This pocket guide to the local Ballater crags has been written from scratch and is presented with fifty coloured topo diagrams. The drawn lines are uniquely coloured from red through to violet (corresponding to the rainbow) to help avoid confusion. The cover is matt laminated to give durability. The guide covers three very contrasting and user friendly crags.
Creagan t Seabhaig, or more commonly known as the Pass of Ballater, is the main crag in the area and has been known for years to be the wet weather alternative to climbing in the Cairngorms. The crag is more extensive than led to believe and there is now, even a bit of bouldering. The climbs are usually short and punchy and notoriously tough in the grade in comparison to other areas. Its setting is amongst beautiful larch and Pine in Deeside that gives it a North American feel. However there is a drawback with the trees as the larch needle detritus can make for perfect compost for seedling to grow and in some areas routes can quickly sprout vegetation. It is quite often sheltered from the south westerlies due to the neighbouring Craigendarroch hill. The main selling point for the crag is that although located near the coldest region in the country, it is one of the few crags in Scotland that you can climb all year round on due to its south facing, sun trap nature and minimal seepage. It has at times been known to be well below zero in the shades of the car park and you could be on the upper tier climbing in shorts and a T shirt. Summertime here creates apathy, pine resin whiffs in the air and the ground is alive with wood ants and their impressive nests, domes of pine needles, are occasionally stumbled upon. I am adamant that you will never get bitten by a tick here because of the ants. The rock bakes in the summer sun so climbing harder routes becomes very difficult indeed and it wise to plan harder routes for the spring or autumn. Many of the easier climbs, especially on the middle tier of the western sector, have become very polished, and now that this new guide has unearthed many more easier climbs in different sectors on good, rough rock, it will hopefully spread the load.
Bellamore Craig, also known as Creag Corn Arn, was just a paragraph in the old guidebook and has now cleaned up to provide a fascinating addition to the area with some of the best views in Aberdeenshire. In brief it is an east facing granite escarpment of up to 10m in height. There are up to 60 climbs here, some can be described as esoteric, to some real belters. Many of them are in the easier grades and is a great venue for beginners and kids to experience the climbing in the wild outdoors. One word of caution is just keep an eye out for mountain bikers coming down the access path; this is known as heartbreak ridge and has been dubbed one of the best trails in the country and many international bikers seek it out.
Vat burn also known as the forest is a relatively newly developed crag hidden in the trees in a gorge in the east flank of Morven 872m. Climbing occurred here back in the 1980's but then was possibly banned, due to nesting birds or landowners. It wasn't until Duncan Tunstall took it upon himself, nearly 25 years later, to give the crag a makeover and developed the crag. He made notes of the hundred or so climbs he had done with his friends. He encouraged me to make a guide, which I did and I made it available as a PDF; this is now incorporated into this guide. The gorge comprises an eclectic mix of the crags with many quality routes on them of all grades. Being in the forest it can be midgy in the summer, but can be very pleasant to climb in during the autumn and spring, especially in very windy and showery weather, where its sheltered nature makes it very welcome. The rock is very coarsely crystalline and hopefully given traffic many of the climbs have now consolidated and lost their surface scrittle.