The Clints of the Spout

(NX 509 667) 450m E facing, (SMC Lowland Outcrops Guide page 152)

The Clints of the Spout are very remote with a wonderful atmosphere. The gentlest (but not necessarily the shortest (see below), approach is to follow the tourist path from Cairnsmore House Farm (471 641) to the summit of Cairnsmore of Fleet (502 671). From here, descend north-east to the Nick of the Saddle (the col between Cairnsmore of Fleet and Meikle Mulltaggart) and then, southward to the cliffs (2hrs). The crags are too broken to offer much good rock climbing (though see below for recent developments) but provide two classic winter climbs. The routes are east facing and catch the sun all morning. A prolonged and severe freeze of at least a week and an alpine start would seem to be essential for good conditions.

Photo: The Clints of the Spout in winter.
Photo: Adrian Moore on the top pitch of Spout of the Clints during the first summer ascent.

Photo Right: Chris Bonington on the second pitch of Spout of the Clints during the first winter ascent.

Photo: The top pitch of the Spout of Clints in winter, just prior to its first ascent by Stephen Reid and Chris Bonington in January 1997.

The main line is the central gully of The Spout of the Clints which is a wet three pitch VS* in summer, though it may become easier in a drought. When frozen in winter it is an excellent grade V (4,4,5)***. The final pitch is the crux and not too well protected.

The only other winter route is Smear Test (IV 3,3,3,4***) a spectacular icefall on the right of the crag which gives an excellent climb in three or four pitches with the final thin smear up the top slab being the crux.

Photo by David McNicol (John Biggar website).

The Slab of the Spout

The following has been received from John Biggar.

A grand piece of Galloway granite, fairly clean and smooth and un-interrupted for 25m, the Slab of the Spout is located about 100m south of the Spout of the Clints and about half height on the cliff. There is a great flat grassy base and a very pleasant outlook to the east, but it loses the sun typically at 2-3pm.

Protection is tricky to arrange and requires many small to medium cams and faith in small flaring cracks, luckily the cruxes of both routes are relatively low down. A 50m or 60m rope is needed to reach belays which are well back (and slightly right) from the top of the crag.

The access is pretty long from any direction, but quickest from the parking area to the south, near the Clints of Dromore. To get to the Clints of Dromore drive north up the B796 from Gatehouse of Fleet to the disused Gatehouse of Fleet station. From here a short public road leads rightwards past the SNH Nature Reserve office and through far too many gates to a disused railway viaduct where you can park (NX557644). From here a forest road continues northwards. After 500m or so stay left (the righthand road goes to Loch Grannoch crag), and continue for 2km to the end of the forestry at grid reference NX533646. From here walk in a more or less straight line to the Knee of Cairnsmore. Continuing onwards for another 20 minutes for the Spout of the Clints and the Slab of the Spout.

Faith in Flares 25m HVS**
(4c/5a). Climb the vertical crack on the left of the slab with an awkward crux at 5m near the little overlap, protected by poor cam placements in flaring cracks! continue more easily to the top.
John Biggar, David McNicol, 20th April 2009

Pao de Spout 25m VS *
(4c). The main central crack, which trends slightly leftwards, is quite bold, and may possibly be only HS when cleaner.
David McNicol, John Biggar, 20th April 2009

Direct Finish VS 4c, added by L Biggar and D MacNicol, 14th September 2009

Photo Top: John Biggar on the first ascent of Faith in Flares (HVS).

Photo Middle: David McNicol on the first ascent of Pao de Spout (VS).

Photo Bottom: Linda Biggar on the first ascent of Sugar Loafers (S).

All photos by David McNicol and John Biggar (John Biggar website).

The Shoe Horn Club 25m E1 (A0) * (5b)
Start one metre right of the crack of Pao de Spout. Climb the excellent slab to a small stance in a niche at 3m. Place runners, pray and make hard moves to gain the left hand end of the big ledge. Climb the left side of the steep slab above then easier ground to the top. Poorly protected where it matters (and where it doesn't).
J Biggar, L Biggar (one point aid), 14th September 2009

Brasil 25m HS * (4a)
Start 5m right of Pao de Spout, under a (mostly) clean juggy rib between two damp streaks. Climb the rib with an awkward finish onto the big heather ledge. Climb the centre of the slab above to another ledge then the easy but unprotected finishing slabs.
L Biggar, J Biggar and D MacNicol, 14th September 2009

The Sugar Loafers 20m S *** (4a).
The best quality and best protected route here, an excellent climb up the clean rib right of the massive wet streak, with the crux right at the top. Protection is generally good.
D MacNicol, L Biggar, J Biggar, 14th September 2009

The Knee of Cairnsmore

This small crag is the first encountered when following the approach detailed above, about 30 minutes walk from the end of the forestry road, across generally benign Galloway moorland.

The crag is easily seen and approached and is at NX 514 657. The crag is more easily angled than it first appears and there are three easy routes, all about 20m long. Descend either side.

This crag is nice as a warm-up venue if you are heading for the Slab of the Spout or the Spout of the Clints.

1. Left Cheek 20m VD *
Climb up and left form the lowest rocks and follow cracks to the top.
David McNicol, John Biggar, 20th April 2009

2. Wounded Knee 20m VD *
Climb the groove in the arête and continue to the top.
John Biggar, David McNicol, 20th April 2009

3. Right Rib 20m D
Climb the ribbing on the right of the crag and continue to the top.
David McNicol, John Biggar, 20th April 2009

Photo by David McNicol (John Biggar website).
The Knee of Cairnsmor
LC Left Cheek VD *
WK Wounded Knee VD *
RR Right Rib D


Gordon Waldie records finding "a fair number of scrambles and gullies in the eastern recesses of Cairnsmore of Fleet", but it is hard to believe that the Spout was one of them, for he almost certainly would have recorded it. The Spout was definitely climbed as a summer route in May 1992 by Stephen Reid, Adrian Moore and John Campbell, with Moore leading the crux top pitch.

Photo: Doug Scott on the first pitch of Smear Test during the first ascent.

Photo: Stephen Reid on the final pitch of Smear Test during the first ascent (photo - Doug Scott).

The team found several bits of old aeroplane debris en route. Reid visited the crag with Dave Wilson in the winter of 1995 with designs on the gully but it wasn't formed, and an attempt on Smear Test was abandoned on the top pitch when water spurted from his axe placements.

In January 1997, alerted to good conditions by Jim Lawrence and Simon Mortlock's second ascent of Dow Spout on Craignaw, Reid rushed north with Chris Bonington to make the first winter ascent of the Spout of the Clints. He returned two days later with Doug Scott to grab the first ascent of Smear Test as well. The next day it all melted, and the routes have yet to be repeated.

Photo: An old aeroplane engine from the Second World War in the bottom of the coire.

More recently some rock climbs have been added by John Biggar and friends.

Photo: Chris Bonington approaching the Clints of the Spout Coire very early in the morning.

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