Sunday, 25 April 2010

Antics at Arbroath, exciting rubble at Elephant Rock.

Scotland is hardly internationally, nationally or even sub-nationally renowned for it's sport climbing. Nevertheless what it lacks in outstanding quality it makes up for in variety. From sea-cliffs to mountain crags, from pastoral outcrops to urban convenience, you can clip bolts on basalt (Dumbarton, Dunglass etc), dolerite (Benny Beg), quarried dolerite (Ratho), schist (Glen Ogle, Weem, Dunkeld etc), quarried granite (North Berwick Law), sandstone (Arbroath), quarried sandstone (Ley, Legaston etc), conglomerate (Camel, Moy Rock), rhyolite (Tunnel Wall), gneiss (Gruinard River Crags) and volcanic "stuff" (Elephant Rock). Last Saturday, with North West bouldering legend Richie Betts, I got to sample two of the more distinctive sport climbing areas...

The weather was equally distinctive - distinctive as in raining despite a dry forecast, then raining out of a clear blue sky, then gloriously sunny but with all the fields furiously steaming and sending up swirls of micro-haar. Somehow the rock - despite steaming a bit on our arrival - was in fairly good condition. Which is fortunate given that Arbroath issomewhat unnerving by sport climbing standards. How can 10m bolted routes be unnerving?? Well, slopey rounded sandstone and abseil approaches into hanging belay stances just above the sea, that's how. Like many such situations, once one touches rock, feels the holds, pulls some moves and gets the vibe, it's all jolly good fun in the end, and indeed it was. 4 short but valuesome routes were rattled off on short order, including a classic wee F6c, and neither us nor our kit ended up in the drink. Hurrah.

No pole, no tick. Climbing rules might seem arbitrary, but consider the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law and it all makes sense. This was actually the hardest move of the day. There should have been harder ones pulled off, but Elephant - which somewhat joyously really does look like an elephant - faces North-ish, and the harder routes tend to follow impressive but potentially greasy cracks. Now I love a bit of greasy crack action me, but not on overhanging F7as that look like bolted Gogarth. So we left those for another day, and rattled off another 4 mid sixes in short order. Elephant is described as "a mixed volcanic intrusion" and one can't really argue with that. Mixed and weird and interesting and fun because of all that. I will be back in dry weather that's for sure. A good and interesting day out!

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