Outer Hebrides Bouldering A Stone Country Guide

Outer Hebrides Bouldering

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Bouldering on Harris, Lewis, Eriskay and Barra

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Page 1: Outer Hebrides Bouldering

Outer Hebrides Bouldering A Stone Country Guide

Page 2: Outer Hebrides Bouldering

Bouldering in the Hebrides

A paradise for the explorative climber! The surface of Hebridean bouldering has hardly been scratched and remains the El-Dorado of giant stones. It is a place for hunting down the magic and mythology of island bouldering from Barra all the way up to the Butt of Lewis.

Climbers visiting the seacliffs of Lewis and the big walls of Sron Ulladale have for years been pottering about on the boulders, but it wasn’t until the after the Millenium that people started developing the bouldering above a merely diversionary practice and noting down their finds and grades. In 2005 the island went through a rather mythological transformation online into a fantastical realm of high 8th grades claimed by the ever entertaining Si O’Conor, but it was John Watson who took it upon himself to erase these outrageous claims having fallen foul of publishing them unchecked in the original ‘Stone Country’ book, published in 2005. Watson did discover some problems did exist... just that the grades were well out. Atlantic Bridge at Port Nis he repeated at around Font 6c when 8a had been mooted.

It remained to Dave MacLeod and Niall McNair to up the bouldering into the seventh grades and provide some real remote testpieces for the Hebridean boulderer. McNair paid a visit to the lovely crag at Traigh na Berigh in June 2001 and found some bouldering gems, including the hard 7a traverse of The Cnipper - the first confirmed line to be reported over 7a in the Hebrides (though I’m sure legions of old-schoolers pulled hard moves on the blocs without ever recording them). Dave MacLeod visited the same venue in June 2003, extending the Cnipper to give the first island 7c of Traighd Route, also adding some hard 7b’s on the little roof in front of the main crag. MacLeod also stopped off at the impressive Clisham Pass boulders in June 2005 and bagged a quick ascent of Hard Lines 7a+. On the same trip, he added the very hard 7b+ Lip Service traverse at Port Nis, an aptly named problem hinting at the mythology of the time!

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In February 2005, James Sutton developed a few of the boulders at Miavaig and put up some 6th grade problems at Port Nis and Cnip. John Watson visited in the winter of 2005 and repeated some of the O’Conor problems at never more than 6c, discovering the whereabouts of big lines such as Hyperballad at Port Nis west, but no attempt was made by the claimant to deliver on a promised demonstration. Watson also visited several new venues but was in such a hurry to leave the island nothing was climbed. These venues included the Bloodstone Wall (Clisham Pass), the Dome (north of Tarbert), the Tarbert ferry boulders and the beach bouldering at Dell.In September 2009 Adi Gill took a bouldering head to the Hebrides and discovered some impressive new venues and blocs on Barra, Eriskay and Harris. Development continues sporadically due to the remote location, but hundreds of unclimbed king lines remain - check out the map of current venues and pack your bouldering mat next time you head over!

Bouldering at Sron Ulladale

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Sea Peanut - Fear of Drowning ext.

Port Nis NB 538 633

The Butt of Lewis is the very north tip of the island and Port Nis is a small harbour hiding from the brunt of weather fronts. Drive north out of Stornoway on the A857 and follow signs for the Butt of Lewis and Port Nis. Park at the harbour and walk south along the beach to the obvious crags and the obvious lone boulder known as the ‘sea peanut’. The rock is a tidal gneiss, sometimes a little wet, but good quality.

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Sunday Surgery Font 6b The Sea Peanut. On the overhanging south face of the Peanut, sit start right hand in crack, reach for the lip and use the arête to mantle over.

Hiding From God Font 6b On Sea Peanut again, same start as above but climb out right to mantle.

Fear of Drowning Font 6b+Right of Hiding from God, sit start the sloper lip gain the higher lip and traverse left to Sunday Surgery.

Fear of Drowning ext. Font 7a/7a+ Sit start at far right side of overhanging south face, using the edge of face as a big sidepull. Pull on and span left to drop in to the lower sloper lip and make a powerful series of moves to join Fear of Drowning at its starting holds. Finish as for that problem. Owen Hayward 2009.

Brown Sugar Font 6bSea Peanut. Sit start on left edge of sloping lipof north face and traverse right to mantle out past large shallow pocket with weird brown lump in it. Good pumpy traverse. Owen Hayward 2009.

Lip Service Font 7b+ Further south along the cliffs is an overhang with a wave-worn shelf. A great lip traverse can be done along the roof. Sit start on the ledge sloper, slap up to the lip and follow it all the way round on slopers to pull over at the right hand end on edges. FA Dave MacLeod 2005.

Atalntic Bridge Font 6cFurther east is a large bay, best appraoched by the B-road east of Port Nis. Walk down to the tidal walls on the east side of the bay to discover an excellent low roof. In summer, a deep sit start esacapes out along a break to the prow. Needs a good dry day. Originally given 8a by some loon!

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Traigh na Berigh Lewis > Cnip

Traigh na Berigh NB108354

On the far west of the island can be found terrifi c sweeps of beaches such as Uig sands (where they found the Lewis Chessmen). Traigh na Berigh is the beach south of Bhaltos. Follow the A858 southwest from Stornoway to a left turn before the Callanish stones onto the B8011 which eventually leads to Miabhaig. Turn right off here onto a loop road, the left turn takes you to Cnip and the campsite further on by the beach of Traigh na Berigh. The excellent crag at the east end of the beach also has associated bouldering on and roundabout it. The rock is a superbly textured and orange coloured gneiss.


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1. Raspberigh Font 6b+ The original problem on the long roof below the main crag, following the thin crack near the left end. Sit start.

2. Wannae Cnip Ma Pal? Font 7b Eliminate between the Raspberigh crack on the left and Cnipped in the Bud holds on the right, taking the roof and headwall direct. Sit start just right of Raspberigh and pull through an undercut, then use a thin break to a slopey top-out direct. FA Dave MacLeod 2003.

3. Cnipped in the Bud Font 7a+ The roof and square recess right of Cnip Ma Pal. Sit start the good break, use a right press in the recess, turn the roof through crimps to an easier fi nish.

4. The Cnipper Font 7a The classic fi ngery traverse on the main face. Start at a good hold in a crack above a pedestal, traverse left across the fi ngery wall to fi nishing jugs. Technical. FA Niall McNair 2001.

5. Traighd Route Font 7c Immaculate traverse of the main crag. Start high near the right end of the face, standing on twin blocks. Climb left down to a thin break, continue past an easier section to a thin crux (above an embedded block) to sustained climbing at low level to a break (shake-out) over the pedestal. Finish along ‘The Cnipper’. FA Dave MacLeod 2003.

6. Traigh of Torture Instruments Font 6c+ Under the main face is a right-facing overhanging nose. Clamp up this to a left hand break then climb across the nose on slopers. Direct is No Traighdbacks Font 7a.





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Traigh na Berigh Lewis > Cnip Circuit

7a Arete

Gully Wall

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Raspberigh Crack





Brown Slab


Crag Wall


Gully Wall

Orange Wall

South Walls

Scoop Wall

Orange Wall > Cnip

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Miabhaig NB 081 346

On the road to Mangersta, just after the Bhaltos loop road turn off at Miabhaig, you enter a mini canyon. Underneath the overhanging prow on the left there are a couple of boulders over the stream. The Gravestone boulder has a steep triangular face and the neighbouring boulder is a rectangle with a hanging nose. The best problem is:

Crofter’s Concern Font 6c The hanging nose of the boulder facing the ‘Gravestone’. Sit start the slopey left arête, heelhook right and pull through to the flat ledge. FA James Sutton 2005.

Cliff BeachGreat surf beach just round the corner from Traigh na Berigh. At the west end of the beach an obvious lone pale gneiss boulder with a clean overhanging face sits up on a wide shelf of black rock 3m above the beach.

Slapper Font 7a+ Sit start (on 2 mats unless you’ve got long arms!) with left hand on slopey edge in middle of clean face and right hand on bubbly edge/sidepull. Pull on and make a powerful slap to obvious slopey jug/pinch with right hand. A hard pull gains a small, sharp diagonal crease above the lip for the left and a satisfying slap for the juggy top of the boulder with the right hand. Variation: 6c+ same start as above but span left to gain ledge on left then pull straight up to big incut jug at top. Owen Hayward 2009.

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Niall McNair on The Cnipper Traverse

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Clisham Pass NB 191 097

The pass over Clisham to Tarbert is the entry to Harris. The north side of the pass has some terrific boulder clusters overlooking Loch Seaforth. They are good in summer when the bogs dry out. They are exposed and catch the wind and there is plenty to do if you are in the area! They are best reached from the Tarbert ferry port on the A859, though if you are travelling south from Stornoway, they are worth stopping at. There are plenty of easy circuit problems and no shortage of projects. The best testpiece is this one:

Hard Lines Font 7a+10m east of the large ‘heather-hat’ boulder, below the road (40m from layby). The downhill roof with an undercut rail sit start. From this, gain a crimp and snatch for the double sloper above the lip, then again to the jug. FA Dave MacLeod 2005.

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Hard Lines Bloc

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Harris > The Red Wall

On the descent from Clisham Pass south towards Tarbert the beady-eyed will spot a good red roof on the left hillside. The rock is heavily ultrabasic and chunky, with some loose rock, but projects abound and it may yield one or two hard projects.

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South Harris > Aird Mhighe

Liceasto nr Loch StocanaisNG124928 OS map 14 Tarbert & Loch Seaforth

Park off the road just past the big white house and the crag can be seen 200m up the hillside. The crag is also visable from Liceasto blackhouse campsite. Approx 100m long and up to 7m high compact gneiss , roofs walls and aretes. Possibly upwards of 60 problems up to the mid 7’s for those with time to spend here.

Big Licks Font 6cAt the left end of the crag , cross the big roof from left to right via a sit start. FA Adi Gill 2009.

Big Licks

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Eriskay Crag near Roisinis

NF805117 OS Explorer map no. 452Park at NF799122 walk along dirt track then over the moor past a couple of fences for ap-prox 1km. The crag is 40m long up to 6m high , slabby to overhanging with flat grassy land-ings a bit moist underfoot. Lots of potential up to 7a and an arm bursting traverse

The Politician Font 6c The vague arete on the crag. FA Adi Gill 2009

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Barra > Clach Mhor nan Glennan

NF699048 OS Explorer map 452

This magnificent giant bloc can be seen from the road when driving north at 705041. Park at 698053 and walk south east up the hillside for 500m until you reach the boulder. The east side of boulder needs a good clean to yield anything but looks great and direct up the middle of the overhanging north side would be a 3 star 7a. The warm up wall, can be climbed anywhere up to Font 5.

Traigh Hard Font 6b Sit start up the wall to the plate jug on the lip then rockover. FA Adi Gill 2009.

The Vatersay Boys Font 6cSit start the arête from the nice pocket.FA Adi Gill 2009.

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Lewis & Harris Bouldering Venues




Isle of Lewis




Port NisButt of Lewis


Ferry from Ullapool

Ferry from Uig, Skye


Callanish Stones


Traigh na Berigh



Aird Mighe

Sron Ulladale