Sunday, April 26, 2015

Cochno Stones: Archaeology and Bouldering

High above the residential northern shores of the Clyde is a strip of sandstone geology outcropping all the way to Craigmaddie Muir in the east. It lies hidden under a mossy understorey mostly, and varies in consistency and quality, but was once the attention of neolithic archaeologists, until they had to bury what is one of Scotland's greatest rock-art sites.The 'Cochno Stone' was uncovered by the Rev James Harvey in 1887 on open land near what is now the Faifley housing estate. It is covered with dozens of cup and ring marks, grooved spirals, along with a ringed cross and a pair of four-toed feet. It was briefly a chalked-in tourist attraction until it was buried to prevent vandalism in 1964.


Rock-art these days is a kinaesthetic thing, recorded as bouldering on photo-video networks, rather than pecked out on rock plinths. I've always like the connection between the vibrant, fluid circles and lines inscribed on the rock and the modern tracery of bouldering; there is a long connection of being in the same place, despite the different physicalities, changed rituals and contexts. Bouldering is a ritual of uncovering climbing movement, moving on in stations to the next problem, a kind of sporting religion. Every climber knows the call, the Sunday bells of unclimbed rocks...

The Cochno Stones, as I call them, are nearby crags and blocs at Auchnacraig car-park which have seen the light after a rhododendron cull. Under their mossy garb are various gritstone-like problems complete with embedded river pebbles from an ancient flood. Drying out nicely and desperate for traffic, they sit at the entrance to Auchnacraig House by the car-park for the Faifley walks. Take a brush and go make some modern rock-art!

 Smithless Wall 6a

 Cochno Prow 6b


Punjab Buffet 7a+




Saturday, April 25, 2015

Bouldering updates April 2015

Dan Varian visits Glen Nevis and confirms two hard lines by climbing them and filming them, no edits, no doubt... the first is 7c+ and the second the amazing arete of the Cameron Stone at 8a+.



Nice conditions at Reiff-in-the-Woods, Ian Taylor repeating The Rasper:



And Ian again on a nice looking line, Unknown Air, near Stac Pollaidh, which would have made a nice walk-off:




And a nice topo from Ian Rankin for the highball bouldering at Cairnrobin Point, which looks good, and incredible geology to boot:


Some new backwoods bouldering round Glasgow as things dry out in the good weather:



Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Spring bouldering Scotland 2015

Social media is good at one thing: telling us how good the weather is elsewhere. There's nothing like the itch aroused by hearing that pop-up alert sound and a cobalt blue sky behind a climber on Facebook/Vimeo/Flickr etc. But sometimes good weather does coincide with a day or two off and it all works out. Here are some examples of people timing some good conditions with a bit of fine bouldering weather in a Scottish springtime...


Dan Varian on his new direct on the States bloc at Garheugh - Big Mac 7c



Richie Betts on his 6c (???) at Reiff



As the forestry is gradually being cropped round Arrochar, dozens of new stones are appearing. Luckily, after decades in the pine-dark gloom, they are silvery and clean, and require little gardening. Topos for the new stones will appear in the new Bouldering in Scotland guide, hopefully with all the other new areas, though venues are being opened faster than I can map them!



The Creagh Dhu always said there was 'another Craigmore' at Carbeth, but I never found anything other than the scrappy outcrops further east. I've scoured the whole west flank of the West Highland Way, giving it up as a typical red herring, until I found this little red-striped wall east of the Queen's View car-park. It gives a superb and slopey vertical  test-piece we call Tiger Wall 7a from the sit and maybe 6c from the stand, if you get the conditions!




Dan Varian has been exploring Arrochar, and made short work, in a good spell of weather, of his project The Beast of Succoth, a new 8a at Glen Loin. The Arrochar Caves area has always attracted boulderers but there were never any obvious king lines, perhaps we were looking in the wrong place! The hillside above the parking, up towards A Chrois, hides some awesome blocs and good rock under all the old moss and lichen. 


Nearby at Ben Vane, Tom Charles-Edwards has been meandering higher and higher looking for the perfect boulder. He climbed the obvious south groove line on the Dinosaur Egg bloc (above), calling it The Dragon's Eye is Always Watching, at a reachy 7b (SS).



Girvan and Lendalfoot has benefitted from a fluke of nature as tidal gravel has filled in some awful rocky landings, so it's worth stopping off if you're on the Stranraer road, it's got a lot of potential but suffers a little from tidal damp, so choose a low tide with a drying westerly. Dave Redpath and Paul Savage and friends climbed here years ago and put up most of the obvious direct lines, so apologies if some of these are repetitive descriptions. The bouldering is powerful and technical, with precision footwork required on sea-washed toe-holds. John Watson repeated some of the old lines on the toffee-textured south wall of the big orange bloc near the Varyag memorial. The pick of the bunch is Paddy's Milestone, the left arete of the south bulge.The Scoop problem is also a classic line with a technical sequence.

 Paddy's Milestone, a 3 star 6th grade problem at Lendalfoot

Richie Betts on Worlds Collide at Torridon

I'll not talk too much of the north-west,as I've not been up to see all the recent explorations, but Gaz Marshall has put up a good post detailing some new explorative stuff >>> Inverness

Enjoy the spring weather...

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Bouldering rampage Scotland-style

I hate the term 'rampage', as though boulderers are locusts devouring some resource and moving on, it's an awful term and I'll talk about it in another post, but it's maybe an apt term to explain the pent-up energy released when weather and new blocs coincide in Scotland. Cabin-fever can lead to a frenzy of sudden activity after the long winter months, on boulders so good they crave movement and release themselves.

We've had a good spell of weather recently (now over!) and the usually dank blocs have dried out. I won't release any location details out of respect for the hard-working and civic-minded pioneers, but the Highlands in particular have always held project stones generally ignored by the global bouldering community, maybe they have good reason. If they want 8c's and 9a's, they are here for the taking, though we're hoping some home-grown talent finds a way to move Scotland onto new levels. After all, this is the home of Malc Smith and Dave MacLeod, amongst others, who have somehow found international levels of strength and grace on rock, despite the weather!

Here are a few tasters of Scottish bouldering stones currently in development, if you do stumble on stones with chalk and cleaning marks, please respect the projects, though it's unlikely you'll find these stones without a highly developed radar which only kicks in when you've lived in Scotland for a while ... or you have something to trade!

 Hige Girvan bloc awaiting a low tide...'USS Enterprise'

 New Traverse from Pierre Fuentes at Agassiz Rock 7b+

 Pierre's new traverse at Salisbury - 7a 

 This giant arete sits in someone's garden unfortunately...

 Loch Lomond giant awaiting someone strong...

 Giant roof with a possible 9a for someone who likes huge spans...Pierre Philosophale but harder

 Colin Lambton on the Aberfoyle project bloc, coming soon...

 Dan Varian near Strontian...on the project bloc

 Tom Charles-Edwards on his Arran project

 One of the giant blocs at 'Mini Magic Wood', details from Alex Gorham forthcoming


Glasgow sandstone bloc topo to be released soon...