01/01/2013 16:38:00

Words by bena


Loch Neldricken & Craignaw
(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. There is some useful information on walking up the Merrick on the SummitPost website.

, its north-facing crag, has the most reliable winter climbing in the area, though it still requires a prolonged freeze.
The crag is must be almost unique in the quantity and length of mid-grade icefalls it produces in a good freeze. Moreover these appear to stem from springs in the hillside and thus form ice regardless of the presence or absence of snow; in fact under heavy snow some of the difficulties bank out. Protection is variable with some routes entirely dependent on icescrews and Warthogs whilst a few sport a reasonable amount of rock gear.

Approach: Via Kirriereoch to the west. From the public car park and picnic spot (NX 358 866), follow the track, branching left at a fork, to Kirriereoch Farm gate. Don't enter the farmyard, but follow the track which passes in front of it and turn right almost immediately. Follow this track for about 1km to the next junction, just before a bridge over Kirriemore Burn. Turn right, cross the bridge and turn left immediately along a track that is not marked on the map for about 1.5km until it doglegs sharply back on itself (NX 388 869). A firebreak drops down from here to the Kirshinnoch Burn. Follow the south bank of the burn to the crag which lies on the right shortly after the second stone wall is crossed (1hr 45mins).

There is an excellent gearing up point under a 5m high prow like buttress at the base of the right bounding rib of the crag, adjacent to the descent path. A third stone wall higher up the valley leads to the foot of the Black Gutter.

The crag can be also be approached from Glen Trool to the south but this takes a lot longer.

Descent: Westwards (rightwards looking up), following the stone wall at the top of the cliff (past a branch that leads to the top of the Black Gutter if starting to the left of this), until just after a large solitary boulder and just before the wall turns right and descends to the valley. Descend the slope and round the lowest point of the rib. The crag can also be descended more steeply to the east – this can be seen clearly from the top – if you can't see where to go you are in the wrong place! Go round the bounding rib at its lowest point to find yourself at the foot of the Black Gutter.

The large gully of the Black Gutter, with the wall leading to its foot, is the most obvious feature of the crag. The steepest section of the cliff lies to its right, with the icefall of Interstellar Overdraft another landmark. Right again the crag becomes shorter and the climbs easier.

Following the awesome winter of 2009/10, a large number of new routes were climbed on the crag and a number of errors in the current guide were corrected. Consequently the entire crag is redescribed below.

The left-hand side of the Black Gairy of Merrick showing the routes.
Please click the picture for a bigger image.

Monsieur Marmalade   170m   III (4) (2008)
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 dogleg to the left. 
1. 30m Climb the slot with a steep exit left. 
2. 30m Cross grass/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. 30m Climb the steep wall then scramble to the top. 
James Kinnaird on the first ascent of Monsieur Marmalade.

Left, pitch 3.

Right, near the top.
(John Biggar)

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


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


Photo Left: 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 Right: The Black Gutter in summer - Climber, Jim Fairey.

Left Rib of the Gutter   250m   II (1970s)
The easiest line up the rib on the left of the Gutter.

Black Gutter   200m   III (4)** (1970s)
A classic. The main gully on the left of the crag gives four good pitches but is hard to protect in places. It branches near the top and either fork may be taken. It is a greasy, grassy, Very Difficult in summer (1920).

Right Rib of the Gutter   150m   II/III (1987)
The easiest line up the rib bounding the Gutter on its right side.


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

White Rhino   180m   III/IV (4) ** (2006)
The obvious icefall which forms in cold but generally snow free conditions about 30m 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. The grade could probably be reduced to III by weaving between them. Poor rock gear so take ice-screws and warthogs. 

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

15m right of the upper part of White Rhino is an area of shorter ice that doesn't reach the base of the crag. Although it is possible to start directly up easy snow, this is better gained from some 30m up the first pitch of White Rhino.

Black Rhino   128m   IV (4) **  (2010)
1. 30m From White Rhino, traverse up right along the first terrace to an easy angled gully and follow this until it steepens. 
2. 46m Centrally above is an icefall leading to a narrow turf/icy chimney – a cracking pitch.
3. 50m Move 3m right and climb the icy gully to easier ground.

The Elephant Man   128m   IV (4) **  (2010)
1. 30m From White Rhino, traverse up right along the first terrace to an easy angled gully and follow this until it steepens.
2. 46m The icefall on the right soon eases but gives an excellent pitch.
3. 50m Climb the icy gully to easier ground.
The following two routes take twin icefalls to the left of the overhanging square black wall mentioned in the description of The Lang Scots Miles and share a common start up a short easy gully to a snow bay about 100m right of the Black Gutter. 

Colin Wells on the first ascent of The Elephant Man (Stephen Reid)

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   145m   III (4) ** (2006)
The left-hand icefall is probably the most reliable climb on the crag. 
1. 20m  Climb an easy shallow gully to a large snow patch below twin icefalls. Belay up left, to the left of the left-hand fall. 
2. 50m  After a steep start, easier snow leads to a belay at the foot of the main fall.
3. 25m  The icefall is climbed to a large spike belay on the left, about 45m below its top.
4. 50m.  Continue up the icefall to exit right, and follow the ice ramp leftwards to easier ground and a poor belay (warthogs in turf). 50m of easy ground leads to the top. 

The Lonely Warthog 110m III/IV (3)  ** (2006)
The right-hand icefall is gains its name for a good reason; don't expect much more in the way of protection! 
1. 20m  Climb an easy shallow gully to a large snow patch below twin icefalls. Belay at the foot of the right-hand fall. 
2. 40m  Narrow ice and/or turf, depending on conditions, lead to a reassuringly large and chunky spike belay at the left hand end of a square wall.
3. 50m  Narrow ice and/or turf to easier ground. Another 100m or so, of easy angled ice and snow lead to the plateau.


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)
The Lang Scots Miles   185m   IV (4) *** (2003)
A fine long ice route with some quite testing climbing on the second and third pitches.150m right of Black Gutter (and 50m left of the icicle of Interstellar Overdraft), at mid-height on the face is an overhanging square black wall, with to its right a very obvious iced up slab. Start below the slab.
1. 50m Climb iced steps and easy ground directly to under the main fall.
2. 27m Pick the steepest and most intimidating line up the main fall to a slight terrace. Easier variations are possible if you must.
3. 28m Continue in the same line to a large terrace.
4. 30m Climb the wide icy slab to belay at the foot of the hidden upper gully.
5. 50m The excellent and scenic gully.

James Kinnaird on the easier, upper section of The Lang Scots Miles

Lang Scots Easy Way III (4) **  By following the first two pitches of Kyle Gully and then an easy snow ramp up leftwards, the route can be joined below pitch 4.

Scarting on Thin Ice 110m V (4) ** (2010)
Start on the terrace 40m up pitch 3 of Kyle Gully. The first pitch is the crux and is not especially well protected.
1. 30m Climb a few metres up leftwards on turf from the gully to gain a large ledge. Climb the thin left-slanting ice ramp up the wall to a belay where it eases.
2.30m Climb the ice pillar and a short section of easier ice to a good block belay.
3. 50m Follow the easier icefall above, then easy ground slightly rightwards to a large rock spike. A further 50m of easy ground attains the plateau.

The Kyle Gully   180m   IV (4) ** (1987)
This takes the shallow and stepped gully/icefall bounding the left side of the steep wall of Interstellar Overdraft. An excellent outing at the lower end of the grade.
1. 50m Easy ice and snow up the line of the gully.
2. 30m The slightly steeper gully to below a steep icefall.
3. 50m Follow the icefall past a terrace to the start of a right slanting icy ramp.
4. 50m The nicely exposed icy ramp leads rightwards and then up to a rightwards exit and a magnificent spike belay. 100m of easy ground leads to the plateau.

Colin Wells getting into the swing of things on The Kyle Gully

Retailers' Therapy
125m V (5) ** (2010)
Start just right of Kyle Gully at a short but pronounced bulging icefall, reached by easy icy scrambling. 
1. 50m Climb the icefall and follow its continuation leftwards up easy gound to a steep wall which is surmounted on thin ice to a spike belay near the chandelle of ice on the left side of the wall taken by Interstellar Overdraft. This is a few metres right of Kyle Gully.
2. 30m Climb the steep chandelle, exiting rightwards and move up to a belay in Kyle Gully.
3. 45m Spilling down the left wall of the gully are several short icefalls. Climb the uppermost one and then continue up easier ice above to a rock belay on the right at the end of the difficulties. 100m of easy ground attains the plateau.

Photo Right: James Kinnaird on the crux pitch during the first ascent of Retailers' Therapy.

Interstellar Overdraft   150m   V/VI ** (1993)
The obvious and intimidating vertical icefall in the centre of the steep wall some 250m right of Black Gutter. Start directly below the icefall.
1. 50m  Climb mixed ground to belay on a large ledge, not too directly under the fall. 
2. 40m  Climb the icefall directly, then trend up right to a poor belay.
3 and 4. 60m  Continue up easier ground for two pitches to the plateau.

The Mosses, Slaps and Styles 130m III (2009)
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.
1. 30m  Climb the wall and start up the gully above.
2. 35m  Climb the remainder of the gully.
3 & 4. 70m  Easier climbing to the top following the line of most ice. 

Kirshinnoch Corner   245m   V ** (2010)
This takes the thin line of ice and turf up the huge recessed corner/scoop some 50m right of Interstellar Overdraft. The grade assumes that a full rack of cams (Friend 0 to 3.5 size) is carried: without these the route would be VI. Start by soloing up 35m of easy ice in a line under the scoop.
1. 50m Climb the icefall to easy ground.
2. 40m Climb up into the scoop on turfy ice smears and belay in the hollow.
3. 15m Climb a short but steep ice wall to a ledge. Traverse left into a shallow cave and belay down and left of it (necessary to avoid falling ice and to allow sufficient rope for the next pitch).
4. 40m Climb as high into the cave as you can and place a high runner in a crack in the roof. Downclimb to the ledge and climb thin steep ice to a poor rest. Overcome the overhang on the right and traverse back left to the corner. Strenuous mixed moves up this bring an end to the difficulties and a short scramble leads to a good belay.
5. 50m Easy ground.
6. 50m An easy angled icefall and mixed ground leads to the plateau.

James Kinnaird on the crux pitch during the first ascent of Kirshinnoch Corner.

200m to the right of the conspicuous icefall of Interstellar Overdraft is a snow bay above which are two left to right slanting diagonal lines. 

Kenny's Folly  150m   III (3)*  (1996) 
The lower left hand line is climbed in three pitches.

Chippy's Downfall 150m   III (3)*  (1996) 
The upper right hand line is climbed in three pitches.

Chippy's Direct 75m III/IV (4) * (1996)
Start from the top of the first pitch of Chippy's Downfall.
1 25m. Follow an ice ramp and climb up into an ice-cave on the right wall. Hack your way out of this on the left and move up to easy ground.
2 50m. Follow easy ice over a bulge and scramble up to a belay on rocks on the right. A further 50m of easy ground leads to the plateau.

Photo Right: James Kinnaird about to hack through the ice umbrella on Chippy's Direct.

Directly below these lies the 50m Lower Icefall (II 1996).


The right-hand side of the Black Gairy of Merrick showing the routes.
Please click the picture for a bigger image.

A further 200m right of Chippy's Downfall, and just left of a rock buttress, are three gullies all starting from much the same point - the Triplets.  To the left of this area is a short, as yet Unnamed Icefall (III, 2010).

Fat Triplet
100m II (3) * (2010)
The left-hand gully gives a good first pitch.
1. 50m Climb steep ice to snow and then another ice bulge to rock belay.
2. 50m Step left and continue up the gully line to easy ground.

Photo Right: John Biggar on the first ascent of Fat Triplet (pitch 1).

Skinny Triplet 90m III (3) * (2010)
1. 50m The slim groove line up the left-side of the buttress, exiting leftwards and climbing up to stance on a terrace.
2. 40m Continue up steep ice in the same line.

Thick Triplet 50m II (3) (2010)
Start as for Skinny Triplet but follow the right-slanting gully to easier ground.



The Unnamed Buttress to the right has been climbed (III,4 2010).

On the right-hand side of the rock buttress are three more gullies.

Path to the Sun 100m III (4) **  (2010) The line of ice up the right-hand side of the buttress.
1. 40m Climb turf and icy smears to a cracked bock belay.
2. 60m Climb ice step above then easy snow.

Headtorch Gully 100m II (3) (2010)
1. 50m Follow the short central gully to an exit left and go up easy snow to a rock belay.
2. 50m Easy snow.
Nice Finish 50m I/II * (2010)
The right-slanting gully starting just right of Headtorch Gully. Easy snow slopes above.
Right again is an obvious wide icefall.

No Time for Lunch 120m II/III * (2010)
1. 50m Climb the icefall and then heather/snow.
2. 50m Icy slabs followed by easier ground.
Right again is the final gully of the crag.

Kirriemore Gully 120m II (2010)
The straight forward gully leads to icy slabs.

Further right still are more short icefalls, the Right Rib o' the Gairy (II/III 2010) which can be climbed by various lines. 

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. North East Couloir in the Howe of the Cauldron was climbed by Roy Gibson and Tom Black in 1996.

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.


Rob McAllister's first ascent description of
Interstellar Overdraft

The magnificent winter of 2009/10 revealed the Black Gairy to be a stunning venue for water ice climbs given the right conditions, and numerous new climbs were recorded, initially by Andrew Fraser and Ian Magill, and thereafter by John and Linda Biggar, Stephen Reid, James Kinnaird and various friends of theirs.

Icefalls on the Merrick in the superb winter of 2009/10. The ice pillar in the centre of the photo is Interstellar Overdraft

W 2006 Mar 5

White Rhino Left Variation L.Biggar, J.Biggar ( AL )

W 2006 Mar 5

White Rhino Right Variation D.McNicol, A.Brooke-Mee

W 2006 Mar 16

The Lonely Warthog J. Biggar, L. Biggar ( AL )

W 2006 Mar 16

The Icicle Thief S.Reid, C.Wells ( AL )

W 2008 Feb 19

Monsieur Marmalade J.Biggar, J.Kinnaird

W 2009 Jan 2

The Mosses, Slaps and Styles A.Fraser, I.Magill

W 2010 Jan 17

Black Rhino A.Fraser, I.Magill

W 2010 Feb 18

Retailers' Therapy S.Reid, J.Kinnaird ( AL )

W 2010 Feb 18

Scarting on Thin Ice S.Reid, J.Kinnaird ( AL )

W 2010 Feb 23

Chippy's Direct J.Kinnaird, S.Reid (AL)

W 2010 Feb 23

Kirshinnoch Corner J.Kinnaird, S.Reid ( AL )

W 2010 Mar 3

Fat Triplet J.Biggar, S.Reid ( AL )

W 2010 Mar 3

Thick Triplet S.Reid, J.Biggar

W 2010 Mar 3

Skinny Triplet J.Biggar, S. Reid ( AL )

W 2010 Mar 3

Right Rib o' the Gairy S.Reid, J.Biggar (solo)

W 2010 Mar 4

Chippy's Downfall originally finished via the Direct Finish. Finish described added by J.Biggar, Linda Biggar

W 2010 Mar 4

Kenny's Folly originally finished via Chippy's Downfall. Finish described added by S.Currie, I.Brown

W 2010 Mar 4

Path to the Sun J.Biggar, Linda Biggar ( AL )

W 2010 Mar 4

No Time for Lunch I.Brown, S.Currie ( AL )

W 2010 Mar 4

Kirriemore Gully J.Biggar, Linda Biggar ( AL )

W 2010 Mar 4

Nice Finish Linda Biggar, J.Biggar

W 2010 Mar 4

Headtorch Gully J.Kinnaird, S.Reid ( AL )

W 2010 Mar 10

Elephant Man C.Wells S.Reid ( AL )

W 2010 Mar 10

The Lang Scots Miles Easy Way S.Reid (solo)

W 2010 Dec

Unamed Icefall A.Fraser, I.Magill

W 2009 Dec

Unamed Buttress A.Fraser, I.Magill


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