Me and the Mrs are off to Scotland next week for a bit of climbing, walking, scrambling etc. We're picking up a hire car from Inverness and then deciding where to go based on the weather and midge forecasts, but one possibility is to head up to Ullapool and (maybe) on to Sutherland.
One thing we're looking for is bumbly climbs up to about HS (or maybe safe VS) in that sort of area. Reiff and Sheigra are strong possibilities - are there any specific low grade routes that we shouldn't miss out on at either? Or anywhere else we should try to get to if we're in the area?
Thanks in advance!
(Nb, apologies for the southern-centric title - Durness residents can change the title to "Near North West..." if they want.)
Various VD - VS routes on perfect rock at the Very Difficult Slabs and Triangular Slab, Gruinard Bay
Various routes VD - S at Raven's Crag
Moondance VS 4c **, Ardmair
Terrace Crack VS 4c *, Ardmair
Reiff is generally a bit inferior for easy routes as they are mostly centred around the underwhelming Pinnacle Area, but an evening doing the classic stuff there (Moonjelly VDiff **, Hy Brasil HS 4b **) would be pretty pleasant, as would just getting general mileage on great rock.
[Edit: Forgot about Rubha Ploytach - never been but it sounds very good in the book]
Sheigra is also a bit sparse on classic easier routes although Flamingo S 4a *** and Shark Crack HS 4b *** are worth checking out especially for the location.
What Fiend says apart from his negativity about Reiff....same as grit for pottering. The far NW Gneiss is also good. Best big routes are on Stac Polidh but watch for sandbag grades and tricky route finding: I may have posted on this before.
Fiend's list is very good. The rock in Stone Valley is impeccable. Black Rocks area at Reiff has some easy crackers: Tystie Slab (VD)Black Gold, Black Pig (VS)
Applecross: Cioch Nose (VD)Sword of Gideon (VS)
I was a wee bit underwhelmed by Aztec Tower...
This is true, there is very good potter potential. But I get the impression the easier routes don't have the same stature or quality as the low-mid extreme classics around The Bouldering Cliff, Seal Song, Golden Walls and especially the Leaning Block (and of course Ardmair which is better still). In comparison some of the easier angled Gneiss is really delightful in the low grades, and grit often has total classics at those grades. I probably haven't pottered enough there though!
Good luck with the midges! As others have said, Fiend's recommendations are sound. We've done a few bits up that area and here are some of my thoughts:
Sheigra - Flamingo is excellent, also Tall Pall and Plumb McNumb (easy VS) which can be done from the same easy to locate ab point.
Badrallach is a great spot - Pillar of Society and Poacher's Prize are great. The gear is good despite the guidebook's suggestions to the contrary and they are soft touch VS.
Loch Tollaidh: Assault slab is a nice V Diff and Ewephoria and Ewe Tree Slab are both very nice straightforward VSs. For an experienced leader with a good rack you can protect them well (range of cams).
I thought Jetty Crag was over-rated but really enjoyed Limited Stop though has no stars.
Gairloch - Open Secret and Roman wall are good, also routes on Raven's crag (Charlestone).
If you happen to be nearby (not worth a special trip) Laxford Bay slabs and Rock Garden crag give some pleasant amusement in a nice setting.
I enjoyed the stuff at Rubha Ploytach in Reiff. I would say it's better than the stuff at the Pinnacle area. Grading of the crag in Northern Highlands North is a bit hit and miss but as the climbs are pretty short, it's not like you are heading into anything that isn't completely obvious. You know where the hard part will be and exactly where you can get pro just by looking from the ground.
The problem with Rubha Ploytach is that it's quite a long way to walk for a load of short, not particularly memorable routes. It is a beautiful setting and if you want a day out with a nice walk, lovely views, almost guaranteed solitude and plenty of pottering potential, then it's a cracking spot. Just don't go expecting the climbing to blow your mind - I'd say it's significantly over-starred in NHN.
Aztec Tower is worth a quick visit for the weird rock, but the climbing (and some of the gear) is a bit underwhelming.
If you want a proper adventure Rose Route on Suilven was one of the best mountain days out I've ever had. No idea where the top half of the route actually goes, but we made it to the top without any major trauma, and the situation is pretty much unparalleled in the UK. If you do do it, then my top tip is not to watch the sunset from the summit (in midsummer), then remember your dinner is in the car, which is a loooooong way away.
> If you want a proper adventure Rose Route on Suilven was one of the best mountain days out I've ever had. No idea where the top half of the route actually goes, but we made it to the top without any major trauma, and the situation is pretty much unparalleled in the UK. If you do do it, then my top tip is not to watch the sunset from the summit (in midsummer), then remember your dinner is in the car, which is a loooooong way away.
I tried this some years ago, did a couple of pitches then ended up with some big overhangs above wherever I looked, so abbed off!
> I tried this some years ago, did a couple of pitches then ended up with some big overhangs above wherever I looked, so abbed off!
Did you get as far as the big grassy terrace? The first 5 pitches (I think) up to it were really well described, but accounted for less than half of the height of the cliff. The rest was a case of following our noses, but it was good fun even if the guidebook's instruction to 'follow the corner above' when there were about 20 identical corners above the terrace wasn't too helpful (nor was the 'continue easily to the top (100m)' when we were a long way from easy scrambling).
The lower part of the route, behind Baird's pinnacle, is a bit tricky to find and tricky for Diff, and the middle is a walk through rubble. However, the upper portion is lovely easy climbing, has a stunning outlook, and ends right by one of the very finest summits in the country.
Stac Pollaidh was another one I'd been looking at, actually. We did the basic scramble along the top in blazing sunshine on New Year's Day, but the routes look fun as well.
I'm also wondering about heading up as far as Durness, so we can go and look at puffins when it's raining. Does anyone know anything about Brown's Ridge on Ben Hope? Is there a route description online anywhere?
If you want a long day, easier if you have bikes, and the days are long, I cannot over recommend Cengalo on Foinavon. It is easy for the grade VS but 210m of excellent rock. (It might wipe out the next day though!).
As said above Rose route is very good, top tip, miss out the bottom tier, the best climbing is on the steep tier and its a lot harder to get lost. You can bypass the first tier on the right hand side.
I've got almost no memory of Rose Route, and the guide doesn't help any recollection! I do recall having similar problems deciphering exactly which corner they were referring to. We must have got above the terrace as one abseil took us down to it and we walked off from there.
We did go to the North West in the end, and did a couple of days of climbing, a couple of days of as much walking as our dodgy knees would allow (Foinaven and Quinag), a day out on bikes to Cape Wrath, and a bit of pottering around touristing, watching the sunset from the campsite at Scourie, looking at puffins and drinking hot chocolate at Balnakeil and generally gawping at the sheer f*ck-offness of it all.
We had a day at Sheigra mostly doing easy stuff in the first geo - enjoyed RnR a lot, thought it was stiff at the grade but possibly my head was just in holiday mode. Next time we go back I'll definitely bring a static ab rope and psych myself up for Shark Crack though - it looks outrageous! Plus we had a day at Reiff, around the Pinnacle area. Did Moonjelly, Tangle of the Isles, a couple of the severes. "Good potter potential" probably sums it up - we had a really relaxed and enjoyable day. Pleasant routes on good rock even if they aren't epic adventures.
Oh, and the tactic of getting the train to Inverness and hiring a car and relying on camping or last minute hostel bookings worked a treat - it was really good being able to be flexible and to move around at our convenience.