Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Bouldering on Arran

Richard and AndyG started the ball rolling with a trip to Lochranza. They took one look at the approach to the crag and decided that a tour of the distillery seemed so much more inviting. After lunch and a few samples they decided that they had better do a bit of climbing. So, armed only with a copy of "Stone Country," a guide book to "Bouldering in Scotland," acquired in a sale for the truly bargainous price of only one pound, they drove down to Corrie to explore the boulders.

They started on the Cat Stone which has an easy slabby side and pleasant views of the sea. The boulder has survived an attempt to blow it up and the old shot holes provide the key to starting several of the routes up the road-side of the boulder.

It really is right beside the tarmac and requires care when descending from the rock, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Also, as Mike discovered, a sketchy or unconfident climbing technique can prompt passing motorists to sound their horns in warning.

On the seaward side of the road, opposite the Cat Stone, is a short slabby ramp which provides an amusing "hands-free" problem.

Next is Clach an Fhionn otherwise known as the Hero Stone. This is easily the most accessible boulder anywhere. If your driver parks straight in the layby, it's less than two big strides from the car door to touch rock.

Although AndyG and Richard first climbed this using a side pull to assist standing up on a tiny little toe-hold(as demonstrated by Richard in the video below), it did eventually succumb to a direct approach. On AndyG's second visit to the boulder, Jeff got his brave head on and ascended directly up the blank looking centre of the slab. Eventually, following his example, everyone learned to trust the friction of the fine granite.

The Hero Stone also provided much amusement when we attempted to climb the descent route from a sitting start in a recess in the side of the boulder. Again there is another subsidiary stone which provided us with a variety of entertaining problems. "Hands-free" traversing, one footed dynoing(i.e. hopping onto the rock) and Graham's speciality, "feet-first" climbing. He almost lost it at one point and we wondered what we were going to say to explain how Graham had managed to fall on his head when he was only at arms length above the ground to begin with.

The other major boulder that Richard and AndyG visited is Clach Dhruim a'Charn. It is just visible from the road leaving the South end of Corrie where it's top can be seen poking above the trees. This one is a giant, it is the biggest and tallest of the boulders that we visited on Arran. It has a combination of steep or overhanging starts with slabby finishes high above the ground.

Bouldering on Arran turned out to be a surprisingly intense workout and not the easy rest day that we had imagined. Also, the granite is pretty rough on your skin. And finally, remember that too much bouldering can make you look like a Smurf.