Monday, 4 November 2013

Coming of Age

I remember back in the autumn of 2007, not long graduated and not long living in the Highlands, over in wet Fort William. Plying my attempted trade as an ecologist, one weekend I went up to Kinlochewe to join a group on a lichen identification training weekend (no sniggering at the back, lichens are way cool). I was staying in the bunkhouse at the Kinlochewe hotel and one evening, while I overboiled my pasta, I picked up a copy of Scottish Mountaineer magazine left behind by a previous incumbant. Flicking between the stories of bearded heros in snowy couloirs and gatered wonderers on their favourite Munros, the pages fell open on an article about bouldering. The peice was describing the Celtic Jumble in Glen Torridon, describing a scenic circuit on perfect sandstone, tucked between the towering mass of Liathach and the lapping shores of the sea-loch. I remember one photo in particular, of a tall skinny guy stretched out on a problem called The Mission on one of the most awesomely shaped rocks I’d ever seen.

Little did I know how much that place would come to mean to me, how much time and effort I would pour into that rock, and that that tall skinny guy would soon become a good friend.

Bouldering in Torridon is now one of my favourite past-times, my default setting whenever the weather looks right. As any Soft Rock reader will know, I’ve been locked in a wrestling match with one of it’s most famous problems for the last few years, and during that time, when I’ve not been sat beneath it trying to envision my eventual success, I’ve spent hours exploring the boulder jumble, climbing it’s sandstone shapes.

Rich had told me a few years ago that him and Ian were thinking of putting a guide together. It makes perfect sense since it must now be one of the finest bouldering venues in the U.K, and people deserve to know about it. The location alone makes it special, in the quiet Highland solitude between mountain and sea, far from major population centres but only a short walk from the car. The rock is as good as you could dream, both on the scale of the lines and the holds – sculpted sloped edges, pebbles, pockets. And the range of problems: friendly lowballs, ankle-searing highballs, Font 3, Font 8A.

And it’s happened, Ian and Rich have put together a real labour of love: the comprehensive guide to the main boulder jumble and local outlying areas. The boulders have come of age. No longer must people rely on whisperings, blogs and half rememberances. It’s the full shebang: photo topos, lots of large scale maps, well researched descriptions and quality action shots, and all bound together with Ian’s dry wit. Personally, I think it's great that the two guys that have put the most into developing the area have gone to all this effort; recognition of the world-class bouldering and documentation of the psyched wee North West scene.

Besides wellies and a tarp, what more could you possibly need?

You can get yours here.


sam loveday said...

What's with the green?

Gaz Marshall said...

It's to reflect my green credentials Sam. I've done 2 laps of the A9 today. I'm well green.