Skip to main content

Cairngorms & Strathnairn

Before the milder weather arrived, we ran the Friday night bothy run from Glasgow to Newtonmore, then up early amongst the pines of the Sugarbowl into the Chalamain Gap and the Lairig Ghru. Lurcher's Crag provided an icy gully, sunny belays and views across to Braeriach's plateau S-carved with skiers. We meandered down snow-wisped slopes of Creag an Leth-choin, back to Aviemore for the night.

Strathnairn was next day's choice for some sunny bouldering, of course the Ruthven Boulder was the target after a visit to see the Farr boulder. A walker on his way up Stac Gorm called the uniquely rough gneiss 'Strathnairn granite' and noted to us that it necessitated wearing gloves if you were building a wall, as it tore the skin from your tips. We noted that too after an hour or so, as well as a general wilting of power on the butch bouldering on this world-class stone.

Here's a short guide to the stone:

The Ruthven Boulder

Ambience: steroid bloc
Rock: gneiss

Season: year round

Gear: mats, chalk, skin cream, true grit

Grades: 5 to 7c

GR: NH 636277


· Come off the A9 at Daviot, 5 miles south of Inverness, west onto the B851 signed to Fort Augustus

· Continue through Inverarnie (shop) and another 8km past Brin rock on the right to a right turn signed to Loch Ruthven RSPB

· Another 2km to parking at Loch Ruthven

· The boulder is obvious below Stac Gorm, south of the loch, a 5 minute walk uphill

Bloc Notes

‘Clach na Boineid’ in Gaelic, it translates as the ‘Bunnet Stane’, but to boulderers is commonly called the Ruthven Boulder. This is the Hulk of Scottish boulders, a steroid-pumped glacial erratic packed with bulging gneiss veins. The bouldering is amongst the best in Scotland, and the moves are technical despite the powerful approach required.

Top Problems (described anti-clockwise from back descent)

The Descent of Man 2

A layback gains the shelf and easier moves to the top. Also the descent…

The Cheeky Girls 6a

The wall right of the descent. Gain slopers and travel right to rock left.

Austin Powers 4+

The excellent juggy groove a few metres right of the descent.

The Razor’s Edge 7a

SS jugs under arête to crimps, then sharp edges and crimp up and left to flake.

The Slippery Slope 6c

SS edges to lip sloper, twist up left to jug, then mantle right to high crack.

Sloping Off 6c+

SS as for above, but from sloper go right to holds and finish right over bulge.

Q.E.D. 7c

SS under roof and gain slopey lip, finishing right.

Barry Manilow 7a+

SS under the big nose and climb it direct via one jug under nose. Start on small incut hold under roof travel right to a good hold under the nose (but no jugs!), break left through the prominent slopey nose and beg your way up to a high quartz hold. A classic struggle.

Builder’s Butt 4+

Start on the jugs right of the nose and pull into the groove. SS 6a from left.

Ebony Face Beyond Communication 7c (8b sport)

SS Builder's Butt jug traverse along the front face to Big Lebowski around the corner to Rock n Roll.

Nefertiti 6b

2 small edges middle of left wall to good hold, RH incut then a long Egyptian up and left to a good edge, up to a layaway.

Pinch Punch 6c

SS small edge to shallow scoop, lunge for hold left, a RH pinch to a LH edge then up to layaway and trend left.

The Groove 5+

Start on small holds at the bottom of the groove, some nice moves lead to beter holds all the way up the groove.

Outstanding 6a+

SS roof off wee stone through jugs to hidden quartz hold, lunge to high jugs.

The Dude 7a

SS as above but a long move out right leads to hard sequence into hanging mossy groove. Direct top is 7b.

The Big Lebowski 7a

SS left roof traverse right to end of slopey ledge then wall via sidepull and crimpy finish.

White Russian 7a+

SS direct up through sloping shelf via pinch above.

Shreddies 6c

Stand start to undercut arête. Finish direct.

The Big Tease 6b

Stand start right of arête to quartz blobs up and right, finish direct.

Neil Armstrong 5

Start at a shallow horizontal crack and climb the wall on quartz holds.

Crystal Maze 6c

SS flat hold left to quartz jug, rock left.

Sylvester 6a+

SS flat hold left to quartz jug, back right over lip to crack and slab.

Tweeky Pie 6c

SS flat hold, cunning cross right to sloper and mantle lip to crack.

Rock ‘n Roll Baby 5

SS jugs under roofed arête right to crack and rock onto slab.

Cheese Grater 6b

SS jugs and climb right of the arête.

Lovely Jugs 3

Line of jugs between Cheese Grater and the descent.

Bitch Slap 6c

Baby Bonnet. SS on a small shelf on the front right. Follow the holds left along the fault to a jug, take a slappy sequence left to finish up the blunt arête.

Turn The Other Cheek 6b+

Baby Bonnet. Starts the same as above to the good hold then head right to rounded holds, struggle onto the slab.

Warm-Up Traverse 6a

Baby Bonnet. On uphill wall of Baby Bonnet boulder. Start at L end on obvious dish. Traverse slopers rightwards to incuts around corner then mantle.

Test Tube 6b

Embryo Stone. 100m uphill. SS on the downhill side of the boulder climb direct.

Brave New World 6a

Embryo Stone. 100m uphill. SS downhill side of the boulder climb out leftwards.


Mark Warwicker said…
Thanks John, especially also for the two super B & W pictures.

Popular posts from this blog

Plato's Cave

In his famous 'allegory of the cave', the Greek philosopher Plato pondered the artificiality of reality in imagining how we could be fooled into thinking shadows on the wall (i.e. virtual reality) could be seen as 'real' life. I'm paraphrasing, of course. What has this got to do with climbing? Well, I was pondering this myself recently while sitting on an artificial concrete boulder at the new Cuningar Loop bouldering park in Glasgow. Does it really matter that a boulder is made of concrete, surrounded by plantation and skirted with kind gravel traps rather than tree roots and spikey boulders? Isn't the 'real' thing so much better: the isolated erratic bloc deposited by geology's long-term aesthetic artwork? Well, yes, that's entirely up to you, but sometimes the artificial saves the day ... I was scuppered by Glasgow's cross-town traffic and turned back to my local artifice that is Cuningar to climb the blue circuit I had imagined as

Timeline Walks of Scotland #Culbin Sands

The Moray Firth’s sand-bitten southern coast, between Findhorn and Nairn, is home to Scotland’s most cautionary tract of land. Now a wilderness of maritime forest, dunes, salt marsh and spits of sand, its human history has been dated to the Bronze Age, around 1300 BC, but it is a territory that since glacial times would have been mobile and mutable. The Laich of Moray is the fertile strip of plain squeezed between the foothills of the Cairngorms and the Moray Firth’s south coast. In Gaelic it is called Machair Mhoireibh (the machair of Moray), a perfect habitat for golf courses and rich arable farmland, threaded by the glacially-rivered straths of Nairn, Findhorn and Spey. Culbin is an old parish which is now buried under 28 square kilometres of duneland and recent forestry. Sweeping east of Narin and curving in to rise up to its greatest heights above the estuary of the River Findhorn, it is now managed by Forestry Commission Scotland, but it is notable that this is a humanl

Scottish Bouldering #New Glasgow climbing wall: The Prop Store

The Glasgow branch of The Climbing Academy (TCA) is just about to open its new bouldering and lead-climbing centre on Glasgow's north side. Its south-side twin ('The News Room')  is already a popular bouldering centre, but the new site will bring fresh inspiration to climbers on the north side of the Clyde. Situated in Maryhill, not far from the West End, this new centre is named after an old BBC prop warehouse, so it's been named ' The Prop Store '.  The centre feels roomy and spacious with a long profile. The holds and panels are super-grippy and there are some free-standing boulders to mantle out as well as an impressive offering of angles, roofs, slabs and subtly sweeping walls.  There is also a section of lead wall with auto-belays for top-roping practice, and a training centre upstairs. They should be open this December, but here are some preview shots.