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Climbing in Scotland

Tiso ClimbsThree Little Crags

Tiso, Alpine and Blues staff tend to enjoy exploring Scotland in a variety of ways: on the water, on two wheels or on foot, to name a few. We love hearing their adventure stories regaled over a coffee (or a whisky) and we thought you would too (whisky optional)!

by Gav Robbins

Gav works in our Edinburgh Rose St store and is aiming to climb the highest mountain in every country in Europe.

"Rise up this mornin'
Smile with the risin' sun
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep"

Ahh, the iconic 'Bob Marley', who would have thought this half Caribbean half Welsh wonder would be the premise for this next little outing.

Having done the last couple trips on the bike, it was the little climbing I got at Kingussie that reminded me; 'yeah, I haven't had a good wee climb in a while'. Mulling this over with a strong tea (okay, okay, it was Caribbean rum!) and some Bob playing in the background, the lyrics put me in mind of a trip.

"Rise up and smile with the rising sun", now that's easily accomplished, when you wake up and know you're going climbing, you're gonna be smiling!

"Three little birds", well that's even easier, three old friends.

And thus, with the "tea" drained, the song finished, a trip had been formed. I got in touch with my two good amigo's and hashed out the logistics.

Doorstep crag number 1, Traprian Law, just east of Edinburgh. Doorstep crag number 2, Comic Crag, just the back of Kingussie. Doorstep crag number 3, Cummingston, just east of Nairn.

First up, Traprian Law. This is a wonderful crag, set in the backdrop of East Lothian, the hill itself is steeped in history! It is thought to be the site of an ancient Iron age burial site (1500 BC), then later cited by Ptolemy as the home of the Votadini, the tribe that would originally settle in 'Din Eidyn', or as we know it today, Edinburgh. The rock is 'Trachyte', old silica rich lava that would have come straight up from the mantle and oozed out onto east lothian like oil from a well. This is a great crag for anyone new to trad climbing or wanting to brush up on basics. So perfect for me and my friend Ryad. We got there in excellent time and upon arriving at the crag, classic Gav, in my haziness to pack in the morning, clean forgot my harness, my guidebook and my water! But meant I could grab some decent CD's to thrash out to on the return journey! Like I say, great crag for people wanting to brush up on the basics (like remembering your gear!). Low grades and up to maybe E2 tops, but 10-20 meter pitches and some lovely little climbs to be had! So after a good day refreshing the leading skills and Ryad nailing his first two leads, back to "Din Eidyn" for a chilled evening before heading up North to visit our third little bird for our next doorstep crag!

Trapian Law
Trapian Law

Getting to Kingussie in the mid/early evening, our third friend flew over to come meet us at "Comic Crag" a fairly new sports crag installed just below the more better known Kingussie Crag, which lies nestled in a shaded forest. Consisting of a mix of Mica-Schist, this mineral rich rock is more layered than what you find at Traprain, but makes for some excellent climbing. There is trad and sport here, or by all means, trad a sport route and no worries about having to make an anchor. The trad is around severe and the sport goes up to 6b, so again, perfect for reintroduction or introduction! Named 'comic crag' as all the routes are named after iconic comic book characters, which I like, as it shows the change in culture in route naming, no Beano or Dandy characters though? Shame, as it would have been fun to climb "Plug"!

Then a night in a yurt with a roaring fire, good libations and discourses on life, the universe and everything in between!


The final doorstep crag was Cummingston, from when I lived in Nairn, this would be the closest. It has the one beautiful advantage of having some of the best weather all year round and a whole host of seaside attractions! From a huge cave for the boulderers, to abseiling off sea stacks and holes in roofs, to some very tricky and exposed E6's! And it certainly didn't let us down, while everywhere else in Scotland was covered in clouds or being heavily drizzled upon, our crag was beaming in the sun. The tide was in when we arrived but this doesn't limit any of the climbing and the longer you stay the more that opens up to you. It's incredibly soft sandstone, that's under constant assault from the sea and wind, so again completely different to climb on. We all got some good leads in and then messed around on some hard stuff on a top rope. Ending the day with the three of us on the stack looking out over the moray coastline, like three little birds pitched on a massive rocky doorstep.


So three days, three crags, three friends, I guess three really is the magic number...but I think that was De La Soul, not Bob.

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