My better half and I are up in Orkney this week, and armed with a copy of Scottish Rock (North) and the Orkney Seastacks website we had a reconnaissance wander around at Yesnaby this afternoon. Have the belay stakes above Black Slabs (adjacent to the cairn on Brough of Bigging) gone? Placed in 2003 according to the web, but I’ll be damned if I could see them. Black slabs seemed like a fairly safe bet for us, and whilst I could still fashion an ab the quality of the rock looks rather questionable for gear.
Trouble I’ve got is that my leading grade really tops out at a mellow HVS and my wife is a steadfast second. Most of the stuff in the guide is a tad beyond us.
There may not be anything suitable for us, I did bring the rack on a bit of an optimistic whim, but if anyone on here does know of any reasonable routes, or even better a topo, I’d be really grateful.
We didn't find the stakes when we were there in June either. There is some nice sport climbing at Yesnaby in the lower grades.
There are also a few route in the lower grades on Arch wall and also at Peedie Inlet which are worth doing.
I think there is also quite a bit of additional development on Orkney which isn't in the guidebook but I found after I came home when having a search around on the Internet. Try looking up Roseness.
Years since I climbed at Yesnaby but I think you can just scramble down to the routes in the Qui Ayre Point area, which is where the best rock is.
This website has a set of (old) topos and some info. http://www.orkney-seastacks.co.uk/Yesnabyroutes.htm
Yes, not a lot at Yesnaby in the lower grades. If the sea is calm and you're OK with abseil approaches etc, Howard's Way is really good. As the guide says, it looks about E5 from a distance!
We were there this summer and also didn't find the stakes at the Black Slabs.
For lower grade trad we really enjoyed Roseness. There is a topo on the Orkney Sea stacks site but the approach wasn't that obvious. Basically, from the big cairn/monument near the end of the peninsular, head North along the East coast. The first big obvious cliff you come too isn't described, but keep going beyond that a couple of hundred metres and it then appears.
We also went to Dearness. There is an online topo guide to Orkney (by Edward Nind) with lots described here which made it look good - but that was pretty adventurous (i.e. loose/snappy) and not that much at the lower grades. Lovely location though for a swim at the pinnacle area.
See Grimness/Honeysgeo page 64. Easy grade routes, decent rock, pleasant location.
You might even see an Orca passing if you are lucky
The Edward Nind guide is a gem, I’d never have found that in a million years.
> The Edward Nind guide is a gem, I’d never have found that in a million years.
I guess from what you are saying that you found it ok. If you didn't, it's available here:
> We also went to Dearness. There is an online topo guide to Orkney (by Edward Nind) with lots described here which made it look good - but that was pretty adventurous (i.e. loose/snappy) and not that much at the lower grades. Lovely location though for a swim at the pinnacle area.
Sorry to hear the rock quality was a disappointment. I had thought it was pretty reasonable (though certainly not in the same realms as the impressive solidity of Yesnaby), I would guess that many of the routes have not seen a second ascent though, so always going to be a little less solid than well-established areas.
Any chance you could mail me what routes you tried? It would be interesting to know.
At Yesnaby there are some nice easier routes in the geos north of the main crag but they are unfortunately not documented. The outward(north facing) wall of Qui Ayre point itself has some fine routes as does the next geo north. The routes around the descent to the Tower are also fairly amenable. Ebb and Flow is probably HVS, not E1 and the 2 VSs to the right are good. If the tide is out to allow scrambling access to the False Stack the Crow’s Nest gives a fun outing and the routes on the little back wall of that area are good.
Ed will take umbrage but I wouldn’t be rushing to much of the stuff in his guide on a first visit.
> Ed will take umbrage but I wouldn’t be rushing to much of the stuff in his guide on a first visit.
I'd agree that most of the stuff on Orkney Mainland is not outstanding climbing, I think the lack of stars reflects that, maybe I've fallen into the classic first-ascentionist trap of overrating my own routes. But I'm dissapointed that you didn't rate the stuff on Hoy, I thought a lot of those routes were fantastic.
The guide you made was really inspiring and well designed and clearly took loads of effort so nothing to be sorry about.
Having said that, we had a 3 week trip around the obscure cliffs of the North Coast, Harris and Orkney, and Dearness was far and away the poorest rock we encountered. The main issue was that gear was mainly between flakes that looked like they could snap off at any time (and a few did).
We warmed up on the VS's at the Grey Zone and had a bit of a fright. Then moved to the Pinnacle Area and had more of a fright on "Right Eye" and sacked it off and went swimming with the Seals.
A lovely spot but not the best rock.
By the way, if you were ever considering re-doing the guide the ordering of the maps on page 22 is a bit illogical.
But once again, thanks for making the effort - it certainly adds more options to an Orkney Trip for when the wind makes Yesnaby impractical. We met IceBun there one day (thanks for seconding!), planned to go back the next and had to sack it off as the waves were breaking over the cliff tops - so used your guide for an alternative - and ended up sun burnt!
Sorry, should have been more specific, I meant the mainland stuff. I’ve no knowledge of what the Hoy stuff is like. I’ve climbed in one of the Geo’s and done Rosamund’s Birthday. The other lines looked stunning though they must have needed a fair bit of cleaning in that geo. My abiding memory is great climbing but marred by Tim’s lob when the whole side of a crack departed the cliff as he lay backed it 😮
> The other lines looked stunning though they must have needed a fair bit of cleaning in that geo. My abiding memory is great climbing but marred by Tim’s lob when the whole side of a crack departed the cliff as he lay backed it 😮
Yikes, sounds like exactly the kind of thing that has made me abseil inspect basically everything I have new-routed above about HVS. After a couple of nasty and close-to-nasty incidents with loose rock, I decided my ethics could stand some dilution!
On Hoy it's definitely a question of picking the line according to a combination of features _and_ rock quality. I levered off most everything that I could with a claw-hammer but on that kind of rock, there is still the odd time when a block on a ledge is just too big to move or the Jenga pattern of jammed blocks just isn't possible to clear safely. The former should generally be pretty obvious and at least safe to stand on top of and I tried to avoid any of the latter with a bit of a route wiggle.
Still, I know Ian and Tess had a bit of an unfortunate incident where a big block on a belay ledge in Geo 3 rolled across the ledge when stood on and I can't even envisage what that block was or where it would have been from belaying in the same place a couple years earlier.
I guess you can always feel like you managed to get all the loose stuff of but it only takes one bit missed or even just a few years of normal erosion to spoil things.
Edit: I think the routes on Exposure Wall would be right up your street though.
> Hi Edward,
> The guide you made was really inspiring and well designed and clearly took loads of effort so nothing to be sorry about.
> Having said that, we had a 3 week trip around the obscure cliffs of the North Coast, Harris and Orkney, and Dearness was far and away the poorest rock we encountered. The main issue was that gear was mainly between flakes that looked like they could snap off at any time (and a few did).
Ah, right, good to know. I guess I mainly used the thicker layers and there is also an aspect of how many grades you have in hand - I can ignore a suspect hold on a VS/HVS but I'm definitely going to have to commit to it on an E3/E4 so that might make me more likely to feel rock quality is poor on harder routes.
> By the way, if you were ever considering re-doing the guide the ordering of the maps on page 22 is a bit illogical.
Yes. At least editing a little, not a full re-do.
A Dragon Amongst the Thistles is actually part of an existing Dave Mac route so I need to correct that. I also want to put in Rosmund's Birthday as it is within the photo, at the time I just couldn't work out exactly what crack it went up (I blame the terrible guidebook description for that one!). And now I have a drone I want to get a photo of exposure wall that isn't absolute gash.
Sounds like I should change the description of the rock quality for Deerness at least too (and by extension, most likely for several other areas on Mainland too.
> so used your guide for an alternative - and ended up sun burnt!
That part at least is definitely your own fault :P
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