On an unseasonably warm day in February, led on by photos of blocs hiding in the woods from Stu Goodwin, Rob Thomas and I decided to head in for a look with a few steelies in search of these forgotten blocks. A hand drawn topo from the G2 crew showed the start of the bouldering here, offering six lines on the blocks immediately below the sport crag called “1-6” which were given Brit tech grades. These are all in the 4s and 5s and worth warming up on. As is often the case with such a dominant crag as Dunlichity, bouldering here had always been an afterthought from visiting sport climbers, and few had gone further in search past these blocs below the crag or with bouldering in mind.
The first block we looked at was what we called Fight Club bloc, named for its sharp nature that will make you tape up and also because up until then, anyone who’d ever been to Dunlichity bouldering never really spoke about it. I cleaned up an obvious line on the right-hand side called Marla which goes at about 7A+ whilst Rob cleaned the aretes, left and right. The right arete is a good warm up at 6A, Bob Paulson’s arete, whilst Marla is a powerful, fingery line with very board style climbing to a rising lip. The left arete lay dormant for a while…more in a bit.
A few months passed before we decided to bash back in through the bracken and look at the aforementioned G2 bloc. There are two boulders on top of one another, one is an enormous block which has lines 1-3 on it whilst the lower block has lines 3-6 on it (see G2 topo for this). The potential immediately jumped out, G2 high had an obvious highball east face whilst G2 low has a huge gently leaning overhang over a large pit, perfect for a stamina session. We repeated most of the established lines and then got to work filling in the gaps. There are now 10 new lines on G2 low between 6A+ and 7A+. As ever grades approximated by how the felt on the day with cleaning and aren’t set in stone. The hardest line on this is probably Are you Dunlickingme? which does a full left-right traverse of the face starting off a low sloping ramp then heads across via another ramp and some big moves on good holds before finishing up a brilliant 6C called Dunlickingme which involves a crucial gaston for left hand. There are a lot of link ups and variations on this boulder with Rob adding more traverses and straight ups in early October 2021.
The highball east face of G2 high was the next obvious goal but the rock was and still is flakey and friable. We didn’t even know where the line would go up it yet and the 4 M ladder hardly got me up to what looked like the crux on the first round of cleaning earlier in the year on the first visit. Returning with a rope Rob dropped in over the lip and the line became immediately apparent, left of where we had anticipated and right over a boulder that won’t move. The line follows a shallow scoop and crack to the top. After some serious scrubbing of holds and some working out on the top rope we realised it would be a little spicey even if not that hard. Rob broke off a foot hold on a top rope go which gave us both apprehension about taking the rope off. With another quick scrub and chalk to get the last loose crystals and crozzles and then some stone moving and bracken padding to get the landing levelled, it was time to have a go.
I jumped on and started climbing, before I knew it, I was standing on top. The line had gone and easily too, maybe only 5+ but the final move involves a trusting reach for the lip before a quick mantle which is not droppable as you’ll have a horrid landing. It was so good I went around a second time and then Rob quickly repeated it first try from the ground. This is one of those lines where the climbing and position are so good that the grade doesn’t matter. The line had a name before we’d cleaned it which is The Grave of The Fifty which comes from Dunlichity which is named so due to cattle thieves stealing cows from Nairnshire before being followed back here by the owners of the cows who killed the thieves somewhere nearby, giving Dunlichity its name (see: https://www.nature.scot/doc/place-names-inverness-and-surrounding-area for more).
The latest development came in the form of the left arete of the Fight Club bloc. The amazing leaning arete has a sharp but good hold low down before around 1.5m of blank rock spare a useless crozzle. Rob realised whilst cleaning this in February it was a dyno fairly quickly but I was still convinced the crozzle might be useful. We went for a session in early October and after a lot of flying about, static attempts, going with the wrong hand and generally getting scared about jumping I eventually worked out the flight trajectory and got what has to be the only true dyno in the Strath. The stand from the sharp hold is Tyler Durden but the full arete can be climbed from a sit working up through some easy moves to the stand start hold before dynoing to the lip. The grade is hard to say but probably falls between 7A+ and 7B+. Again, more repeats will let that one settle but it’s a great move and the grade is secondary to the climbing.
Dunlichty has a lot more to offer and there are plenty more lines to develop if you have the energy and time to scrub. It’s about 10 minutes walk in and has some good landings and a nice atmosphere. Info is all on UKC or vimeo so follow the links and see what there is to offer. Topos on their way.
Written by Benjy Wilcock, October 2021