Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Sport or Trad, its Rock

Pebble pulling on "Moy Bueno"
As an ageing "climber" it's really hard to improve. The only way is to look at your weaknesses and work hard on them and even then maybe you only hold off the decay not improve. Among these weaknesses are a reluctance to get injured - again.  My major injuries are mostly work related, overuse or similar.  Achilles tendon injury with a chainsaw, crushed lumbar vertebrae and pelvic injury from falling back and getting knocked out turning a huge log from the "cant-hook" breaking during the lumberjack years before using my brain to study and get out of the woods. Broken ankle on a rescue, collar bones from motor cycle and bike race crashing, concussion and neck injury from mountain biking, and a slipped disc (most painful of them all) from a shite core. None of these makes you want to take a ground fall and why I take a clip stick for some routes 

I had many good trad years ticking off many classics, almost all the hard rock routes, and a few of the extreme rock climbs. Many of the most memorable days were not on hard routes but good days with good people on classic routes. It's not good to be too hung up on grades although the old graded lists in SMC guidebooks and some routes reputations gave goals to train for, and an impetus to get better at it. Mostly trad was about a head game not always how physically strong you were. Many routes had an aura about them but very few deserved it.
Dunira "Georges Bush"

I came late to sport climbing. After years of being among other things, a paramedic, climbing instructor, ski instructor, ski patrol. I then took at job at Joint Services Mountain Training. A great place to work among enthusiastic mountaineers. Only I was burnt out, and for a long time climbing had a smaller place in my life. Eventually the lads at work got me back into it and with the opening of the ice factor I took an interest in training and getting back into climbing more seriously. Then came bike racing (again) and a bit of a swansong until 3 years ago when training on the local roads just became stupid. What to replace it with? I migrated into sport climbing and competitions. Mainly because Duncan my son was climbing very well and training hard and it rubbed off on me. I realised that with a modern approach and the "knowing how to train" from bike racing I could get right into it from an analytical point of view and see how an ageing and slightly worn body could adapt to training loads for climbing. Very quickly I realised that running and cycling took away from hard sport climbing if you wanted to improve.

Sanna Bay Bouldering
From just going to the wall to lead or top rope to get the endurance, I then found the single biggest  benefit was bouldering, and lots of it. Not the floppy bouldering of arsing around. Focused problem solving and identifying my physical weaknesses and working problems. Very quickly it was apparent that cycling had done me no favours and my hips were tight and my core weak. Sure, I could rock out 30 sit ups and plank a couple of minutes, but that's not the only core you need. Stretching, yoga. weights and a big variety of stuff was needed. And I continue to work on it. Also finger strength. I had always been told I had strong fingers. For trad maybe, for harder bouldering or sport not so. So a finger board and weights has sorted that out to some extent (and given a few chronic injuries!) "Lattice" testing and training gives the numbers to see how its going. Outside sport requires indoor training discipline. I often have "me" days where I go up to a wall specifically to do repeaters of easier routes with a weight belt for endurance, or nights where I target a few newly set hard routes and try and onsight them. I prefer onsighting 6c/7a to working 7b, but if a harder route inspires me, I am happy to work it. 
Lower Lednock "Black Magic"

Bouldering helps with the harder routes as it helps with seeing sequences and patterns and working out body positions. This helps when on the harder lead routes (IMHO). The wall in general also gives a carry over. We get such shite weather that the wall cushions the days or weeks between outdoor days as you are kept strong. I personally don't find it too bad going for a month with only indoors then going hard out. As long as you are pushing it hard leading indoors you retain the clipping technique, endurance, and can read the rock. Perhaps the only weakness is footwork but with conscious thought and quiet feet this can also be worked indoors.

So, sport climbing, bouldering and indoor climbing have been great for me. It provides a training purpose, goals, and a social with both young and old like minded folks. Many of us older climbers  struggle with illness as well. Mine relatively minor, but for others serious, and  the local wall or easily accessible sport crag keeps them climbing and involved with the tribe that is climbing. That's important for both physical and mental health and an additional benefit of sport crags. Black Rock, Dallens and Clach a Phrionnsa as three good local examples.

It could also be said that given the availability of local rock very few folks are putting the work into development and these venues mentioned would not be there without the graft of two or three locals. Black Rocks harder routes are still needing re bolted but I guess folks do not have the time or money to do this. Rannochan as well. Young Tom Ballard was ahead of the game. It would be good memorial to him to have all his local sport routes re equipped IMHO and I would happily put money into a bolt fund.
"Uncertain Emotions" Tunnel Wall Glencoe

Tom was ahead of his time in Lochaber, as was "Cubby" before him on the Tunnel Wall. Sport climbing was long shunned by the more traditional Scottish mountaineers. Bolt chopping and slagging was rife until relatively recently. I always found that both bizarre and hypocritical given climbing history. Many harder trad classics are only climbable at their grade and safe because pegs were banged in after technical ability wasn't up to it and only hammering the route into submission remained. Also, past legends were not averse to the odd rest, point of aid, or pre placed runner. Sport climbing is at least honest about being fun and about technical challenge. 

It's also a safer fun way to utilise areas where climbing most likely would not happen. It's also the entry point for many transitioning from inside to out. Many good sport climbers later go on to enjoy the adventure of trad routes, although most drop many grades until they get a feel for how to climb them safely. Sport climbing can't be ignored and is mainstream, and the old guard should embrace it and guide it in the right direction. There are acres of rock unsuitable for trad climbing in the honeypot areas such as Glencoe that could be developed, but folk are too scared to touch it in case the grey haired ghosts of climbing past come and revile them. The old masters need to embrace Sport and encourage appropriate development. Sporting a Kalymnos suntan and yet not supporting the same type of climbing in Scotland is just hypocrisy. Sport climbing is not apostasy, it's just another aspect of enjoying climbing rock. If folk need convincing, just look at how many youths and younger folk are having fun doing it. Scottish climbing is not all about the past, it's also about the future and Sport is part of it.
Yes we do still "trad" Ardnamurchan "Uisge"


Friday, 19 July 2019

My Five Favourite Hard Rock Routes in Glencoe

Me on "The Screen" 1976.  No runners just head down with "The Terrors" until the rope stops
Plenty of time on my hands at the moment and it's so dry, so I got to thinking about rock routes that inspired me or made an impact on my climbing be it good or bad.  There are quite a lot to sift through and many of the most enjoyable routes have been notable not just by epics or grades but by the people I have shared them with.  I also confess that I have always loved climbing in the Lakes and the Peak.  I have done a lot also in North Wales but as someone from a gaelic culture always struggled with the attitude of some of the locals as it was so out of keeping with what I was used to.  An example being deliberately speaking to friends in a language they new they couldn't understand.  I have never come across that here even in tight knit Island communities where hospitality and courtesy is seen as normal. I have to say that I liked Cloggy though but always shat it at Gogarth above the sea!

There just isn't space here to cover every route that made an impact so I will stick with the ones I literally grew up on before expanding my ambitions a bit more to the Ben, Shelterstone and further afield. Some routes especially when I was a young man, were notable because of the psychological barriers they presented.  That was often because myth and and an aura of impregnability surrounded them, or in one case because I had been on two fatal rescues on the route when leaders had fallen, and yet it was a classic I wanted to tick (Big Top "E" Buttress).  It took me 10 years after the last rescue there to have the courage to climb it.  An absolutely stunning big mountain rock climb in outstanding situations and technically not too hard at all.  I even managed the pitch that had claimed leaders in a heavy drizzle. The sense of elation at finally laying that itch to rest was pretty heady.  Trapeze, Big Top and Hee Haw as a triple in a late afternoon sunset gives the very best of Glencoe rock.

The harder rock routes of Glencoe for me all had an aura and were shrouded in legend.  The names Smith, Marshall, Cunningham and Whillans were all in there, as was Haston (although Turnspit and Kneepad hardly do him credit) and also home grown hero's such as Thomson and Hardy (Kingpin). My top five to bag in the graded lists were:
  • Big Ride
  • Gallows
  • Carnivore
  • Yo Yo
  • Shibboleth
There are others that are also memorable. Bloody Crack or Ravens in summer (a hard little number!) Marshalls Wall or Valkyrie, or maybe Lechers/Superstition which is a fantastic combo. These five above though had the biggest aura so I will work through them although not by chronological order.  I have worked from Glen Etive to down Glencoe as per guidebook. Kingpin came when I was much older and wiser and less overawed by who had done what, and is one of the best routes in Scotland.  That came 15 years later!

The Big Ride. Haston fell off the big ride many times before giving up and producing an inferior line with a tensioned rope traverse.  He finally went back and straightened it out to give "The Big Ride" aptly named for the scalps it claimed pre sticky rubber.  Alan Fyffe took on a bet that he would shave off half his beard if he fell off it when doing what may have been the second ascent. Sure enough he peeled off the crux going for a 100ft slide and removing a lot of skin and had to comply with the bet. Alan was and remains one of Scotland best mountaineers.  Still graded at E3 6a this route still requires some bottle.  I did it on the 5th May 1983 with Wall Thomson and Mary Anne his daughter with me leading all the pitches so Wall could look after Mary Anne who was just 15, and also take pictures.  I still remember the knack of reading the slab for tiny indents and gently rubbing off any loose grains as the crack of a granite grain under your rock shoe would have you off.  The crux is at about 100ft out with no gear up a thin flange where the slab steepens by a few degrees and if you are very careful you can get a micro nut behind it before committing to the last 50 ft.  So 150ft one runner and a 6a move takes you to the belay.  A mental game!
At the pier Glen Etive sometime in the 70's I had long hair!
Gallows. I had been climbing with "Wull" on the Buachaille and we were wandering about doing various routes as you can there.  I think we had come up from Central Buttress doing a route over there that might have been "Iron Cross" which I don't know is recorded but it was Squirrel club little test piece, then we did Engineers Crack and a route thats called "The Widow" I think.  We then went across and did Brevity, and a couple of other HVS routes when John Anderson walked across and suggested I should cut my teeth on Gallows.  I hadn't really thought of it -  but why not!  Although quite short the first few crux moves are about 5c and take you out on a rising traverse for about 50ft before the first bit of gear.  So Gallows is a test of bottle and thankfully as well warmed up, and with an audience of Creag Dubh who had come to gloat should I fall I managed to piss up it and make a bit of a  name for myself.  This was in 1982 so forgive me for being chuffed as I daresay its regarded as easy these days.  We did a route on the middle of the top tier after, up a thin crack line well right of the corner and it was harder!

Carnivore.  I was beaten to this by Fiona my wife. We climbed very many routes together and she was a pretty able climber.  Sadly removal of the lymph glands on one side from breast cancer has scuppered that now!  We lived in Duror when first married and I worked as a woodcutter.  To say I was fit and strong would be an understatement.  George Reid my regular climbing partner phoned me up to see if I would take the afternoon off and go climb "The Villains Finish" with him.  I was away up the wood out of contact so Fiona offered to hold the rope.  The back rope on the first traverse pitch jammed so they climbed the entire route on a single 9mm which is pretty necky.  The Villains finish had a fairly big reputation for being brutal so good effort.  To say I was pissed off would be an understatement.  The monsoons came and winter and I had to wait until the following year to work off my frustration.  I was in a hurry to get it done and I press ganged a young instructor at the Glencoe outdoor centre to be my rope man.  So mid March in a snowstorm I stormed the first pitch. Linked the second two in a one'r and prepared for the overhanging crack that gives the direct finish.  Good rock, but hanging out over big space it's an  up out and right move with a stiff 5c pull onto the wall above where its a  gearless runout to the top at a steady 5a. All in a blizzard.  Kev Howett and Dave Cuthbertson were on the crag that day dropping a rope and cleaning what is now a tunnel wall bolt classic.  Kev snapped a photo of me which I have always wanted to see.  I knew Don Whillans quite well as I played darts against him and Joe Brown at the Padarn on trips to Wales, and he was well known by Hamish.  I never climbed with Don but I did climb with Joe who was a fairly regular visitor to Glencoe at that time.
Carnivore first pitch
Yo Yo.  As I worked as a woodcutter accidents were sadly common.  The first 12 years of being married I worked the wood.  Fiona eventually persuaded me to use my brain and I left then went and studied pharmacology, human physiology and went on to become the first person in Scottish MR to be a paramedic who was also registered by the state. This was before the NHS even got organised.  One of my early courses was Scotland's first ATLS course at the Victoria in Glasgow in 1992.  Anyway I digress - working in the wood was dangerous and two folk had been killed near me the year I did Yo Yo and I also slipped and chainsawed my achilles.  Lots of stitches in the Belford by Dr Sen and a few weeks recovery and I was gagging to get a route in.  Loads of holes from the stitches just out didn't deter me from persuading Duncan the lad I did Carnivore with to come and do Yo Yo. So on a hot July afternoon we made our way up the scramble to the bottom.  That whole N. Face intimidates me having been rescued off it at 16 and taken a fall late at night in winter on it and getting pretty badly ripped up.  So there was an edge to just getting to Yo Yo.  I thought my foot would trouble me but it was fine.  The first pitch is supposed to be hard and wet but it was  just a wee bit necky and damp, and fairly easy.  I found the middle pitch hard and thrutchy. The last pitch was in late afternoon sun  and the climbing was superb.  Steady and interesting with a huge atmosphere it finished all too soon on "unpleasant terrace".  Getting off the terrace is interesting so worth keeping on the rope.  What a great route.  Quite thuggy but nothing too bad, and what a place!  Ed's route the Clearances next door is also one of Glencoe's best but a tad harder and a bit more serious.  Not one to do with a buggered achillies heel!

Shibboleth. Of these routes this one was a bigger breakthrough than all the others combined. This route was Robin Smith's finest in Glencoe, and while maybe not technically the hardest route of it's time, it was the neckiest.  I know the routes history fairly well as I new folk that had had climbed with Smith. He made several attempts at it, one resulting in a broken leg for Al Frazer and a huge impromptu rescue operation from the combined forces of Squirrels and Creag Dubh.  Al Frazer had broken his leg badly and was pulled up onto N. Buttress, along above Ravens and out onto the Buachaille summit ridge and then literally carried down to the bottom.  Smith soloed off the route to the side to go summon help. Bold and necky. The rescue itself a huge physical task.  Al Frazer later worked in Raigmore with a climbing friend of mine Bill Amos.

My early interest in the route came from the infamous graded list in the red colored guidebook I had covering Buachaille Etive Mor and Glen Etive. This guide listed Agag's Groove as suitable route of decent from Rannoch Wall (Ian Nicholson is the only person I know who used it as this).  With various friends and later Fiona I had been working my way up the graded list and only Shibboleth was left. Many routes at the bottom deserved a place nearer the top!  I had looked across at the route from various angles doing routes on either side and watched another party from the SMC (Graham MacDonald) on it while I was doing Bludgers/Revelation with George Reid. I even had John MacLean (The Great White Hope was John's nickname after Smith got chopped) regaling me with the tale of the 2nd ascent he did when he was "looking for that fucker Wheechs peg" while rolling a fag while I was on the crux of "Pete's Wall" at Huntly's Cave. "Wheech" being Smiths nickname.
Gearing up for Shibboleth with George aka "The Mole"
1982 was a washout summer and despite getting a lot of routes done in the Lakes, Derbyshire etc it was very much a poor Scottish rock season until in late August the weather finally cleared and we had a few dry days and sun.  So one Saturday in early September, George  and I  arrived at the foot of Ravens and looked up the black groove of the 5c second pitch. The SMC party who  had been on the route while we were doing Bludgers were back doing the Bludgers/Revelation combo themselves which was a co incidence.  Fiona came up to take a few pictures but had to leave as she was later guiding a group up Gear Aonach as she was the senior instructor at an outdoor centre.

I can still remember stepping onto the first pitch, up past a block with no gear until just before the winking black groove.  I was pretty nervous.  The black groove was wet necky and hard with a cold welded nut hammered into the crack.  The 3rd pitch up to below Revelation flake is a joy but with a sting in the tail pulling onto the belay ledge. The best pitch is up the wall to the right of Revelation flake.  A long pitch of steady successive 5b moves on little rough holds on a plumb vertical wall, then a pull over a small overhang then up the wall to the belay.  With one runner!  All with the gaping maw of Great Gully below, and Ravens winking from the shadows. Absorbing climbing.  The final two 45m pitches to N. Buttress are great 5a climbing up steep walls, or go back as we all do one day and do the route again but traverse right across the cave and do "The True Finish" which Smith added later. The Hard Rock book version is the 5a finishing pitches which really are great.  The cave is just truly spectacular! On finishing we went across and did Yamay, Yam, Happy Valley and May crack in the company of the now sadly late Tam Macaulay and Dave "Paraffin" who were well impressed we had done Shibboleth, especially as the crux groove was so wet.

We went to "The Ferry Bar" later that night  (under the bridge at Ballachulish) which was "the" climbers pub at that time.   Ian Nicholson and several others shook our hands saying well done lads, and for the next week we had folk saying I hear you guys did Shib well done! I don't think many routes had that reputation credibility and aura in Glencoe.  It was nice for once to feel the equal of the legends. I can't think off many mountain routes since that were such a turning point in confidence.  Winter perhaps doing the point in the early 1970's was still something, even though Ian had soloed it in an hour.  Rock climbing probably doing Cenotaph Corner in a pair of big boots might come close!

Ronnie Rodgers on the slabs with the sticky boots of the day! Ronnie and I were probably the only two local boys of the time to take up climbing.  Ronnie did Centurion with Jimmy Marshal and his first route on the slabs was a solo of Spartan slab with Ian Nicholson who said it was just an easy intro to the slabs.

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Roadside Routes near Glencoe

I surfed through the UKC crag data base. Its pretty extensive and includes most of the crags around Glencoe, many of which are overlooked by their grander big brothers up the hills. I was quite surprised they were listed, but also a bit disappointed that most had seen little traffic over the years and were now getting overgrown and neglected. For an area full of climbers the local ones seem reluctant to  climb or maintain these crags. I guess there is just too much choice now or folk maybe just don't climb as much as we did. I don't think there was a weekend or evening if it was dry that we were not out or away somewhere climbing. Until kids came along and it was reduced but never stopped and then they climbed as well.
All our kids can climb. Some thought required on keeping them safe when little and "the leader must not fall" were all part of the parental equation. Fiona climbed and skied with all our kids as well but we always discussed and put some thought into it treating it as a life skill even if they might decide it wasn't for them. Duncan belaying me on "Flying Dutchman". Now he leads F7b and it's me who's struggling.
Some crags like "Banana Buttress" has first ascents listed on UKC. The folk doing this wouldn't have been aware that there isn't a square foot of that crag that hadn't been climbed many times over by bar staff going back to the 1960's. Even the crag above this had an aid route on it and the Quarry was full of boulder problems (and often poo from campers). One challenge was the complete traverse without stepping onto the boulder (V3).

At the end of the road where it joins the A82 a stream gully come of the Aonach Eagach. A ten minute walk up and there is a crag with a crack line full of pegs and an overhang which was used for aid practise by Glencoe Climbing school in the 60's/70's. I free climbed it at about E2/5c and there is a stiff pull over the overhang. It's a bit of fun  although short. I wouldn't trust the pegs.

Going up the Glen, at the Gorge/meeting of three waters the obvious crack up the crag just across the river is a really good fun at HVS and has very good gear. It had wooden wedges in it at one time which have rotted out. Next to it on the left is an E2 taking a thin crack which is nippy with a move across requiring a bold move right and some heather pulling to join the same route. The HVS is good and a lot better than it looks so well worth it when dry. Behind there is a dry river gorge running all the way down to the stream from the Lost Valley. Out across from this is a band of promising looking crags which are actually not that good but there is a severe on the left "Alans Arete" which is a bit of fun on clean rock in a couple of pitches and has a nice outlook.
The Drey Crag
The Drey Crag" above the road with the hut set into it. This was the Edinburgh "Squirrels" hut. They are no longer, but luminaries included Dougal Haston and Jimmy Marshall. There used to be guide to the crag on the inside of the hut door.  It's a bit scrappy but a few routes, and the best is the obvious rock dyke with a small bulge to get around, no gear though from that point and its about severe. There is a harder crack and smooth bulge to the right of this (bold at the top) and to the left of the dyke there was a VS and on the extreme left a short V Diff chimney.

Above the Drey and to the West there are "The Red Walls" and slabs with boulder problems that catch the evening sun and are a lot of fun. You can make it easy or hard as the rock is excellent and the landings ok.
Mike Hall and I playing on "The Red Walls" above the Drey sometime early 1980's. Some good easy bouldering up there
Back in the dry gorge. Halfway down on the north side there is a clean crag with a crack exiting from a small overhang with a peg which is a good HVS. Used to be called "The Squirrels Crack" I think as it was Kenny Spence who did it but it may now have another name.  Further down still is a short "leaning wall" which gets the evening sun and has about six routes by me from E15b to an E2 5c/6a (Crimp) on the right that had very small wires as pro.

Back up the gorge leading to Allt na Righ coming down from the A82 is "The Bendy" with routes from the E1b Jim l' Fix It by me on the lower left, to an E4 by Murray Hamilton and an E4 by Gary Latter and I. I did Simmering Psycho which had a peg runner at the top as the cracks were blind and micro wires wouldn't fit. E3/5c and good natural pro to that point then finishing up a groove rather more natural than the blanker walls of the harder routes and their exploding crimpy holds and RP pro. These crags were clean and well climbed at one time, so its shame folk don't re-clean and climb them now. Its a bit like the mountain bike trails I guess, folk wait for other folk to put the work in then they get to climb/ride. 

Some advice on when to climb these routes, if you want to try them.  The Bendy is a morning crag  it gets the sun early. The leaning wall at the bottom of the dry gorge is a spring crag or early evening summer as it catches the late afternoon sun and as its got a really nice outlook and grassy bottom so its a lovely spot with a cracking pool for a swim on the way back.

It would be nice to see folk enjoying these routes and although the main loose rock work was done years ago, they will require a brush up to clean them.  Or just go for it!

Stac an Eich or Creagallan as we new it, is the granite crag reached via the road to the memorial cairn past the golf course. It had a few easier routes on its west end facing the evening sun. Slabs such as Appin groove, or the rib to its left were soloed by me and are good fun at about VS. Right of Appin groove there were a couple of stiff boulder problem slab routes, and to the right of what we used as a descent gully a steep well protected wall route of HVS with lower from a tree.

The main crag routes are all in the outcrops guide and a bit like grit routes being quite pumpy. Shuttlecock on the east (far left) up the obvious corner is a cracker with good pro, and the original finish (pitch 2) went up a leaning block and had a step across and then up. Great situation and views from that belay. The top block of pitch 2 was pretty hollow but if its still there since 1983 could be ok. An alternative is to belay at the top of the corner and then move right and up to where the central corner exits where there was some fixed gear I left 35 years ago! There is also a direct start from lower down leading into the lower pitch which is about 5b/c. We tended to ab off which was a free abseil and part of the fun. Have an auto block as back up!
George Reid gets off the ground on Shuttlecock pitch 1 1982
Left of Shuttlecock there were another two routes including "Autan" which took the big area of granite above. Probably all covered in veg now. A team with bow saws could really open up what was a great evening crag that often had a sea breeze in the sun, and was a popular often noisy venue as folk cursed up the routes which although a bit fierce are well protected if you can hang on. A pint in the Ferry bar often followed!
Me finishing Shuttlecock about to step left from the block pitch 2 original finish
Across the the Loch at Onich the obvious white wall above the A82 to Fort William has three routes. The faint crack on the left side by Kenny Spence/Fyffe is about E1/5b and I put a direct 5b finish on if you continue straight up and over the bulge. The three star route is the obvious crack system on the right which is as good a crag route as anywhere in Lochaber. Well protected by nuts and cams it's a steady E2/5b with the techiest bit just as you get established and get some gear in. This bit is where most folk back off as it can seem damp but as this bit of crag overhangs the drips are in space. Then its steady but pumpy on good holds to the top of what feels like a long pitch. It does lean over a bit! I think this was also Spence/Fyffe route and had an aid peg although we never found one and we free climbed it many times over the years. There is an eliminate 6a between the two crack lines but its a bit contrived. The "Right Hand" route is three star and don't be put off by the start up through the trees and bushes and stepping off the ledge. The gear comes and the climbing is good. Makes a nice evening doing both routes.

Further down and obvious above Kentallen bay is a Limestone crag. Best reached from an easy walk across the hill from Duror hall or a straight bushwhack up the sheep tracks from the parking at the old pier or cycle track. All the routes have steep boulder starts and then nice slabs and grooves with gear to finish. Belays were a bit scarce at the top but maybe the birch trees have grown and will be stronger. "Prawn" was a nice VS and Ed Grindly had "up periscope" 6a. I think Gary Latter did a route and rumour had it Dave MacLeod. On the left edge there is a rock recess and there were was good route by Bob Hamilton up the corner at HVS and I had two HVS's on the right and an E4/6a on the left of it which was never topped out due to water. The evening views from this crag are stunning and due to sea breeze its usually midge free.
Kentallen Bay Crag
The Lettershuna crag in Appin is more open now and has 3 excellent sport routes at about f6a. There are a few routes in the Ballachulish Quarry also. A red slab and edge on the tier above the first stakes, the rib left of the polished slab, also the slab tucked away further in with the diagonal crack traverse line and three slabby routes up tiny quartz wrinkles that I soloed some 30 years ago. A few bolts would maybe make them safer! A lot has been done in the quarry but just not recorded.

There isn't much new folks, but if you take care of what there is, and look around I bet there is a lot more roadside cragging to be had locally. Personally I would love to see some sports routes on a previously written off non trad crag somewhere. I dunno, maybe port Appin or near bye. Its nice to have variety and fun without the big walks. 

Friday, 14 June 2019

Glencoe's Low Level Cragging

Stunning Spring weather so I took a run up Glencoe to visit some of the roadside crags. "The Bendy" has many routes. I did routes at either end and one in the middle with Gary Latter back in the 1980's and Gary and Stork did some other ones. The Bendy is a great Spring and Summer morning venue and has a tremendous big swimming pool below it. Midge hell at night though. Sad to see the old Rannoch Club Doss debris after the fire. As a rescuer we were there a few times taking club members out who had broken legs on the wooden ladder climbing down into the gorge to get to the hut. Often on return from Clachaig.

Below this is the really good little "Dry Gorge Crag" an excellent evening crag which catches the sun and has easier less bold routes than the Bendy. Up the dry gorge is "The Squirrels Crack" and opposite a nice but short crack route that I did with Mark Tennant which about HVS 5a/b. Further up is the bold blank crag that Garry Latter did a few routes on.  I think these routes are in the new outcrops guide and some are certainly in Garys selected climbs guide Scottish Rock Vol. 1 South. If you want to study the images closer just click on them and open up a bigger size.


All that remains of  "The Rannoch Doss" a once well used and secretive hut below Allt na Reigh
Bang in the pic centre at the top of the wall is the final groove (with a peg runner) of "Simmering Psycho" E3 6a Davy Gunn lead and Chris Ducker (Fionas Brother) 1998
The left side has a cracking E2 5b that I did with Mark Waugh as second. In the middle wall are the E4 6a's that need RP's and have exploding crimps!  I did a FA of one with Gary and the others I think he did with Stork. There is a dry platform below so no need for wet feet. Quite a pool and roaring waterfall across from you.
The Dry Gorge Crag. A great little micro crag. Maybe 10m in height. Right to left. The grey wall on the right with a very thin crack is "Crimp" needing a couple of RP's is E2 6a and crimpy. Left again is the very well protected "Sin Nombre" E1 5b a bomber crack for cams and mid sized stoppers. Left again across the black streak is "Ascolatre" E1 5c again good pro but a bit thuggy. Then left is an alternative direct start to the same finish which is maybe 5b/c. FA's Davy Gunn with Chris Ducker and others.
Slightly further up on the same side as the dry gorge crag is"Crack Route" HVS 5b FA Davy Gunn and Mark Tennant. A damp little number but well protected with cams and nuts.
Even further up on the left side is "The Squirrels Crack" by - you guessed it, the Edinburgh Squirrel climbing club.  No give away at HVS 5a/b it used to have a peg runner at the overhang and is fairly well protected but no belay at the top so its a sit and squat job or leave a rope far back. You can get to this route from the top of the dry gorge by scrambling in from the high point.
Garys Crag has a few hard routes but no gear. Multiple bouldering matts might suffice as they are "highballs"
Looking up into the bowels of Beinn Fhada in the middle is a slot. The right side has a detached pillar with a route called "Triple C Special" HVS 5a. You can take it that it's pretty much ungradable much like KAK it's V-Diff neighbour lower down which in the old english would be XS. Both would be nice for those liking a JH Bell style such as Chimney Route - Severe Aonach Dubh "where the last 20 feet are on rock"!!
Looking across from the top of "The Squirrles Crack" to Allt na Reigh home of  Downie's Barn (on the right of the cottage) which is often mentioned in Alastair Borthwicks book "Always a Little Further". This later became Hamish MacInnes's workshop when he started making ice axes and stretchers so is a bit of Glencoe's history. Under the old road bridge (this is a new one) used to be another doss which in my day the donkey jacket clad "Black Frank" lived in. He was a dirtbag climber who lived rough and climbed hard in the 1970's and who's favourite ice tool was shortened wooden grivel axe with a bent pick he had shaped over a gas stove.