2014 Review

Stormy seas in December

Stormy seas at Grind of the Navir

Written by Al

It’s that time of year again. We’re deep into winter with relentless gales at the moment, but reading over last years blog posts and photos has put a smile on my face. The summer of 2014 was outstanding, and we made the most of it. Well over 100 new routes were climbed which is the most for a long time. It’s worth pointing out that new-routing-obsessive climber Ross had moved to Shetland for the year and every belayer’s phone was ringing on most days it wasn’t raining!

West Wall, Fidlar Geo

We were late to start though as last winter was pretty miserable so climbing was off the cards well into spring. By April we were raring to go, but many crags were still out of condition. Once again the sandstone was the most reliable and Fidlar Geo, only first climbed the year before, was in the spotlight. The big main wall had all the attention last year but the smaller West Wall stole the show with numerous excellent low grade lines pretty much wherever takes your fancy. It is definitely up there as one of Shetland’s best beginner crags, ideal for first leads.

Later in April we decided to head back out to Ronas Voe. Rather than the usual faff of sorting a boat we paddled across on kayaks. It’s the first time I’ve arrived at a crag by kayak but it really makes for a great day out. We had intended (well I had) an early season warm-up bumbling up existing routes but ended up with us adding 3 new lines, which were all well worthwhile.

Ross and Al on new route at Ronas Voe

Ross and Al on new route at Ronas Voe

The sun was shining plenty and everyone was out on the rock. Easterly winds came and that always points us to climb at Tingon, a headland north of Eshaness that is home to many superb crags. What followed in the coming weeks can only be described as a siege! We always knew that all along the coastline between the South Gill and the Geo of Okran (about 2km) there were some brilliant routes to be had, and over the years a few dozen or so had been climbed. I think even those of us who know this area well were surprised though at the sheer quality of what we’d been walking past for years. This is one outstanding area. We added over 40 routes between us and have now amalgamated the South Gill, Black Crag and Warie Gill climbing into one venue named Tingon, as there is no real separation in the routes any more!

John at Tingon

John at Tingon

North of the Warie Gill the area is known to us as Otter’s Head, and the northern point of this headland, North Head, was developed as well. This is a spot which, being honest, had been kept quiet by the few of us that knew what was there. Now the secret’s out! There are many, many routes left to climb here at most grades and a project for me in the coming months is to get a miniguide written to help with future new routing, and for others to easily find the excellent lines.

Spyro, FA, Peter Herd (pic Liam Malone) 01The steep sandstone at Fogla Taing is the opposite of Tingon in that you head there when the winds are Westerly. It’s an intimidating crag and the best looking lines remained unclimbed, mainly cos they’re bloody hard! We headed there for a closer look again, having not been for a few years, so we abbed down the main line. I then promptly escaped up the HVS corner as most people do when they ab in to this crag! We then went round the corner and added some easier lines to make us feel better. With the seed sown, Andrew and I headed back later in the year to attempt said line. After failing (it was a bit damp you see) we ascended back out. Ross pointed some visiting climbers at it too and they did much better than us, but it still awaits a clean ascent. They did add some other great lines to the crag though in the low E-grades.

Camping at The Hams, Muckle Roe

Camping at The Hams, Muckle Roe

Into June the climbing club organised a challenge to see how many different ways you could arrive at a crag. Well ok, that wasn’t what we set out to do, but it’s how it turned out with 4 modes of transport ticked! It was one of the best camping weekends we’ve had and started off the next chapter of new routing for the season, centred around Muckle Roe. We camped at the Hams, and some sought out stacks and hard lines, while others wandered around and explored, climbing whatever took their fancy. It is one thing that makes climbing in Shetland so special – you can do just that – explore and see what you find. The shorter routes we did certainly wouldn’t be worth the long walk in, but they were very enjoyable.

Climbers on West Ham Stack

Climbers on West Ham Stack

Over the coming weeks Ross headed back a few times to climb routes he’d spied, finding some corkers in amongst the friable red granite that can easily put you off looking any closer. I didn’t make it back out for a climb but spotted some great looking lines on a kayaking trip, so I’m looking forward to heading back and trying to find them from the land!

There weren’t many parts of Shetland not explored in 2014; some of us headed to Foula to explore the island with a view to organising a proper climbing trip next year. We also headed to Papa Stour for a weekend and added several lines to existing crags and discovered a new crag with great potential ready for 2015. Andrew and Colin woke up some of the island’s bouldering venues after very little activity for the past year or two, and Andrew developed a new venue at Troswick.

Ross headed back to Bressay to unfinished business at Round Point, and then to Skaw Point in Unst to develop a new wall found a few months beforehand. The beautiful peninsula of Fethaland got it’s first routes, and although nothing to shout about in themselves, it’s an area every visitor or local should explore and it’s always worth taking a rack just in case! Even Lerwick’s local crag, Ness of Sound had some new routes added, and they are possibly the best at the crag – surprising considering how accessible this crag is.

We even had a tv crew up to feature climbing at Eshaness Lighthouse for the BBC’s The Adventure Show.

Mark at Round Point, Bressay

Mark at Round Point, Bressay

In summary, it was a corker! As summer tailed off most climbers seemed to turn to other pastimes and not much happened on the rock after August. Autumn and early Winter have been mild though so bouldering has been on the cards for some. We’re looking forward to hopefully another summer like last. Lots of plans, lots of ideas, lots of enthusiasm! Happy New Year from the SCi team, thanks again to all those who follow and support the site.

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