Sunday, 5 September 2010

The Cake Shop Block

My my, it's been rather quiet here at Soft Rock Towers of late. Life seems to be getting in the way of most of my attempts to climb: people to see, places to be, work and weather. Same old for 99.9% of climbers I guess.

Last weekend I was visiting the folks down in Somerset and had a morning on the sport routes at Brean Down, the Costa del Bristol, and was suitably impressed by the sun-drenched continental style limestone. Resting between routes, with the August sun beating down and the grasshoppers chirruping nearby I could have easily mistaken the place for any Mediterranean sport destination. Warming up on Brean Dream and Coral Sea allowed for a quick redpoint of Pearl Harbour, a good F7a that contrasts a start on steep buckets with a thin balancy climax. Of course, all too soon it was time to pack up and head to Bristol for the Old Duke Jazz Festival. Nice....

But, anyhoo, time for the exciting news you're all clamouring for. As hinted at in the last Soft Rock I've been cleaning up a new bouldering spot near Aviemore, and it's about time I showed it to the world. So, here's the beta:
Last winter, while working on the RSPB's National Capercaillie Survey I stumbled across a rather large, rather green, crag in Inshriach Forest, only a few hundred metres from the road. Well, after realising that Aviemore was in dire need of more evening venues I eventually went back this summer to see what was what. After walking the length of the jungle/crag (a few hundred metres) I finally came across a wee cave at the far end and set to work with trowel and brush. They say that the great sculptors can look at a rough block of stone and see the shape of their creation already inside it. Well, it wasn't exactly like that, but I knew there was promise from the start, so over a few weeks I made it my wet-weather project. And now, a month or more later I think it's more or less ready for public consumption.

So, with all the normal disclaimers and caveats: this is a Strathspey bouldering venue, it isn't Font or Rocklands or even Dumbarton, this is a dank, north facing schist crag in the middle of a forest. However, if you happen to be hanging around the area for any length of time and are looking for somewhere to provide an hour or two of pleasure, you'll probably have a good time at The Cake Shop Block (so named because it's close to the truly amazing Potting Shed cake shop at Inshriach Nursery. Consequently I accept full responsibility for the sickening cake pun problem names.) As a bonus, for some unknown reason, it isn't midgy. Wahoo!

The Cake Shop Block. NH 868062 (ish), called Creag Ghlas-uaine on OS Explorer 403.
Directions: Head south from Aviemore on the B970, passing Inshriach Nursery and Inshriach House. A few hundred metres after Inshriach House there is a small layby, leading to a grassy forestry track (closed green gate) on the left. Park here and head up the track into the forest, circumventing a large fallen tree, after which the track turns left and becomes indistinct. Here strike off uphill until a long vegetated crag is seen ahead. The easiest thing to do now is follow the crag eastwards (left) until it peters out and an obviously cleaned cave is found. (That's not actually the quickest way from the car, but you'd definitely get lost if I wrote it down, trust me).
The crag is a rough schist (similar to nearby Farletter, but rougher) and consists of a long low roof at the base of a slab. The best independent problems all breach the roof one way or another and are all pretty straight forward. The obligatory lip traverses are probably the hardest and best problems, and as with all 'local' boulders the scope for eliminates is pretty big. The back wall under the roof does seem to seep so wait for a good period of dry weather, but this doesn't affect the best problems (lip traverses).
Steve hanging a fat sloper.
Problems so far are:
The Black Forest, V4/5. Right to left lip traverse without feet on the back wall, starting at the far right of the roof, finishing up from the central square jug.
Sloper action on The Black Forest. (Photo: Steve Crawford)
The Filling, V2. Based around two small slopers on the lip near the right end. Climb direct from as low as seepage allows.
Eplekake, V0. Left to right rising traverse. Start from the corner and pull through the roof from the central square jug.
In The Gateaux, V4/5. Left to right low lip traverse without feet on the back wall. Sit start in the corner and finish up from the central square jug.
The Cherry On Top, V4. Up the hill left of the main bouldering area is a short steep wall: climb edges from a sit start.
The Cherry On Top, (Photo: Steve Crawford)

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