01/01/2013 16:35:00

Words by bena

Clints of the Spout

Approaching the Clints of the Spout via Craignelder
(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 above: The Clints of the Spout in winter.
Below: The Spout of the Clints in winter. Photos by John Biggar

 

Photo Left: 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.

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.

Mulled Wine 100m III * (2010)
L. Biggar, J. Biggar (AL), C. Hossack, 23rd December 2010
A parallel line of less continuous ice smears about 20m right of Smear Test. The top ice-fall is quite well hidden and gives a very fine pitch. Scramble up and right from the start of Smear Test to start the route.
1 60m (2). Climb icy slabs, turf and icy steps for 60m to below the obvious big icefall in the right facing corner. Good block belay. This belay point could also be reached easily up a grassy ramp from the right.
2 40m (3). Scramble up into the corner then climb the big ice pitch direct.

The same team repeated Smear Test, probably the second ascent.

 

The Slab of the Spout

This gleaming white slab is the largest and virtually the leftmost piece of climbable rock on the crag and though it mysteriously turns small and grey on being approached, nevertheless there are some good pitches here that provide a fine day's climbing for a reasonably competent party. There is a great flat grassy base and a superb outlook eastwards, but it loses the sun mid afternoon. 

Protection is tricky to arrange and requires many small to medium cams (3 x Friend 1 and 1.5 are almost essential). 50m ropes are needed to reach the belay, which is well back (and slightly right) from the top of the crag and a third rope is advisable to bring the scattered belay points together. 

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 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.

 

SC Senda das Cabras D   SH The Shoe Horn Club E1
FF Faith in Flares E1 *   BR Brasil HS *
PS Pao de Spout HVS   SL The Sugar Loafers VS
ML Muito Linda VS *        

Senda das Cabras   25m   Difficult (2010)
Easy for the grade but enjoyable. Start on the far left, just left of a small low overhang. Climb up to some rightward trending steps and follow these to heather. From the top right side of the heather, step right and take the easiest line directly up the clean slabs to the top.
S.Reid, J.Biggar, 12th June 2010

Faith in Flares   25m   E1 5b * (2009)
Climb the 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 via a cracked rib. 
J.Biggar, D.McNicol, 20th April 2009

Pao de Spout   25m   HVS 4c (2009)
The main central crack, which trends slightly leftwards is followed to a niche. Make a series of bold technical moves diagonally leftwards to gain a ledge with relief. Continue more easily to the top via a cracked rib, as for Faith in Flares. 
D.McNicol, J.Biggar, 20th April 2009

Muito Linda   25m   VS 4c * (2009) Follow the central crack of Pao de Spout to the niche. Fingery moves lead up and right to the left end of a ledge, then climb the fine crack directly above to the top. An excellent pitch. L.Biggar, D.McNicol, 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 5a (2009)
Good climbing, but rather artificial and poorly protected where it matters (and where it doesn't). One to nominate your mate to lead. Start 1 metre right of the crack of Pao de Spout and climb the slab direct to the left end of a ledge (no protection worth having). Finish more easily, directly up the narrow slab between the two cracks. 
J.Biggar, L.Biggar (one point of aid) 14th September 2009. Climbed free by C.King, S.Reid, J.Biggar, 12th June 2010.

Brasil   25m   HS 4b* (2009)
A fine and unlikely climb at the grade. Start 5m right of Pao de Spout, under a clean juggy rib. Climb the rib over a bulge on superb holds to a large heather ledge and finish up the crack above.

L.Biggar, J.Biggar, D.McNicol, 14th September 2009

The Sugar Loafers 20m VS 4b (2009)
The clean rib to the right of the mossy recessed slab is climbed starting up cracks just right of its edge. Pleasant climbing but not brilliantly protected.
D.McNicol, 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





The Knee of Cairnsmore
LC Left Cheek VD *
WK Wounded Knee VD *
RR Right Rib D


HISTORY

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

 

Photo Right: 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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