Rocktype Sandstone (hard)
Altitude 79m a.s.l
Nearing the top. © JLS
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 – 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. It is a matter of debate whether anything climbing a stone wall could ever merit any stars, however I’ve allocated "local stars" as a means of highlighting the best climbing the venue has to offer.
Equipment – Willie typically used 86mm and 100mm long M10 stainless steel expansion bolts and longer M12 bolts at the two stainless steel lower-off rings. These appear to work fine so far, however, it should be noted that the use of long stainless steel glue-in bolts for new and replacement bolts is to be encouraged. 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 bolt in a similar safe sport style i.e. no minimalist bolting. Be aware a few rogue short mild steel bolts exist on the route Orion however where these are present additional bolts were added so any possible future failure would not be catastrophic. A 50m rope and a rack of at least 10 quickdraws is recommended.
Conditions - Just like a natural crag, allow time for the stone to dry after rain to avoid breaking holds. The quickest drying routes are on the narrow side faces that catch the sun. Don’t be tempted to manufacture additional holds if you are having difficulty with a route - climbing is supposed to be difficult, that’s why we do it.
Crag Videos -
Ivy League (7b):
Arrol’s Arête (6b):
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 the parking the Towers are a 5-10 minute walk (0.7km). 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.
The piers (structure EKB/3) were the responsibility of the now abolished British Rail Board Residuary Limited, who were the body tasked with annual inspections and repair of such abandoned railway structures. It's unclear (to me at least) if responsibility has now been transferred to South Lanarkshire Council. They sit in pleasant woodland, traversed by a way-marked riverside footpath popular with dog walkers. The woodland is managed by the Council's countryside rangers. I’m fairly certain dear old Willie did not seek permission to place bolts in the piers. I guess he didn’t 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 Willie’s routes, bear in mind that although the Council are aware climbing takes place here and are currently choosing to turn a blind eye, the right to climbing at this venue is a bit woolly. There is a local community group that takes an active interest in the park and have good communication with the Council management team, so it goes without saying there is a need for climbers not partake in any anti-social behaviour than might upset this group.
Moderators Updates to this page are checked by a UKC volunteer JLS