Cairngorm Cragging – Glen Clova & Pass of Ballater

After our SW fix, and with trips beyond these borders looking problematic for some time to come, a visit to Scotland was the obvious next itinerary for Rockaroundtheworld. Roll in the fact that June is potentially one of the best times for such a quest (optimum weather – midge balance?) and inspiration from the Facebook accounts of numerous mates (they must have been tripping over each other – everyone and their dogs seemed to be there!) and we were on our way.

Van packed and ready to persue our usual “sun chasing” agenda, with a random itinerary dictated by the whim of the westerlies. Final forecast checking suggested east rather west, so we turned right above Glasgow on our way to the Cairngorms.

To break the journey we dropped in at Polney Crag, Craig a Barns, near Dunkeld.

Roadside and easily accessed on one of the main routes north, it’s a really handy stopover – I can’t  understand why we hadn’t been before. We only had time for a token route, but The Groove, VS (a reminder that VS has special connotations in Scotland) proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable taster, and we’ll certainly be back for another helping.

Keen to explore the eastern side of the Cairngorms, we headed into the very pretty Glen Clova for some cragging. The Red Craigs don’t look particularly impressive from the road,

but closer inspection reveals 30m routes of highly featured diorite granite, and a joy to climb on.

We did Proud Corner, VS, Wander, HVS, and Handful of Beans, also HVS. The first couple were excellent; each with a slightly spicy runout, where conviction in a string of flat, incut holds is duly rewarded.

The latter was a disappointment in contrast, and in a foolish attempt to salvage a more worthwhile experience I went questing up the final pockety wall to the side of the finishing crack – pulling off a sizeable hold and taking a bit of a plummet for my troubles. Muppet! No lasting damage, but a bruised heel (to go with my bruised ego) will keep me off the mountain crag walk-ins for a while.

Fab sunset, picking out the brilliant yellow of the gorse and broom

Quick campervan tip – the nice people at the Ranger Station in Glen Clova confirmed that your £2 for 24hrs parking does indeed mean 24hrs, and you are welcome to spend the night in the attractive river-side parking area.

The next spin of the sun-lottery wheel-of-fortune suggested that our aspiration to explore Caithness was looking like a winning bet. As a bonus this would allow us to sample the climbing at the Pass of Ballater – another handy stopover. Bright red, bullet-hard granite a few minutes above the parking and only a mile or so off the main drag.

We did a couple of VSs (including Convoy) which were OK rather than awesome,

and then finished off with Blutered, E1, which was worthy of its 3*s.

Arriving back at the van, there was a note under the wiper – had we missed a pay-and-display meter? No, a kindly passers-by had taken some pics! Thanks Doreen – they’ll appear here once I’ve got enough WiFi to download them!

Great van spot courtesy of the Glenlivet Estate

3 responses to “Cairngorm Cragging – Glen Clova & Pass of Ballater

  1. Hi Dom and Helen,
    It’s a much smaller ‘world’ this year. We’re in the Cairngorms near Aviemore. After some discussion Karen decided she wou prefer not to rock climb so we didn’t bring any gear (although I did sneak in a pair of sho in case we found a boulder or two. Local friends don’t reckon there is much summer rock climbing in the area so we are sticking to walking and the odd bike ride.
    Guess you’re heading up to the sea cliffs to climb?
    George and Karen

    • Hi George – yes, small(er) world indeed! We’re up in Caithness (a bit behind on the blog!) where there are some fantastic seacliffs and (for now at least…) a decent forecast. Both the crags mentioned are pretty decent and very accessible. Are you around for a while?

      • Hi, yes, we’re planning to leave next Thursday when the current plan is to drive down to Yorkshire and do some cycling before getting home on Sunday.
        We are not planning ahead much as Karen has to take each day as it comes with her chronic fatigue and dodgy hips! Tomorrow we’re up the hill with a planned walk to include Ben Macduff. What happens after that is anybody’s guess!
        Cheers
        George and Karen

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