/ Far North West easy ticklist
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.)
Open Secret HS 4b ***, Stone Valley
Assault Slab VDiff ***, Loch Tollaidh
Rough Slab VS 4c **, Loch Tollaidh
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.
I always enjoy a day on Aztec Tower near Gairloch. VD to HVS, but mostly VS with good pro. It's a super spot to spend a few hours!
The Rum Doodle area at Stone Valley is also worth a visit if you go there for Open Secret (which is brilliant).
I was a bit underwhelmed by Rubha Ploytach: the routes are rather short, some are undergraded and some have less than straightforward access.
Ridgeway View Crag has some nice clean routes on good rock.
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...
yep Aztec Tower has a nice setting but the climbing is pretty poor by NW standards!
Cool, thanks everyone!
FWIW, I'm mostly after stuff to do if we end up staying in Ullapool, because I don't know so much about the stuff to the North of there...
Things like the Cioch Nose and Sword of Gideon are already very much on the list of things to do if we go that way instead, and there's a whole other list of stuff in case we end up in the Cairngorms!
Not far NW but Central Buttress on Beinn Eighe should be on your list if you're heading north from Inverness.
If you are staying in Ullapool, The Hollow at Rhue is a nice spot for an hour's easy soloing/bouldering.
Badrallach looks quite good: it's on my list of things to do up that way, as is Lurgainn Edge on Cul Beag.
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.
Another vote for Black Gold at Reiff - a brilliant route, not high in the grade and well protected.
If you go to Rubha Ploytach be careful with the tides. Scottish Highlands North says it is non-tidal, but the platform was getting wave-washed by a pretty calm sea when we went.
Don't be fooled into thinking The Nook at Sheigra is VD if you've got the Scottish Highlands North guide - it's VS in the SMC guide and probably worth it.
If you end up further south around Torridon / Sheildaig then Ardheslaig has some very pleasant easier slabby routes for a half day or evening.
> 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!
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).
It ain't the Far North West until you've crossed the Kylesku bridge!
Apart from all the stuff mentioned, there are some nice wee routes on the roadside crags around Rhiconich. Nothing very long or memorable but some midget gems like Trident (S).
Also Sandwood Bay, for the location as much as anything else.
Have you done West Buttress on Stac Pollaidh?
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.
Further thanks to everyone replying!
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 thought the estate wasn't keen on bikes on the track in Strath Dionard or does the Scottish access law trump that?
I've only used a bike at night in winter there! I think the 2003 act would trump the estate but practically speaking it might be an idea to hide them on arrival.
This looks useful enough: http://scotland-landscapes.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/september-2010-ben-hope-scrambles.html
Why? That's weird as anything
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.
I remember the climbing on Rose Route being significantly harder than hs by the route we found. As VoM says though, its a superb adventure!
I think I cycled in a couple of times. It was easier in than out ;-)
We did hide the bikes though.
I think Foinaven wins as one of the most spectacular and remote climbing destinations in the UK.
PS. I've still got those axes you sold me :-)
The "no bikes" sign has no legal basis, and I thought had been removed. Whether it has or not, I've cycled in there and no-one has minded.
I'm pretty sure the road was built before the change to the access law and that was when the "no bikes" rule was in effect.
Once the law was changed we ignored the sign (I can't remember if it was left up or not).
The sign had no legal basis even before the new access law, and I cycled past it in the old days, met estate fishermen and no-one complained.
Thanks to everyone who posted here!
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.
Wondering how soon I can go back, now...
Great, glad you had a good trip!
Foinaven and Quinag - possibly two of THE most special places in the world.
Glad you enjoyed them.
Elsewhere on the site
Urban climber James Kingston will be on stage at all UK screenings to answer questions about his remarkable film... Read more
The B.D.V. — short for Black Diamond Vertical — jacket and pants are Black Diamond’s most versatile climbing... Read more
Save £20 when you buy a Petzl Elios Helmet!! The Petzl Elios helmet (2013 Version) is tough & durable,... Read more
The usual suspects and dark horses have been in play across Scotland over the rock season of 2014. One of the main... Read more
So, just what is the Petzl RocTrip? Every year French climbing manufacturer pick a sport climbing area that has potential... Read more