Dubh-Lic Boulders, Glen Croe

Stewart Cable writes up recent explorations in Glen Croe, featuring some fantastic new problems, as proven by a mathematical equation. Written March 2022

Anyone venturing up the A83 into Glen Croe in Arrochar needs no telling that there is a lot of rock out there. Precious and Turbinal Nose are some of the best 7Cs in the UK. On the other side of the glen is the mighty Kennedy Boulder.

Iain Cattanach on Turbinal Nose

Everyone knows there are more boulders out there, but one must always consider the law of bouldering in Scotland:

Where W is the worthwhileness of the trip, Q is the Quality of the problems, N is the number of problems and D is distance from the roadside. Unfortunately, in Scotland the D can often be a pretty big number so you’re going to need to have some serious Q to make it worthwhile.

Fortunately, the Dubh-Lic boulders are big on Q factor.

The author on The Croe Road F7B

Spring 2021. After scouring google maps to find the biggest shadows in the area, Iain Cattanach set out armed (rather optimistically considering it is a 40 min walk-in) with shoes, mat, wire brush, rope and harness and made his way up to the Bealach Dubh-Lic on the lower slopes of Ben Donich. Dubh-Lic translates as dark (or black) stone. He tells me he had a hunch there was good stuff, but he must have been absolutely delighted to break through the tree line and find some absolutely cracking rock.

Presumably after first picking his jaw up, Iain set about cleaning the Connery bloc and making short work of Honor and Double Oh, two excellent 6As that are no pushover.

Iain on his own Honor F6A+

After a bit more cleaning he turned his attention to the neighbouring huge slab and made progress up to where things start to get a bit highball. Having opened things up he then called on me for a bit of moral support and extra matting for the next visit.

This time we used bikes to cut the approach down to 20 minutes and after I’d picked up my jaw, we both topped out the superb slab of The Milkman F6C.

Iain getting to the small holds on The Milkman

After that we turned our attention to the main event, what would become the Croe’s Nest boulder complete with a nest full of bones on top. There were two obvious lines here. The outstanding left arete with a slightly worrying landing and the centre of the boulder which has an appealing rising shelf feature above a good landing.

Iain cleaning up what would become the Croe’s Nest Boulder

Relieved to unearth some jugs on the upper slab we set about trying the stand version of the centre line and just about worked out a sequence although, knackered from cleaning, neither of us could make the last move – a dynamic throw to the lip. However, being unable to think about anything else for the next few weeks we were quick to get back and get up the 3-star classic – A Feast for Croes F7B. With the last of my reserves, I also managed to bag the sitter which adds a few beefy moves into the stand start at around F7C.

A Feast for Croes. F7B standing at the shelf or F7C from sitting at obvious low crimp rail

Now we couldn’t put off the striking left arete any longer. Padding the boulder below actually gave a nice slopey landing that wasn’t too bad and I got a sequence together fairly quickly. There were no thank-god-jugs on this top out though, and while the top wasn’t hard it was high and comitting. Depite some terrible beta, panic etc I topped out another 3-star classic The Croe Road F7B

The author on the Croe Road FA and a quick repeat from Thom Davies in the late summer bracken.

I unsportingly used some midweek holidays to nip back up and claim some more FAs.

Clockwise from top left Professor Challenger F7A on the Lost World Boulder, The Wizards of Once F6C, Little Wing F6C & Life by the Drop F6B+. The latter two both on the SRV boulder

The Approach

Best in spring but the boulders are above the tree line so as long as there is a wee breeze the midges will stay away. We climbed there through last summer with no problems. The boulders have lain untouched for millennia before we gave them a quick clean so some problems may need a quick brush of the tops before climbing.

Parking is about 45 minutes’ drive from Glasgow then 30-40 minutes walk in, however we’ve found it’s very easy to bike in (10mins) then stash the bike and walk the last short steep uphill section (10 mins). The forest track is mainly downhill on the way in so you arrive fairly fresh. My last visit I was able to get from the boulders, back to car and packed up and in Dumbarton in 1 hour.

Park at the Glen Mhor parking spot. Just a few 100 yards West along the B828 from the Rest and be Thankful turn off.

From here turn left at the mast onto the forest track heading along the West side of Glen Croe. Before long the track splits, keep right here then continue till a post (stash bike here) and obvious steep path up through the forest on the right.

Most boulders are off to the right when you arrive. The SRV boulder is the first roofed boulder directly uphill from the stile out of shot on this pic.

Is there more to be climbed?

Short answer – yeah tonnes. Professor Challenger direct sit start should go at around F7C+, a very hard pull off fragile flakes required though. There are crimpy projects either side of the Wizards of Once but these need a bit of time to dry out the tops. Plenty more rock up the hill and loads of highball slabs. Just remember though:

Iain eyeing up some future lines.

Stewart Cable, March 2022

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