Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Roadside Routes in 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" are all part of the parental equation. Fiona climbed and skied with all our kids but we always discussed and put some thought into it and as an example would never ski a busy day as the risk of accidental collision is too high. Duncan belaying me on "Flying Dutchman". Now he leads F7c 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 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
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 decent 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 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 two E1's on its right end from Steve Kennedy 15 years ago. There are a few routes in the Ballachulish Quarry also. A red slab on the tier above the first stakes, the rib left of the polished slab, and the slab tucked away further in with the diagonal traverse line and three routes up tiny quartz wrinkles that I soloed some 30 years ago. A few bolts would maybe make them safer!

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. Lettershuna now its open would be a top sport venue. Any takers?

1 comment:

  1. Great Davy - we visited a few of the crags in the past great tales and memories, keep them going.