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Last updated: 14/10/10

 

South of Aberdeen North of Aberdeen The North Coast Inland

North-East Climbs
Author: Stuart Stronach

This is a description of some of crags and routes around the north east, based on the opinions of Club climbers. Most of these are sea cliffs, but there are a few decent inland venues which will get a mention. We intend to follow the same format as used by the current SMC guidebook "Northeast Outcrops" i.e. starting at Aberdeen and heading south, then heading north, followed by the north coast and finally the inland crags.

This is not intended as an alternative to the excellent guide and we're not going to waste time duplicating how to find the crags or on locating the various routes mentioned. Instead, we're just giving personal opinions on some of the areas covered in more detail in the guide and note some of our favourite routes. Photos are available by clicking highlighted route names.

(Route grades updated, as per current new guidebook, 2 Nov 2007)
 


South of Aberdeen

Bridge of One Hair

This is a neglected headland beside the first bridge over the railway on the coast road when heading south from Nigg Bay. It's neglect is probably because you've to cross a chemical waste dump to get to it. However, once there, the unpleasant aromas are soon left behind. The place is really a bouldering venue with one or two bigger bits of rock.

Deceptive Wall

This is a wall of excellent rock facing straight out to sea above a tidal platform. There's nothing harder than HVS here, but all the routes are worth doing, particularly Big Daddy (S *) and The Somme (VS 4b *). The only down side for beginners is the awkward descent gully at the north end of the crag.

The Long Slough

The seaward end of the north wall of this inlet has some amazing routes through impressive overhangs. There are few easy routes, though Zombie (S) is quite good and Quartz Deviant (S) is bold. Moving up a few grades, Brain Death (E2 5b *) is a short but fun route over a big roof - heel hook the lip, rock over and stand up and it's all over! Things get harder still with Red Death (E3 6b ***), Black Velvet (E4 6a *) and Bob's Overhang (E4 6a ***), all of which are reported to be stunning. The bouldering here must also get a mention - around the base of Red Death are several hard problems, and the low level traverse of the entire crag is a worthwhile and quite sustained 6a.

Long Slough Red Rocks

This is the south side of the Long Slough - it's name comes from the sill of felsite which gives the place its distinctive appearance. The climbs aren't of the same quality as those on the other side of the inlet, but are interesting due to the unusual rock. Firebird (E2 5b *) is excellent apart from the top section above the felsite.

Alan's Cliff

A crag ignored by many, we were steered towards it by the Etchachan Club with a view to adding to the three recorded routes in the current guide. This we duly did, and where there once were only 3 climbs on this large cliff, now there are 20, ranging from Diff to E2! A detailed guide for Alan's Cliff can be found here. This is now an excellent beginners crag with a simple descent and with routes climbable at all but the highest tide.

The Dry Covie

An obscure wee bouldering inlet which is set back from the sea, this is one of the few decent bouldering venues on the coast, with a reasonable landing on pebbles and boulders. The traverse of the south wall is quite a challenge!

The Humpback

A sea stack with an entertaining girdle traverse VDiff, best done at high-ish tide. There's a nice mild severe quartz seam at the south west corner.

Black Rock Gulch

A fine place when quiet but it's often busy with instructional groups. The red slab provides fine bouldering or quite easy but bold routes. The main wall is bigger and steeper. Yellow Edge (Severe **) is probably the best route here, but the HVS 5a through the overhangs at the back of the inlet is worth doing despite its short length. The small steep wall below the shelves at the base of the red slab also gives reasonable bouldering.

Souter Head

Probably the most popular venue in the Aberdeen area, this headland has several inlets with climbing in most of them. The most famous climb is Mythical Wall (E1 5b ***) which has even been the subject of an article in On The Edge! Also well worth doing and on the same stack are Seawall (E1 5b **), Pickpocket (E2 5c *) and The Pobble (VS 4b **). Further south is Milestone Inlet, which contains Milestone Direct (VDiff *), and south again is Rainbow Inlet. Here, the best route is Brooker's Arete (S ***) which takes the prominent rib on the south wall. Tyke (E3 5b *) is a fine but very bold wall to its right. Jade Traverse and Jade Buttress (VS 4c *) combine to make a fine outing near the south end of the headland.

South Cove

Another popular venue, with many good routes in the upper grades (i.e. too hard for us, so we've not done them and can't comment on how good they are!). However, Space Rats (E5 ***), Cracks in Reality (E5 ***), Procrastination (E5 ***) and The Black Sheep (E5 **), all in the Red Hole, are all reportedly magnificent multi-pitch routes. Lunatic Fringe (E7 6c ***) is the hardest non-bolted route in the north east and looks quite tricky! Insect Groove (HVS 5a ***) is a classic, with the crux in the upper corner. Nesting gulls seem to be becoming more and more prolific - they were everywhere on our last visit and we ended up bouldering in the quarry behind the main cliffs. You have been warned.

Clashrodney North

The routes described in the guide are crumbling heaps of choss apart from one route: Wild Hearted Son (E2 5c *) has a crux low down and then a pumpy thug through a roof on flakes to jugs over the lip. In 1998, a collection of new routes to the north of the existing climbs were recorded in the Tiso's New Routes Book, mostly in the lower grades. This has turned the location into a reasonable beginners crag, with large non-tidal platforms below the climbs, although descents are quite awkward and all the routes are under graded by at least one, and sometimes two grades.

Clashrodney

This is another large headland just to the south of the inlet that bears the same name. The best of the routes on the most northern buttress is Birthday Treat (E1 5a ***). There are very enjoyable routes on the Pink Slab, just to the south. On Central Buttress, Stone Roses (E2 5b *) is downright dangerous with poor rock and no reliable gear until beyond the crux at 7m (with a bad landing), but gives an enjoyable top-rope problem. Chisel Chimney (VDiff *) is much more fun, with some wild moves for the grade. At Cairnrobin Point at the southern extremity of the headland, Johnny's Dangler (E1 5b *) is a short and steep wee boulder problem, with big holds most of the way, while Schoolboy Alcoholic is a nice technical (VS 4c *). In the summer of 1998, we made a mass ascent of a previously unclimbed wall, roof and hanging crack line to give The Cairngorm Club's Other Crack (HVS 5b *). This lies between the Johnny's Dangler wall and the line of Visor to the right.

Peel Slough

This is an area was developed after the guide was published. A detailed guide for Peel Slough can be found here. There are many short easy routes on the east wall, while the very steep north wall still has one or two unclimbed lines. Talk with Your Hands (HS) takes the right arÍte of the north wall and eases quickly after a tricky start.

Floor's Craig

Well worth the effort of finding, but with some strange grading - Slug Arete must be the easiest (VS 4c) around, while Blockbuster has at last been re-graded from HVS 5b to (E1 5c). Sprunt's Route (E2 5c *) is pumpy but with a good rest ledge at 2/3 height. Cold Turkey (VS 4c **) has a steep start but isn't too bad if you're a thug. The 5b direct start is harder. To its right, Bantam Wall (HS *) is easier but in a similar vein. Jap's Eye Chimney (S) is available for those who wish to repeat the birthing experience!

Craig Stirling

This is another impressive crag split into two buttresses by a central recess. Grand Diedre (HVS 5a ***) on the east buttress is the line of the crag, and the routes on its barrel shaped right wall look equally good. On the west buttress, Lean Meat (E3 5c **), an old Pat Littlejohn route, takes an overhanging 10m flake crack and is excruciatingly strenuous. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (E4 6a ***) is reported to be a great route, and possibly quite hard for the grade.

Rotters Rock

This is a buttress just south of Craig Stirling. The rock isn't so good, but it's not affected by the tide and therefore provides a nearby alternative when high tide, rough seas or humid conditions rule out Craig Stirling. Nautilus (E1 5b) is another pumpy number with the crux right at the top.

The Less is More Buttress

This is a slabby buttress facing south and lying midway between Rotters Rock and the Harbour Walls. It is situated at the seaward end of the north wall of the deepest inlet on this part of the coast, and has only been recently developed. It contains only four routes, the best of which are Cutless (HS), taking the obvious diagonal break and steeper upper wall, and Mostly 'Armless, (HVS 4c) which climbs the steep pocketed wall right of the start of Cutless to gain a large ledge and then toe traverses left along a tiny ledge to finish near the top of Cutless.

Harbour Walls

Similar to but more extensive than Rotters Rock in the type and quality of its climbs, this crag has the attraction of being one of the few venues on the coast to catch the evening sun. Tigger (E1 5b **) and Cheetah (HVS 5a *) are both worth doing, but some reckon the grades should be the other way round! Acapulco (E1 5b ***) on the back wall is also reputed to be good.

Dyke's Cliff

A small steep venue with good bouldering along its base. None of the routes are particularly good or memorable, but they're not too bad either. Bad Medicine Waltz (E2 5b *) is one of the better ones. The there-and-back traverse of the base of this gently overhanging wall gives a good workout.

Boltsheugh

The somewhat controversial site of Aberdeen's nearest sport climbing crag. Again, these routes were done after the guide was published and details are not too freely available (George Ridge's Scottish Sport Climbs 1996 guide contains the only known (to me) descriptions). A detailed guide for Boltsheugh can be found here. Suffice to say that the place is small, very steep and some of the bolts are rusting already. But then again, the routes are fun and some re-bolting took place over the winter of 98-99. The longest route, Traverse of the Cods (F7a) uses bolts on three other routes plus one of its own to make a very steep outing. An enjoyable boulder problem route, Little Creatures (F6c) is short, steep and hard. Also, Boltsheugh has some great bouldering with reasonable landings including a very hard traverse.
 

There are more cliffs and routes south of Newtonhill, but I've never visited them and so you're best off consulting the guidebook.

 


North of Aberdeen

Smuggler's Cliff

An interesting place to visit, where the usual descent is by abseil. From limited experience, the place appears to be under graded - Animal Magnetism (E5 6b **) has a very hard move protected by a peg and tape of first ascent vintage, while Castaway (E2 5b **) is under graded and not worth the two stars given in the guide. A rising traverse recently made along the obvious diagonal line gave an spectacular and exposed route at a very reasonable standard - Smuggler's Waltz (HVS 5a ***)

The Graip

This is a friendly crag above a pebble and boulder beach. There are several corners, all of which are worthwhile. Slain's Corner (E2 5c) and Bogus Corner (HS) are particularly good. Graips of Wrath is (VS 4c *) and Bunches of Fives is  (S **). Belays at the top are a bit awkward at the landward end of the crag, and descent is by a tedious walk round the top of the bay.

Fulmar Wall

The best thing about this crag is that it is hardly affected by the tides and is sheltered to a degree from easterly winds. The Excited Atom (E1 5b *) is a bold route up the undercut slab, and the adjacent Particle Accelerator (E2 5b) is harder and bolder! Down at the north end, The Weight (HS ***) is brilliant. The only down side to this place is the tricky and exposed descent.

Meikle Partans

Just north of Fulmar Wall, almost every route here is worth doing! The rock is perfect and set well above the sea. Worthy of individual mention are The Bridge (VS 4b *), The Band of Hope (HVS 5a *) and not as bold or strenuous as the guide would have you believe! and Strawclutcher's Wall (E1 5b **) just to its left. The worst routes are probably Little Sassenach (E1 5b) which is just not as good as the others, and Boardman's Crack (E2 5b), a route on which at least 2 friends have broken bones. However, one member finally got round to doing it in 1997 and found it to be much more reasonable than he was expecting. We also managed to squeeze in a new route between Dungo (HS) and Slanting Crack (Mod): Comedy of Errors (E2 6a) takes a central line up the smooth shield-shaped wall. The route gains independence with height and the crux is right at the top.

Harper's Wall

Tidal and undercut, this is not the place to come if you've no gymnastic tendencies. 1,2,3,Go (HVS 5b **) is deservedly infamous, with a jump start for the vertically challenged. To its left, Silent Partner (E2 5b **) has a very strenuous start. In contrast, Renegade (VS 4c ***) has a bold and delicate start traversing in above the bulge before a fine finish up a steep crack.

Greymare Slabs

This is an attractive sweep of slabs dropping straight into the sea. Between the descent and the main slab is Amen Corner (Diff *). The main slab can be climbed by several lines from Diff to HS including Ornitholigy (Diff  **). The steep wall to the south of the big diedre Groovin' High (S) has three hard lines. The Truth Hurts (E5 6b ***) is reputed to be Graeme Livingstone's best route on the coast.

Longhaven Quarry

There are loads of crags between Greymare and Longhaven Quarry, but we've not visited them and so we're in no position to comment on their routes. The layout of the quarry is complex, and gives the place a very gothic feel. There are routes facing almost all directions, varying from slabs to overhanging walls, short boulder problems to multi-pitch adventure routes. Munich Buttress is very prominent and impressive, with the American Route (E2 5c **) being the most obvious line. Down in the main quarry, on Lochan Buttress, Levitator (E4 6b *) is an extended boulder problem with what looks to be reasonable gear. Some think it's closer to E4, however. There is a lot more climbing here than what's mentioned, but since we've not had the chance for a closer inspection, we'll leave it there.

The Round Tower

The Round Tower is a remarkable place with rock architecture reminiscent of an Easter Island statue. We've done nothing but some of us have been for a look! Stoneface (E4 6a **) is the most inspiring line up the left eye of the face. Facegod (E5 6a **) starts up Stoneface before a hand traverse onto the nose leads to the bold upper wall. Several other routes thread the various features and all are hard. The south east arÍte of the tower, Ramadan (E1 5b **) is supposed to be good it you can get it with no birds on!

Meackie Point

Another wall of perfect granite, there are several worthwhile lines here, all quite hard without being desperate. The Killing Moon (E1 5b ***) and Legend (E2 5c *) are two lines as good as any here. Impending Doom (E2 5c *), apparently the last new route by the first ascentionist prior to his wedding(!), has a bold Direct Start (E3 5c). The lower half of the crag is very steep.

Hidden Inlet

Another granite wall in a very secluded setting, finding the correct descent line is almost as hard as some of the routes here! A Secret Affair (HVS 5a **) is a very fine corner line, quite tricky if taken totally direct. Lonely (E1 5a *) takes it's left arÍte and offers fine, bold but escapable climbing. Not So Lonely (E2 5c **), left again, is poorer, with bad gear and an artificial line. Pirelli Wellies (Severe *) is a nice route up cracks at the extreme left end of the wall. There is an un-named E1 5c wall at the right hand end which gives delicate, bold climbing on small edges with no gear at all!

Hidden Treasure Wall

Hidden Treasure (E2 5c ***) is a totally stunning route, while Bloodhunt (E4 6b **) looks almost as good. Dwarf Stone (E2 6a *) has good climbing but is escapable at half height, and Captain Pugwash (E4 6a **) is an excellent, sustained route packing in a wide variety of climbing styles into its 20 metres length. Round the arÍte from the main face, Herring Chimney (VS 4c *) is a lot better than the guide would have you believe.

Robbie Gow's Prison

The rock here generally isn't up to the same standard as the previous two locations. Escape Route (HVS 5a **) takes a good line up the left side, and the route immediately left, The Jester (HVS 5a) has a good lower half, but a very poor finish.

 


The North Coast

Redhythe Point
Near Portsoy, this crag has plenty of routes for the beginner with a couple of dozen routes between Mod. and  VS. The step across Green Chasm, on False Top (VDiff), is an interesting move. The Edge (VDiff) is also a nice route in the same grade. This crag is not yet frequently used and is often bypassed on the way to nearby Logie Head. Well worth a visit.

Logie Head

Logie Head is one of the favourite crags of many Club climbers. It consists of several walls of sandstone-like rock, generally just off vertical and seamed with numerous cracks. It is a ridge running out to sea, and most of the routes can be done at high tide. On the first embankment, Cullenary Delight(VS 5a ***), Poacher (VS 4b **) and Sunnyside Direct (E1 5c *) are particularly good. At the seaward end above a tidal platform is the Star Zone. Here, Western Star (E2 5c) involves nice delicate climbing in its upper half though it is a bit eliminate. Fallen Star (VS 4c ***), to its right is a great route and all the other routes are worth doing.

Cummingston

Near Elgin, this is a sandstone crag with sandy holds and brittle rock. However, many of the routes are not too badly affected and the bouldering is excellent. There are loads of sea stacks and caves to explore too. The Orange Wall, at the east end has a near perfect landing above a 6-8m gently overhanging wall - great for bouldering. The Diedre of Doubt (HVS 5a **) is typical of many of the routes here - a very strenuous start over the undercut cliff base followed by big holds and poor gear to the top. Stegosaurus (VS 4c **) is another route in a similar vein. The boulder problems around Pipefish Wall/Soft Option provide great entertainment, with Jerker being particularly gymnastic at 6b.

 


Inland

Clach Na Beinn

A granite hilltop tor, there are loads of jam cracks here, if that's your thing. The walls between the cracks give nice climbs as well. Python Cracks (VDiff *) is a pleasant route, and Bogendreip Buttress (HVS 5a ***) looks well worthwhile. Rough Rider (HVS 5a **), the route with the "big knob" (see the guidebook if you don't believe us!) succumbs to laybacking rather than jamming.

The Pass of Ballater

These granite outcrops on Deeside are very popular, and the bad erosion at the base of the cliff gives testament to this. On the western sector, Razor's Crack (VS 4c *) is short and fun, and Medium Cool (VS 4c ***) focuses the mind up the bold slab. However, it doesn't look to be quite as bad (bold) as Silent Spring (E1 5a ***). On the tier above, Little Cenotaph (HVS 5b **) gives a painful bridging problem for those with little legs. Pink Wall (VS 5a *) is excellent also. Harder routes with good reputations are Peel's Wall (E4 6a ****) and Smith's Arete (E5 6a ***). The Wiry Masters (HVS 4c/E1 5a) is a pleasant route up the wee slab below and left of the main Medium Cool slab. On the central sector, Giant Flake Route (VS 4b ***) is one of the easiest routes on the sector and is good after a tricky start. Hangover Wall (E2 5c) takes a good line with some loose flakes and a well protected crux. Anger and Lust (E2 5c ***) and Bluter Groove (E3 6b **) are the two most striking lines on the sector. The eastern sector contains short bouldery routes with hideous landings. Rock 'n' Roll (HVS 5a) is one of the easiest and best.

Cambus O' May

A disused quarry which has been turned into a sports climbing venue with many manufactured routes. Detailed information on Cambus O'May can be found here. The trad routes in the guide have largely been retro-bolted e.g. Idiot Savant has gone from E6 6b to F7b+*** and Roses from HVS 5a to F5. There are a couple of short nasties to the left of Roses: Wimpy Construction  (F6a+ )and Bonsai (F6a+) are desperate one move wonders.

Glen Clova

The Red Craig is a south east facing hillside crag with loads of great routes. Proud Corner (VS 4c ***), Wander (HVS 5a **), Wandered (HVS 5a ***) and Cauldron Crack (HVS 5a **) are the best routes on the Lower North West Crag. On the South East Crag, Central Crack (HS ***) is simply brilliant. We've not climbed as much on the other crags, but Alder VS **) on the Upper North West Crag is excellent but the first pitch felt more like 5a then 4b. The Red Wall (E1 ***) and Zig Zag Direct (HVS **) are also said to be stunning. On the Upper Doonie, Vindaloo (E1 5b ***) is a very sustained line with the crux low down and a pumpy finish. It's a full 45m pitch, so make sure you take plenty of quickdraws! Dancin' in the Ruins (E3 *) is given three stars in the guide, but the second pitch was found by a friend to be dangerously loose. On the Lower Doonie, Guinness (E1 **) is the classic, but the first pitch is a lot harder than the given 5a grade would suggest.

Legaston Quarry

The original home of Scottish sport climbing. Some of the routes are a bit run out, with as few as 2 bolts in 15 metres. On the Ring Buttress, Flight of the Mad Magician (F6b **) is a classic, and Driller Killer (F6c **) has a desperate move for anyone of average height or less. You used to have to climb ~5 metres up a British 5c wall to reach the first bolt, but recent rebolting has added two new bolts between the ground and the original first bolt! Also bolted at the same time is the crackline of Armygeddon. With 5 bolts in 10 metres, this is now one of the most well-protected routes in the quarry, and quite awkward. The route used to be given HVS 5a, but we reckon it's now F6a. On the Main Wall, Hunt the Ratbag (F6b *) and Death is the Hunter (F6b+ *) take adjacent lines up the best bit of rock. Sweet Revenge (E1 5b **) is as good as anything in the quarry, providing you remembered your trad rack. Rotten Wall is better than is sounds, with First to Fall (F6b+ *) and Hell's Bells (F6c *) both worthwhile. Round the corner on Forbidden Buttress are two of the best lines in the quarry: No Remorse (F6c+ ***) and Spandex Ballet (F7a+ ***). Babylon Buttress also has some good routes and there is some fun bouldering to be had at the base of Ring Buttress.

Balmashanner Quarry

A steep hole in the ground with Scotland's hardest route (if grades are taken as accurate). It takes a long time to dry out, but when it's dry, it's so steep that rain has little affect! The two classics are Hell Bent for Lycra (F6c+ **) and Savage Amusement (F7b ***). Le Bon Vacance (F7a) is also fun, and The Comfort Machine (F6c+ *) gives a good pump. Rat Attack (F6c+) has a nasty start and an easier upper section. The Niche (F8a+ ***) has a hideous move low down before you reach the niche itself. Oh, the desperate route is Merchant of Menace (F8b+ **). The following photo has been included to show just how steep the right hand side of the wall is. It shows Gravity's Rainbow (F7c+ *) and The Niche (F8a+ ***).

Ley Quarry

This is a fairly pleasant place for a quarry. The wee wall beside the car park (you can belay from the car if you want!) has few nice wee routes that aren't in the guide, but the best is still Magic Pockets (F6b *). April's Arete is the rightmost line and is given (F3+), but I doubt it's that hard. Down by the pool (don't fall in!), the routes are all quite pleasant. Footfall (F6a *) is a good warm up, and Five Magics (F6b+ **) is sustained with a very reachy move at the crux. More routes have been added here than are in the guide.