Monday, 17 August 2020

Evening Climbing, Midgie's & Beer

Evening Fun

I surfed through the UKC crag data base. Its pretty extensive and includes most of the crags around Glencoe, many which are overlooked by their grander big brothers up the hills. I was quite surprised some were listed, but also a bit disappointed on re visits 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.

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 Clachaig bar staff going back to the 1960's some of whom became well known mountaineers. 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 off 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 was the Edinburgh "Squirrels" hut now I think used by "the Jacobite MC". The Squirrels are no longer, but luminaries included Dougal Haston. Bugs Mackeith and Jimmy Marshall. There used to be guide to the crag on the inside of the hut door. It's a bit scrappy but there are a few routes, and the best is the obvious rock dyke with a small bulge to get around, no gear 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 "Sunset 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 are ok

Mike Hall and I playing on "The Red Walls" above the Drey sometime early 1980's. Some good easy bouldering up there

Back to 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. Also a small crag further up on the South with a crack was about HVS 5b.

Up the gorge leading to Allt na Ruigh cottage coming down from the A82 is "The Bendy" with routes from the E1 5b Jim l' Fix It by me on the lower left, to E4's by Murray Hamilton and Gary Latter. 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 cleaner and well climbed at one time, so its shame folk don't re-clean and climb them now.  I often wondered if this would be a safer and better sport venue. I doubt the FA would mind. I wouldn't.

Some advice on when to climb these routes, if you want to try them. The Bendy is a morning crag as 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.

The "Bendy" just above the meeting of three waters, named after the now burnt out doss hut above it

The Leaning Wall. Below the Bendy in the dry gorge with several well protected short routes to 5b FA by DG 1998

Slate Esoteric

Like everything slate in this slate quarry, the rock is questionable and not without some risk. However, there are some slabs of firm hard rock with nice quartzy pockets. Its all now mossed up as no one uses it anymore but at one time a few folk played in here on occasion, or when desperate

There are quite a few other routes, even a severe by Mike Hall up a slab on the big back wall 2nd terrace. It's esoteric and some areas high risk of rockfall on approach. Plenty of scope if someone wanted to make sport routes on some big slabs of harder rock that is pocketed. 

Carnoch Slab:

Just inside the quarry. Stakes at the top and a large block.  Was popular with an outdoor centre and some military groups.

A The left Rib. Climbed by many over the years at least since the 1970’s Hard Severe’ ish

B The wrinkled quartz slab with pockets. DG 1978 5a/b

C The wrinkled quartz slab further right. DG 1978 5a/b

D The polished central line. A top rope favorite used by local outdoor centers from 1976. Severe’ ish

E Further right still the slightly harder polished line used by outdoor centers Severe’ ish

F A boulder heave on questionable rock. DG 1978 5a/b

Carnoch Slab

Orange Wall:

Above here hidden now behind some trees is the orange wall.  This has two routes. One on the left side (5) by Paul Farrel and one up the middle (6) by DG. Both about 5b. Bear in mind these were done 35+ years ago so the grades a bit out but this was from memory quite a good bit of rock.

Orange Wall

The Boozers Bay:

Further into the quarry is a bay now overgrown and fenced off, although still possible to easily squeeze past into it.

The lower of the prominent crack lines (1) is about 5a/b and the one above (2) harder and a bit sketchy and was done on a top rope. The two lines straight up (3) crossing these are good fun on small quartz holds and good footwork helps, both soloed at about 5a/b. (4) is the best and was good fun. A route was done in the corner of the slab by a visiting Welsh climber and had a peg in place and was about E3 6a. It has never been repeated as far as I know. Can't think why!

Boozers Bay

"Stac an Eich" or Alan Breck as we know it from the hotel that used to be below, is a granite crag reached via the road to the memorial cairn a mile or so 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 (not Ed as in the guide) and are good fun at about VS. Right of Appin groove there were a couple of stiff boulder problem slab routes soloed by Ed, 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. Kevin Woods did a great job of cleaning up this area a couple of years ago.

The main crag routes are all in the outcrops guide and a bit like grit routes being quite pumpy. Shuttlecock is a great route worth *** 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 first belay above the trees. The top block of pitch 2 was pretty hollow but if its still there since 1983 could be ok but the top out needs a clean. Shuttlecock would get 3 or 4 ascents a week for years until this crag fell out of favor. Probably because the Ferry bar wasn't as good a pub anymore! 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 now rotten that I left 35 years ago. There is also a direct start to Shuttlecock by me leading into the lower corner from the left which is about 5b/c. We tended to ab off the top 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 1982

Left of Shuttlecock there were another two routes including "Autan" which took the big area of granite above. All re-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 evening 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!

Davy Gunn finishing Shuttlecock 2nd ascent about to step left from the block pitch 2 original finish. pic Fiona Gunn
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 top bulge. The three star route is the obvious crack system on the right which is as good a crag route as anything in Lochaber. Well protected by nuts and cams it's a steady E2/5b worthy of more ascents. With the hardest bit just as you get established and get some gear in, and then just before the top as it gets thuggy. This start is where most folk back off as it can seem damp but as this bit of crag overhangs the drips are in space and the damp bit only short. It's pumpy but on good holds to the top of what feels like a long pitch. I think this was also Spence/Fyffe route and had an aid peg originally (although we never found one) and we free climbed it many times over the years before a beer. There is an eliminate 6a between the two crack lines but its a bit contrived and would be a better sport route. The "Right Hand" route as mentioned 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. Deserves more ascents as its good. The top might have grown back but the top had plenty of trees to abseil off.

Further down towards Oban and 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" and its neighbours was a nice VS all cleaned and led by me. Ed Grindly did "up periscope" 6a. I think Gary Latter did a route and rumor had it Dave MacLeod did a route here. 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 did two HVS's on the right of this and an E4/6a on the left which was never topped out due to water but had a lower off peg. The evening views from this crag are stunning and due to sea breeze its usually midge free. The West (right) edge also had some boulder problems.

Kentallen Bay Crag

Lettershuna Sport. Four really nice routes put up by Steve Kennedy and good tea and scones along the road

Charnuis Boulders N. Ballachulish. A new boulder venue offering some fun in the sun

1 comment:

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