Sometimes you have to go east to find dry rock. With a long list of classic mountain rock climbs to do John and I went to Ballater in the search of a crag with some rock climbing that would be dry after the recent steady drizzle on the west coast. We walked in to Creag an Dubh Loch, a first for both of us, and found exactly what we were after. The crags on the west coast will take weeks to dry out proiperly but it has been much drier on the other side of the Cairngorms, as it often is, and we found the brilliant climbs here to be just about completely dry.
After dropping our bivi gear on the beach of the Dubh Loch we went to climb Cyclops, an eight pitch HVS climb with four stars. Not a bad way to get to know the crag! This climb is on the main slabs of the left hand side of the crag and has slabs, overlaps and cracks with sustained brilliant climbing all the way to the top. John and I swung pitches all the way and found the route well enough. One pitch through an overlap threw me for a moment or two. The way through seemed so ridiculous on first sight, I thought it would be much harder than the description states. However, it goes exactly as described and in a brilliant position.
We topped out in the early evening and wandered back down the gully to our beach bivi for chicken tikka for dinner. We settled down on the beach for a very comfortable night with no midges. It's an idyllic setting, like a beach paradise with huge crags of perfect rock right behind. There is no phone reception and virtually nobody else there at all so it feels pretty out there doing these huge climbs.
One problem is choosing what to climb from the many excellent lines available! For our second day we went for the Dubh Loch Monster. This seemed to take an uncompromisingly straight line up a line of crags from bottom to top of the biggest bit of crag. It "only" gets two stars but it is worth a few more in our opinion. The climbing is amazing, sustained, on excellent rock and it does just go straight up with minor sneaky ways around certain sections. The description of the last pitch did not seem to fit what was in front of us or the diagram so we just carried on straight up and this seemed to work!
Another stunning climb, another dinner on the beach (spaghetti bolognaise this time) and another night out in the wild. Unfortunately we got a bit of thick cloud over us during the night and we woke to a damp start with some more showers on the way. So, John and I went down to Ballater with a couple of fabulous climbs in the bag. In the afternoon, between showers and before the deluge of a thunderstorm later on, we climbed a couple of nice routes at the Pass of Ballater. This is a very handy crag right next to the road with some fun climbs. Well worth a visit. Also well worth a visit is the Ballater Hostel. If you are over that way, make sure you stay at the hostel for great facilities and a very warm welcome.
Eagle Ridge on Lochnagar is a super classic climb that dries well after rain. This is just what we were looking for after a deluge on Wednesday night. We walked in with the summit mist clearing away and found the coire full of the shrieks of nesting Peregrine Falcons (I think). Just as described the rock on Eagle Ridge dried very quickly so only the first pitch was a bit greasy and the rest was pretty much all dry. More brilliant climbing all the way to the top of this 200m classic got us to the summit of Lochnagar where the mist came in again and the rain came on as we got back to the glen. Perfect timing. So, four outstanding days of climbing on mountain crags after a period of pretty wet weather was an excellent result. Unfortunately the tumble off the mountain bike on the last day was not so good! It just goes to show, biking is a lot more hazardous than rock climbing!
Self reliance is a fundamental principle of mountaineering. By participating we accept this and take responsibility for the decisions we make. These blog posts and conditions reports are intended to help you make good decisions. They do not remove the need for you to make your own judgements when out in the hills.