The Scotland road-trip

The road through Glen Clova is rather narrow and grouse are dodging the car’s wheels every five minutes. Andy’s driving slowly but it’s still pure luck that we missed a fat, suicidal bunny. On my first trip to Scotland I was expecting some weather but the skies are blue and it feels like the height of summer. Or at least it looks it through the car’s windows.

We will have about three hours for bouldering before we have to head back. I would like to say that it was just another extravagant idea of ours to drive from London and back only for a few hours on the Scottish rock, but the truth is less exciting. (Or more, depending how one looks at it). Tomorrow I’m giving a paper on female climbers and media at Abertay University, Dundee. A good enough excuse to talk Andy into a week’s road-trip.

We packed Boulder Britain and a borrowed, thin and dingy Scottish guidebook. A bagful of gear taking up half of the boot is our insurance against bad weather. (Can’t quite boulder in the rain but easy trad is always a good, terrifying option). So far it’s been nothing but sunshine. In the British sense, read: just a few showery spells. Perfect.

glen clova

It’s been only five days on the road but we’re rather exhausted. Last night was spent holding our supermarket igloo tent against the northern wind.

But it’s a good kind of exhaustion. Not i’ve-been-in-the-office-all-week type of exhaustion. Not i-hate-these-crowded-trains-in-the-rush-hour one. And definitely not if-i-look-at-another-spreadsheet-i’ll-vomit one. More sleep would be nice, but getting up early to a cup of gas-stove coffee drank to the accompaniment of cows’ lowing is almost nicer.

Often I wonder about what it is that makes being on the road so compelling. Long train journeys, road-trips and long-lasting hikes have a special appeal. By no means they are easier than the regularity of a daily, city-bound routine. Even just a week of travelling can be tiring, but it’s the in-between quality that justifies the effort. The neither-here-nor-there that allows your thoughts to freely roam, the creativity to rejuvenate, or sometimes, thank god for that, your brain just to switch off.

On the road is a happy state of mind.

Glen Clova is the northernmost point on this journey and we just found a place to park. It’s time to find one specific boulder in the endless rubble of rock covering the slopes of the valley and shred some skin on the diorite.

The sun is still shining but the gusty wind almost pinning me to the ground reminds me that we are in Scotland.

tired people


Here’s a list of crags that we visited during our trip:

Burbage. No comments required. My old projects still waiting for better (stronger) days.

Brimham Rocks. A venue well known to all properly traditional trad people, but somewhat forgotten by boulderers. If the grade range 6A to 7A is of interest to you, then even just the small Niche area with it’s ten problems (plus two harder ones) is well worth a visit. Rumour has it that among the two hundet trad routes there are many more blocs hiding.

Kyloe Woods. Excellent! Razor sharp sandstone crimps on gently overhanging walls. No topping out. If you run out of problems, Kyloe Crag is just round the corner.

Glen Clova. A beautiful setting. The Peel Boulder has only one interesting problem (The Peel Sessions 6C+. Easy). Red Roof and Weems rather uninspiring. We didn’t find anything else, but it looks nice in the guidebook. The nearest climbing from Dundee.

Woodwell. A little bit of limestone hidden in the bushes. The French would laugh. So would the Spanish. But if you want it steep and crimpy then Tom’s buttress is for you. Low balling taken to new heights. Not that I’m complaining!


For some really *nice* pictures (MUCH nicer than mine) from Brimham go to Andy’s blog:

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