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...

Sunday, February 08, 2015

February bouldering

With the high pressure settling over most of Scotland and providing windless weather and cold temperatures, the bouldering conditions are pretty good at the start of February. Some new projects are being worked on across the country.

On the Moray Coast, a new sandstone roof venue akin to Cummingston looks excellent, if this little video is to go by, thanks to Hamish Fraser, Dave Wheeler and friends.

New Bouldering Project, Moray Coast from Hamish Fraser on Vimeo.

In Glasgow, Serious Climbing is putting the finishing design touches to the Commonwealth Games legacy project that is the Cuningar Loop Boulder Park. This park is due to open in the spring sometime, and first glimpses look jaw-dropping. The site features what appears to be about a dozen moulded blocs on a forested plot of land in a loop of the Clyde river, near Dalmarnock.

Alex Gorham has blogged a picture of a nicely-cleaned sandstone bloc near Milngavie, hopefully we'll have some hard projects to work soon when he reveals where. The sandstone escarpment that runs under the Campsies from Faifley to Lennoxtown has a number of undeveloped spots, dank roofs and lost blocs, often requiring significant cleaning, but this looks like another belter to rival the Lennoxtown roof.

Kintyre has seen some exploration round Carradale, where a tortured schist geology provides unusually juggy steep climbing and some giant highballs.

In Arrochar, a number of large blocs have been discovered recently, with Dan Varian about to reveal an awesome hidden bloc sure to be a new classic in the area. John Watson has been developing some new areas in remoter parts, just waiting for the elusive combination of conditions and form ...

In Coigach, it seems slabs are the fashion of the day, perhaps because they are so often ignored due to the profligate ubiquity of roofs and steepness on the sandstone. 'Flexor Strain' is the 'hardest slab in Coigach':

Nigel Holmes looking for holds on the Coigach slabs...

Friday, January 09, 2015

New Year enfolded in Kintyre

The years fold into one another, and layers appear...

We ran away to Kintyre over New Year, to the sheltered nook that is Carradale, on the east coast of Kintyre, facing the west coast of Arran, to ride out the storms and see in the New Year, a convenient 10-yard meander from the Cruban Bar (and an old-fashioned pool table I came to know well). In the short 6 hour window of light (and the 3rd of January was spectacular in its stillness between the fronts), the plan was to find some bouldering on the east coast -  I'd never found much aside from the shark-fins at Skipness which were not that satisfying. Finding the perfect line in a remote corner of Scotland is always invigorating and you just know the fractal coast will reveal something amazing just round the next bay if you keep going.

So I took off round the headland south of Carradale, which on Google Earth looks like a giant pointed-finger cursor pointing south to the open sea. Most of the headland is a rhododendron-jungle populated by wild goats, but it is fringed with a unique schist geology - heavily banded, juggy lateral rock, folded and crimped into bizarre scalloped features, giant blocs and endless caves. It doesn't make for hard bouldering, it's too generously featured, which was good as my shoulder was wrecked, but rather provides remarkably steep roofs and prows climbed on juggy ripples of mostly-solid rock, but snappy enough in places to provide the thrill of insecurity. The best I found was just opposite the headland fort on the path down to the shore - a rising traverse up a prow not far off the tracking bank of grass, and not much more than 6a. An excellent place to explore if you like steep hauling and monkeying around footless.

The whole point of exploration I think, certainly on your own, is getting enfolded in the landscape, losing the mind for a while and coming 'back to consciousness' in a different moment. There's a lot of words written about this by many philosophers, not least Heraclitus and his idea of not stepping in the same river twice, so I'll not labour a good point badly, suffice to say Carradale is a good place to dissolve yourself for a while . . .