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The Climber's Complete Guide to Dumbarton Rock

At last, the new comprehensive guide to Dumbarton Rock is here!
This guide is a product of years of endeavour and a testimony to a lot of time spent under some hard rock by generational communities of climbers.
It comes in at 160 pages. For one crag, that might seem excessive? But as John Hutchinson explains in his contextual introduction, the heritage of climbing at Dumby runs back six decades now (and it has a much longer social history). Brian Shields produced a handwritten guide in a Winfield notebook in the 1960s, complete with elegant topos and a list of the bouldering as well as the routes. 

Some of this material found its way into the SMC general guides to the Lowland Outcrops over various editions, but with the explosion of sport climbing, bouldering, and a resurgence in trad (due in no short measure to Dave MacLeod's ascent of the incredible E11 route of Rhapsody) the Rock has become a mecca for any climber wanting to understand what Scottish climbing is all about and a dee…
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Beinn Dòrain

Once you cross the bealach under Beinn Odhar north of Tyndrum, the shapely peak of Beinn Dòrain is a visual fanfare to the Highlands. The mountain and its environs are richly detailed in the poet Duncan Ban MacIntyre’s poem Moladh Beinn Dòbhrain (‘In Praise of Beinn Dòrain’).[i] Its symmetrical convexity, deeply gullied flanks like pencil sketch-marks, and stern domed summit, make this a moment to instinctively reach for the camera. It is a steep but invigorating mountain to walk, which is more leisurely explored from its eastern corries, though the traditional ascent from Bridge of Orchy, up to the toothed ‘Am Fiachlach’ ridge quickly brings fine views from the heart of the Central Highlands, encompassing Cruachan in the west to Lawers in the east and the Mamores to the north.
If you were set the task to name the features and character of this mountain, before a Gaelic toponymy, you may have come up with a similar vocabulary. Like the poem, the mountain is a multi-sensual experience: …

Bourblaige and the Landscape of Outrage

Landscape is a notoriously slippery thing to capture. It seems simple enough and is usually framed with the romantic grammar of dramatic vistas, through photography, painting and film. The modern thrill is delivered by drone's-eye view as you whir smoothly through mist and cloud over a Highland loch or corrie, when you might feel the similar emotional rapture of Edwin Landseer, Horatio McCulloch or the early photographers such as Robert Moyes Adam and Frank S. Smythe. This visual drama of the Highlands as natural wilderness and freedom from human influence is a view which has been painstakingly constructed over centuries, but it means little if you were to ask what is valued, and the landscape seems more fragile if you do. Emigrants to Canada would clutch sods of turf to their chest, taking a little bit of home to lay on their new burial grounds. Clearance victims would carry a particular stone or wooden beam from their ruined homes, and an oral history of abuse and outrage. Land…

A Handful of Stones - extract

Living Stones
For although we are accustomed to separate nature and human perception into two different realms, that are in fact indivisible. Before it can ever be a repose for the senses, landscape is a work of the mind. Its scenery is built up as much from strata of memory as from layers of rock.’ Simon Schama, Landscape & Memory
The American anthropologist A. Irving Hallowell spent most of his research time amongst the Ojibwe culture of Canada. This culture he discovered did not distinguish between the animate and the inanimate. In fact, any object or being could find itself attributed to a living being with answerable qualities. He found the Ojibwe exhibited a seamless ability to 'see' a stone or tree as alive or animated with some spirit of being in much the same way a person is, and the waking world to be as mutable as the dreaming world. Any phenomenon, whether it be a bird, a stone, a tree, or even the sound of thunder, could all act as temporary housings for animat…

Scotland's Iconic Mountains #Ben Lawers

Ben Lawers: a montane habitat
Ben Lawers is the parent peak of the Breadalbane mountain range, which stretches like a breaking wave in an east-west tumble between Loch Tay and Glen Lyon. Indeed, geologists often refer to the metamorphosed schistose mass as a vast 'recumbent fold' from the Caledonian Orogeny, a Highland mountain-building era of unimaginable slow-motion collision and uplift, between 490 and 390 million years ago. The rolling plateau landscape is now a long-eroded echo of this era when continents collided on an earth oblivious to conscious observation. Walking the rubbed-down ridges, it is easy to imagine you are walking the crumpled edge of a fold on the planet's discarded origami.

The summit peak of Ben Lawers is a southern highland giant and the 11th highest peak in Britain. It has many subsidiary peaks on its long snaking ridge, from the south to north-east: Beinn Ghlas (1,103 m); Ben Lawers (1,214 m or 3,983 feet); Creag an Fhithich (1,047 m); An Stuc (…

Scotland's Ancient Woodlands #Allt Broighleachan

The wood of Allt Broighleachan - a remnant Caledonian Forest Reserve  Tèarmann na Coile Cailleannaich – Allt Broighleachan

Glen Orchy is well known for its roaring falls and kayaking challenges, and in spate the dramatic Eas Urchaidh boils through a narrow gorge, which in quieter conditions reveals great swirl-holes full of pebbles. The bedrock schist geology of Glen Orchy here peeps through, the cliffs smoothed along layered lines which are the tortuous echoes of our Caledonian Orogeny, when ancient sandstones were metamorphosed into a glittering rock, uplifted and finally eroded to the twinkling mica sand we see today in the river’s gravel banks. Whilst the river is the audible and visible focus of the glen, the quiet hills on each side are steep and cloaked in a noise-cancelling patchwork of Sitka spruce – trees which are often characterised (unfairly?) as a vegetal form of vermin, their pernicious seedlings sprouting everywhere by the roads and tracks, creeping up the hills among…

Scottish Bouldering #Cairnhead Bouldering

Nice find from Stewart Cable, near the Andy Goldsworthy sculptures near Moniaive. Looks like a really pleasant bloc for a little solitude in spring, are there any more out there in the woods, Stewart?