Altitude 750m a.s.l
The Hanging Gardens of the Cairngorms © hwackerhage
This huge, imposing cliff stretches for over a kilometre and gives excellent mid/upper grade routes, of up to 300m. The collection of extremes on Central Gully Wall is unrivalled anywhere else in the country.
With the demise of Cougar's third pitch, the most popular routes are Cyclops, Black Mamba, Goliath, Mousetrap and King Rat. Voyage of the Beagle is the pick of the mid-extremes and Cannibal and Origin of the Species are ones to test you when you've honed your granite weirdness skills. Routes to tempt instead of Cougar include Vampire and Alice Springs (when its dry!) or a link up of Sous les Toits, P1 of Sans Fer and then Masque for lots of E2 climbing up the full height of the cliff. The harder routes, despite some of them receiving little traffic, seem to stay pretty clean and a dearth of logged ascents shouldn't put you off. There are some exceptions where going armed with a brush might be advised - Flodden (although it did get ascents in 2014) and Range War (first pitch possible to by-pass - see guide). Some pegs are now absent or in a poor state. For Perilous Journey this may be problematic but for others, including Naked Ape, there is no change to the original grade.
Some parts of the cliff take a while to dry out, notably Broad Terrace Wall, but other parts, including much of cliff from The Shetlander through to Raptor dry out relatively quickly and will not be affected by an odd day of rain in an otherwise dry spell. The Buff Slabs seem to dry quickly as does the smooth barrier wall on False Gully Wall although wetness may be encountered higher on the routes. If there really is nothing dry, there is always Eagles Rock with a few excellent slab climbs.
Winter climbing at the Dubh Loch has seen a bit of a resurgence in recent years with a whole host of ice routes to be recommended on Broad Terrace Wall. These sit just along from the already classic Labyrinth and Hanging Garden Route. Giant also came fleetingly into condition in 2013/14 and can probably be added to the sought after Goliath for routes that only come into condition every 30 years - time will tell. Vertigo Wall seems to be fairly regularly in condition and may be a good early season target following a cold spell. Ice is a theme that links all these routes.
Taking a bike to cruise along the smooth track on the North side of Loch Muick makes the approach pretty pleasant. The walk in from the end of the loch is short and steep on a good path and is quite scenic with waterfalls and wee crags and birch trees dotted about. So no whinging please. Then the cliff appears and your jaw drops, particularly if its your first visit.
Most routes, including Cyclops and Black Mamba, are best approached by walking along the North side of the Dubh Loch and ascending to the routes from the base of the Central Gully talus fan.
Those approaching from the South could consider parking at Glen Clova, cycling up towards Bachnagairn, climbing over the flank of Broad Cairn to drop into the Dubh Loch from above - potentially you could suprise an Aberdonian by beating him to the base of his route this way.
|Cycled in from the car park at the Spittal of Glen Muik to just past Glas Allt Shiel. Definately the way to do it. Great trip. Great crag.|
climberuk - 20/Sep/09