Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Triassic boulders on Raasay

The most I knew of Raasay was Sorley MacLean’s famous and rather haunting poem ‘Hallaig’ in Martyn Bennett’s album Bothy Culture. It brings alive a sense of the ancient and now abandoned remote communities across the island and how what seems like remote exploring for us today was once home to generations of MacLeods and Macleans until the Highland clearances. I especially liked these lines;
Between the Leac and Fearns
the road is under mild moss
and the girls in silent bands
go to Clachan as in the beginning,
and return from Clachan,
from Suisnish and the land of the living;
each one young and light-stepping,
without the heartbreak of the tale.

Approaching the crux of Screapadal Prow 7C+
After last week’s recce with Michael I returned to finish the giant prow. Both of us were very excited just to climb on it, whether we succeeded or not. It’s a mega piece of climbing and one of the best lines of it’s grade in the country for sure. I cleaned an extended start first of all - a 30 move F8c route to come back to. 
Then I set about the standard start; still 23 moves with the crux being the last few. After one go I reassessed my initial estimate up to at least Font 7c+. Tired and a bit worn down from a long week of training, I knew I could only have three good goes, which were all lost to various footwork disasters. “What an amateur!” One of these ended painfully in a hole full of razor sharp blocks adjacent to the 5 mats we brought. Sporting my war wounds, I messed up the tired 4th go as well. Oh well, next trip it is then…

Michael working the moves
The last go was the formality, just to finish me off. I didn’t think I’d even drag my expended arms to the crux. But of course, on this try I managed not to make any mistakes, and leapt for that finishing jug with full commitment. The walk back seemed even more scenic. A classic not to be missed if you climb the grade and you like exploratory Scottish climbing.
Doing a new climb here is something special. It’s not the same as a good session at your local crag, or down the wall. For me it’s an order of magnitude different. It’s an experience that really does inspire and last. The distance to go there, and the risk of wasting a day or two in the rain is nothing compared to what you have to gain if you get to walk this coastline past Screapadal and the sandstone towers and find amazing lines hidden between a jungle of rocks, some unclimbably soft, some perfect.


  1. If you didn't know much about Raasay read 'Calum's Road' by Roger Hutchinson. The crofter protagonist seems quite a remarkable MacLeod too.

  2. Hi Dave, I presume you've clocked this along there:

  3. Ah, just saw other post -- yes you did!

  4. Dave,

    That's funny you mention this. I was on and around Raasay the weekend before - kayaking out round Rona. Until this time (and after many years of wondering but not bothering to look it up) I didn't know Hallaig was on Raasay. I've had the track on a lot since - it is of course incredible.

    here's a translation by Seamus Heaney