'Hocus Pocus' at the Ben A'an Boulders Acutely aware of the fragility of our weather, I took the opportunity to give myself a little time off from books and films to disappear into the Trossachs at a remote and silent venue away from the crowds... the unlikely bouldering venue of Ben A'an. A fine enough venue for trad climbing and soloing the excellent tiers of schist (now a little polished!), it was a surprise to come across an excellent boulder in a sunny cluster under the lowest crags. The bracken was crisp and flattened, the air was cool and the sun warmed my back... the blue sky rang like a bell... you don't let these days escape if you can help it! I had done a few problems on the boulders here before, including a nice 6c through the Magic Tree boulder's roof, but this was really an escape from a line I was too weak to hold last visit. This time I felt a little stronger and attacked it quickly before the sun warmed the quartzy crimps and slopers too mu
Craigmaddie grit bouldering (Pic of Farmer's Trust Font 7a+ Peter Roy) Ben Litster is in unstoppable form at the minute and no projects are safe! We had shown him the new gritstone venue of Craigmaddie and he ignored pretty much everything and bee-lined for the unclimbed direct on the Sheep Pen roof. This was the direct challenge from the pocket of the classic 'Abracadabra' and he named it 'Alchemy' (Font 7c), continuing the ambient theme of magic. He took a few visits to work out the new counter-intuitive sequence through slopers and crimps to make a satisfying slap for the top, all captured in rasping sound detail by Pete Murray for 'Elelments'. We'll be showing this film at a launch in late March, along with other stunning first ascents in the Lost Valley, Glen Nevis and the North East... plus the new guide will cover all these new areas! At Brin, Jamie Murray and friends have been cleaning up new lines higher up the hill and the place just keeps
Saturn Crack 7c (FA Dave MacLeod Feb 2008,) I used to see Dave MacLeod all the time at Dumby, if I was out for an hour at this time of year, he'd be under some dark roof, beavering away at a new sequence on another new line. It was odd to be walking through the gorge at Glen Nevis last Friday, on my way to the remote Meanach bothy for a night with 5kg coal and some city-dissolving spirit when I spied Dave hunkering under a boulder in the gorge, tripod on the path to film another first ascent of a classic bouldering line! Claire was wrapped in duvet, busy being photographer and Dave had just climbed the oft-spied crack line on the large boulder blocking the top of the gorge by the Meadows. A superb-looking layback sequence on this smooth rock gains the blank scoop on the front face where the crack dies out, from here tenuous slopers and blind feet proved the crux above a landing of precariously-balanced pads. Dave thought it a superb Font 7c and one for the connoisseurs of Europea
Ben Litster on Diesel Canary SS Font 7b+ We had a perfect day in the Lost Valley filming for 'Elements', the new Bouldering in Scotland movie from Pete Murray, accompanied by a psyched and impressed Ben Litster. We thought he would appreciate the alpine feel of the place, with the snow runnels and cornices on the Bidian massif and the tranquil solitude of the Lost Valley itself. We were filming the 'Fire' element, which involved carrying a sack of wood up to the valley along with the cameras, which once lit with a box of firelighters warmed our numb toes in between problems and provided a gentle crackling accompaniment to the power yells! Ben managed the sit start to Diesel Canary at about Font 7b+, the last move of the stand-up proving to be the redpoint crux, infuriatingly it proved for Watson. Video of the classic 'Helipad' on the Leaning Bloc:
I'm just updating the main website www.stonecountry.co.uk with new material, including lots of topos that didn't make the new guide (eg. The Whangie is downloadable in Pdf A4 format on the Clyde page), as well as lots of recent new movie clips of classic problems. I'll continue to add more material to the site to complement and update the Stone Country Guide to Bouldering in Scotland , which is just about to be published and can be advance ordered from the Books page or the Paypal link on the sidebar - you benefit from Freepost if you order now! There'll also be a launch for the new guide in Glasgow at the end of March, along with a preview of the new Bouldering in Scotland movie by Pete Murray - 'Elements' - which will feature some of the best venues and hardest problems in the country, as well as some insightful exploration into the various 'elements' which all go into making bouldering adventurous, magical and meaningful in Scotland. The Whangie B
Dave MacLeod has climbed the project roof of the Aonach Eagach boulder above the Stob Coire car park. This lone boulder has an excellent steep roof, the right side of which gives 'Bittersweet' Font 7b+. To access the lone boulder, walk 5 mins above the car park for Stob Coire, diagonally uphill on the Aonach Eagach, but heading down the glen. Take a rising traverse arcoss a big scree fan until you come across this single hidden boulder. Dave has a video from his blog site www.davemacleodblogspot.com
Tim Rankin has shown a fresh burst of energy and strength early in the season to claim the North East's first major boulder problem of the year - Optimus Prime - with an ascent of the dramatic and highball prow at Cammachmore south of Portlethen. This oft-spied line was thought to have an impassable blank section, but Tim managed to find a solving sequence on brushed edges, arete clamps and poor slopers... he says it goes at about V9 but Tim is unsure of the grade as the climbing is so unusual and specific, just expect it to be well hard! Tom Kirkpatrick filmed the first ascent. Named after his son's skills with the daddy Transformer, which leave most adult visitors gobsmacked, same as the problems!