Climbing at Goldsborough

Ian Cummins on Jumping Jack Flash 6A+ © Steve Crowe 2004
Ian Cummins on Jumping Jack Flash 6A+ © Steve Crowe 2004

Goldsborough is a superb remote Pennine gritstone outcrop a few miles from Barnard Castle. The rock is of good quality in a pleasant situation overlooking Hury and Blackton reservoirs in the shallow valley of Baldersdale. The crag has a scattering of boulders and short walls on the North face and much bigger series of South facing buttresses all wrapped around a small, rising, moor land summit. Although exposed to any wind, it is quick drying, as it does not suffer from any drainage or seepage. The crag does enjoy visits all year round but it is more comfortable from early spring to late autumn. A pad may prove more useful than ropes at this crag as soloing appears to be the norm however many of the routes do offer placements for protection and there are belay stakes at the top.


There are no records of the early development of Goldsborough. It is known that Bentley Beetham climbed here regularly during the 1930s, bringing parties of pupils from his Barnard Castle School. The adventures of the Goldsborough Club, as they were known, are recorded in the Fell and Rock guides to the Lake District. Most of the easier routes were recorded by members of the Eden Valley MC during the late 1970s during work on the first edition of the “North of England Rock Climbing Guide”.

Goldsborough Carr © Steve Crowe
Goldsborough Carr © Steve Crowe

Climbers from Barnard Castle were also active, in particular Paul Carling and Nigs Reader. Motivation was climbed by Reader in 1980, while Carling recorded many testing problems including EnigmaThe Thornbird and Long Reach all prior to 1982. Ian Cummins added the bold Green Nigel in 1983 and Nick Clement climbed The Obsessed and Viola.

Steve Crowe on The Obsessed 6A+ © Steve Crowe Collection 2006
Steve Crowe on The Obsessed 6A+ © Steve Crowe Collection 2006

During the mid 1980s Ian Cummins climbed the Footless Traverse on Thin Wall Buttress. Stu Ferguson climbed Flymantle on the North Facing section; Steve Crowe added the more serious variation. Bob Bennett, Steve Crowe and Mark Turner added many new problems while working on the first edition of Climbing in North East England.

Karin Magog soloing Fiddlers Arete HVS 5b © Steve Crowe 2003
Karin Magog soloing Fiddlers Arete HVS 5b © Steve Crowe 2003

Bob Bennett began developing the North East Boulders during 1995 with about 15 problems added by spring 1996. Steve Crowe recorded a number of traverses during the winter of 1995/96 including Askew and Upper Break, although it is possible they were climbed before. Due to bad fingers/work/kids/staleness etc., Ian Cummins had kept a low profile for 5-6 years before surfacing in 1997 to report the hardest problems at Goldsborough to date. Beth’s Traverse from July 1996 and George’s Roof climbed in July 1997 both have become classics.

Andy Earl on his Super Low Level Traverse 7B © Steve Crowe 2003
Andy Earl on his Super Low Level Traverse 7B © Steve Crowe 2003

Andrew Earl traversed the Super Low Level on the Thin Wall Buttress in January 1997 and Steve Dunning extended this in 2001. Dunning added three desperate combinations, Something Burning, Second Coming and Juxtapose around this time. In April 2002 Ian Cummins made the long overdue ascent of Holstein Friesian. Tom Newman has added a fews powerful problems more recently; Mr Motivator 7C, Upside Downtown F7C, Clamp Faster 8A, Plump Master 7C and This One’s For Cummings F7C. Dan Varian left his mark in 2019 with some impressive link ups the best are probably Polo and Clamp Faster both 8A

Bentley’s Buttress

Bentley's Buttress
Bentley’s Buttress

The crag is clearly seen above the road. This is North West Buttress which is a little underwhelming and just to the left is the compact wall of Bentley’s Buttress which has half a dozen worthwhile climbs that may need brushing and are best enjoyed on a warm mid summers evening. The spectacular Flymantle VS 5a tackles the centre of the roof to the left of the photo above. However most folks head straight over the top to the sunny side.

Enigma Buttress

The Swaledale Morris Men is an ungradable one move wonder that is sometimes the first warm up. Both Old Moss 5+ and Enigma 6A+ are much sought after ticks but ascents are hard fought for. Being West facing the Enigma buttress may be a bit chilly and better saved for a warm down.

Hubris Buttress

The classic climb here Hubris 6A+ fell down. Ian’s Arête is certainly a sandbag at 7A.

Hubris 6A+ © Steve Crowe 1999
Hubris 6A+ © Steve Crowe 1999

Yoke Buttress

Further right Yoke Buttress isn’t especially impressive but it contains a bunch of reasonably easy climbs that are great for warming up on.

Thornbird Buttress

This is the left-hand of the two main impressive buttresses. George’s Roof 7B+ is essentially a direct start to the left arête which is Nick Clement’s The Obsessed 6A+. Fiddler on the Roof E1 5c is much sought after. A powerful start across the huge roof leads to an easier finish. The Thornbird and Green Nigel share the same powerful start and grade E2 6a. Be sure they are clean because they are all quite bold. Dan Varian’s Clamp Faster 8A is a more recent addition.

The Alcove

Half a dozen climbs sit in the alcove between the two main buttresses.

Thin Wall Buttress

Karin Magog soloing Fiddlers Arete HVS 5b © Steve Crowe 2003
Karin Magog soloing Fiddlers Arete HVS 5b © Steve Crowe 2003

This is the main buttress for the strongest boulders with lots of powerful problems climbing out across the steep roof however there’s plenty for mere mortals to try. The hanging left arete, Fiddler’s Arete HVS 5b, is the most popular climb at Goldsborough. The start is the hardest but the finish feels high and is well protected if you have dragged a rope behind you. Fiddler HVS 5a starts to the right of the arête then eventually joins the arete high up, a direct finish is a tricky E1 5b. The steep right arête is climbed by Jumping Jack Flash 6A+, if you’re successful on this be sure you have someone ready to take a picture. If you found that too easy then try starting on Beth’s Traverse 7C. This crimpy test piece is much sought after but requires impressive finger strength.

Darren Stephenson on Thin Wall Special 5+ © Steve Crowe 2003
Darren Stephenson on Thin Wall Special 5+ © Steve Crowe 2003

Baldersdale Buttress

The final south facing wall, Baldersdale Buttress is a pleasant buttress with some shorter problems. The tricky Plagiarist and Plagiarist Left-hand both get 6A, This One’s for Bill 7A+ climbs the centre of the wall on poor crimps. The arete is climbed by Bass Special Font 4+, it’s easier than it looks but no giveaway.

South East Boulder.

There’s a clutch of testing short problems and some tricky traverses on the South East Boulder including the popular The Tide is Turning 6C which is harder than it first looks.

Karin Magog on The Tide is Turning 6C © Steve Crowe 2003
Karin Magog on The Tide is Turning 6C © Steve Crowe 2003

The North Face

The climbing on the north face is on smaller and less frequented boulders and short walls. These climbs are best enjoyed on a mid summer evening but take a brush as they are a bit neglected unfortunately.

Around the Block 7A © Steve Crowe collection
Around the Block 7A © Steve Crowe collection


There is no definitive guidebook currently in print. These are all selective guides which includes Goldsborough;

Yorkshire Gritstone Bouldering Vol 2 by Steve Dunning & Ryan Plews 2011

Northern England by Chris Craggs. Rockfax 2008

Climbing in Caithness

Exploring the sea cliffs on the east coast.

Latheronwheel © Steve Crowe 2021
Latheronwheel © Steve Crowe 2021

Karin and I first became aware of the rock climbing developments in Caithness in 2003 when Jo George reported Sarclet Pimpernel and Groove Armada by Trevor Wood, Guy Robertson and Dave Porter on the brilliant Scotland Online website. We always planned to go sometime to check it out but we never quite managed to drag ourselves away from the awesomeness of the West Highlands. It wasn’t until Guy Robertson published his fantastic book The Great Sea Cliffs of Scotland in 2020 that we finally put our plans into action.

We both love climbing on sea cliffs and three Caithness cliffs were described in Guy’s coffee table book; Sgaps by Murdoch Jamieson, Ellen’s Geo by Simon Nadin and Sarclet by Rob Christie. The fantastic photography was a great help for getting a feeling for the place before we’d even left home. Sea cliffs are notorious for finding the right place to abseil in but we soon found ourselves at Sarclet and tied our ropes to the three abseil stakes.


We warmed up on the awesome HVS Groove Armada then Karin lead the spectacular E1 Sarclet Pimpernel. While belaying we were both drawn to the well chalked lines of Northern Alliance and Djapana two fantastic looking E3’s. By the time we climbed those we could clearly see the lines of Orchid Hunter, Time Bandit, and The Harr Bringer. We were already hooked!

It was the last day of good weather on another trip before we got to try those three routes. We decided on an early start to make the most of the morning sun and I was soon enjoying perfect conditions on the sheltered The Orchid Hunter E3, however as Karin topped out the wind picked up and heavy rain started. Disappointed we retreated to the cafe where we checked the ongoing forecast again, it was dire, but the sun was back out so we suddenly decided to take the chance and walked back in with fresh determination. Karin made quick work of the steep and impressive Haar Bringer E4, tricky route finding weaving between the overlaps, I was relived to second this one. I preferred the look of Time Bandit E4, which I thought was very good, bolder than I anticipated and certainly no push over.

Around the corner on the North East face we climbed Walking on Water E2. It is an excellent steep climb mostly on good holds however the crux was unexpectedly greasy and proved to be more of a challenge than anticipated. Early morning sun and wind off the land would probably provide better conditions.

Geo of Creagan Righe (Sgaps)

Geo of Creagan Righe (aka Sgaps)
Karin abseiling into Geo of Creagan Righe (aka Sgaps)

Sgaps (Geo of Creagan Righe) is one of the more accessible crags at Caithness with one of the hardest climbs established in the area so far, God’s Gift, a tough looking E7. This impressive geo is littered with strong lines for the fit climbers. While the continuous climbing on Deep Joy E3/4 and Big Sky Country E4/5 makes both memorable experiences, the best of the bunch is undoubtedly the well protected and well pumpy Spummin’ Marvellous E2/3.

Ellen’s Geo

Ellen’s Wall is understandably popular as it has a terrific collection of routes mostly between E1 to E4. It’s difficult to select a highlight because everything we’ve climbed there has been a bit special.

The first route we climbed on Ellen’s Wall was the brilliant Hundreds and Thousands E2 5c. One of the best is certainly Strata Gem E3 5c but we say that after every route we’ve climbed on that wall. Non Stop Nitty Gritty is another memorable E3 5c in a spectacular situation and the brilliant Fracture Clinic E4 5c is already a classic.

We frequently have spectators on board the Caithness Seacoast tours shouting encouragement too! Karin is in the exposed hanging groove of Toad in the Shoe E2 5b.

Ellen’s Wall from the Caithness Seacoast tour boat.
Ellen’s Wall from the Caithness Seacoast tour boat.


The popular Latheronwheel is the first venue encountered when you arrive at Caithness. It has a pleasant 10 minute approach from the harbour and a good selection of enjoyable sub extreme climbs.

Stepping Out and Pistachio are two sought out Severes. Puffin Attack VS is a fun face climb and if you’re looking for something a little harder Guillemot Crack and Positive Mental Attitude are a pair of popular HVS’s. High tides or big seas can restrict what you can climb but the routes around Fall Out HVS at Latheronwheel has saved a few showery days for us due to its easy access.

Skerry Mor, Mid Clyth

Skerry Mor, Mid Clyth
Skerry Mor, Mid Clyth

We’ve climbed a lot at the friendly Skerry Mòr, Mid Clyth. The wall has strong crack and groove lines providing many of the easier lines with good protection and great character. Karin and I had gone for the harder face climbs but couldn’t avoid the draw of Sprockletop VS and Maelstrom HVS. Finally, Silverfish E1 is a superb route with a hard start. Great warm down, but certainly not recommend as a warmup!

Skerry Mor, Mid Clyth
Silver Fish Area, Skerry Mor, Mid Clyth

At the other extreme we both led the fantastic but bold Impending Doom E5, after a close inspection on abseil assured us that there was adequate protection where you need it. I was pleased that Karin led The Annunciation E3/4. Originally given E2, E4 in the new guide may be too generous. Perhaps E3 but the crucial cam is small, Karin had to drop a loop to pull up the appropriate size micro cam while hanging on in an awkward position! The adjacent route had birds nesting near the top but we liked the look of it so we returned later in the year and Karin led The King’s Pyjamas.

Some routes here are just so good and it’s a friendly venue where it is easy to abseil back down to strip especially handy when there’s a strong westerly making belaying at the bottom of the crag more pleasant than sat on the top. Using this approach we both led the classic Incubus E3, The Fearful Void E4, Hammer House E4 5c and our own new route, the bold Signed, Sealed, Delivered E3 5b.

Inset Wall, Skerry Mor, Mid Clyth
Inset Wall, Skerry Mor, Mid Clyth

We enjoyed the climbing on Inset Wall so much that we climbed all the routes between the steep and sustained Frog Stroker HVS and excellent pumpy Mug’s Game HVS. Susan and Amateur Operatics are interesting E3’s Theatre of Cruelty solid E2 and Stage Fright E2 proved quite tricky in the groove.

Karin leading Amateur Operatics E3 5c
Karin leading Amateur Operatics E3 5c

Beyond Hammer House is South Bay where we have our eyes on the bold Love is Suicide E3 5b and the even bolder Friends in High Places E4 5b. Sandwiched in between is a bunch of more reasonably graded routes including the popular Oxter, Severe.

South Head of Wick

Karin leading Wick and Feeble E2 5b
Karin leading Wick and Feeble E2 5b

South Head of Wick has a few very accessible quick drying routes from E2 to E4 on excellent hard sandstone. The Lightness of Being E3, Selkie E2 and Wick & Feeble E2 lay just south of the fisherman’s steps and are all worthwhile. Despite being only 10 metres long they are all surprisingly pumpy. Nearby is the popular tourist attraction of The Castle of Old Wick and adjacent to it is the Stack of Old Wick which is a popular training route for climbers heading to Orkney and The Old Man of Hoy. 


There has been a lot of development since the definitive guide to Caithness was published by the Scottish Mountaineering Club in 2004. The best guidebook is the selective Scottish Rock (SMC/Wired) which covers Sarclet, Ellen’s Geo, Skerry Mor (Mid Clyth), Geo of Reagan Right Clyth(Sgaps) and Latheronwheel. Gary Latter published the 3rd edition of his popular Scottish Rock Volume 2: North in 2020 and it covers Latheronwheel, Sarclet and Stack of Old Wick. If current guidebooks leave you wanting more the SMC have now made their entire routes database public here.

Further Reading

The Great Sea Cliffs of Scotland by Guy Robertson is the 2021 Banff Mountain Book Award-winning anthology of outrageous climbing adventures from 26 of the most extraordinary sea cliffs across Scotland.” including three on the east coast of Caithness.

The Great Sea Cliffs of Scotland by Guy Robertson in 2020
The Great Sea Cliffs of Scotland by Guy Robertson in 2020

Tick List

Karin and I still have lots we’d like to do. Classics like Silver Surfer HVS at Sarclet, Brains as well as Braun E4 at Ellen’s Geo and Cauliflower in the Soup E5 at Sgaps. There’s so many Caithness Classics that I’ve added a list on UK Climbing. We have only just scratched the surface. Every trip we’ve made, we have returned home with an ever increasing to do list. Hidden Wall and Clythness North is high on the list and if the training goes well maybe we’ll have a look at God’s Gift.

Rest Day Activities

There’s lots to see and do in and around Caithness but our favourite pastime is to visit the fantastic small harbours along the coast. They all have their unique character and fascinating past. Lybster harbour was a busy fishing port during the boom in the herring fishing and although much quieter these days, it is still perhaps the busiest one we’ve visited. Many of them are tucked away down narrow little roads but are well worth seeking out. The recently renovated Whaligoe Steps, which are adjacent to the parking for Ellen’s Wall, are a very popular tourist destination and well worth a walk down either before or after climbing. The small car park gets rammed though, so an early start is recommended to get parked if you’re heading to the crag. There are also numerous ancient stone tombs/burial sites to visit, plus an archaeological trial near Loch of Yarrows that you can walk round.

The area also has a diverse mix of cafes for those damp days. We particularly like Wickers World next to the harbour in Wick, with its wide range of good quality home cooked food at reasonable prices.

Caithness Seacoast

William and Adelaine Munro run Caithness Seacoast tours from Harbour Road, Wick Harbour.

Caithness Seacoast Tours
Caithness Seacoast

Wick Harbour, Caithness
Wick Harbour, Caithness

El Desfiladero de La Hermida

This is the definitive sport climbing guide to La Hermida Gorge by Richie Patterson.

El Desfiladero de La Hermida is the definitive sport climbing guide to La Hermida gorge which straddles the Asturias/Cantabria border in NW Spain. It contains 24 never before published crags and nearly 700 routes, many of which have only recently been developed. The whole gorge from Pechon on the coast, to the alpine meadows of Cabanes, has a fantastic variety of single pitch sport climbing on generally excellent limestone. The routes are graded from very easy, on many accessible roadside slabs, to almost impossible up in the “almost inaccessible” world class cave of Carcalosa. This valley is covered by the second edition of the Roca Verde guide but the El Desfiladero de La Hermida guide has even more sectors included. A generous percentage from sales of the Roca Verde guide have funded some of the more recent development. The secrets of the most sought after crags in the valley, including the world-class venue of Cicera, are now described in detail. Clear photodiagrams are complemented by some excellent action photography. There is certainly something here for everyone at whatever grade you climb. A 70m rope should be considered a minimum but some of the newer hard routes advise a 100m rope as preferable, 20 quick draws will be enough for most of the routes covered in this guide.

The Climbing The crags are all situated on the Eastern flank of the Picos de Europa in or close to La Hermida gorge which straddles the border of Cantabria and Asturias in Northern Spain. The area is less than an hours drive from the airport and ferry terminals at Santander. There are 24 crags described in detail in this definitive guide to the area, many for the first time, the highlights include RumenesEl InfiernoCicera and Carcalosa. One or two of the sectors still have some trad climbs so be sure to read the guide carefully and/or carry a small rack of gear. There are many classic multi pitch mountain routes in the nearby Picos de Europa to enjoy but they are not covered by this guidebook.

The first crag described here is the sea cliff at Pechon with easy access and unique atmosphere for the area. Both sectors are slightly overhanging with a good selection of routes 6a-8a. Belen 6a and Jandro cotizando 6a are popular easier routes then there is loads of choice at 7a-7b but La vieja escuela 7a+ and Kurt Albert 7b are very enjoyable.

Estraguena is a small crag but packed with quality, south-east facing with plenty of afternoon shade. It is almost roadside but not really family friendly due to the awkward approach and the narrow ledge at it’s base. The crag offers a great introduction to tufa climbing in the valley and is generously graded, making it a good starting point. Princesa deva 7a, Marabunta 7a+, Alpinista Egoista 7a+, Granma 7c, Goliath 7c, Imperfectus bultus 7b+ and  Austurcantabra 7c+ all standout. Primera intencion 7b is also good but I thought it was hard for the grade.

A short way further up the valley are Rumenes and nearby El infierno, they are among the best crags in the gorge with long and steep tufa climbing especially in the 7’s and with some 8a classics. They both get plenty of shade in the afternoon.  

Probably the most sought after routes at Rumenes are the outstanding Invocando de Onan 7a and the unrelenting 40m pump fest  Sindrome de Stendhal 8a. However Vinarock 7a+, Rumenes power y albino 7a+,  Apokalimnos 7b, Tubular hell 7b+, El dia del arquero 7c and Panico nuclear 7c are all exceptional. Some of the highlights up at El infierno include the steep and burly Malas Pulgas 7a, Hellboy 7a+, Cachimente 7b, Balambambu 7c,  El algoritmo Wallman 8a and the brilliant 47 ronin 8a.

The next crag of note is the accessible Urdon with a selection of popular routes in the 6’s and 7’s and three good 8a’s. El pajaro momificado is an enjoyable 6b with a harder extension at 7a. Effecto Domino 7band the unnamed 7c to its left are both very good. Vias y mujeres 8a is a relatively new route that has already reached classic status. The car park is large, however this is also the starting point for a very popular walk so all the parking spots can be taken up very early in the day.

A short way further up the road is another south facing crag which enjoys the sun until about 4pm. This is the accessible El Salmon with many routes at more reasonable grades. The photo ticks here are El polivaliente 6b and El retorno de mechas 7a.

Cueva del RiberoSector Clonica and Cueva del Corazon are three popular crags close to the village of La Hermida. Rebelion en la granja 7a, Chucho’s Wall 7b and  Estira la Parra 7b+ all standout. The recently developed Cueva Hermida, a pleasant 20m walk from the village centre, is crammed full of steep powerful routes for the strongest climbers. There are also many smaller quieter venues worth checking out as you progress up the gorge.  Parelosa is shady with good routes in the high 7’s that would benefit from more traffic. One of the best routes is Relatividad 7c+ however the photo tick is La coquilla asesina 8a which is a 15m extension of Perirrojo 7b. Dolce Galbana 8a+ is a spectacular 26m route, with three distinct cruxes, that is rapidly becoming a power endurance classic.  

Valle de Bajes is a side valley rising out from La Hermida towards the village of Bajes, which is a popular starting point for walks up into the Picos de Europa and is also well known for it’s speciality cheeses. The Bajes valley also contains a few accessible crags which are ideal for novices. The quick drying crag Calabreru is more difficult to access and the belays are off narrow ledges. The wall is gently overhanging, the routes are hard and up to 40m long. The photo tick here is Eowyn 7c+.

Cicera is 15 minutes pleasant stroll followed by 5-10 minutes steeply uphill. This north facing venue provides plenty of shade and it’s needed because the route are hard. Lots of 7’s and 8’s to try up here. Pacifis 7b+ and Mancha roja 7c are both hard but remain justifiably popular. Deambulante was overgraded at 8a but the climbing is good so it should remain popular as a hard 7c+. The excellent Troncomovil 8a has a tricky diedre to negotiate then an endurance fight to the top. If you prefer tufa endurance then Veneno azul 8a is considered a classic. Walking on the Moon 8a+ is a hard and technical test piece, the superb Arte si quieres 8a+ is also worth checking out. For 40m of pure resistance try Entropia and Treinta anos de locura 8b, both are superb. At a more reasonable grade La Corbata de Unquera 7a is well worth doing but possibly not the best choice for a warm-up. Steep and intense at the start, then technical face climbing higher up. The next route right Naturaleza Viva 7a+ is also a popular route on some curious iron intrusions.

If that’s all a bit too easy, on the opposite side of the gorge you will find Carcalosa. An aerobic 45 minutes of scrambling steeply up, occasionally pulling on ropes, leads to the huge cave with routes up to 9a and harder projects. The right side is a bit more amenable with the classic Dimensiones paralelas 7c+ tackling the twin tufa system.

There are some more smaller river side sectors to check out as you travel further up the gorge including Placas de Esquilleu. This has a slab that is very popular with novices. Nearby is El Lado Oscuro (The Dark Side) and if you are willing to wade the river you will be rewarded with some long  routes at 7c and three at 8’s. The excellent Museo Coconut 7c and Gretaline 8a+ are both over 30m long. 

Cabanes comprises of six sectors with a good spread of grades that all overlook the stunning alpine meadows and enjoying spectacular views of the Picos de Europa.

The ancient town of Potes offers shops, cafes and restaurants making it an interesting day destination. La Reunion Bar in Potes is a great spot with good beer, music and wifi along with climbing info & topos. Posada La Cuadrona at La Hermida also has wifi and topos for some of the more secretive sectors.

Beyond Potes is the small sunny sector of Los Zaborros de los Llanos which is unusual in that it has steep easy routes, Vs and 6s, ideal for novices wanting to progress from slab climbing. Finally don’t miss the dozen or so gently overhanging pump fests ranging from 6b to 7b at the south facing Cosgaya up near the head of the valley.

Rest Day Activities

A superb way to relax on a rest day and recover from the powerful wrestling with the many steep tufa climbs in the area, is to enjoy the freely accessible hot springs situated underneath the bridge that leads to the Balneario Spa Hotel. There is no signage so it is very easy to miss despite being adjacent to the main road. Other activities could include hillwalking in the stunning mountains of the Picos de Europa, Via Ferrata, bike rides or the telepherique from Fuente De. Alternatively perhaps a trip out to the coast to surf or just sit on the beach.


There are ample places for climbers to sleep rough in a van. Camping la Viorna is a popular campsite near Potes, while there is almost too much choice if you prefer to be closer to the coast.

Bouldering at Cresciano and Crironico in Ticino

Updated Steve Crowe 30th April 2021

Cresciano 2005 © Steve Crowe
Cresciano 2005 © Steve Crowe

In early 2005 I was invited by Andy Earl on a trip to go bouldering on the superb granite blocs of Cresciano and Crironico in the Ticino area in Switzerland. I’d gone along with a serious knee injury and although my main role was as a photographer I couldn’t resist packing my climbing shoes.

Everyone climbed as a team, they took on a lot of serious highball problems that required a lot of mats and attentive spotters. Generally the rule was once one person got up the problem then everyone moved on. Most of the climbs attempted received successful ascents but not necessarily by the person in my photos. There was some terrific banter and looking back it was a privilege to be part of amazing trip to be a part of.

Andy Earl sponsored by E9 © Steve Crowe 2006
Andy Earl sponsored by E9 © Steve Crowe 2006

The strong British team of Andy Earl, Gaz Parry, Ian Vickers, Percy Bishton and the young Jamie Cassidy (Taz) was given an international flavour when we were joined for the week by Wouter Jongeneelen and Dennis Teijsse two of the strongest climbers from the Netherlands at that time, (oh and myself and my cameras).

Flicking through Gaz’s guidebook was impressive with whole sections already ticked. On previous trips Gaz was more interested in mileage but this time he sought to fill the gaps and he managed this with great efficiency. The highlight of the trip for Gaz was probably success on the very powerful Extreme Ironing.  For the rest of the team however it was his effeminate victory scream as Gaz topped out on another eight, La Pelle

Considering that Andy Earl’s trip was marred by a bad cold he still managed to pull off some astoundingly quick ascents of many of the hardest problems in the area mixed with a few spicy highballs that had his spotters unsure whether to spot Andy or protect themselves as he plummeted ground wards prior to his eventual success on Stinky Pete’s a mere Font 7B!

Andy Earl climbing Stinky Pete 7B Cresciano © Steve Crowe 2005
Andy Earl climbing Stinky Pete 7B Cresciano © Steve Crowe 2005

Andy, Gaz and Wouter all managed to make short work of the standing start to the infamous Dreamtime (8A+) for Wouter success came on his last attempt of his last problem for the week.

Ian spent this trip taping his tattered tips and quietly clearing up many outstanding problems that had eluded him on previous visits. Butch spent a long time looking for the right problem to get his 8A tick in for the trip, steeper the better. After an awesome flash of Soucoupe LH (7C+) he found just the thing on the last day at Crironico, a powerful sequence across a huge horizontal roof overlooking the valley.

Andy Earl on Soucupe LH 7C+ at Crironico © Steve Crowe 2005
Andy Earl on Soucupe LH 7C+ at Crironico © Steve Crowe 2005

While Percy was pleased to tick an 8A, the popular le Pillar at Crironico. 

Percy © Steve Crowe 2005
Percy © Steve Crowe 2005

The grades in the Cresciano Area have a reputation for being soft but that’s not how I found it, variable certainly. Some of the warmups in the sixes appeared to be just as challenging as the many more famous grade eight problems that succumbed to the team like La Boule, Franks Wild Years, Kirk Windtain and The Jungle

© Steve Crowe 2005
© Steve Crowe 2005

West to Bill and Ben – Coast to Coast Walk

Frozen Feet!

After a fitful night’s sleep, I woke trying desperately to keep out the cold. Moving to get up I noticed a white frost on my sleeping bag. Then, that the condensation on the inner tent was frozen. Fearing the worst, I opened the flysheet, which was nearly white inside and out, and removed the top from my water container. The bottom stayed on the ground thus spilling a few drops of water on to my sweaty socks. When I picked them up, they too were frozen. Worse still, my boots were frozen stiff. This could have meant the end of the trip but fortunately only three tarmac miles remained to Fort William (fondly known as Fort Bill) and the salt waters of Loch Linnhe on the West Coast.

Beinn a’Bhuird and Coire an Dubh Lochan © Steve Crowe 1981
Beinn a’Bhuird and Coire an Dubh Lochan © Steve Crowe 1981

Let’s Start at the Beginning

The idea of a coast-to-coast walk came about long before the “Ultimate Challenge” was conceived. A walk across Scotland seemed like ‘a good idea’. I struggled to decide between walking from East-West or West-East. I finally decided to get the day walking on tarmac over at the beginning and leave the opportunity of catching a train home at one the many stations on the West Coast. Originally, I intended to try to carry less than a week’s food at a time, but this did not work out. Some food was left in a tin under a bridge near Dalwhinnie and more fresh food was bought at Braemar and Dalwhinnie; the rest was carried from the start which made the first couple of days a chore. The train journey from home to Montrose seemed to help me acclimatize to the change over the next fortnight, of which I wrote in my diary “I am going to enjoy every day… after tomorrow”.  People on trains are intriguing; groups of rowdy people, couples getting close, solitary shifty-eyed people and then there are the kids – the entertainers.

Montrose Beach - Coast to Coast Walk April 1981 © Steve Crowe
Coast to Coast Walk April 1981 © Steve Crowe

Unrewarded (Saturday 11th April 1981)

After a reasonable Bed and Breakfast for £5 at “Bonavista” in Montrose, I left and headed down to the beach in a slight drizzle. That’s the way it stayed until about three thirty in the afternoon. I took two self-portraits on Montrose beach and then set off for Fort Bill. My planning included a scenic route for Glen Esk, but I wasn’t rewarded with the expected views of the basin. The walking was tougher than I had envisaged, I only managed seventeen miles and was glad to stop when I did. I also began to doubt whether I could make it to Glen Doll Youth Hostel by the following evening as planned. However, I had to telephone home Monday morning as arranged, mainly for Mam’s peace of mind. I tried to eat as much as possible that first evening to ease my burden for the following day.

Craig Maskeldie rising above Glen Lee with Lochnagar in the distance © Steve Crowe 1981
Craig Maskeldie rising above Glen Lee with Lochnagar beyond © Steve Crowe 1981

A Welcome Bed (Sunday 12th April 1981)

What a day! I tried to get to Glen Effock for lunch but stopped short at Dalbrack Bridge. The push up to Cairn Caidlock had me doubting whether I would make the Youth Hostel. I stopped once, twice, and again for a photograph of Glen Esk; then shattered, sat down at the top. I followed the track towards Burnt Hill and when I left it at the bealach, my troubles began. I stopped many times, tired of the terrain, the weight of my sack and the distances left to go. It wasn’t until I neared White Hill that my hopes began to rise, my throbbing thighs eased, and I could see Green Hill. A couple more stops down by Loch Brandy, where I was excited to see many white hares, and I was in the Ogilvy Arms for a pint and a toastie. By now, I was willing to accept a lift, but the last four tarmac miles were walked in one hour ten minutes. I tried to buy a bottle of milk from a party in Acharn but instead they just gave me one free. Then I booked into the familiar Glen Doll Youth Hostel for food and a welcome bed, tired, but pleased after twenty-five miles to be on schedule.

Glen Doll Youth Hostel Coast to Coast Walk April 1981 © Steve Crowe
Glen Doll Youth Hostel

Murderous Miles (Monday 13th April 1981)

I could afford a late start from Glen Doll after yesterday’s efforts, so left the Youth Hostel at 9.45 a.m. Taking Jocks Road, I made for Tolmount. After putting my damp tent out to dry, I ate lunch, then climbed Tolmount, sackless. It was a scorching hot day with just a slight welcome breeze in exposed places. The views were terrific, back over Glen Clova and Glen Esk, and my way ahead over Ben Avon and the Cairngorms. I continued on my way at 1pm and arrived at Loch Callater Lodge at 4pm. It then took a murderous one and a quarter hour to cover the same map miles to the road. Again, I was willing to accept a lift but no-one stopped. Braemar Youth Hostel was quite full with a noisy school party so they gave me a family dormitory all to myself. I saw my second ever lizard during the day and I was to see many more before Fort Bill.

Looking across Loch Callater to the Cairngorms from Tolmount. Coast to Coast Walk April 1981 © Steve Crowe
Looking across Loch Callater to the Cairngorms from Tolmount. © Steve Crowe

Sunstroke (Tuesday 14th April 1981)

Before leaving Braemar I stocked up my supplies, posted two used maps and four post cards. Approximately one mile west of the village I managed to cross an icy cold river Dee, reasonably easily since there had been no rain for two days. In fact, I had more trouble crossing the drainage ditches. A good track took me to the bealach between Carn Elrig Nor and Carn na Criche where I stopped for lunch in the shade of a boulder. Then I stumbled along various sheep and deer tracks down towards Quoich Water and took a photograph as an excuse for another stop in the shade. I came across a tent, then a nearby path so I made better time for about five minutes until I lost the path by turning left too soon. Realising my mistake, I cut up hill to find a good stalkers track and took even more photographs from this point just as excuses for a rest, before crossing Quoich Water to stumble wearily up the slopes to a frozen Dubh Lochan. The ten and a half miles from Braemar took a lot of time and effort. On reflection, I feel I must have suffered slight sunstroke because when I put up my tent all I wanted to do was to get in the shade. I forced myself out later to take some photos of this fantastic “high altitude” camp site.

Camping below Beinn a’Bhuird beside the frozen Dubh Lochan © Steve Crowe 1981
Camping below Beinn a’Bhuird beside the frozen Dubh Lochan © Steve Crowe 1981

Magnificent Views (Wednesday 15th April 1981)

Since my watch stopped last night I guessed the time was eight o’clock, actually I discovered later, it was only 6.30am! I looked outside the tent and saw a cool clear cloudless sky. I was in no rush, so after an ambling breakfast of fresh food, I struck camp. It was up hill straight away so I aimed for the shade and took a short rest before returning to the sun-kissed ridge. I left my sack on the summit ridge and wandered along to Beinn a’ Bhuird’s south summit. It was about this time that I began to notice the magnificent views as far as the eye could see; Glas Moel, Tolmount, Coire Etchachan, Beinn MacDuibh, Cairngorm and many more that I couldn’t name. With raised spirit, I walked to the North Top and took some panoramic photographs. I set off for Beinn a’ Chaorainn Bheag and when the sun was due south I set my watch to twelve o’clock. A short chat with some lunching walkers set me in high spirits again to spurt up Beinn a’Chaorainn. I ate an apple to reduce weight for the descent into Larig an Laoigh. Then, following the path south for a while before crossing to the Coire Etchachan path, I noticed a party of twenty walkers! I hoped they wouldn’t stop for the night and disturb the solitude. They sat around for ages before deciding to carry on to Ben Macdui, relieved, I settled down for the evening.

Hutchison Memorial Hut below Creagan a’ Choire Etchachan © Steve Crowe 1981
Hutchison Memorial Hut below Creagan a’ Choire Etchachan © Steve Crowe 1981

Snow Bunting (Thursday 16th April 1981)

By eight thirty I was on my way up to Ben Macdui where I spotted some Snow Bunting. I tried to photograph them, but they flew off. I made good time only stopping for some quick photographs and reached the summit by 10:15 am where I was greeted with fantastic panoramic views. Another fantastic photo session followed. Eventually I left the summit ridge by March Burn. After half an hour’s steep scramble, slide, fall, down to the Pools of Dee, I managed to pick out a line of weakness so avoiding snow up to Sron na Lairige. I got almost to the top so stopped and ate lunch, all within an hour. I finally made Braeriach at two fifteen and stopped for more photographs and a chat with a party that had just taken five hours to get here from Glen Feshie. It took me four and a quarter hours to get down. My biggest worry going over the plateau was the sun on my legs. It was far too hot for my warm trousers so I wrapped my Kagole over my shorts to try and protect my legs from burning.

Caingorm in the distance beyond Loch Etchachan © Steve Crowe 1981
Caingorm in the distance beyond Loch Etchachan © Steve Crowe 1981

Just a Thought (Friday 17th April 1981)

I was woken in Glen Feshie Bothy by my motorcycling friends at six in the morning. A little worried about all my gear I rose at half past six but they left just then without any bother and even set the fire after them. I took time to wash, change the film in the camera then swept up. A paddle across River Feshie took me directly to the stalkers path up by Lochan an t-Sluic. Once through a forest, the path became indistinct. Frustratingly, this was right on the join of two maps. Whilst carefully examining the maps I’m sure I spotted a Golden Eagle. The day was so calm that he struggled to find an updraught to soar on. I wandered along various tracks going in my direction until I stumbled upon a road which wasn’t marked on my first series OS map. It led to a weir which fed all the water through a tunnel to Loch an t-Seilich, which is a hydro dam. During lunch I thought how good it would be to work here, especially if paid, and even in the rain. A Swiss registered Citroen passed me with Gaick Lodge Ranger written on it. The path unfortunately took me through the grounds of the lodge, where the Swiss were sitting in the sun. A few polite words and I was allowed through the grounds to the foot of Sgor Dearg where I dozed for twenty-five minutes in the heat of the day. An indistinct path took me around the lip of Coire Chaich and a Land Rover track led down to Loch Cuaich.

Loch an t-Seilich from Sgor Dearg © Steve Crowe April 1981
Loch an t-Seilich from Sgor Dearg © Steve Crowe April 1981

Low Cloud over Dalwhinnie (Saturday 18th April 1981)

Early next morning there was quite some cloud on the hillsides above me and over Dalwhinnie below. It was a pleasant cool change from the last seven days of unrelenting sunshine. After a later start than intended, I set off by Allt Cuaich. Suddenly a dam diverted the water to feed Loch Ericht via an aqueduct. I uncovered the box of food which I had hidden a month earlier. I was pleasantly surprised to find more food in the box than I remembered leaving. Hurriedly I packed hoping to catch the solitary Dalwhinnie shop before it closed for Easter. With three quarters of an hour to spare, I bought more fresh food. After posting more maps home, I made some phone calls, my last contact with home before Fort Bill. I then made my way along the shore of Loch Ericht where I stopped for lunch. Reading the Daily Express as I walked to Ben Alder Lodge along a good Land Rover track. Just behind the lodge there was a herd of almost tame deer. I tried to get a good stag pose but could only see their tails. However, a pair of white horses insisted that I took their photographs. The last two miles were hard work and when I looked in the bothy, I saw thirteen people. Apparently, they were London Bankers on an Outdoor Course. Why can’t these groups carry tents? I pitched my tent at a short distance away from the Bothy. I enjoyed walking today. 

Heading down Loch Ericht towards Ben Alder © Steve Crowe April 1981
Heading down Loch Ericht towards Ben Alder © Steve Crowe April 1981

A Day Off (Sunday 19th April 1981)

The cloud base was around 900m, covering all the tops surrounding Cuhra Lodge, so I lazed through breakfast wondering what to do for the best. Eventually I decided to leave the tent up and stay here another night. So with just a camera over my shoulder I set out for a lightweight ascent of Ben Alder. At Bealach Beithe I sat and ate salted peanuts, watching clouds for encouragement. I ambled across to the buttress when clouds rolled up the ridge, so I hurried upwards. The clouds lay on the summit as a freezing mist. Wandering over to the summit I stopped for another self-portrait then after a quick bite to eat, I moved on. Just as I left the summit the clouds lifted revealing excellent views and I ran over to photograph The Ben before it closed in again. I need not have worried as it stayed clear for the rest of the day. It was “photos galore” all the way down to Bealach Brebag and lunch. A heavily laden walker passed by so after following him to the first top, we stopped for a chat. Then it was on to Beinn Bheoil for another photographic session. On the track back I met someone called Bob, he was the only one left in the bothy so I took down my tent and joined him. Although we were strangers to each other, we were soon exchanging tales like two old pals.

Summit of Ben Avon © Steve Crowe April 1981
Summit of Ben Avon © Steve Crowe April 1981

Another Excellent Day (Monday 20th April 1981)

I was concerned that I only had enough fuel for approximately two days so Bob made a brew for both of us. I left the bothy at 8.30am on another beautiful day. Inspired by the weather I decided to follow the ridge from Carn Dearg via Geal-Chairn and Aonach Beag to Beinn Eibhinn, which provided incredible views further west of Blackmount, Glencoe and Lochaber. Then from Beinn Eibhinn down to the footbridge seemed to take ages i.e. from twelve fifteen to two o’clock to be exact. I saw my fourth lizard basking in the sun when on my way down to lunch under the bridge. As I was enjoying the shade of the bridge I washed in the cool waters. Refreshed, I set off towards Ossian Youth Hostel. It was really hot work along the beautiful rhododendron lined track by Loch Ossian. There were people in the distance beside the Youth Hostel so I walked up to them hoping to cadge an overnight stay but I was just told that it did not open until 15th May. Disappointed, I sat down and ate a couple of biscuits. When no offer of accommodation or even a cuppa was apparent, I set off for Larig Leacach. The walking was pretty mechanical along good paths and tracks. I expected to camp by Creag Uaineach Lodge but I couldn’t get near enough to flowing water so I carried on up Larog Leacach to find a good site. At 6:20pm I wrote in my log:- “I could have possibly made it to the bothy but my feet are quite sore after a long day. I hope to make an early start in the morning and all being well it’s The Ben tomorrow”.

Blackmount, Glencoe and Lochaber from Beinn Eibhinn © Steve Crowe 1981
Blackmount, Glencoe and Lochaber from Beinn Eibhinn © Steve Crowe 1981

Gray Coires Ridge (Tuesday 21st April 1981)

What a day of ups and downs in more ways than one.  First up at 6:15am, first down was around 6:30am when my watch still said 6:15am! I had struck camp by 8:15am but didn’t make the bothy until 9:40am. I ate a packed lunch whilst sitting not wanting to go on. I felt that it was too late. However, fearing a change in the weather I set off at 10am. It was hard work up to Stob Coire na Ceannian but I made good time stopping only once. A good ridge took me up to Stob Choire Claurigh where I tried to photograph a snow bunting. I left there at 11:20am on a good ridge to Stob Coire Easain, then I sat down at the next bealach. It was getting very hot and the next climb looked steep. It was 2pm and another packed lunch eaten before I moved on up Sgurr Choinnich Mor. A grass slope led down and up again to Sgurr Choinnich Beag. From here the climb to Aonach Beag appeared too much so I gave up and sat in the sun.

I wandered down to the Bealach to look for a camp site and found one under Sgurr a’ Bhuic. I thought that I should have kept going but I felt so drained and did not have the will to keep going. Noticing some Nimbus Cumulus, I thought to myself “is that rain tomorrow?”.

The Grey Corries, Aonach Beag, Aonach Mor and Ben Nevis in the distance © Steve Crowe 1981
The Grey Corries, Aonach Beag, Aonach Mor and Ben Nevis in the distance © Steve Crowe 1981

The Ben (Wednesday 22nd April 1981)

In my log I wrote “Well, I’m certainly glad I stopped yesterday. The time it took me today would have meant arriving at Loohan Meall an t-Suidhe at approximately 10.30pm.”

The wind got up to give me a noisy night in my lightweight tent. I woke to find that the condensation on my flysheet was frozen. Cups of lemsip and tea, some muesli and three scrambled eggs set me on my way. I left at 8am with my duvet on and under the threat of snow or rain. Still unsure of the way, I returned to the path following the fence posts. They went slightly left then up to an arete, but I soon left it to traverse to the ridge running down to Sgurr a’Bhuic. From here it was more straight forward. I took off my duvet but before I reached the summit of Aonach Beag I had it back on again and thus it stayed until I descended off The Ben.  The way to Carn Mor Dearg was marked with a cairn on the slope of Aonach Mor. I think I must have gone wrong somewhere because going down was a bit ‘hairy’ at times, dropping all the way down to the col at 830m. The path climbing 400m straight back up to Carn Mor Dearg was a little indistinct at first but it soon became an impressive knife edged ridge. On this summit I saw yet another snow bunting. An enjoyable ridge dropped down to a cairn marking a possible descent into Coire Leis. Then it became more and more broken boulders up to the Ben. It was a slow haul up but stepping over the lip, there was the summit mess in all its glory. The views from the summit weren’t too bad, the Glencoe hills and Knoydart but not much more. It was 1:50pm so I ate my lunch before climbing Carn Dearg, (mainly to avoid the tourist track). Then it was downhill all the way to Lochan Meall an t‘Suidhe and beyond to Glen Nevis where I camped. By now I had very little paraffin left so I bought tins of stew, rice pudding and fruit. It cost me a pound for the privilege of camping but I thoroughly enjoyed a twenty pence shower, my first since Braemar. I lay down exhausted at 9pm fortunately in my sleeping bag and snap – I was out like a light.

Ben Nevis from Carn Mor Dearg © Steve Crowe 1981
Ben Nevis from Carn Mor Dearg © Steve Crowe 1981

And on to Bill (Thursay 23rd April 1981)

The three tarmac miles to Fort Bill and the salt waters of Loch Linnhe were a non-event, but I completed 173 miles of walking and 9376 metres of climbing, over 13 days and although it snowed a little just once it never rained after the first day.

Ben Nevis © Steve Crowe 1981
Ben Nevis © Steve Crowe 1981

Point Five Gully on Ben Nevis

Walking in, Ben Nevis @ Steve Crowe 1987
Walking in, Ben Nevis @ Steve Crowe 1987

I clearly remember that weekend in 1987, we had quite an epic adventure on Ben Nevis. Bob Bennett had written the Lake District Winter Climbs Guide and climbed all the important winter climbs in the Lake District adding many new routes there too but he still hadn’t had an opportunity to climb the super classic Point Five Gully V,5 up on Ben Nevis.

Heading up to climb Point Five Gully V,5 © Steve Crowe
Heading up to climb Point Five Gully V,5 © Steve Crowe

We set off up the hill on a perfect day. Bob was so psyched to finally be getting to grips with Point Five, he allocated the pitches so that he got the plum pitch! I happily set off up the first pitch of the historic Point Five Gully, expecting an easy ride, suddenly as I climbed up I got smashed in the face by a small but painful lump of ice, it was a warning to keep my head down! I set up a good sheltered stance off to the side and out of the line of fie! Soon I would be seconding Bob on the infamous second pitch.

Point Five Gully V,5 © Steve Crowe
Starting up the First Pitch, Point Five Gully V,5 © Steve Crowe

Bob followed me and was soon making smooth work of the second pitch, conditions were excellent. Just as some spindrift rushed down the pitch I thought I could hear Bob calling down “climb when you’re ready”.

Bob leading the second pitch on Point Five Gully V,5 © Steve Crowe
Bob leading the second pitch on Point Five Gully V,5 © Steve Crowe

I waited safely to one side for the spindrift to ease but it continued to get worse. After quite a while I thought to myself time is pressing so I’d better set off now and it should soon ease and anyway I am on top rope. I called “climbing” and traversed out and into the spindrift. Keeping my head well down I climbed quickly with the confidence of the rope above me and in a blur was soon stood below pitch three and finally the spindrift had stopped. “Well done Steve” Bob shouted across “You may as well continue , there’s no need to come over here.” With no more incident the angle eased and we were soon up on the summit.

Bob Bennett on Point Five Gully V,5 © Steve Crowe
Bob Bennett on Point Five Gully V,5 © Steve Crowe

Another party were just leaving the summit as we sat down all self congratulatory for a quick snack. Visiability was difficult in near whiteout conditions so I dug out my crib sheet for navigating off the top. Meanwhile another party arrived at the top. But no!, it was the same party that had just left and walked around in a big loop only to end up back at the summit cairn all confused! We all set off together this time I was navigating down, counting paces… Soon there was more voices appearing out of the mist “Are you heading down? do you know where the top of the descent gully is? came we join you?” So there I was leading a dozen folks down off the hill. One party left us to descend back down the north face towards the hut while the day trippers followed me down out out of the clouds and safely back towards the cars. While walking down Bob commented on how fast I had climbed the crux pitch and how difficult it had been to take in the iced up rope through his belay plate. It was one summer’s evening six months later in a bar in the Lake District that Bob finally admitted that while I climbed the second pitch, head down, he was taking in the ropes had over hand and when I topped the second pitch he didn’t want me to see what happened which is why he pressed me to continue quickly up the third pitch while he sorted out the ropes behind my back as I continued upwards!

Carn Dearg Buttress, Ben Nevis © Steve Crowe
Carn Dearg Buttress, Ben Nevis © Steve Crowe

Climbing Guide to Whickham Boulder

Whickham Thorns Boulder © Steve Crowe 2010
Whickham Thorns Boulder © Steve Crowe 2010

Situated off Market Lane, Dunston, Gateshead, Whickham Boulder was the first man made outdoor boulder park in Britain was made by Enterprise for Whickham Thorns Outdoor Activity Centre. Officially opened in October 1998 the boulder park has proved extemely popular with top climbers, regular boulderers and novices alike. The boulder enjoys a sunny aspect and its use is free and unrestricted.

Access and Approaches
Just off the A1 Western By Pass opposite Gateshead Metro Centre. Take the Dunston/Whickham exit then turn south to the traffic lights where you need to turn right. Park in the Whickham Thorns Activity Centre car park. The boulder park is easily reached in less the a minute from the car park. 

Climbing at Whickham Boulder © Steve Crowe 2010
Climbing problem two at Whickham Boulder © Steve Crowe 2010

Bouldering Etiquette
Using an old towel or rag to keep your boots squeeky clean makes good sense, it can even make the problems feel easier. NO WIRE BRUSHING & NO RESIN. Nylon brushes acceptableto brush chalk and pebbles from the holds.

The grading system used here was first used by the French for the bouldering in Fontainbleau near Paris and is becoming increasingly popular with climbers in the UK. 

Steve Crowe climbing at Whickham Thorns Boulder © Steve Crowe 2010
Steve Crowe climbing at Whickham Thorns Boulder © Steve Crowe 2010

The Problems
The boulder is one complex cirque. The problems are described from left to right first around the outside, then returning around the inside. All the problems finish on the top. Finally some traverses are described, these are given sport route grades. The first climb described tackles the left edge of the east face and is one of the nearest problems to the approach path.


Click the image above to view the Whickham Thorns Mini Guide (PDF).

Climbing Guide to Houghton Graveyard

(From Climbing in North East England by Steve Crowe Bob Bennett and Mark Turner)

Houghton Graveyard © Steve Crowe 2002
Main Wall at Houghton Graveyard © Steve Crowe

Access maps ©

OS sheet 88 NZ345505
Aspect South East 
Altitude 110m
Approach time 2 minutes

Situation and Character
The crags are found between Sunderland and Durham in a former graveyard on the north east side of Houghton le Spring adjacent to the A690 Dual Carriageway at Houghton Cut. The faces of Magnesium limestone form part of the ancient reef deposit that also surfaces at Cleadon. The climbing is situated on the best and most impressive faces, which are also the first encountered as one enters the graveyard. The rock quality on these two faces is variable, better than it looks, but it is friable and does suffer from a powdery deposit. The walls are very compact and do not run to strong features or cracks. The steep bulging nature and small fragile holds provide pumpy climbing. Most of the climbs are bolted and other lines have a lower off to enable those eliminates to be top roped. This can only be considered a local venue.

The Graveyard was originally developed as a top-roping venue. Gavin Ellis and John Boyle recorded ascents of Abiotrophy and Revenge of the Body Snatchers. Michael Gardiner and Dave Stainthorpe added Pegasus and Pinning the Tail on the Donkey. Stephen “Woody” Fleming made the only recorded ascent before the arrival of bolts in the Graveyard, with the very bold solo of Roasting the Ox. Bolts began to appear during the 1990’s. From 1996, Steve Crowe and Karin Magog added Hallowed Ground, Depression and Creative Thinking.

Houghton Graveyard © Steve Crowe 2021
Houghton Graveyard © Steve Crowe 2021

Access and Approaches
From the main roundabout below the A690 Durham to Sunderland road, exit onto the B1404 towards Seaham and take the first left turn almost immediately into Elizabeth Street. Follow this uphill to give way at a crossroads and go straight ahead. (The crag is now visible on the hill behind the allotment gardens.) Take the second street on the left and at the end, turn right into Sunderland Street. Drive up the hill to the end of the street and park at the end adjacent to Hillside farm. A path leads uphill to the old cemetery gate. Turn into this and follow a short path into the graveyard. The first crag on the left is Lower Wall whilst above and behind is the Back Wall. 

Access restrictions

The land owners wish to make it clear that they have not given permission for climbing to take place at this location. At present the land is owned by the Parochial Church Council of St Michael’s Church, with the land to be maintained by Sunderland City Council from December 2004. Groups wanting to climb at Houghton Graveyard should write to The Reverend Dr Ian Wallis at The Rectory, Dairy Lane, Houghton le Spring. 0191 584 2198. 

Climbers are reminded that this is a burial ground and are asked to be keep a low profile as relatives do still visit the cemetery to look for graves. 

Climbers are reminded that they use the crag and the in situ protection at their own risk and may be asked to leave.

Climbers at Houghton Graveyard © Steve Crowe 2021
Houghton Graveyard © Steve Crowe 2021

The Climbs
The climbs are described from left to right.

The Lower Wall
Two walls divided by a deep chimney. The left flank is a steep slab with a prominent overlap at half height whilst the main wall is a steep wall offering technical climbing up to 10 metres in height.

Houghton Graveyard Topo ©

The Left Flank

1. Hallowed Ground F6a+
The central line of this buttress. Delicate climbing leads to powerful moves across the prominent overlap and up to a lower off at half height. 3 bolts to LO.

2. Alternative F6b Top Roped
It is possible to top rope an independent line about 2m R of the bolts of Hallowed Ground from the same lower off.

About 3m to the R is the prominent chimney/gully, which separates the Left Flank from The Main Wall.

3. Bushwhacking Blues F5 **
The right edge of the Left Flank, taking care to avoid the loose rock on the arête. 3 bolts to LO.

Main Wall
Just right of the prominent chimney/gully.

4. CreativeThinking F7b+
The steep wall following a line of resin bolts immediately right of the chimney. Strictly no bridging. 5 bolts to LO.

5. Revenge of the Body Snatchers F7b+
Start 2 metres right of the chimney. Fingery climbing eventually leads to a good hold 3m below the top, hard moves lead to the top. 4 bolts to LO.

6. Abiotrophy F7c Top Rope
Climb direct until a desperate move on a small under-cling leads over the small roof. Another hard move leads to the large finishing pocket. 

7. Depression F7a+ * 
Start just right of the bush. A hard start leads to hollow jugs and bolt. Delicate moves, keeping right of the next three bolts, lead to the
lower off. 4 bolts to LO.

8. The Petzl Hangers F7b+
The line of 4 Petzl hangers just L of the curving groove lead over a bulge to a chain. 4 bolts to LO.

9. Seven Sisters F7b * 
Follow the curving groove until a long reach up and left from a small pocket leads to a good small crimp. Very thin moves may lead direct to the lower off. 3 bolts to LO.

10. Evensong F7a+
About 1m R of the curving groove is a vague R facing “corner”. Four Petzl bolts lead to a single resin bolt. It is better to LO as for Seven Sisters. 4 bolts to LO.

11. Immortalised in Stone F7a
The short well-bolted line at the right edge of the wall, just left of (or under) the Ivy. Four bolts lead up first L then back R until a very thin move gains the twin bolt lower off. (Stud and three bolts) . 4 bolts to LO.

The Back Wall ©

Back Wall
This is an impressive face up to 20 metres high. The striking crack up the left end of the face consists of soft, loose rock and is not recommended. The Back Wall is split by a vegetated corner, which is towards the right side. The shorter right-hand wall has a fine arête overlooking the prominent corner.

12. Pinning The Tail On The Donkey 6a 
The poorest recorded route. It has only been top roped and is not recommended. Start at a lower level than the other routes to the left of a small memorial plaque. Climb the wall to the left of centre to a ledge. Continue up the wall above at its steepest part trending slightly left near the top. No bolts or LO.

The following routes all start from the ledge above the crypt. Pegasus and Myrrh both start at the left end of the ledge up a shallow groove behind the tree.

13. Pegasus F6c 
A top rope problem. Start as for Myrrh below the obvious scoop. Climb up the scoop. Pass to the left of the second bolt to gain a very blunt rib. Finish straight up the wall above. Sustained. No bolts to LO.

14. Myrrh F7a+ ** 
A bold start behind the tree leads to a technical finish on small holds. Climb the shallow groove for 3m step left then follow the obvious curving scoop sweeping back right to finish direct. 5 bolts to LO.

15. Good Friday F7a+ * 
A direct start to Myrrh. Start to the left of a black bulge at the base of the crag about 5m left of the corner. Climb up the wall to the left of the bulge via a prominent pocket then join Myrrh to finish direct. Originally finished further right closer to My Little Pony. No bolts in start.

16. My Little Pony F7a+ *** 
Start just left of the foot of the vegetated gully. Climb the wall to mid-height and move left through a weakness in the wall. Move back right where thin moves lead past the penultimate bolt. 6 bolts to LO.

The next route follows the prominent arête right of the corner.

17. Roasting The Ox F6b+ ** 
Start below the corner left of the narrow wall and the prominent arête. Go up the corner until moves on the right wall can be made towards the arête. Follow the arête mainly on its left to top out (or lower off the top bolt). 6 bolts to tree.

18. The Cat Crept into the Crypt F6b+
Left of The Sepulchre on the steep slab is a prominent crack. Climb the slab just right of this. Top Rope only.

19. The Sepulchre F6b+
Start below the right hand side of the steep slab up the slope at the extreme right-hand end of Main Wall. Climb the slab left of the Ivy mass. Top rope only.

The Back Wall © Steve Crowe
The impressive Back Wall is rather hidden © Steve Crowe.

Holwick Scar

Holwick Scar  © Steve Crowe
Holwick Scar © Steve Crowe
  • OS Landranger Sheet: 92
  • Map Reference: NY902269
  • Aspect: North East
  • Altitude: 300m
  • Approach Time: 5 minutes

Situation and Character 
This splendid escarpment of igneous rock is part of the Great Whin Sill, which faces northeast across Upper Teesdale near the village of Holwick. This whole area has a high level of legal protection, and anyone damaging conservation interests is jeopardizing future access and can be punished by a large fine and/or imprisonment (on open access land it is illegal to damage or remove any plant, shrub, tree or root including crag vegetation). Through consultation with the Countryside Agency and English Nature a voluntary managed approach to climbing on Holwick Scar and a voluntary climbing exclusion to the rest of the Whin Sill in the Upper Teesdale area has been agreed.

Holwick Scar Access
A management agreement has been made between the BMC, English Nature, the Countryside Agency and Durham County Council to enable climbing on this crag after a gap of 25 years. Photo of Karin Magog climbing Right  Escalator VS 4c © Steve Crowe
Holwick Scar Access
A management agreement has been made between the BMC, English Nature, the Countryside Agency and Durham County Council to enable climbing on this crag after a gap of 25 years. Photo of Karin Magog climbing Right Escalator VS 4c © Steve Crowe

Records go back to the early 1960s and the exploits of Tony Gooding and the Yackley Mountaineering Club. The Cleveland Mountaineering Club also played a part in the development. The crag was first documented in a small guide produced by the Yackley MC, then the Rock Climbers Guide to the North of England (Pointer 1980) and more recently North of England Rock Climbs by Stewart Wilson (Cordee 1992).

Approaches and Access
The crag is approached from the small hamlet of Holwick, which is 4 miles North West of Middleton-in-Teesdale. From Middleton cross the River Tees on the B6277 going south. Take the first right which is the minor road leading to Holwick. Park considerately in the lay-by. The crags are now clearly visible one field away and dominating the scene. To reach the crag walk to the west end of the village, where at a bend in the road, a Public Bridleway leads off to the left. Follow this for a short distance to where it divides and a branch of the Public Bridleway goes up through the escarpment in the direction of Selset reservoir. 

Access Agreement Guidelines

Holwick Scar forms part of the Upper Teesdale Site of Special Scientific Interest due to the rich diversity of rare species and relict arctic-alpine plants. The site (including the Whin Sill crags) are also of European importance as recognized by designations of Special Area for Conservation and Special Protection Area. This area has a high level of legal protection, and anyone damaging conservation interests can be punished by a large fine and/or imprisonment. Through consultation with the Countryside Agency and English Nature, the BMC have produced the following guidance for climbers.

The BMC have now negotiated access guidelines (with the Countryside Agency and English Nature) for climbers. Holwick Scar forms part of the Upper Teesdale Site of Special Scientific Interest due to the rich diversity of rare species and relict arctic-alpine plants. The site (including the other Whin Sill crags) are also of European importance with Special Area for Conservation and Special Protection Area designations. This area has a high level of legal protection, and anyone damaging conservation interests can be punished by a large fine and/or imprisonment.
· Do not remove cliff vegetation this is an illegal (and punishable) offence under the Wildlife and Countryside and CRoW Acts
· Climbing is only permitted on buttresses numbered 1 to 5 (in crag pamphlet)
· Do not climb on the buttress between Great Chimney and Charlie’s Chimney (inc. these routes), or on the area under the black lines on buttress 3 (see pamphlet)
· Avoid climbing onto the large vegetated ledges
· Do not abseil from the trees
· Descend from buttresses 1, 2, and 3 down the back
When topping-out from buttresses 4 and 5 descend via the large grassy gully on the right
· When moving between buttresses stay on the obvious ‘sheep-track’
· Do not walk on ANY of the scree slopes
· Only approach the crag by the designated access point
· Follow the Countryside Code
· If you spot Ring Ouzel’s in early-mid March, call English Nature
Guidelines photo-pamphlet available at the crag.

Check the BMC RAD for the latest information.

The Strathmore Arms at Holwick closed in 2020. There is accommodation and a good campsite less than a mile down the road at Low Way Farm

The Climbs
These are described from left to right. Take note none of the grades of these climbs have been checked for over 30 years. Take care. 

Buttress One  

Descent to left.

Appetite for Construction(Route 101)  9m  HVS 5a.

Climb the corner crack adjacent to the left-hand arête. Well protected in the lower section. Care with some loose blocks at the top. 

Alan Dougherty 22.4.06

Dustbin Day Crack (Route 102)  9m  E1 5b 

Taller climbers will be able to climb the crack-line by bridging spaced flat holds on its outside. Those unable to make the reaches, or in need of a good thrutch, will find some helpful edges inside the off-width. Size 3 – 4 Friends useful.

Alan Dougherty and Maggie Ingram 25.8.06

“Route 103” has been inspected on a top-rope (Alan Dougherty 25.8.06.). The essentially unprotectable wall is lichenous and presents a sustained ?6a pitch with ?6b rock-over onto a small flake that is not above suspicion.

Buttress Two

When the CRoW Flies ? 6m E1 5b 

Line slightly left of “Route 104.” Wall right of wide crack and left of nose. Long reach to good flake/diagonal break (some pro). MOVE LEFT AT TOP TO AVOID LEDGE VEGETATION.

Guy Keating and Alan Dougherty 14.6.06.

Buttress Three 

Lichen Strikes 8m HVS 5a (Route 108) 

Straight up the well protected corner to ledge, using the thin crack at its rear and wider crack to left. DO NOT STRAY INTO THE OFF-WIDTH CRACK FURTHER LEFT WHICH IS EXCLUDED FOR CONSERVATION REASONS. The end of the pitch is well below the top of the crag and the exit directly upwards, passing a large flake, involves covering some vegetated and poorly protected but easy ground. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO TRAVERSE OFF AT THE TOP OF THE PITCH AS THIS IS ACROSS GROUND WHICH IS BOTH UNSTABLE AND OF CONSERVATION CONCERN.

Alan Dougherty 26.4.06.

Great Buttress

The first route starts 6m up the wide, grassy gully on the left-hand side of the crag.

1. “A” Chimney   15m   VD

Climb blocks in the corner until it is possible to enter the chimney proper. Straight up to a grassy ledge then trend rightwards to the top. 

Variation Finish  HS 4a

From the top of the chimney step across onto the right wall and climb over a loose spike to finish. This variation finish is not recommended in it’s current state. 

2. Spiral Staircase   18m   D

Climb “A” Chimney for 2m then follow the obvious line rightwards to a series of ledges and a tree (belay). Move down right to a platform, then into a groove (take care with loose blocks). Follow this until a traverse right leads to a short chimney and the top.

Variation: Carol’s Delightful Hand   D

A better finish. From the tree belay climb the direct line to the top. Finish up a short chimney.

Just to the right of the start of A Chimney/Spiral Stairs, an off-width crack leads to the large ledge and tree. (4c, Alan Dougherty, 11.6.06.) Left Escalator, Right Escalator and Derision Groove are good climbing on relatively clean lines. 

3. Left Escalator   24m  HS   **            

Starts 4m right of Spiral Staircase in a wide groove with a pinnacle on the right.

2m 4a   Climb the wide crack on the left of the groove to a tree belay on Spiral Staircase.

12m      Move down and right to a platform, then into a groove. Follow this until a traverse right leads to a short chimney and the top. (It may be better to finish by  Carols Delightful Hand or reverse down pitch one of Spiral Staircase).

Steve Crowe climbing Right  Escalator VS 4c © Steve Crowe 2006

4. Right Escalator   12m   VS 4c   *

Start at the foot of the wide groove. Climb the pinnacle and make an awkward step left into a groove (delicate). Finish at the tree belay on Spiral Staircase.WE Pattison & A Robson 14/07/63

5. Derision Groove   24m   VS   *

Start to the right of the pinnacle at a black groove. 

12m 5a  Climb the groove to a sentry box. Belay high in a crack on the left. 

12m      Bridge up the sentry box and pull across left on excellent holds to join Spiral Staircase.

6. Master’s Groove   26m   VS

Start at the lowest point of the buttress 2m right of Derision Groove.

11m 4b Climb easily to a grass ledge on the left. Ascend the left hand crack and move right to a big ledge and tree belay.

15m 4c Step back left above the crack and climb a steep groove. Continue up the V-groove surmounting an overhang to finish on grassy ledges.

WE Pattison & AJK Gooding 13/7/1963

7. Surprise   28m   S   *

Start at the protruding rib of the buttress 2m right of Master’s Groove.

12m      Climb the rib direct to a ledge and tree. 

16m      Move right behind the tree and make a series of awkward moves up the steep gangway to the top. 

8. Rigor Mortis   23m   VS 5b   **

Start 2m left of the obvious, deep chimney; Great Chimney. Climb a steep crack to a niche at 4m. Climb past three old pegs to an easier finish.

FFA Alan Dougherty 8.8.06

Climbers have agreed with English Nature to avoid climbing routes 9 – 14.

9. Great Chimney   23m   S    

Start at the foot of the obvious chimney. Climb this over chock-stones and move left over blocks at the top overhang to reach the top. A fine climb.

10. Cascade   25m   VS 4b

Start below a groove little more than a metre right of Great Chim­ney. Climb the groove to a resting place on the right at 6m. Swing left across the groove using a flake, the bulge above is climbed on good holds and a prominent block is passed towards the finish.

11. Strathmore Crescent   28m   S

Starts 7m right of Great Chimney just beyond a thin crack, which widens into a groove higher up. Climb diagonally leftwards up the wall for 3m then traverse left into a groove. Follow the groove to a ledge and rickety spike. Step right past the spike to another ledge. Climb the rib and groove to exit right over blocks to a grassy ledge and a tree.

12. Central Climb   28m   S

This climb finds a way up the wall between Great Chimney and another obvious chimney; Charlie’s Chimney. Climb the wall from left to right to finish on a ledge with an Ash tree.

13. Sentinel’s Stride   28m   HS

Start below the gangway, which goes up the wall to the left of the deep-cut Charlie’s Chimney.

15m 4a Climb the wall for 4m then make a delicate move up right to the gangway. Climb this into a chimney and step across onto a large, grass ledge.

13m 4a From the ledge, step back across the chimney and into a shallow groove. Move up to a horizontal crack and regain the gangway by a swing to the left. Climb over a pinnacle to the top.

14. Charlie’s Chimney   21m   VD 

Climb the obvious deep chimney. WE Pattison & A Robson & Charlie Thew 14/07/63

15. Groundhog   10m   HVS 5a

Start at the foot of Charlie’s Chimney. Climb the groove on the right wall of the chimney. Exit onto a grass ledge halfway up the chimney. Poor protection.

16. Chimney and Slab   14m   D

Start 2m right of Charlie’s Chimney below another chimney. Climb the chimney and exit right onto a slab. Climb this to a tree. The corner above is climbed to the top. This route is dirty and not recommended. The chock-stone is loose and little protection is available!

To the right the crag is at its lowest height and has a bay bounded on the left by a corner crack.

17. Interrupted Crack   21m   VS

Climb the well protected corner crack, with some difficulty, to a good ledge. Climb the continuation crack above to an awkward exit onto a slab. Finish above the tree as for Chimney and Slab.

Bishop’s Buttress

This section contains some of the best climbs on the crag. The imposing face provides greater steepness and continuity than any­where else on the crag.

18. Stroll On   23m   E2 5b   *   

Start at a little niche in the projecting corner of the buttress just to the right of interrupted Crack. Climb up and out of the niche and pull round the rib onto the wall on the right. Climb straight up for almost 5m and move back left onto a large ledge. From the right-hand end of the ledge move up a mossy wall to finish up a the corner crack. The “mossy wall,” actually well covered in lichen, constitutes the crux. It’s a fine pitch but not well protected.WE Pattison& AJK Gooding and A Robson 20/07/63

19. Thrombosis   28m   E2 5b

An exciting, strenuous and spectacular climb. Start at the little niche as for Stroll On.

5m 5a Move up and out of the niche onto the right wall. Climb this on good holds until a traverse can be made to a stance and belay in the narrow chimney; Bishop’s Chimney on the right.

13m 5a From the chimney move up and back onto the wall above the traverse line. Move up to holds, which are followed leftwards to a spike. Move up past the spike and traverse right to reach and climb the obvious, flake crack.WE Pattison, AGK Gooding 29/06/63


The original description, moving towards Bishop’s Chimney (where there is a wobbly block), then back left, on largely hidden holds, “…towards a spike” is an elegant solution to an improbable looking line. The straightened-out description, as on Steve Crowe’s topo looks as if it would involve harder climbing – three old pegs are present in the independent section – perhaps that bit was aided? The chock-stone in the final flake crack moves but seems okay.

20. Bishop’s Chimney   18m   VS 4b         

The steep, narrow chimney in the right angle of Bishop’s Buttress. (Could be excellent if it got more traffic and stayed cleaner. Not much vegetation once you get to the chimney proper, but lots of lichen including on crucial smears.)

9m        Climb the corner to a large platform at the foot of the chimney proper.

9m 4a   Climb the chimney facing right. An awkward move over chock-stones leads to the top. (Take care with a loose block at the top.)

21. Sabre Cut   12m   VS

Start 3m right of Bishop’s Chimney below a steep, narrow crack. Climb the awkward and strenuous, narrow crack. 

(“We couldn’t find this. If it’s the thin crack and wider chimney parallel to Bishops Chimney then it’s been lost to the vegetation.” Simon)


To the right of the last climbs and about 6m left of the dry stonewall, is a pinnacle, with a recess to the right of the pinnacle.

22. Straight Up   12m   VS 4c   

Climb the steep narrow crack , which runs up a corner in the left-hand side of the recess, with an energetic mix of jamming, lay-backing and bridging.  The large block which offers the obvious hand-holds for moving onto the belay ledge wobbles and requires caution.

It should be noted that routes in this vicinity require a long ascent of vegetated and poorly protected ground to reach a safe position. It might be a better alternative to descend the chimney behind the pinnacle.

Climbers have agreed with English Nature to avoid climbing routes 23 and 25.

23. Yackley Chimney   14m   D            

Start at the foot of a clean-cut chimney at the back of the recess. Climb the left wall until the chimney proper can be entered. Climb this to block belays on the left.

Various other climbs exist in the area above the drystone wall but are not recorded. Beyond the dry stonewall is a tall buttress with a climb following a series of grooves:

24. G-String Grooves    VS 4c

Climb the grooves; the first of these is prominent and smooth. 

25. Sarongster   88m   HVS 

An excellent left to right high-level girdle. Start as for Left Escalator. 

12m   4a   Climb the wide crack on the left of the groove to a tree belay on Spiral Staircase.

19m   4c   Traverse right to Derision Groove and continue past Master’s Groove to a good ledge on the arête. Make an awkward move onto Surprise and continue to a stance and belay below the roof of Great Chimney.

 6m   3c   Move out of the chimney rightwards, passing the prominent block on Cascade. Enter the groove of Strathmore Crescent and follow it to the top. Tree belay.

12m   4a   Descend the last pitch of Sentinel’s Stride to a grassy ledge and nut belay.

 9m   4a   Traverse delicately right to a tree belay on Chimney and Slab.

20m   5a   Move down and rightwards and traverse onto Stroll On to a peg runner below the final crack. Continue rightwards to another peg runner on Thrombosis. Traverse right and finish up the flake crack as for Thrombosis.WEPattison & A Robson 14/07/63

Kayser Bonder VS

A low level girdle traverse starting up Charlie’s Chimney and finishing up Spiral Stairs. The way is obvious and is never more than 5m above the ground except for the accent of Bishops Chimney and the descent of Chimney and Slab.WE Pattison & Charlie Thew 30/06/63

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Scottish Rock by Gary Latter

Scottish Rock Volume 2 North by Gary Latter
Scottish Rock Volume 2 North 3rd Edition by Gary Latter

SCOTTISH ROCK Volume 2 North 3rd edition

ISBN: 978-1-906095-71-0

Written by Gary Latter

Published by Pesda Press

Reviewed by Steve Crowe May 2020

I was invited to review the third edition of Scottish Rock North Volume 2 but I have decided to discuss both books. What started out as a two-year project to celebrate the 1000 best climbs on Scottish rock and write them up for a stunning selective guidebook has become a lifetime obsession for Gary Latter. By the time Scottish Rock was ready for print there was more than enough superb routes to fill two volumes. Volume One covers all the best routes south of the Great Glen, while the third edition of the popular Volume Two covers all the very best climbs on the mainland north of the Great Glen along with Skye, the Outer Hebrides and Orkney.  

Both editions of the guide have an entertaining and informative introduction with headings such as Using the Guide, Accommodation, Eating Out, Access, Wild Camping, Caravans (very amusing), Birds, Seasonal Restrictions, Directions, Conservation, Ethics, Style, Quality Assessment, Climate, Tidal Information, Weather Information, Wee Bastards (aka midges and ticks), Mountain Rescue and Grades. Following this in Volume 1 is brief section on geology.

Gary Latter on Misha E6 6b at   Reiff © Steve Crowe
Gary Latter on Misha E6 6b at Reiff © Steve Crowe

Now onto the climbing areas themselves and each of the sections start with a good, overall map (more detailed maps follow if required), a short intro, info on accommodation and amenities. Next the routes and the guide is well served throughout with clear photo diagrams (an excellent effort given some of the territory the guide covers), as well as detailed written descriptions. Presented in a well laid out, generally uncluttered style means the guide is a pleasure to use. The route numbers in the text and diagrams appear in a coloured dot, the colour of which signifies a particular grade range e.g. green for moderate to severe, purple for E4 and above. This makes identifying crags of interest much easier when flicking through the guide. Each grade range is well served so whether you’re after long, multi-pitch severes or hard, technical extremes there’s enough here to satisfy even the most manic of climbers. There’s also plenty of action pictures which are well placed in the text and cover the full range of grades and styles of climbing on offer (amazingly the sun always seems to be shining). Each volume stands at approaching 500 pages and describing 1670 and 2550 routes respectively they offer amazing value for money. It also means they’ll be heavy to carry up those multi-pitch mountain routes but I reckon that’s a small price to pay.

Karin Magog on Cross Eyed E2 5b © Steve Crowe Collection 2004
Karin Magog on Cross Eyed E2 5b © Steve Crowe Collection 2004

Scottish Rock North is a fantastic mixture of modern masterpieces alongside an impressive collection of timeless classics covering all grades so no one will feel short changed. For this updated third edition Gary has selected over 2550 climbs and described them all within 480 colourful pages and there is definitely enough quality climbs described here to last any keen climber a lifetime. There is a huge variety of rock types throughout the Highlands and Islands from the rough Gabbro of The Cullin on Skye, to the Old Red Sandstone famous for The Old Man of Hoy, the superb Torridonian sandstone, the excellent cracks and vertical Dolerite columns of Kilt Rock on Skye and my favourite, the multi coloured Lewisian Gneiss of the Outer Hebrides. 

Specifically, for the third edition there has been 300 new routes added alongside 60 new photo topos and over 50 additional action photos too. The highlights include Super Crag Sport overlooking Loch Maree and Super Crag Trad an amazing sea cliff near Lochinver. To fit all this in Gary decided to delete all the historical introductions and about 150 less popular routes.

Being particularly familiar with many of the areas in the far north I can testify to the excellent job that Gary has done with his third edition of Volume 2. I was browsing through the book with sweaty palms and exclamations of ‘we must get back there’, ‘that crag looks amazing’, ‘I would love to do that route’, etc. Gary ought to be proud of both volumes of Scottish Rock, his love and knowledge of climbing in Scotland are present throughout the guides and help make them truly inspiring. Get your copies now.

Scottish Rock South & North by Gary Latter
Scottish Rock South & North by Gary Latter

From the Foreword by Hamish MacInnes … “If you have an ambition to do all the climbs in these two Scottish Rock guides I think you’d better schedule time off in your next life. This labour of Gary’s has been of gargantuan proportions. Those of you who use the guides will benefit by his dedication and the sheer choice offered; if you divide the retail price of these by the number of good routes you’ll realise this is a bargain. Volume 1 covers a proliferation of Scottish crags up to the natural demarcation of the Great Glen. They are easier to access than most in Volume 2 and present infinite variety. I have been a long-time advocate of selected climbs and the use of photographs to illustrate both climbs and action. I’m glad that this principle has been used throughout these two volumes. It gives you a push to get up and do things. The list seems endless and if you succeed in doing half of them you’ll be a much better climber and know a lot more about Scotland – have a good decade!”