Muckle Roe – The Story So Far

Article contributed by Ross

Matt on Serenity, Strom Ness

Matt on Serenity, Strom Ness

Muckle Roe has long been known for its dramatic granite cliffs and fantastic sea caves, but not for its climbing. Unfortunately a walk along the coast reveals some dramatic scenery but closer inspection of the rock often reveals it to be friable and sometimes downright scary. However, several new venues were spied in the summer on a kayak trip, and a Climb Shetland trip also brought many of the club members in to explore the place some more.

The first routes recorded at Picts Ness on the west side of Muckle Roe were by John Sanders and I back in 2005. The venue provides sheltered climbing on the east-facing Walls of Troll, although the best climbing is on black weathered wave-washed granite on the west side. These routes were added later, although only a couple have been repeated.

North Ham VDiff FA (Pete & Stu)

North Ham VDiff FA (Pete & Stu)

Clare and I paid a visit in June to a 25m wall of granite further north from Picts Ness, just beyond Dandi Geo. The first line we climbed, called Transition, was harder than expected at HVS, but the rock disappointing as it was slightly friable. The second line, 148 Beats Per Minute, quite literally took my breath away. Not only is the rock superb, the start of the 3 star route is brutally stiff for the grade of E2 5c. After a difficult mantelshelf into a hanging corner and pull up on to a ledge you have the chance to shake out before pulling around into a perfect v-groove.
Unfortunately the dramatic crackline that splits the hanging south face of the Quilt Ness headland to the south of Dandi Geo is dangerously loose and is unclimbable.

West Ham Stack, Ross on Tyrolean (Red)

West Ham Stack, Ross on Tyrolean (Red)

As you head further north a striking two-footed stack called Da Kist sits, tantalisingly, 20m off the cliff face. The only line ascended to date was made by Mick Tighe and clients in 2005 on the north face. The cleaner and compelling crack lines up the east face still await an ascent, although access is tricky.

Al (and John) Tyrolean, West Ham Stack

Al (and John) Tyrolean, West Ham Stack

The Big Geo of Stromness is home to some 50m cliffs and an adventurous line up an east facing wall climbed by Mark Kauntze and I in June. No Time For Timidity is a bold E2 which covers some dramatic and vertical climbing higher up the wall. Unfortunately the first section covers very poor rock, however a return visit to take a line all of the way up the right side of the wall should give a fine outing on good rock. During the ascent it started to rain just before the crux section. Fortunately the decision to press on paid off, although the ascent, as with all of the lines climbed here, was on-sight so it was never certain if the line would go even before the rain came in!

When Matt and I had visited Muckle Roe a week earlier he spotted a good looking corner on the north side of the geo, however his line Rock Buffet turned out to cover loose and friable rock. A strong lead by Matt at E1 on some dubious ground, but the route isn’t recommended. A better option is a section of perfect storm-washed blackened granite on the north side of the Strom Ness headland. Here Matt and I climbed three great routes. The best being the 15m two star route called Serenity.

Mark on No Time for Timidity

Mark on No Time for Timidity

Qui Ness is the next headland to the east and during the club trip multiple short lines were put up around the most northerly section.

Al & Andrew at Qui Ness, Muckle Roe

Al & Andrew at Qui Ness, Muckle Roe

The fine stack just off the coast of West Ham was first climbed by Mick Fowler and crew back in 1992; Mick Tighe repeated it last August and John and Al Sanders and I made the third ascent in June. This is a stunning stack with a good clean line up the south face at HVS with just a small patch of poor rock in the final section. It is close enough to the cliff to allow a tyrolean to be set up for an airy escape from the summit.

From the top of the stack I spotted an awesome looking line on the cliff opposite that climbs up a crack line that breaks up steep ledges, before making a left-slanting journey across the final section of wall to finish at a hanging flake. So I headed back the following day with John and Al. The two star E3 called Mutiny Crack get progressively harder as you gain height and the final section required several hand jams in the hanging crack before an awkward move to pull into a layback up to the flake to finish.

On the same day Pete, Julie and Stu climbed the obvious stepped corner at the end of the small spit of land immediately west of Fiska Ness. This goes at V Diff.

Al on Mutiny Crack

Al on Mutiny Crack

Muckle Roe still has a few climbing gems hidden away, although some are more easily spotted from a kayak.

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