie's Overhang, the rockover move...

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Iron and Stone - The Ross of Mull

A week on the Ross of Mull. A high pressure settling over Scotland in February. Sunshine and pink granite... iron and stone. The week is a lesson in learning how not to shred yourself on large quartz and feldspar crystals, learning what can and cannot be climbed; the subtle differences between a blank wall and a smearable slab...

 Danny's Wall Fionnphort

If you turn left off the ferry at Craignure on Mull, you’re heading west along a gradually ageing sequence of geologies, through the tertiary gabbro lavas of Glen More to the earlier basal lavas at Pennyghael and the older still Caledonian schists of Bunessan and beyond. Then it all goes pink-panther and you hit a very old and colourful granite around 413 million years old, lavishly outcropping around the ferry port of Fionnphort, like so many bald monk-heads poking out of the machair and turf, occasionally sunburnt to a deeper red. Then it gets all historical on the ferry to Iona and its ancient Lewisian bedrock mocking the zealotry of monkish learning such as bouldering.

The granite sequence here provides endless cragging and bouldering, too much frankly to document and it creates havoc with plans, topos and access descriptions ... you're scattered everywhere with the wind and it matters not where you wander, there's always something to climb.

The Scoop, Kintra South

The rock varies from a crumbly, scrittly granite as poor as Weetabix to an incorruptible red/pink Quarriers' quality the like of which graces the Jamaica Bridge in Glasgow, or the Holborn Viaduct in London. All forms, fine-cut or coarse-cut, are shredders of hands and shoe-rubber. Slab technique is critical, as is a thick padding to the skin. The technical nature of the blank and slabby problems is complemented by the butch and generous nature of the steeper cracklines on roofs and overhangs. 

Colomba Crack *****

The Ross, the granite section at least, stretching from Bunessan to Fionnphort, north and south of the A849, is approximately 72 square kilometres of heather scrub, bogs and granite tors, of half-remembered topos, pub-phone updates, locals' narratives. I asked a local fisherman about the split rock so obvious on the beach at Fionnphort, which is known to tourists as 'Fingal's Rock'. The locals call it rather more curiously 'The Swordstone', and it does appear cleaved clean in two by a sword - the story goes that around 1870, the quarry had a lifesaving contract cancelled on a dubious quality control claim. This led to protests, the novel result of which was packing a crack in the rock with gunpowder and splitting the block in two, a symbol of the historical division between local loyalties and higher, vested powers in Scotland. A glacier may also have been involved in a much earlier event.

Nothing feels specific, and the vast landscape tells you why. Indented with glittering sandy bays and peppermint seas, such as Erraid’s idyllic Balfour Bay, the place is a perfect summer/winter playground for all ages of boulderer, and a vast hunting ground for the hardcore superstar. But you will lose a lot of skin discovering the good amongst the bad, unless you've as generous a guide as local climbing pioneer Colin Moody, who showed me around the classic areas and saved a lot of legwork based on rumour and dead reckoning. 

If climbing tiny nubbins on endless slabs is not your bag, you'll want to head to the steeper roofs and cracklines . . .  tape up, and smile!

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Scottish Bouldering Update

As we move forward gathering the simply frightening amount of good bouldering in Scotland for the Atlas of Scottish Bouldering, it's worth looking through a few recent videos from those avid stone hunters on this Stone Country Vimeo group. Please feel free to follow and add anything...

I thought some recent highlights would be the new Arrochar blocs (expect BIG LINES in 2013), such as the Flying Pancake, courtesy of Tom Charles-Edwards' vision, which to me looks like a doable version of Font's Carnage, almost verbatim...

Also, Fiend's continuing tour of Scotland's best problems (and whiskies), such as Laggan 2, which Gaz Marshall has discovered, shows an awesome looking line in Gale Force:

Sunday, January 27, 2013

'Oceans' 5 star classic 'rediscovered' at Dumby

Dave MacLeod's 'Oceans' - the attractive orange scoop on the southwest face of the Eagle Boulder, has always repelled strong climbers, and appeared as a total mystery to most. Given 7b+, it seemed within reach of the indoor-trained beast, but this is Dumby and requires a more tenacious and arcane approach! It was good to see it reclimbed and classed as one of the best at Dumby by Niall McNair and Fraser McIlwraith, before the rain returned on Saturday 26th January 2013. They rated it a 'hard 7c' and one of the most unusual and classy of problems at Dumby. The first move twisting up to a poor undercut, then stepping feet through on poor slopers to a vicious cross-through to a crimp only leads you to a further, heart-fluttering power sequence to the lip... many mats and much spotting help secure this, which makes a lone ascent even more impressive. Now on the list of favourites to do, this approaches the magical formula in bouldering: poor footholds, masonic handholds, unusual moves, technique, torque, power and commitment all melded into one.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The fishing season begins...

I always think bouldering is a little like fly-fishing. I was at Dumby on a still January day as the River Leven flooded at high tide. A large seal wallowed in the slack water looking for salmon, sandwich terns screeching and plunging about his head. I was stood under a cave in bitingly-cold conditions,with an extended rod with a brush on the end attending to a chalk-caked hold.

Each attempt at the moves is like the cast of a fly line: it's got to be timed perfectly, with all strength in balance, waiting the optimum time between casts, and hopefully the line lands without a splash and the sequence goes smoothly. If not, it is all chaos and disruption and a large wake in the smooth waters of gravity, scaring off the big salmon of the send... I'm stretching the metaphor a little, but it's the same process of cast and cast again, trusting to the belief that everything will come together eventually in one perfect sequence. And like fishing, I could stand there for hours, absorbed in an obsession of tiny perfections. No better way to spend an afternoon and even if I didn't land a fish, I know the tide will come in again...

Saturday, January 05, 2013

The Arran 24 peaks

Reading through old books and perusing maps on dark winter nights leads to ambitious fantasies not unknown at this time of year. This little topo of the Arran hills got me thinking...would it be possible to summit every granite peak in 24 hours?

Climbing every distinct granite peak would include:

1. Beinn Nuis 792m
2. Beinn Tharsuinn 826m
3. Beinn a Chliabhainn 653m
4. A Chir 745m
5. Cir Mhor 799m
6. North Goatfell 818m
7. Goatfell 874m
8. Mullach Buidhe 829m
9. Am Binnein 665m
10. Ciche na h' Oighe 661m
11. Suidhe Fearghas 631m?
12. Ceum na Caillich 758m
13. Caisteal Abhail 859m
14. Beinn Bhreac East 575m
15. Beinn Tarsuinn North Peak 556m
16. Beinn Bhiorach486m
17. Meall Mor 496m
18. Meall nan Damh 570m
19. Meall Bhig 438m
20. Meall Donn 653m
21. Beinn Bhreac West 711m
22. Mullach Buidhe 721m
23. Beinn Bharainn 717m
24. Sail Chalmadale 480m

Arran Blocs

Arran Blocs by Stone Country Press
Arran Blocs, a photo by Stone Country Press on Flickr.

If you enjoy insecure pebble pulling and can't walk further than 20m from the road...

Arran North Glen Sannox

Fallen Rocks

Fallen Rocks by Stone Country Press
Fallen Rocks, a photo by Stone Country Press on Flickr.

3rd January and finally a still day with no wind and rain. These blocs provide conglomerate pebble pulling in an idyllic location with some big project blocs higher up the hill...

Maol Donn

Maol Donn by Stone Country Press
Maol Donn, a photo by Stone Country Press on Flickr.
Maol Donn is the indistinct brown lump above the Corrie shoreline and, despite a painful approach through rough ground and forestry, provides remunerative bouldering on numerous tan sandstone blocs...topo forthcoming...