Glasgow Climbing Centre coach Ali Lee talks his top tips for an epic climbing adventure in Scotland. There's no need to head abroad when you've got these crags on your doorstep!
So you’ve got a bit of time spare… but not quite enough to get abroad. Is there any point trying to find something at home, in Scotland? Is there anything really to do here that can challenge a trip away? Of course! And the best activity to do for this type of adventure – climbing. Here’s where I’d recommend to go, what to do and when to do it.
Sea stacks are a great adventure, even from a short day. Take the Old Man of Stoer, for example (not to be confused with the Old Man of Storr). Just a short walk from the nearby lighthouse, this can be climbed in the morning and you can be back in Lochinver for a pie in the evening. Although it might not take long, there’s a lot of adventure to this and you’ll need a bold mind. First, you’ll need a confident leader to swim a rope across to the stack to create a tyrolean; then, you must complete the climb.
The ordinary route goes at VS so isn’t too tricky, then you get a full 60m free hanging abseil to return to the ground. If you still have a bit of energy after this, there’s plenty of climbing on the surrounding sea cliffs, or try your hand at one of the harder routes up the stack. As with every type of climbing be careful: don’t attempt to swim across if the sea is rough, and if you are unsure about doing a tyrolean traverse, hire a professional guide.
Want to do a bit of climbing, but don’t want to be stuck in crowds? I’d highly recommend Reiff. Right next to the sea, you feel quite out there even though the climbing is very accessible, with various levels of bouldering and trad climbing on offer. If you do venture here, bring a lot of water with you – there are no nearby streams to fill up from.
Another great spot is Split Rock on Clachtoll Beach. This is really easy to get to but feels like a great adventure, as it isn’t largely travelled. Situated right next to the campsite, this is great for an evening out if the weather suddenly improves.
Some crags are just too far away to make a day trip worthwhile, but can be great for a weekend out. For example, if you’re leaving from Glasgow, a day winter climbing in the Cairngorms can seem like a bit TOO much travel-to-climbing ratio. However, going up for the weekend adds more adventure to the mix and gives you more time to explore.
Weekends are also a great time for discovering smaller crags. Sometimes you find out the reason they’re less travelled (they’re bad!), but you can also be quite surprised and find a good few climbs you would never have visited.
Scotland has so many areas that are fantastic for a mini-break, long weekend away or as outdoorsy folk call it, a ‘microadventure’. Torridon is top of my list: with everything from winter climbing, mountain trad and single-pitch trad, to bouldering there is something for everyone. The local campsite can suffer from flooding but is completely free and – if the midges get too much – it’s right next to the local Youth Hostel.
The rough rock in this area creates hard climbing and, if you need a day off to rest your skin, there are plenty of long nice walks to go on. The area highlights have to be the Celtic Jumble for bouldering; and the triple buttresses of Beinn Eighe for winter days or equally challenging summer climbs. This goes right down to Diff – great for a first multi-pitch.