St Andrews Bouldering

Jack Clarkson steps up to relay the tale of a “world-class” venue close to the university town of St Andrews.

St. Andrews. Home to Scotland’s first and premier university. Home to some of the finest golf in the world. Home to a rather Royal romance. And now home to Fife’s only world class bouldering venue! Yes, you heard it, a world class bouldering venue (he says awkwardly)!

As you will be well aware (or not?), Fife is not exactly known for its rock climbing. With venues pretty much non-existent, or simply not worthwhile because of the choss-ridden-rather-horizontal nature of the landscape, many climbers from Fife and even Dundee, prefer to venture further afield in search of high-quality sport, trad and bouldering.

But venturing further afield can often be time consuming and requires some degree of planning. And when there is little time to make planned, time-consuming journeys, particularly in the evenings, those long-desired feelings of thin skin, razor sharp crimps, burly shoulder-breaking slaps, bruised knees and numb feet in the great outdoors (whether that’s because of the cold or your shoes are too tight) can all seem ever more distant. In fact I am pretty sure every climber gets those feelings, but even more so when there is no venue close enough for a ‘quick hit’ outdoors. But heck, even life can get in the way, and those lucky enough to have local venues to hit up in the evening feel this way occasionally. Which I guess is all the more reason to have a decent, local, outdoor climbing venue, right?

These feelings in particular were ever more apparent during my time in St. Andrews. Studying for my masters degree at the University there during the winter lockdown, I was fed up of not being able to climb. No local ‘quick hit’ venues. No bouldering gyms open. What to do? Find and develop a crag of course!

So back to the point. Remember that new world class bouldering venue I just mentioned in the first paragraph? Yanno, the one in St. Andrews? Fife? Well… It isn’t world class. It’s a wee bit chossy, like the rest of Fife, but the climbing is rather cool, especially when caught in pristine conditions.

Jack Clarkson on Hold the Tension, 7A

Located no more than 15-20 minutes walk away from the town centre, this small area of boulders is located ~300 metres east of Maiden Rock, below the Fife Coastal Path. It is serene. Plus, the mixture of steep crimpy sandstone features and burly fridge-hugging compression moves should be enough to entice any keen local boulderer to check this place out. There are currently 3 main blocks; the Variation Wall, which offers problems up to Font 7B/V8, the Fish Boulder and the Wave Wall. There is also the prospect for a couple of tough projects on the Variation Wall, although these would be very eliminate, as are most of the problems there. Scattered amongst the main attractions there are also a number of smaller blocks which offer a few reasonable shorter problems, mostly in the lower grades.

With up to 30 problems to check out, it is probably worth picking out a few of the highlights which are certainly worth climbing. At the lower end of the grade scale Problem 1 (Font 5/V1) on the Fish Boulder offers a great introduction to the climbing here, with a positive little sit start from a pinch and sloper leading to a techy top-out through a crack and groove above. On the Variation Wall, Sev’s Problem (Font 7B/V8) and Sev’s Variation (7A+/V7), both first climbed by Severin Domela who I developed some of the blocs with, offer powerful crimpy little numbers. On the same bloc, my own FA, Hold The Tension (Font 7A/V6) does what it says on the tin and offers a lovely move from small crimp to reach a sloping lip above. In the middle grade ranges, problems 17 (Font 6B/V4) and 19 (Font 6C/V5) on the Wave Wall provide you with some bunched up squeezing either side the starting point of another tough problem previously known as The Wave Wall Project (Font 7B/V8?). The Wave Wall Project was unclimbed when I was St. Andrews, but I assume Sev has now climbed the problem since my leaving.

Sev Domela on the Wave Wall Project

After reading this you’re probably wondering is there more to be climbed? Short answer, yes, and I’m pretty sure in my absence new problems in the area will have since gone up. Particularly by Sev. So Sev, if you’re reading this, get in touch with me and let me update the UKC page! To the others out there reading this, few problems have been given names, so feel free to develop names for the problems as you session there and propose any name/grade changes to myself on UKC. After all, we’re a community and it would great to see the involvement of other climbers at the venue helping to give it some recognition.

Jack Clarkson, June 2022

The topo written by Jack for the St Andrews bouldering is here.

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