Friday 6 July 2007

Leaving Dumbarton

Warm spring evenings on the boulders – something I shall miss

Here is a blog post I started while sitting in a van on the way up the A82 a couple of weeks ago as Claire drove me, the cat and all our stuff to our new house…

It seems we’ve done not bad in trying to live a minimalised lifestyle – All me and Claire’s possessions fitted into a LWB Transit van. Were on the journey north right now, leaving behind our flat in Dumbarton and heading for a new life in Lochaber. Oh my god.

It did of course seem a bit more real when we saw our flat empty and sat for the last time in the Denny Tank caf before heading north, and brought thoughts of the last 3 and half years living in Dumbarton. For me, there are two Dumbartons really – the town and the Rock.

Dumbarton the town

It’s certainly a place changing fast, the distillery and waste ground rapidly being replaced by those carbon copy soulless new-build flats that slowly turns real places into another ‘anytown’. It really needs the inflow of money though. Take a walk down the high street and it’s not hard to see why this area of Scotland has the worst health stats in western Europe. Maybe it’s not PC to talk about it but its depressing to see, especially when it is essentially needless. Unless the society collectively faces its bad habits, there can be nothing but tinkering at the edges of progress. Apparently we Scots are world leaders in developing strategy to encourage people to exercise. But perhaps not in actioning that strategy – there are plenty of unnecessary barriers put in one’s way to accessing sport and it’s facilities. For instance why can you buy two pints of beer and a bag of chips for the same amount of money as a session in the leisure centre gym in one of Scotland’s unhealthiest towns? These things take time I guess.

Dumbarton Rock

I have taken much of what I can from the wealth of excellent moves on offer on the Basalt plug. I feel I’ve have given much back too with new routes. Who knows whether my enthusing has encouraged other climbers to get to grips with the place or even climb things they otherwise might not have? I hope so though. There are still places to go on those rocks – Pressure into Silverback (V15?), More direct through the Sosho roof (V16?) and the walls right and left of the Requiem crack (maybe one of them is as easy as 9a+ or 9b??). Good luck to the inspired soul who can fight these battles and win – they will be fine athletes indeed!

I am jealous of the future teenage Glaswegian climbers who discover the rock and get hooked – they have a good challenge these days to repeat the progression in grades that all the previous generations did. When I started, Consolidated was the hardest problem and now we do laps for the warm-up. They will have to do the same on Sanction! cool. Most young climbers set their sights on or within the present limit of the day. But some look higher from the outset, and decide to make it happen. Andy Gallagher, Cubby and Malcolm Smith all did that. I’ll be well psyched to see the next person who takes it on…

Sometime I’d also love to see everyone who lives in Dumbarton (if not Scotland) know about the value of the cliff and boulders there. The castle on top of the volcano is Dumbarton’s wee claim tae fame. But that will always be something that was only important in the past – the climbing is important in the past, present and future, which is much more valuable.

Three years living in Dumbarton was really fun, had it’s ups and downs to say the least, and me and Claire learnt a lot during the time.


  1. I've been to Dumbarton once. It's an interesting mix, but driving from Glasgow to Dumbarton just left me with the impression that it's a very economically depressed place. That feeling carried over with me to the boulders, and I couldn't really get pysched about the place, what with all the broken glass around and men with a million tatoos walking their pitbulls. As a Yorkshireman brought up on grit, the place just didn't resonate with me. A shame really, as it's obviously very special to some people, but I didn't feel that magic when I was there.

    Good luck with your move.

  2. Anonymous08 July, 2007

    I was at dumby last week, only my 4th time there but it was good to go back.I might never be able to work out quite why I feel so chilled when I go there or why I find it so appealing.In front of me was grafitti(of varying degrees of goodness) broken bottles, industrial units and screaming youths, but somehow, the "Im at the beach" feeling collided with all that and created a surreal wee fuzz in my head, part of my brain saying "be on guard, dont relax,radges and broken bottles in the same place, not good" with the other part saying "check the lovely stillness of the water, look at the lovely boats and the seaweed and the big volcanic beast im sweating up"
    I like it and will be back, i found the rock hard to get on with 1st time there but its growing on me.
    Also, I watched a young lad with full dumby high street youth suit (adidas trackies in white, international football top and tattoos) on the warm up wall and thought, cool, he might get into the climbing one day but is probly just having a pish about, then he walked down to the sea boulder and I noticed he was kitted in rock shoes and chalk bag.I thought, hes got it already, thats f*cking ace!!
    Go on wee man!!

    And to yourself Dave, Go on wee man!

    Happy hunting in Lochaber.

    All the best.