Luath Stone Boulders

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From a guide originally by Stuart Stronach

The Luath's Stone boulders occupy a prominent hilltop position on the upper slopes of Green Hill, above the village of Whitehouse, off the A944 Aberdeen - Alford road. There are dozens of schist boulders of all shapes and sizes lying amongst heather and grass. While many are too small for climbing, enough are large enough to have been worth developing, turning this area into the best inland bouldering venue in Northeast Scotland. Landings are close to perfect, and a bouldering mat, though still worthwhile, is not a pre-requisite. The outlook, with views west up the Don valley towards Alford, and across the hills to Lochnagar and Mount Keen, is particularly beautiful, and the west facing slopes catch the afternoon sun. While perhaps lacking enough hard problems to keep the dedicated boulder occupied for many visits, the number of additional small boulders, combined with easy descents from all problems and a short walk-in, makes this a superb family area.

Luath's Stone itself is a standing stone lying beyond the boulders themselves. Luath was one of Cuchullin's boar-hounds, and Luath's Stone may therefore have been one of the pillars, not unknown elsewhere in the Highlands, to which the Celtic hero tied up his gigantic dog. The names of some of the problems reflect this mythological link.

Problems have been given UK technical grades, with Font grades also noted where the problems are hard enough. These are a best guess at present, using the Rockfax grade conversion table as a guide.



The Luath boulders were developed over summer 2002, largely by Stuart Stronach and Jo Macleod. Stronach's attention was first drawn to them by a chance remark from another climber, and an investigation with Macleod revealed that a particularly worthwhile area had been stumbled upon. That initial visit resulted in many of the easier problems on the Prow and the Mouse being climbed, and some of the harder lines being cleaned.

The excellent A Little Less Conversation was the first of these to fall to Stronach. Ben Tye and Dominic Taylor were the first visitors on the scene, repeating several of the routes on the Mouse, and adding Ben's Problem, before moving onto the Sherman boulder, where every problem except for Cuchuillin and The Boar-Hound's Leash were climbed. Of these, Tye and Taylor found a mantel each, while Tye and Stronach both worked the steep and painfully fingery prow of Fingal, Stronach's reach helping him to the top first. At the same time, Macleod added an excellent sitting start problem to the downhill arete on the same face.

The Wee Walls received attention from Macleod, Stronach, Sara Cruickshank and Sandy Main resulting in a collection of fingery but easier problems which serve as useful warm-ups for the bigger offerings further up the hillside. On the same day, the remaining problems on Sherman, Cuchuillin and the Boar-Hound's Leash, were completed by Stronach, and the Arch boulder was developed. A later visit by Macleod, Main, Sara and Keiran Cruickshank added more to the Wee Walls.

Word started spreading about the venue, and a steady trickle of other climbers arrived to check things out, resulting in repeats for many of the problems. Pete Benson added his problem to the Prow while attempting to work the obvious blank face, but it was left to visiting Bristol powerhouse Ian Hill to complete this outstanding project and give the area one of its most technical offering to date with North For a Day. On the same day, Hill and Stronach both worked the Traverse Link on Sherman, with Hill first to complete a stunning, sustained and varied problem.

The final developments have been on the Broken Heart Boulder (Stronach, Macleod, Sara Cruickshank and Main), the Lost Wall (Stronach) and Musketeer's Canyon (Dominic Kehoe and, separately, Stronach), where a selection of worthwhile problems were unearthed, sometimes literally. Musketeer's Canyon was a particularly surprising find, discovered by Kehoe after being overlooked by others. It is highly likely that other, similar walls lurk in the boulders, awaiting discovery.

Getting there

Follow the A944 Aberdeen - Alford road until you reach the village of Whitehouse, some 4km east of Alford. Upon entering the village from the east, follow the road round a tight left-hand bend, and then turn right at a prominent wide entrance to a dirt track, and continue through a set of gateposts. From the west, the track is on the left shortly past the junction with the Keig/Insch road. Follow the track, taking the fork on the left (sign posted 'Back Avenue'), to a T-junction. Take the right fork, and follow it for 200 metres until an unobvious, rougher track leads up the hill on the left. This is just about passable to cars, and can be taken to its end at a holiday cottage and limited space to park - please be considerate. Alternatively, park at the bottom of this rough track and walk from here to the cottage. From the cottage, walk back to the right-angled bend, cross a style into a field and follow this uphill to another style/open gate, above which the boulders are obvious (5 minutes walk from the cottage to the first boulders, 10-15 minutes from the bottom of the rough track).

The problems

The boulders are described in terms of distance from the parking area. The first three walls are fifty metres over to the right, after crossing the second style. All directions are given as you face the boulders.

Wee Wall 1

The wall lowest down the hillside gives some short technical problems, described from left to right. The lines are not particularly well defined.

1. Seamstress 5b
The wall at a thin seam, just left of a blunt prow.

2. 5a
The blunt prow, starting off a prominent undercut at head height.

3. 4b
The wall right of the prow, quickly gaining good holds at the top.

4. Happy Little Erroks 5b
The wall right again is more technical.

5. 5a
The vague recess left of the obvious ramp.

6. Nature's Way 4a *
The obvious ramp also provides a useful descent.

7. Buzzard's Way 4a
The crack/groove right of the ramp leads to a ledge and a finish out right.

8. Shuffle 5a
Traverse the entire wall at low level from left to right.

Wee Wall 2

This is the discontinuous wall tucked in behind Wee Wall 1. Again, problems are described from left to right.

9. Project - Jo-s Traverse 6a/b Font 6b/6b+ **
A very technical traverse of the leftmost section of this wall, from left to right. The big foot ledge at the left end is not allowed, and the problem continues all the way to the extreme right end of the wall. May be easier for the very tall as holds over the lip are just out of reach to the more vertically challenged, so the flake on Motion must be gained and used instead.

10. Motion 5a
Mantel the wall at the obvious flake just right of a thin vertical white quartz seam.

11. 4b
Climb the left hand of three parallel cracks.

12. Keiran's Crack 4a
The central crack.

13. Sandy's Crack 4b
The right hand crack

14. Timing 4b
The steep wall just right of Sandy's Crack finishes with a mantelshelf.

15. Retelus 4a
Easy climbing up the white stained scoops on left side of the next section of wall.

16. Heather Way 4a
Another straightforward problem just to the right.

17. Kylie's Crack 4a *
The prominent jam crack at the far right end of the wall. Relish the opportunity to delve deeply into this one!

18. Kylie's Backside 4a *
The small but perfectly formed slabby rib at the extreme right end of the wall is easy but enjoyable.

Forked Lightning Boulder

At the same level as Wee Wall 2, but ten metres to the left, are two small boulders, which give some trivial, but pleasant, amusement.

19. Scrape 4a
A line up the middle of the right hand boulder.

20. Lightning Strike 4a
On the left hand boulder is a more obvious crack, requiring a steep little pull over the lip.

The Useless Boulder

This boulder, twenty metres left again and slightly uphill, looks promising from a distance, offering two separate faces divided by a nice looking arete, but on closer inspection, fails to deliver. So far, only one problem has been climbed on the right wall. The left wall may yield some worthwhile problems after cleaning, but is above a rather boggy landing.

21. Disappointing 4b
Follow the obvious dirty crack up the wall just right of the arete.

The Arch Boulder

About thirty metres uphill of the Useless Boulder, and named after an arch-like feature on the central face, this boulder is the first to give more technical problems. All are worthwhile.

22. Archer 4b
An easy line up the wall left of the scoop, although the short may think the start is hard for the grade. A sitting start is an interesting 5c (Font 5).

23. Archbishop 5b **
Bridge up the scoop itself, finishing rightwards towards the arete.

24. Archangel 5c Font 5 *
Climb the arete on its right side.

25. Archdeacon 5c Font 5 **
Take a line up the flake in the middle of the central face.

26. Architect 6b Font 6c **
A sitting start to the right hand arete, climbed on its left side. Only 5c, but still good, from a standing start.

27. Archenemy 6a Font 6a
Step onto a poor foothold on the left hand arete and leap for the top. An easier (5b) variation uses the right arete to gain the top, with the same finishing moves. A 'Johnny Dawes' variation steps up onto the foothold at the base of the right arete, with no hands on the arete itself, to catch the top of the boulder and finish as before. The face has also been done statically.

28. Archaic 5b *
A left to right girdle of the boulder using all available holds, starting on the sloping ledge left of Archer and finishing by rocking round onto the back of the boulder from the right arete of Archenemy.

The Belly Flop Boulder

Just behind the Arch Boulder is another short wall, which can be climbed by the following problem:

29. Beached Whale 4a
Tackle the boulder centrally.

Tallus Slab

Further up the hillside, a low drystane dyke must be crossed to reach the remaining boulders. There are no documented problems on this sizeable slab of easy angled rock, but it provides some pleasant distraction. It lies approximately midwaybetween the Arch Boulder and The Prow (the obvious boulder on the summit of the hill).

Broken Heart Boulder

This small boulder lies horizontally almost level with the Arch Boulder, but just a few metres past the drystane dyke. With a little imagination and squinting of the eyes, the frontal face almost looks like a broken heart, with the thin hanging crack forming the 'break'. The right flank is split by a short parallel-sided crack and a longer, more irregular one to its left.

30. Jealousy 4b
Pull over the bulge between the two cracks on the right flank, using neither.

31. Angelina's Crack 4a
Climb the irregular left hand crack on the right flank, doing your best to savour the experience.

32. She Ripped Out My Heart And Left Me To Bleed 6b Font 6b **
From a sitting start, pull on and climb the crack that splits the top half of the frontal face of the boulder. Take care on some very sharp starting holds, or you'll be bleeding too!

33. Lose A Friend To Save A Friendship 5b
Climb the slab between the crack of She Ripped Out My Heart... and a blind, dirty crack/groove to its left, using holds on neither.


This boulder sits on the hillside slightly uphill of the Arch Boulder, but about fifty metres to the left. It vaguely resembles a World War One tank, with the uphill overhanging prow as the front and the slabs at its back end bringing up the rear. Although not the biggest, this is perhaps the best boulder so far discovered, offering contrasting problems in a sheltered location.

34. 4a
Climb the left arete of the slab easily. Also makes a useful descent.

35. Ossian 5a
Delicate and slightly harder, climb the left end of the slab without using the holds on the left arete.

36. Dom's Slab 5a *
Another balancy problem up the centre of the slab, passing some shallow pockets.

37. Taylor's Mantel 5b Font 5 *
Mantel onto the obvious mid-height ledge on the slab, using no other footholds.

38. 5a **
From a sitting start at the right side of the west face, pull onto the slab below the overlap and finish delicately up the arete.

39. Scuttle 5b Font 5 *
Starting on the right arete, traverse the slab leftwards to finish up the left arete. Sustained.

40. The Boar-Hound's Leash 6b Font 6b+ ***
An excellent problem, traversing the lip along the side of the boulder from left to right. Start at the obv ious foot ledge at the left end (opposite the neighbouring boulder) and finish by rocking up onto the right arete. No heel-hooking at this grade.

41. Traverse Link 6b Font 6c ***
Starting on the left arete of the slab, reverse Scuttle (easier if you step up onto the ledge of Taylor's Mantel) and swing round the arete to finish along the Boar-Hound's Leash. Superb, contrasting climbing.

42. Tye's Mantel 5c Font 5+ *
Mantel onto the top of the boulder at a thin seam, using no footholds on the vertical face.

43. Cuchullin 6c Font 7a+ *
The left side of the prow. From a sitting start at the base of the prow, pull up and leftwards, using holds on the prow and the left face, to gain the top. Only 5a from a standing start.

44. Fingal 6a/b Font 6a+ **
From a similar sitting start, climb the overhanging prow on its right side.

Musketeer's Canyon

Lying approximately midway between the Broken Heart Boulder and The Prow is an insignificant looking pair of boulders. However, the gap between them forms a deep hole, giving a sizeable wall on the uphill side, recognisable by an obvious cleaned hanging flake. On all problems, care needs to be taken not to fall onto the back wall of the canyon. Those used to climbing at the Aberdeen Beach Leisure Centre wall will feel right at home.

45. Porthos 6a Font 6a+ **
From a sitting start, pull on and climb the right hand arete of the main boulder on layaway flakes, making use of a foothold on the smaller adjacent boulder and a helpful toe jam in the crack which separates it. Excellent, off-balance climbing. Much easier (5b), but still worthwhile from a standing start.

46. Athos 5b *
The central line follows the thin quartz crack to gain the hanging flake. The grade given assumes that the flake can be reached from the ground. Shorter climbers will have to make an additional, very technical move.

47. Aramis 4c
The left hand arete is the poorest of the trio, though still worth a look. Just don't fall off onto the collection of boulders below.

The Prow

The most prominent of all the boulders is this prow of rock sitting on the crest of the hillside, and clearly visible from the Whitehouse - Keig road. Its south facing wall is five metres in height and the entire boulder provides some excellent, contrasting climbing on its various faces and aretes. The only downside is that its location makes it more exposed to the wind than the other boulders here.

48. Uncle Scoopy 4a *
Climb the shallow scoop on the left face, just left of the arete.

49. A Little Less Conversation 6b Font 6b+ ***
Take the left arete on its right side. No heel-hooking at this grade.

50. North For A Day 6b/c Font 7a **
Start up Jo's Arete variation 1 and rock up leftwards to reach a tiny, sharp hold in the diagonal break. Another rock up gains the scoop and a direct finish. Feet are only allowed on the main face.

51. Pete's Problem 6a Font 6a *
Climb Jo's Arete variation 1 to the mid height jugs on the arete itself, then stretch left to the scoop in the middle of the face. Finish direct. Feet are only allowed on the main face, with even the arete out of bounds.

52. Jo's Arete

52a. Variation 1 5b Font 5 *
Climb the left side of the right arete until the mid-height jugs are gained.

52b. Variation 2 4c **
Take the arete as directly as possible.

52c. Variation 3 4b **
Climb the right side of the arete.

53. The Ladder 4b *
The middle of the right face forms a series of ledges which give another straightforward problem.

54. Dominic's Problem 4c
Climb the wall between the Ladder and the Seam, using holds on neither.

55. The Seam 4a
Follow the obvious seam tucked into the right end of the right face with little difficulty.

The Mouse

This is the furthest boulder from the road and lies over the back of the hillside, beyond the Prow, and with a little imagination, can be seen to resemble a mouse (of the computer variety). It is obvious from the Prow, and can be readily identified by the large offwidth crack splitting its left end.

56. 4b
The short wall on the left.

57. 4c
The rib forming the left edge of the offwidth.

58. Welly Boot Offwidth 4a *
Obvious. If climbed in anything other than a pair of wellies, only award yourself half the tick!

59. Five Days Till Heaven 5c Font 6a **
Gain and climb the hanging crack just right of Welly Boot Offwidth. A variation, making use of the right edge of the offwidth, is 5a.

60. Double Click 5b Font 5 *
Follow the line of the thin vertical seam directly.

61. Rungs 5b Font 5 *

62. Slim Shady 5b/c Font 5+ *
This one takes the sustained, shallow groove near the right end of the wall, with a sharp pull near the top.

63. Ben's Problem 5c Font 5+ *
From a sitting start, pull on and then use only the pinch hold in the groove and the top break of Ladder Wall to gain the top. 5b (Font 5) from a standing start.

64. Scroll Font 6a
Traverse the face of the boulder from Broken Rib leftwards past the offwidth to its end.

65. Broken Rib 5b Font 5 **
Climb the obvious rib/arete at the south end of the west face, with an airy crux.

66. A Climb of Two Halves 5a
Climb the obvious groove to the big ledge, and then make a thought provoking finish. Should get easier as the top of the boulder cleans up.

67. The Mouse's Tail 5a
Below A Climb of Two Halves is a smaller boulder, presenting a short steep face on its downhill side. Traverse this face from right to left, finishing by stepping up off a big foothold onto the top of the boulder.

The Lone Boulder

Sitting on it's own, well off to the left of the main collection of boulders, and at a similar level to the Wee Walls, is this isolated boulder. It can be most easily reached by following the track from the approach field round to the left after passing through the upper, open gate. Although only one problem has been recorded, it is pleasant and just about worth the walk.

68. The Lone Slab 4b *
Climb the tall slab on the west face, starting off the ground and not the spike of rock.

See Discussion for new problem, Jh

The Lost Wall

Following the track beyond the Lone Boulder for approximately 200 metres leads, passing a thumb-like boulder on the uphill side of the track, to a point above the corner of the forestry plantation. Uphill from here are a collection of small-looking walls. The leftmost of these has a tiny rowan tree growing at the top of its right hand end. The left hand side of this wall reaches approximately 4 metres in height and provides the following problems. Both are good, with Lost in Time particularly worth seeking out.

69. Lost in Time 5c **
Climb the steep slab at its highest point, passing a flakey scoop at three-quarters height. Superb.

70. Lost in Space 6b Font 6a+ *
Tenuous on/off climbing up smears and ripples, following the pale streak a metre or so left of Lost in Time. Slightly flakey rock, but should clean up with traffic, and given the nature of the holds, very satisfying to top out on.

Further Exploration

Other scattered boulders provide further distraction. Approximately 50 metres right of the Wee Walls, a prominent triangular boulder (dubbed the Climber's Tomb) has a steep south face, unfortunately scarcely big enough to be worth cleaning. Up the hillside from here, towards the Mouse, is a hollow with slabby walls on either side. These give easy problems of reasonable length.

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