Shortly before his sad passing, much loved local activist, Willie Arrol told me about some modern sport style routes he had bolted.
These are unusual routes which can be found on the sandstone block piers of the long time abandoned Greenhall railway viaduct adjacent to the village of High Blantyre in South Lanarkshire.
The climbing is surprisingly varied and enjoyable considering the uniform nature of the stonework being climbed. Holds tend to be either crimpy or of the two finger pocket variety but the odd jug and sloper appear along the way. The routes are long and sustained by West of Scotland standards - those without EICA Ratho stamina will find the routes very pumpy. This all adds up to fantastic training for the greater ranges. Just to be clear in case there was any doubt the venue has been developed as a sport crag and dry toolers are NOT welcome. Mosquitoes, midges & cleggs (horse flies) can all be a nuisance at times in the summer, so wrap-up, take repellent or pick a day with a breeze.
Topo - A basic topo guide for the Towers can be found in the crag photo gallery on this web site.
Grades Ė the climbs have been graded for red-point ascents. Giving on-sight grades for these climbs would by default offer very inflated grades for the red-point. On-sighting here is a battle due to the high number of blind holds and the sheer number of poor holds which don't look significantly different from the good holds. Give yourself an extra pat on the back if you do manage to battle through for the on-sight as not having a bit of sequence knowledge and your favorite holds chalked-up makes a big diffrence here. I've not awarded quality stars to any of the routes. It is a matter of debate whether anything climbing a stone wall could ever merit stars but suffice to say if this was a natural crag there would be a lot of stars to be allocated.
Equipment Ė Willie typically used 86mm and 100mm long M10 stainless steel expansion bolts and longer M12 bolts at the two stainless steel lower-off rings. The routes typically have about eight bolts to the lower-off rings. It is to be hoped that anyone tempted to put up further routes will use similar high quality equipment. A 50m rope and a rack of at least 10 quickdraws is recommended.
The piers (structure EKB/3) are the responsibility of British Rail Board Residuary Limited, who are the body tasked with annual inspections and repair of such abandoned railway structures and/or South Lanarkshire Council. They sit in pleasant woodland traversed by a way-marked riverside foot path popular with dog walkers. Iím fairly certain dear old Willie did not seek permission to place bolts in the piers. I guess he didnít feel the need on account of the towers being a long time local training venue, with many old pegs from long forgotten ascents still present. If you choose to climb Willieís routes, bear in mind the legality of climbing at this venue is at best woolly. Probably, best to be discrete and not arrange club meets and the like at this venue. Just like a natural crag, allow time for the stone to dry after rain to avoid breaking holds. Donít be tempted to manufacture additional holds if you are having difficulty with a route - climbing is supposed to be difficult, thatís why we do it.
Parking - There is spaces for cars in the small park at grid ref. NS 671 567 accessed from Stoneymeadow Road (map at http:/tinyurl.com/2wmgwzk).
From here the Towers are a 5-10 minute walk. Step over the metal barrier, cross the grass heading downhill. Find a path on the left-hand side (wooden stairs) leading down to a bridge across the river. Cross the bridge and follow the path down stream.
7aMax Scottish Sport - A Selected Guide (2012)
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