The Merrick

(NX 420 855) 600m N facing, (SMC Lowland Outcrops Guide page 151)

The Merrick and the Awful Hand Range in winter as seen from Craignaw.
The mountains are from left to right, The Merrick, Kirriereoch, Tafessock and Shalloch on Minnoch.
The crag in the foreground is Craig Neldricken and the loch on the right is Loch Enoch.

The Merrick at 843m is the "Knuckle" of the Awful Hand and the highest mountain in southern Scotland. BLACK GAIRY, its north-facing crag, has the most reliable winter climbing in the area, though it still requires a prolonged freeze. The easiest access is probably from in the vicinity of Kirriereoch on the minor road to the west of the crag. The main gully on the left of the crag is the Black Gutter (III/IV**) - it is a greasy grassy V Diff in summer.

Photo: Steve Prior on the second pitch of the Black Gutter.

Photo:Steve Prior on the third pitch of the Black Gutter.

Photo: Steve Prior about to start the penultimate pitch of the Black Gutter via the Lleft-Hand branch. The Right-Hand Finish can be seen on the right of the picture.

Photo: The Black Gutter in summer - Climber, Jim Fairey.
There is some useful information on walking up the Merrick on the SummitPost website.

Photo: Linda Biggar on the Black Gutter in good ice conditions - a bit of a contrast to the photos above. (John Biggar)

The ribs bounding the Gutter have both been climbed at grade II. More notable routes lie to the right of the Black Gutter. These are: The Lang Scots Mile (IV 4,3,3,2**), a fine long ice route, The Kyle Gully (III/IV**), and the wonderfully named Interstellar Overdraft (V/VI**). To the right of Interstellar Overdraft lie Kenny's Folly and Chippy's Downfall, both III. There is probably still much scope for exploration, though other routes may have been climbed but not recorded.

The Black Gairy of Merrick showing the approximate position of the main routes.
Note the wall leading up to the start of the Black Gutter.
Monsieur Marmalade III
Black Gutter III/IV**
White Rhino III/IV**
The Icicle Thief III*
The Lonely Warthog III/IV*
The Lang Scots Miles IV 4,3,3,2**

The Kyle Gully III/IV**
Interstellar Overdraft V/VI**
Kenny's Folly III
Chippy's Downfall III
Lower Icefall II

Monsieur Marmalade 150m III (4) (maybe worth a star in better conditions)
Start about 100m left of the Black Gutter and slightly lower at a narrow dark slot in the lower tier of rock. Directly above is an ice stream that takes a dog leg to the left.
1 30m. Climb the slot with a steep exit left.
2 30m. Cross grass (or snow?) for 30m.
3 30m. Climb easy steps and ice to the leftwards dogleg in the ice stream above. Good belay on right.
4 50m. Climb the upper ice stream to below a steep 5m wall.
5 20-30m. Climb the steep wall then scramble to the top.
John Biggar, James Kinnaird , 19th February 2008

James Kinnaird on the first ascent of Monsieur Marmalade (pitch 3).

Near the top. (John Biggar)

White Rhino 180m III/IV**
The obvious icefall which forms in cold but generally snow free conditions about 30-40m right of the Black Gutter. A first introductory pitch of 40m leads to a branch in the icefall. Both the left and right variations have been climbed from here to the top at grade III/IV, the grade could probably be reduced to III by weaving between them. Poor rock gear so take ice-screws and warthogs. Left Variation: Linda Biggar, John Biggar (AL), 5th March 2006

Right Variation: Dave McNicol, Adam Brooke-Mee, 5th March 2006

Dave McNicol and Adam Brooke-Mee on the first ascent of White Rhino Right-Hand (John Biggar)

The following two routes share a common start up a short easy gully to a snowbay about 100m right of the Black Gutter. They take twin icefalls to the left of the overhanging square black wall mentioned in the description of the Lang Scots Miles.

The Icicle Thief 195m III*
The left-hand icefall.
1 20m. Climb an easy shallow gully to a large snowpatch below twin icefalls. Belay up left, to the left of the left-hand fall.
1 50m (3). After a steep start, easier snow leads to a belay at the foot of the main fall.
2 25m (4). The icefall is climbed to a large spike belay on the left, about 45m below its top.
3 50m (3). Continue up the icefall to exit right, and follow the ice ramp leftwards to easier ground and a poor belay (warthogs in turf).
4 50m. Run the rope out to the top.
Stephen Reid, Colin Wells (AL), 16th March 2006

The Lonely Warthog 180m III/IV (3) *
The right-hand icefall is called the Lonely Warthog for good reason, don't expect much more protection! In particular the rock gear is very poor so take screws and turf protection.
Climb a short, easy angled icy gully to a platform (this pitch is also used to access the Icicle Thief). From here two pitches of narrow ice and/or turf, depending on conditions, lead to easier ground. Highlight of the route is a reassuringly large and chunky spike belay at the left hand end of a square wall after the first protectionless 40m. Above these two pitches another 100m or so of easy angled ice, or grade I snow, lead to the plateau.
John Biggar, Linda Biggar (AL), 16th March 2006

Colin Wells on the first ascent of The Icicle Thief (Stephen Reid)

Linda and John Biggar nearing the top of The Lonely Warthog (Stephen Reid)

Lower Icefall 50m II
This is the short icefall near the right end of the crag, below Kenny's Folly and Chippy's Downfall.
C Hossack, J Biggar, ANO, 17th March 1996

The Mosses, Slaps and Styles 130m III This is the shallow gully 30m right of the icefall of Interstellar Overdraft. Easy and possibly banked out ice leads to a belay 6m below a long steep wall which guards entry to the gully. Climb this and start up the gully above (30m) Climb the remainder of the gully (35m). Easier climbing to the top following the line of most ice (70m).
A Fraser, I Magill, 2nd January 2009
The line is well shown under the upper figure 8 on the photo-diagram on John Biggar's Website.

The HOWE OF THE CAULDRON is the atmsopheric corrie on the north-eastern side of The Merrick. It has one route, North-East Couloir (100m and originally graded II/III*) which follows snow and ice ramps. Repeat ascents have found it to be more like grade II and also an icefall, not a couloir - it would best re-named North-East Icefall or Cauldron Icefall. It is good though, and also probably the most reliable ice in the Galloway Hills.

The Howe of the Cauldron and its Icefall (John Biggar)

CRAIG NELDRICKEN (NX 447 843) is a south facing crag of excellent granite but unfortunately only 20m high and 2hrs hard walking from Glen Trool. So far it boasts only one pleasant route, Red Otter Day (Severe 1994) which takes the grooved rib to the left of the gully towards the left end of the crag.

The history of climbing on the Merrick is obscure. G Girdwood is credited by James McBain (The Merrick and Other Hills) with making a summer ascent of the Black Gutter ca1920, but he also says that he thinks that it may have been climbed earlier. Indeed local legend has it that it was first climbed in Victorian times by the farmer from Shalloch on Minnoch in the course of rescuing a sheep. The ascent was accomplished at night in a thunderstorm with the added complications of rockfall and the unwanted attentions of an aggressive eagle! The date of the first winter ascent is not known, though it was climbed via the right-hand branch by Davie Sproat and Alan Kelso of Kyle MC in the '70s, and via the left-hand branch by Eric Christison, Jim Wilson, Kenny George, Alastair Watson and Merv Atkinson, also of the Kyle, in the 80s.

These , together with other Kyle members including, Alec Dowers, M Pashke, and C Murray climbed various routes that were not recorded properly, and also both of the Gutter Ribs, and The Kyle Gully (Christison and Atkinson, 1987).

In 1993 Rob McAllister and Stuart Mearns added Interstellar Overdraft, which is unrepeated, and is thought to be conservatively graded, and Kenny's Folly and Chippy's Downfall were added in 1996 by Colin Hossack, John Biggar and "Dreadlocked Forestry Stuart". The names are in honour of Kenny and Ian "Chippy" Livingston who had declined an invitation to join the party on the grounds that conditions would be rubbish.

Andrew Fraser and Ian Magill added The Lang Scots Mile in 2003. Andrew also researched the history of climbing on the Merrick and recorded the doings of the Kyle Club above. North East Couloir in the Howe of the Cauldron was climbed by Roy Gibson and Tom Black in 1996 and Red Otter Day on Craig Neldricken by Stephen Reid and John Campbell.

Rob McAllister's first ascent description of Interstellar Overdraft

The mysterious Grey Man of Merrick seen on a very apt day.
(Approximate Grid Reference 435 844)

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