Northwest sandstone update

The recent bouldering boom in the north of Scotland has mainly been focused on the rough gneisses of Strathnairn and the far Northwest. Development on the west coast sandstone between Applecross and Assynt seems to have taken a bit of a back seat. It’s understandable – fashions come and go and these areas have seen lots of attention in the past. But it’s perhaps no coincidence that a lull in new activity started around the time that Mr Torridon (aka Rich Betts) hung up his Stix and traded them for a pair of running shoes. Despite this, the last few years have seen a trickle of new problems from locals and roving developers, both filling gaps and adding whole new boulders. Here’s a rough summary of some of the goings-on.

Starting in the south, Jon Fullwood used his unwavering ability to sniff out unclimbed rock and added a new problem to the Russell Boulder at Kishorn on one of his productive family holidays. Moine Thrust 7B starts sitting just left of Changed Days and climbs the thin crack feature into the end of Days Go By. Nearby, veteran boulder hunter Tom Charles-Edwards took to the hills and climbed several problems on a lone giant stone on the way into Coire na Feola on Beinn Bhan, the highlight of which is the superb looking Flight Across the Desert at 7B.

Tom on Flight Across the Desert. Photographer – Tom Charles-Edwards

Heading north, another regular raider from the south added yet more hard problems in Torridon. Dan Varian did the extension to his own Fridge Too Far on the Tree Boulder, staying on the arete rather than finishing left via the crack to create Meatlocker 8A+. Just to the left on the same boulder Ted Collins filled in the gap between Drippy and Groovy with Dime a Dozen at 7A. This roughly follows the line for Groovy in the 2013 guide, which is actually further to the right.  Dan also added two opposing lines in the first lean-to just left of where the approach path meets the Celtic Jumble. The left line Maelstrom is 7C+ and Starlight and Storm 7C is the opposite sitter, starting on good holds in the mini cave and escaping right to the arete. On the subject of bouldering in the glen, it’s worth perusing the Ullapool Outdoors blog for updates to the original 2013 Torridon guide, here and here.

Dan on Maelstrom. Photographer – Dan Varian

It’s not just Tom that’s been taking his pads further into the hills than most. Dave Macleod and Andrew Macfarlane made the impressive trek up into Toll an Lochain on An Teallach and climbed three new problems on a beautiful looking block beside the loch: Angelic 7B+ and Bloc 26 7A+ were climbed by Dave whilst Andrew did a rising lip traverse called Little Dod at 6C.  Not a bad place for Andrew’s first experience of putting up new problems. Dave reckons there’s the potential to make Angelic harder with an extended start, so the challenge is out there for anyone that fancies the walk. Their full day was recorded on YouTube so future repeaters can’t complain about the lack of beta.

Up in the north of the main sandstone area Ullapool’s Ian Taylor mopped up a couple of good-looking problems a bit off the beaten track. The high 6C+ arete of Spying Eyes is hidden somewhere near Ardmair and Hoist that Rag 7A climbs the left side of a leaning prow on the slopes above Blughasary.  At Reiff in the Woods Nigel Holmes has done a great community service by cleaning up some of the problems that had been getting dirty in recent years – his own brilliant The Flood among them. Staying around Ullapool, the last few years have seen a steady stream of new problems put up by the local Cunningham clan. Details are scarce, but a sift through Eadan Cunningham’s Instagram feed shows that they’ve been busy.

Ian Taylor on Hoist that Rag. Photographer – Ian Taylor

So there we have it.  Plenty to go at in some of Scotland’s most beautiful and remote areas, come and check them out. Just remember – park considerately, take your rubbish home with you, brush off your tick marks and respect the rock.

Written by Gareth Marshall, November 2021

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