/ REVIEW: Shetland Climbing Guide by Al Whitworth

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Shetland climbing montage, 3 kbIf a climbing trip to far-flung Shetland seems daunting, this brand new guidebook packed with marvels should be reason enough to get planning, reckons Martin Kocsis

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Simon Caldwell - on 23 Nov 2016
In reply to UKC Gear:

Bought a copy on the off-chance that it would contain something worth doing - looks superb!
Gary Latter - on 23 Nov 2016
In reply to UKC Gear:

The statement "Getting to Shetland isnt actually all that hard" in the final paragraph may be true, though it is pretty hard on the bank balance. We paid around £600 to take the car over on ferry from Orkney & back to Aberdeen few years ago. The road equivalent tariff introduced on most of the Cal Mac ferries doesn't apply to the Northern Isles for some reason!

That works out around twice as much as the 20 hour Hull - Zeebrugge ferry.
DannyC - on 23 Nov 2016
In reply to Gary Latter:

Yes, it's an important point. I'm over the moon about the guide, think the climbing looks great, and Al Whitworth has done a great job. But I realise my enthusiasm is centred on my sister now living over there - and having access to her car. Really looking forward to getting over in the summer months next year.

Taxis are very expensive on Shetland, so it's possible that leaving a car in a residential area in Aberdeen (or using JustPark), walking/cycling to the ferry, then hiring a car on arrival at Lerwick as a foot passenger (having kipped in the back of the cinema) could be the cheapest way to get climbing if you're not living or working on the islands.

For the very intrepid, a fair amount of climbing seems to be within a half-day cycling distance of Lerwick. Though that would be an interesting, but very different type of trip.

Simon Caldwell - on 23 Nov 2016
In reply to Gary Latter:

Car hire doesn't sound too expensive - £230 pw from Avis, and I'd expect the 2 local firms to be cheaper (though they don't give prices on their websites).
Gary Latter - on 23 Nov 2016
In reply to DannyC & Simon Caldwell:

Yes, just thought worth pointing out to people - we had a week climbing in Orkney followed by a week in Shetland, still exorbitant ferry fare even with the much shorter crossing from Orkney. Travelling both ways from Aberdeen would be best part of £1000 I guess! Would definitely consider hiring a car next time.

Climbed a fair bit at both Eshaness and Grind o' the Navir in the evenings when worked up at Sullom Voe for a Summer - great climbing.
Frank the Husky - on 23 Nov 2016
In reply to Gary Latter: Which ferry company did you use for the £1000 quote?

I've just booked a return trip from Aberdeen - Lerwick going out in May and returning a few weeks later in June for a total cost of £478 return, which is for a campervan, two adults and a large dog (as well as reclining seats, a kennel and full breakfasts in both directions). That was on Northlink Ferries.

DannyC - on 23 Nov 2016
In reply to Frank the Husky:

Nice one, I'm sure you'll have a hoot.

I'd recommend rolling out a sleeping bag on the floor of the bar or cinema, in case you don't take to the reclining seats, which do offer a nice place to have a beer next to the windows. I'd steer well clear of the banana-shaped 'Sleeping' Pods, they look grim!

Booking a private berth for two could make it hit near the £1,000 mark.

annakyn - on 23 Nov 2016

Thanks for all the great feedback. I'm really pleased that the guide has been so well received.

The cost of getting to Shetland is certainly the main thing that puts people off. I started coming as a student, sleeping in the bar on the ferry and camping/cycling around the place with buses to help out. It worked, but only for longer trips.

There is budget car hire here for about £25 a day. For that you get an older car but it's cheap and it works. It's also 200m from the ferry. grantfield-garage.co.uk

I kept the logistics section short as covering all bases would be a dozen pages, and it's not exactly hard to figure out how to get here and where to stay. I keep an eye out for Shetland-related topics on UKC and there are plenty of helpful climbers over on the forum at climbshetland.co.uk so just post up with more specific planning-related questions. I'll also be doing a destination guide for UKC soon which should have all the info you need.

Cheers, Al.
Post edited at 18:09
Brown - on 23 Nov 2016
In reply to UKC Gear:

When I visited the Shetland Islands to climb primarily on Foula we left our car in Aberdeen. I dropped the gear off at the ferry terminal with my climbing partner and then went and parked up in a nice looking bit of residential with no restrictions. We left the car for about a week and a bit with no problems.

Carrying our stuff around to the bus over to the west coast was hard, as we had 300m plus of abseil rope, but achievable and you cannot take a car to Foula anyway.

We walked out to climb on the nearest cliffs to Lerwick and explored sea stacks near Walls ok as well without a car. Had we still had any energy after climbing on Foula we would have hired a car but we were to (emotionally) exhausted and the idea of going somewhere with good information was too strong. Had we had this guide it would have been a different matter.

In short.... I think leaving the car in Aberdeen can make visiting the Shetlands far more of a cost sensible option.

lanky - on 24 Nov 2016
In reply to annakyn:

This looks great, how long did this take to make al?
Andy Long - on 24 Nov 2016
In reply to UKC Gear:

Re midges. They're nothing like as bad in Shetland as down south and I've encountered them more while digging peats than climbing. There's almost always a breeze; often somewhat more than a breeze.
annakyn - on 24 Nov 2016
In reply to lanky:

This version of the book 'only' took about 3 months to put together, but 3 of us have been collating all the route information, photos and drawing topos on a website ( www.shetlandclimbing.info ) since 2012, and I'd been gradually producing "miniguides" for 12 crags, which I was able to pretty much copy/paste. The website was spawned from several failed attempts to get a guidebook out - it was just to big a task - me and my brother had been trying to get it done since 2006 I think, but kept getting sidetracked!! So we made the website in an attempt to get others to help to collate the info, and it worked...

One major timesaver was using OS maps. The license fee would put off anyone doing massive print runs, but for a small book like this and printing a few hundred copies it has saved me so much work drawing them all, for about 40p/book.
annakyn - on 24 Nov 2016
In reply to Andy Long:

Just to point out by "down south", Andy means south of John O'Groats! It's been a good few years since I've been midged off a route and had worse experiences in the Peak than Shetland! If we do get midges, they tend to only appear from mid July onward.

That said, I had one memorable experience belaying from a boat (we got the tide wrong) only to be engulfed by midges after 5m. The climber pretty much jumped back off the route into the boat as he couldn't see, let alone climb, and then to make things worse the outboard wouldn't start so we had to row back across, with the cloud of midges only finally leaving us after 200m! The route was eventually climbed and called "Snidgy Snidgy"!
RossJ - on 01 Dec 2016
In reply to Gary Latter:

"Hard on the bank balance" is a very subjective thing. It can be fairly costly going to Mingulay and Pabbay and is logistically harder, but I don't see price being that often used as a barrier. I think it does come down to inspiration. If you really want to go to climb somewhere you find the means and the money to do it. Mingulay and Pabbay have certainly attracted a great number of climbers over the last two decades.

I've had a couple of trips to Pabbay and one to Mingulay, but Shetland has drawn me back year after year.

Two easy ways to reduce costs are: (i) to take a roll mat on board and sleep in the front bar (yes it does shut) rather than get a cabin (ii) find a friend or relative who will nominate you for the Northlink Family and Friends Discount. This usually runs in May to mid-June as well as some other times and will take 30% off the cost.

Having transport is pretty essential as if can be blazing sunshine up in Eshaness and clagged out all day in Lerwick, so you need to be mobile.

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