Altitude 417m a.s.l
Gillaval Dubh © Iain Thow
The north face of Gillaval Dubh (417m) consists of a row of six buttresses up to 250m high overlooking the Tarbert to Stornoway road. The ridges are nowhere near as steep as they look from the road (from the quarry halfway up the road opposite they look desperate!). A Buttress has good but rather disjointed scrambling, C and D are excellent scrambles on superb gneiss, E and F are short and easy (F with an optional hard start, Grade 3), while B is horrible, cut by a series of vertical greasy walls which force scramblers onto steep vegetated and loose ground. All consist of alternating rock sections and grassy shelves. Some of the slabby parts are sustained, but the sections are usually avoidable and few are exposed. Usually there is plenty of choice of route, but there are no sideways escapes so once on a buttress you are committed to it. You get plenty of breaks but difficulties keep going right to the top. If they were in Glen Coe or Langdale they would be well known and popular, in Harris they probably only get a couple of ascents a year.
The rock itself (gneiss) is clean so it dries quickly, but with lots of grass ledges and not much sun wet streaks persist for a day or so after rain. These are usually easy to avoid, and there are also lots of positive holds, so the routes are feasible but obviously harder and you might end up dodging some of the best bits. The ideal time is a summer evening, as the sun will have come round onto the crag. The ridges catch any wind going, which is useful on midgy evenings.
It's a huge crag just above the road you can't really miss it! From the bridge over the Skeaudale River at NB 138 034 (parking just across the bridge) go up southeast to your buttress of choice.
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