Climbing in Wester Ross, Scotland
Dan Keller, June 13, 2011
The sun is starting to set, melting into the sea, as I top out on the last route of the day. A light breeze keeps the midges at bay as I belay up my second, taking in the glorious views. As UK climbing goes, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Wester Ross in the North West Scottish Highlands is home to a seemingly endless number of crags; located along the coast and nestled in the valleys that run through the rugged landscape. Much of the climbing to the north of the Torridon hills is on Lewisian Gneiss, providing some immaculate lines on rough but solid rock. Perhaps the most well known of these gneiss buttresses is the towering Carnmore Crag. Home of some of the UK’s mountain routes, Carnmore’s best routes include the epic, eleven pitch classic that is Fionn Buttress (VS,4c) as well as the stunning lines of Gob (HVS 4c) and Dragon (HVS/E1 5b). Bold and adventurous, these lines all feature exposed traverses and steep climbing on large holds. If you feel like really pushing yourself (and you’re an accomplished trad leader), Carnmore also features two and three star climbs as hard as Wilderness (E4 6a) and Death Wolf (E6 6b). For an idea of the awesome scale of Carnmore, have a look at this.
Climbing at Carnmore involves a long walk in and a head for some serious exposure. However, if that’s not your cup of tea then Wester Ross still has plenty to offer, from a plethora of roadside crags to easy multi-pitch climbing such as that on offer at Raven’s Crag. A two pitch, steep slab, Raven’s Crag is a fantastic spot for beginners or just an enjoyable day of cragging. Highlights include Lucy (V. Diff.), Charlestone (S 4a) and Stage Fright (HVS 5a).
If you’re climbing into the E grades and want an easily accessible crag then Diabaig is the place to be. The Pillar (E2 5b) is one of my favourite single pitch routes in the country and it is in good company at Diabaig: The Black Streak (E1 5c), Northumberland Wall (E2 5c) and Wall of Flame (E4 6a) are just a few of the stunning lines on offer.
When I first started climbing in Wester Ross almost everything in the area was trad, more recently however there has been a concerted effort by local climbers to bolt some of the crags where the steepness and lack of protection make sport climbing the most viable option. For mid grade climbing, Creag nan Luch is fantastic and Grass Crag is also a good option although some of the rock on the right wall is loose (I once pulled off a block the size of a shoebox that narrowly missed my belayer’s head. Wear a helmet!). For harder cranking, head to Goat Crag, a stunning overhanging wall with beautiful views of Gruinard Bay where three star climbing ranges from 6c to 7c+. In the last couple of years, new crags such as Kuhjo and Creag nan Ord have also been developed, offering even more easily accessible sport.
For a full guidebook of the area, Northern Highlands Central is the go-to book although the Wild West Topos and Go Further Scotland (and UKC) websites are well worth a look for greater detail, recent developments and more information on local sport climbing.