Craig an Eilte

(The Crag of the Hind - NX 498 698) 450m W facing, SMC Lowland Outcrops 2004 page 197

CRAIGNELDER (NX 505 698) is the northern outlier of Cairnsmore of Fleet. It exhibits lots of excellent granite but unfortunately close inspection reveals that little of it is joined together in any way meaningful to the rock climber. The slabby crag overlooking the A712 New Galloway to Newton Stewart road and facing Murray's Monument is called BIG GAIRY (NX 492 702) while the much better CRAIG-AN-EILTE (NX 498 698) lies higher, and further to the south but is hidden from view. Both crags require some effort to reach. Keep an eye out for snakes!

Craig an Eilte. Eilte Tower is the clean tower of rock left of centre of the picture.
More routes lie in Eilte Gully, hidden behind the hanging arete of Gloom Super Direct.
Weeping Wall is the big pink wall in the centre of the picture.
Gloom Super Direct E2 5c*
Original Route HS 4b**
The Flesh Market HVS 4c
Eilte Pinnacle Rib D
Adder Country VS

Kerb Crawler S 4b*
Y Geifr HVS 5a*
In the Hall of the Mountain King VS 4b*
Diagonal Route VS 4c*
Coel Fain E2 5c*

Further south and up hill from Big Gairy is a hidden area of further vegetated slabs. However, high on the left-hand side is an impressive looking prominent clean tower with a number of routes. This is Craig an Eilte. Further climbs lie above this tower and to its right. The best routes are Gloom Super Direct (E2 5c*), The Original Route (Hard Severe 4b **), The Flesh Market (HVS 4c), Eilte Pinnacle Rib (Difficult*) and Gwry Y Gogledd (E2 5b*). Although these climbs are short, the magnificence of the remote surroundings, the absence of bird restrictions, and the west-facing aspect of the crag make it a fine venue. The crag’s alternative name, the "Flesh Market", derives from the number of sheep that fell over it to their doom in the days when there were sheep on these hills rather than trees.

Photo: Chris Bonington on the crux of the classic Original Route (HS**).

Photo: Walter Phipps on The Flesh Market (HVS 4c).

Photo: Adrian Moore & John Campbell making the second ascent of Gwyr Y Gogledd (Men of the North) (E2 5b*). The upper sections of Gloom and Gloom Direct can be seen on the right edge of the picture.


Andew Fraser (who else?!) was the first visitor to the crag to record a climb: the appropriately named Original Route (HS) is the classic of the crag, and was climbed in April 1978 with Michael Burgess and Willie Todd.

In the early '80s, Kenny and Ian Livingston climbed Eilte Pinnacle Rib (D), but, as usual, did not record it at the time. Fraser returned in 1984 with David Walker and added Pale Face (VS) to Big Gairy, and Gloom (S) to Craig-an-Eilte. The Livingstons added Rock Lobster in 1990, a route on the rather broken wall left of Eilte Gully somewhere (they can't remember where exactly!), and in 1991 John and Linda Biggar breached Weeping Wall with Kerb Crawler (S).

Photo: Michael Burgess seconding the first ascent of Original Route in 1978 (Andrew Fraser coll.)

In 1992 the crag was blitzed by Stephen Reid, and John Campbell who added The Flesh Market (HVS), Guledig (S), Gwyr Y Gogledd (E2), and No Hawkers or Campbells (HVS).

Adrian Moore joined the team to lead the fine bold line of Gloom Super Direct (E2) - this was on the same day that they made the first summer ascent of the Spout of the Clints. However they dismissed Weeping Wall as being to wet to be worth bothering with, and Reid was only alerted to its potential when Michael Harvey and Andrew Faulk visited the crag in April 1997 and climbed Diagonal Route (VS). They also added a Direct Start to Kerb Crawler, thinking it was new.

Photo: Kenny Livingston on the first ascent of Eilte Pinnacle Rib in the early '80s (Ian Livingston)

Reid soon returned for a second blitz and climbed the remaining routes on Weeping Wall with variously John Biggar, Chris Bonington, Walter Phipps, Mick Nunwick, and with Chris King in the lead to straighten out the line of Coel Fain to give a good lower grade E2. Reid and King's final route on this wall,

In the Hall of the Mountain King (VS) provided an exciting moment or two. Firstly it was wet when they arrived, but a good breeze dried it out right at the end of the day, secondly Reid fell 15 feet from the final move when a foothold snapped, and finally King pulled a fridge-sized block off when seconding, fortunately without injury, though it created some spectactular sparks as it bounded down the hillside in the encroaching dusk.

Photo: Adrian Moore making the first ascent of Gloom Super Direct (E2, 5c*).
Eilte Gully and the upper wall containing Guledig (S), Gwry Y Gogledd (E2 5b*) & No Hawkers or Campbells (HVS 5a*) can be seen just below and behind the climber. Original Route (HS**) takes the obvious line to the right.

Photo: Stephen Reid making the first ascent of Coel Fain (E2 5c*) (Stones of Omen) - (Stephen Reid Collection, ©Mick Nunwick).

Photo: Alan Hinkes making the first ascent of Hinkes's Downfall (III) in 2003.

The crag has had one successful winter assault when the Fraser-Magill team and Reid, accompanied by Biggar, Alan Hinkes, Steve Prior, and Alan Swann all ended up there on the same day: the best routes resulting being Hinke's Downfall by Hinkes and Reid, and Fraser and Magill's Flowers of the Forest (III 4*), but a very early start is needed to catch the ice before the sun does, and to get a really good build up would require a prolonged freeze of at least a week.

Photo: The Eilte Cross can be seen on a boulder in the coire below the crag.

Photo: Iain Magill on the second pitch of Flowers of the Forest (III) during the first ascent in 2003 (Andrew Fraser).

New Routes

At the very left end of the escarpment is a small subsidiary corrie containing a tiny broken buttress of excellent clean rock. The left wall of the left side of the buttress is very overhanging.

Traverse of the Goats 25m VS
A fun rising traverse up the leaning left wall. It eats cams and more are needed to belay so take lots. Start just left of the main arête of the crag at an open groove.
(4c) Climb the groove to a huge ledge. Traverse this leftwards and carry on up and left following the obvious steep juggy line to the top. Belays are a long way back.
Stephen Reid, John Biggar, 16th June 2009

Shopping Around 12m VS
(4c). Climb easily straight up the main arête of the crag to an impasse at a steep wall. Make an awkward move up this then traverse rightwards until a ramp/crack line leads back left. Better than it looks!
John Biggar, Stephen Reid, 16th June 2009

TG Traverse of the Goats VS
SA Shopping Around VS

Photo: Stephen Reid on the first ascent of Traverse of the Goats (photo: John Biggar).

Photo: John Biggar on the first ascent of Shopping Around (photo: Stephen Reid).

On the right hand side of the buttress is a short wall capped by an easy angled slab. In the centre of the short wall is a V-groove/chimney.

Trolley Wobbles 15m S
Climbs the front of an enormous detached flake. Start just left of the V chimney and climb onto the flake. Step left and make an awkward move up. Finish directly up the wall and slab above.
Stephen Reid, John Biggar, 16th June 2009

Convenience Chimney 15m VD The V Chimney, exiting leftwards behind the huge flake, then easily up slabs.
John Biggar, Stephen Reid, 16th June 2009

Check Out or Deck Out 15m VS
(4c). Climb the short wall in between Convenience Chimney and Wee Rib leftwards to a slim groove. Pull over the bulge above and finish easily up the slab.
Stephen Reid, John Biggar, 16th June 2009

Wee Rib 15m D Two metres right of V Chimney is a short broken arête. Climb the interesting arête on its right side then rightwards up the big slab. John Biggar, Stephen Reid, 16th June 2009

CD Check Out or Deck Out VS
TW Trolley Wobbles S
CC Convenience Chimney VD
CD Check Out or Deck Out VS
WR Wee Rib D

Photo: Stephen Reid on the first ascent of Check Out or Deck Out (photo: John Biggar).

Photo: John Biggar on the first ascent of Wee Rib (photo: Stephen Reid).

At the far right of the escarpment is an area of slightly bless vegetated rock, in particular a steep cracked wall high on the crag. Descend well to the right.

Blaeberry Buttress 80m HS ** Some very enjoyable moves, plenty of protection where it matters and very little vegetation (apart from the blaeberries at every belay) make for an excellent route. Start directly beneath the low-angled blocky rib and clean whitish slab, 4m right of a small black recess at a short, mossy but juggy wall.
1 25m (4b). Climb the short juggy wall, move left to a crack and follow this and the excellent clean slab above, crux at top. Belay 2m right of the blocky rib.
2 25m (4b). Climb the rib, using zigzag cracks to an awkward mantleshelf on the nose. Easily up the slab above to belay below the next steep step.
3 30m (4b). Finish the rib with a great move off the top of a block on extreme left. Another steep pull leads to a heather ledge and low-lying flake, traverse 2m right to the steep corner. Pull up this and climb onto a block, then step dramatically right onto the juggy arête and a satisfyingly steep finish.
John and Linda Biggar (AL), 2nd July 2009

Galloway Gallivant 115m HVS
An interesting climb despite some heather pulling. It improves with height. To the right of the steep cracked wall is a smaller smooth wall with a stepped arête on its left side. The arête has a small niche near its top. Start directly below this arête towards the right-hand side of the initial slabs at a large flake.
1 30m (4c). Climb the flake leftwards and slabs above to belay at the foot of the stepped arête.
2 10m (4a). Climb the stepped arête to just below the niche and belay on a large ledge on the left.
3 25m (5a). Monkey up the short crack in the centre of the steeply overhanging wall to an awkward exit onto slabs. Trend leftward up the first slab, then straight up to belay just left of a short arête.
4 50m (4c). Make a hard move up the arête then climb easily to a belay then pad up slabs to the top.
John Biggar, Stephen Reid (VL), 16th June 2009

Niche Market 115m E3
The challenge of the niche direct. Start just right of the large flake on Galloway Gallivant.
1 30m (4c). Climb onto a small square turf ledge and make some steep moves to gain a slab. Go straight up heather and rock above to belay at the foot of the stepped arête.
2 35m (6a). Climb the right-hand of two crack systems in the wall to gain the stepped arête just below the niche. Gain the niche with a strange move and leave it via a tenuous swing to the right and even more tenuous mantelshelf(protection is from two or three Camelot 0.3s or equivalents). From the slab, climb leftwards up rock and heather to belay just right of the short rounded arête.
3 50m (5b). Make a series of bold moves up the short lefttward-facing corner and scoop above. The pad up slabs to block belays on a grass ledge at the top.
Chris King, Stephen Reid, 24th June 2009

Photo: The lines of Galloway Gallivant (HVS) and Niche Market (E3).

Photo: John Biggar on pitch 1 during the first ascent of Galloway Gallivant (photos: Stephen Reid).

Photo: Linda Biggar on the crux slab of Blaeberry Buttress during the first ascent.

Photo: Linda Biggar on the awkward mantelshelf on pitch two of Blaeberry Buttress (photos: John Biggar).

Photo: Chris King on the crux pitch during the first ascent of Niche Market (E3) - a desparate swing rightwards and mantelshelf follow. Galloway Gallivant (HVS) takes the wider of the two cracks in the overhanging wall to his left.

Salad Daze 110m HVS (2009)
Some 25m right of the arete of Niche Market is a prominent cracked arete. Start below this at a vague groove that breaches the lower wall. Just below this a large pointed block sticks out of the heather.
1 23m (4b). Climb the groove and traverse left, then go up rock steps and heather to the cracked arête. Belay just left in a hollow.
2 12m (5a). Climb the easy rib on the left for 2m then bridge right across the hollow and jam up a steep crack. Belay at the foot of the slab above.
3 25m (4c). Climb onto the rib on the right, then follow a leftward slanting seam up the slab to a short hanging arete with a wide crack in it. Climb the crack to a ledge and traverse left to a huge flake.
4 50m (4a). Surmount the flake and follow easy steps and slabs to the top.
Stephen Reid, Chris King (alt), 10th September 2009

The Hanging Gardens of Galloway 98m VS (2009) At the right end of the wall with the cracked arete is a fine clean pillar. Gain the base of this, either by scrambling in from the right via a heather ramp, or by climbing pitch 1 of Salad Daze and traversing right along a wide ledge. 1 48m (4c). Climb the pillar, mainly on its left. Above is a fine clean slab. Ignore this and climb instead the repulsive looking wall on its right, trending left slightly to a steep mossy crack, which is thankfully equipped with huge holds. Belay on the grass ledge above. 2 50m (4b). Follow a left slanting ramp and overcome a nose. Easy slabs lead to the top. Chris King, Stephen Reid (alt), 10th September 2009

Photo: The Craig an Eilte escarpment with Cairnsmore of Fleet in the distance.

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