Cullen Caves

Just before the crux throw on Flower Power, Font 6c+, Cullen

The forecast was for blizzards and I was sipping tea in Inverurie and wondering if I'd get a weather window to get back to some projects in Moray... thankfully a lull before the storm was forecast, with a worryingly warm 13 degrees tipping the scale out of the boulderer's comfort zone... still, it would be dry on the Moray coast I figured, before the icy squalls from the counter spinning vortices of a NE low pressure and a SW high pressure put paid to any comfort... I made my excuses, zipped up through Huntly and Keith and found myself in the dark quartzite ears of the Cullen caves.

There is remarkably good bouldering here, but it's steep and only for troglodytes who like to work their biceps... the first cave was still damp and needing to dry a little (it's a good summer venue when the quartzite dries out) so I headed round to Jenny's Well and St Stephen's cave... here a delightfully steep orange wall holds about half a dozen quality boulder problems from 6a through to 8a projects. The air was balmy and the quartzite was feeling a little damp... it was still holding moisture in its depths and warm fingers darkened the chalk with drawn-out moisture, and plenty of chalk and toothbrush diligence failed to prevent a few spectacular wipe-outs from sudden loss of friction - I was snapping out of full body-tensioned heel-hooks like a pinged playing card. It made me glad I'd brought three mats... they're also good for resting on and watching the eider ducks ride the waves like corks - this is a place where you can power out very quickly so it's important to know how to relax and chill out... this atmosphere is added to by the unusual graffiti of flowers and celtic symbols and all sorts of hippyness that pleases those susceptible to such leanings.

By the end of the afternoon I'd worked, 'settled' and added a few more problems & was pleased by the quality of the lines, having expected large chunks of quartzite to snap off, or at worst ruin the diligent artwork! The back of the cave is worryingly loose, creaking and green, but the front orange wall is fairly solid and has jump-off jugs before things get too high. There are plenty of quality problems left to do here at Cullen, but so far the highlights are the curiously decorated Rose traverse (a good Font 7b), which itself finishes up the 3 star straight-up arete of Flower Power (6c+)... also the frustrating 7a dyno of The Thorn... full details in the Stone Country Companion end of the year - if we can get a bit more traffic here there should be enough for the dedicated boulderer. Maybe someone stronger than me can crank out 'The Rose & the Thorn' together... very, very powerful and one of the quality lines in the north east. Get pressing those weights!

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