Southern Scotland cragging – The Good, the Bad and the Baggy

The Old Man of Stoer was undoubtedly the highlight of our 10 day blast around Scotland

Old Man of Stoer

… and it was great to catch a glimpse of cloud-free Cuillins, even if our climbing plans were frustrated by the weather.

Sron na Ciche, Skye

Beyond that we defaulted to our trusted “dodgy weather” mode, with a random-looking itinerary driven by gaps in the rain and proximity to the road. This threw up some mixed results – hence the blog post title…

First the “Good”… By a quirk of Scotland’s geography, the fastest route from Skye to Assynt takes you within about 25 miles of Inverness (on the opposite coast to both!) and more importantly within 15mins or so of Moy Rock. Portents were good when our dash east was illuminated by the most spectacular rainbow I’ve ever seen!

Regular readers will know of this magnificent lump of conglomerate, arguably the equal in quality terms to the world-renowned Mallos de Riglos (and as a dedicated connoisseur of “poudinage” I speak with some authority!)

If you take away the abundant bracken and blackberries, you’d almost think you were in Spain.

There’s been a fair bit of new routing since our last visit, which partly explains my error in trying to warm up on a 6c+, The Herring:

… rather than the adjacent 6a, Moy Racer.

Amongst a bunch of other fine routes, perhaps the pick was the soaring corner of Corvus, which was Chris’ first 5c. No photos, but here’s Helen giving the bridging beta!

Also in the “Good” category (in fact “Great”) was a return visit to Creag Dubh – perhaps Scotland’s finest roadside crag? More auspicious celestial phenomena heralded our visit as we were treated to magnificent Aurora Borealis from our campsite near Elgin.

The crag (when we finally arrived after a late night aurora watching) didn’t disappoint, with 60m routes on fabulous sculpted Schist, just 5mins from the car. Busy (by local standards apparently) with four other teams (hardly Stanage Popular End then!)

Great Wall
A team ahead of us on King Bee Direct, HVS 5a
Top of King Bee (done in a oner)
Another team taking the indirect start
Rapping off Little Mother F***er, E1 (some of the colorful route names belong to a bygone era!)

It’s perhaps being harsh to consign a crag into the “Bad” category, especially after a single rain-interrupted visit, but we couldn’t get too excited by the Lower Wall of Creag na h-Iolaire in Glen Lednock.

disappointing Deuxieme before the downpour

… but the harder routes higher up might be worth a repeat visit.

The “Baggy” award goes to Glen Ogle – the inaccurately named “Sunny Side” on this occasion (should be: “Would be Sunny if it wasn’t clagged-in Side”). Damned by the introduction: “no longer Scotland’s Premier Sport Climbing area”, the lack of a visible path through the man-eating bracken is perhaps an indication of it’s fall in popularity. With a brief sunny interval we made a dash for the closest sector: Creag Nan Cuileann, only to take some time figuring out quite how to get there! In an attempt to save you the same bother, here’s a couple of sketches of the route (parking at a hardcore layby on the north side of the road).

Again, first impressions probably weren’t helped by the gloopy rock and clag, and the “easy” routes on the right hand side of the crag are really pretty decent, but the grades!… Oh my word! Loose Living must rank among the hardest 6as I’ve ever encountered,

and Ghost Trail seemed preposterous at 6b+. Chasing the Bandwagon was also good, and much more amenable…

… by which time the weather truly intervened to spare any more damage to the ego!

I’ll be saving the return visit for a dryer day when I’ve got a bit more sports fitness in the tank!

Not a bad return wrung from a variable week’s weather, and when you roll in the tremendous scenery, Scotland really does cut it as a wordclass climbing destination.

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