Cairngorm Potential...

There's a great Dylan Moran gag about 'potential' - leave it alone, don't mess with it, that's what it is - Potential! You start screwing with it, you're likely to ruin it all...

which is how I feel about my bouldering sometimes - lots of energy and plans and optimism - the reality is a little trickier. Take the Shelterstone, for example, a tremendous mountain crag, (The Needle, Steeple...) you go here for these classic routes and the beauty of howffing in the Loch Avon basin, but who considers the bouldering? Most people who have climbed here have bouldered on the litter of giants beneath the crag - Julian Lines has done a pile of problems, Gary Latter etc. - a lot of climbers have quietly bouldered here a little when visiting to climb the bigger routes. I'm sure Robin Smith even warmed up on a few aretes.

But in terms of pure bouldering? Very few bother, what with the walk-in - a three hour trek, especially with boulder mat - and you most definitely don't want to tear ligaments or worse in this corrie - it's a LONG crawl out and don't expect your mobile to help you out - it will be good for playing golf or pinball on till the batteries run out, that's all.

But there is potential, and lots of it. There's an excellent circuit of safe problems up to Brit 5c on the boulders on the grassy knoll below the main scree - I'll post a topo soon for this. There are also some choice Brit 6a and 6b problems on the steeper walls, again with reasonably safe grassy or boggy landings, but there are some well-hidden roofs and almighty prows to be climbed by, yes, you guessed it, those with potential!

If you are planning a bouldering trip here, there is no need for a tent. Take a warm sleeping bag stuffed in your mat, as there are loads of howffs - it's like a stony version of Hobbiton for God's sake! Take a stove and something good to eat, and a quarter of your favourite hooch to sip on the excellent beaches by the Loch. The midges are not west-coast style and there's usually a breeze. To get there? Take a map and compass in case... park at the the ski centre, walk along the excellent track into Coire an t' Sneachda, over the 'goat track' under the cliffs and straight across the grassy plateau and down the steep Coire Domhain past Hell's Lum crag- you'll see the boulders ahead on the perfect grassy knoll, below the giant boulder that is the eponymous 'Shelterstone', though there are plenty of contenders for this name! Find a nice spot to howff, then go bouldering... the circuit problems all have tell-tale pink wear on the crucial holds. Classics include the diagonal tip-toe crack on the 'Stream' boulder, the crack by the 'Pool' boulder and various flying aretes... I'll post some photos end of the summer.

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