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Vertical Landscapes: Exploring Glasgow's Hidden Bouldering

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With the new guide to Glasgow Bouldering forthcoming, and with the last two years spent scouring our local landscapes for vertical diversion, many of us discovered a closer, more nuanced appreciation of climbing and how it helps maintain mental wellbeing as much as physical. The big mountains and wilderness landscapes were for the first time excluded from access and our pandemic taught us all to appreciate the landscapes on our doorstep. Even the urban world has its own small wildernesses and landscapes to immerse ourselves in for a while. For me, the daily walk in lockdown occasionally became a hunt for an esoteric piece of rock spied on the OS map or Google Earth. Rumours of boulders and mythologies of obscure rock were hunted down to help feed a hunger for the vertical. Even Dumbarton Rock was out of range, lying outside of the Glasgow City boundary. It's a venue which famously makes the blood run cold, with fiercely exposed overhanging routes, highball boulder problems and cl

New digital version of the Dumbarton Rock guide

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The digital version of the Dumby guide is now available on the Issuu site at a discounted price on the print version at £9.99. This makes the guide instantly available on your mobile or tablet, just download the Issuu app and purchase - the guide will appear in your library. To get your copy, head over to Issuu here >>>

The Metadata of Being Human

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Shamanistic zoomorphs, lithic graffiti, hallucinogenic tableaux, territory markings, knife-sharpeners … rock art – l'art rupestre – is so far beyond our traditional 'linguistic' history, it does not have an interpretative alphabet or a single line of confirmed meaning. There are many interpretations of the 'gravures' (carvings) and 'abris ornés' (decorated caves) in the hidden bivouacs throughout the forest of Fontainebleau. The sandstone marks easily under the nib of a hard flint from the deeper calcareous geology and this soft stone canvas has allowed our European ancestors to carve the stylised and modernistic strokes we might note as remarkable in a Picasso painting. Most of the carvings involve complex hash-marks and grids, overlaying each other, occasionally with mandala-like boxes. Sometimes there have been carved astonishingly beautiful anthropomorphs, (stylised human-like figures), or zoomorphs, (deities or humans manifesting in animal form) or argu

The Climber's Complete Guide to Dumbarton Rock

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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.  Brian Shields’ original notebook topo Brian Shields’ original notebook bloc topo 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 mecc

Beinn Dòrain

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           Viaduct and Beinn Dorain 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 m

Bourblaige and the Landscape of Outrage

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Glencoe by Horatio McCulloch 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

A Handful of Stones - extract

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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 tempo