One of the things that is truly great about British climbing is the vast variety of climbing styles that are practiced on this one island. The variety of rocks that we have here are absolutely incredible and nowhere is the variety of geology more profound than in North West Scotland. This is the most beautiful corner of the UK. Bays of silver sand beaches look out to archipelagos of small islands in one direction. In the other, heather clad rolling hills turn into dramatic mountains that climb steeply up from sea level to 1000m.
Beautiful Northern Scotland - Alan Cassidy
In this dramatic milieu can be found Torridonian Sandstone, Lewisian Gneiss, Schists, Conglomerates, Ryolite, Quartzite and rocks I don't know the names of. Although the area is often shrouded in mist and rain it is no less dramatic in such conditions. For a climber the rain is off-putting. But, when the sun is set to shine there for more than seven days in a row, in this paradise, you have to get there.
In March, Scotland's typical good spring weather window came early. This break in the weather coming pre-midge season is a double blessing and I was psyched to get up there and enjoy climbing around the boulders in Torridon for a couple of days. Nothing harder than 7A+ went down for me, but nor was I really trying. I tickled some of Dan Varian's additions and swore to come back in cooler conditions. I did Malc's Arete, which is a bouldering monument to Scotland's greatest boulderer and a friend.
Never one to miss the opportunity to climb some routes though, I did have some hard stuff in mind. I had been told about a potential 8b or harder project equipped by Paul Thorburn on the Gneiss crags near Poolewe and was given the green light to try them. The Gneiss of Wester Ross is my absolute favorite rock in Scotland, only defeated by tufa-ridden euro limestone. I was psyched. I bagged the route in 4 tries after a couple of failed tussles with the reachy crux. Stalks worked out to be 8a+, not as hard as predicted, but 3 stars and well worth seeking out just like all the other fabulous and well equipped routes in the area. Wester Ross is also a trad haven too, so go there even if you hate bolts!
On the way home I bagged another first ascent by inadvertently climbing a route I thought had been done already at Moy Rock, a conglomerate crag not far from Inverness. The Fear is currently a loose 7b+ or 7c but with a bit of sika, will turn out to be as good as any of the excellent routes at this venue and the crags hardest. Thanks to Andy Willby for that one. 3 rock types, 4 great days, sometimes Scotland is great!
All photos Helen Black. More photos and another take on this trip can be found on my personal blog.