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Monday, 29 October 2012

Fast and Furious

Newtyle is a chossy slate quarry near Dunkeld which was developed for drytooling by Scott Muir. The climbing there is 'unscottish' because many holds are drilled and it is bolted and most definately not in winter condition. However it became fast and furiously the training ground for many of the leading Scottish winter climbers. Andy Turner, Dave MacLeod and Greg Boswell have all drytooled here which enabled these climbers to become strong and to learn to hook precisely. It is the major hard winter climbing training venue in Scotland. More recently other training tools training tools for indoor climbing such as FigFours became available although surprisingly they are not allowed everywhere even when toproping and using a spring leash.

The gradings are D grades to indicate drytooling followed by a number for the difficulty analogous to the bolted mixed climbing M grades. A landmark route is 'fast and furious' which was first climbed by Scott Muir and has been given D10 (the highest current grade is D13). Here is a very nearly successful attempt:
Fast and furious from Henning Wackerhage on Vimeo.
Sorry for the amateurish soundtrack and a note to all the Aberdonians: the ice axes were later retrieved.
More information on Newtyle::

Monday, 1 October 2012

The rough bounds of Knoydart

First apologies for not blogging over the summer. We climbed mainly on plastic as the worst Scottish East coast summer coincided with a lot of enjoyable work. As I was mountaineering-deprived and as Roger and Mike were also well up for a challenge, we decided to do Ladhar Bheinn in the rough bounds of Knoydart which is here:,804019&st=4&ar=y&mapp=map.srf&searchp=ids.srf&dn=580&ax=182452&ay=804019&lm=0

Act 1 The walk in. I left work early and Roger and Mike flew to Glasgow where they hired a Vauxhall Corsa. The plan was to meet in Barrisdale on the Knoydart peninsula. I arrived at the remote farm in Kinloch Hourn just after 20 h, payed the farmer a few pounds for the parking and as I saw a Vauxhall, I assumed that Roger and Mike were on their way. Over the next two hours I was going fast over rough terrain, wading through several wild streams with much more up and down than I remembered to eventually arrive in Barrisdale. In the Estate the lights were on and after a little bit of searching I found the bothy with noone in there. 

I forgot to say that it was wet, very wet and very windy. The rain reverberated on the metal roof. I cooked Korean noodles, had a beer and decided that it was no point searching for Roger and Mike and went to bed. At 3 am the door opened noisily and Mike and Roger appeared. I got up, brewed a tea and Roger and Mike told a tale of 5 and a half hours of dodging streams, losing the path and moving through high bracken. Here they are enjoying a very late night/early morning brew.

Act 2 Ladhar Bheinn. Given the late arrival we slept until nearly 9 h, had a good breakfast and set off towards Ladhar Bheinn which dominates Knoydart. Here is Mike on the Northern ridge with Loch Hourn in the background...

The skies were grey and it was windy but we had some views and made it to the summit by lunchtime...

... and had lunch in a sheltered spot. But Mike felt not surprisingly tired after the nocturnal walk in and so we decided to just do Ladhar Bheinn.

Here the dramatic corrie rim further on...

... and here another picture of the rough path.

We decided to drop into the corrie where we saw groups of red deer. I forgot to mention that it is the rutting season and so the whole weekend we heard stags roaring on the hillside. Here is Roger further down with a view onto Loch Hourn and Beinnn Sgritheall, a Munro on the other side.

Also the skies became lighter, some blue appeared and it was warmer as well. Mike decided to go at his own pace as he wanted to find a place to have a nap in perfect solitude, to recover a bit.

Here we reach the final descent towards Barrisdale...
... and here we reach the bothy. No idea how the tractor got there but Barrisdale is a hunting estate and the owner and guests were hunting while we were there. Also, as the bothy is on the estate the owners have put an honesty box and ask guests to contribute £3 per night. Although unusual it is fair as the bothy has a toilet with running water and is very well maintained.

Act 3. The dinner. Our early arrival and the fact that we had brought a lot of food meant that we could have a multi-course dinner which we did. It included tea, Korean noodles, Pasta with Carbonara sauce, Pasta with tomato sauce, Custard with Kiwi and dried apricots and beer, Aussie wine and some Ardbeg to finish it all off.

Act 4. The walk out. After 9 h of sleep we set off on our return trip which took us 3 h walking at normal pace. Some blue skies appeared and the hills on the Southern side of Glenshiel appeared. The hill on the left must be the Saddle which is reached by the Forcan ridge. The streams were not in spate despite the rain at night and so it was low stress. 

Here is Roger about to reach the last stretch of loch Hourn. Some great autumn colours in the light.

Act 5. The second Munro. We then decided to do Sgurr a'Mhaoraich, a solitary Munro just up the glen. Here is Mike on the upper reaches...

... and here are Roger and Mike on the summit.

Here they are on their way down with loch Quoich and Gairich in the distance. Soon a heavy shower would hit us which together with the strong wind made the walking a pain but modern gear takes the sting out of the weather.

Mike and Roger then went to Glasgow, where they spent the night enjoying watching the Ryder cup (Mike plays golf) before flying back to Oxford in the morning.