4 clubs, 56 people, 32 kids, 300 boulders, 1 campsite
“It was very exciting and one of the best weekends I’ve ever had. The outdoor bouldering was brilliant, and it was great to get to know other climbers from around Scotland – I loved spending time with people who love the same sport as me! The camping and camp fires were especially great – the only downside was the midges!”
Anna (Aged 9)
It was a weekend to be remembered as four of our clubs descended on Torridon for a mega weekend of bouldering, with loads of climbing, swimming in the sea and a tent ceilidh. Glasgow Gorillas chairperson Robert MacKenzie gives us the story.
The Glasgow Gorillas are a youth focused outdoor climbing club based in Glasgow. We do monthly outdoor trips, but it was time for something bigger – and we don’t do things by half.
We originally planned this as a small club weekend to the Torridon boulders, with a few of the Gorillas and their parents going to hang out in the glen for a couple of chilled days. That plan didn’t last long! I may have ‘accidentally’ invited a few more folk.
“We had a blast (Jack is still high as a kite) and my first camping experience”
You know it’s easy to do, to one day mention in passing that we are planning a ‘small’ trip and before you know it you’ve invited the Orkney Climbing Club, the Inside Out Climbing Club and the Caithness Climbers. It’s easy done…
“That was awesome. Best game of hide and seek ever”
Throughout Friday the army descended on the Torridon campsite. The plentiful space available quickly got eaten up with each club ‘fort’ being constructed. There were nine from Caithness Climbers, 12 from Orkney Climbing Club, 19 from the Gorillas and 12 from Inside Out Climbing Club.
As people were still arriving, the early birds headed off to the Celtic Jumble for an evening session to test the conditions and scope out the projects for the next day. Obviously, everybody gravitated towards the test pieces; no one was there for an easy session.
Finally, managing to convince everyone to chill and save some skin, we returned for some dinner. Everyone retreated back to their forts to refuel. I still think I won the ‘Who can make the fanciest dinner’ competition!
The Gorillas were first on the ball with the fire pit, and soon had a decent fire going ready for the evening, to keep warm and keep the midge away.
However, most of these kids had never met before, so for a while there was lots of “I wanna go over but I don’t know anyone”, “Shall we? …no”. This needed fixing, so after rounding up all the kids they were sent off on a team-building exercise to get more firewood, and to make sure they were all thoroughly introduced we played the mega chaotic game of Rainbow Rage.
“I am definitely going to that again next year. Make sure you book it, Mum!”
An early start, peering out the windows of the car to the Orkney kids standing with midge nets on did not bode well, and forced breakfast in bed (Skampervan).
But the climbing gods were shining on us as we made our way to the crag and a slight breeze and some sunshine helped keep the midge at bay.
Torridon boulders are a total hidden gem. The quality of the climbing is world class and there are around 10 areas to check out with up to 100 problems per area, but it’s relatively unknown unless you’re Scottish boulderer so it’s usually pretty quiet. So for a multi-club climbing trip, it’s pretty much perfect. As everyone soon discovered.
It’s like a young climbers’ paradise, super high quality easy climbing and loads of hard test pieces for the mega keen, and with a lifetime’s worth of caves and holes for the younger and more adventurous to go all Indiana Jones in.
Classic problems like Celtic Knot were an instant favourite, with pretty much everyone making it their project for the day.
Some of the problems are pretty highball too. Some big faces bring amazing long problems that really test the mental side of your climbing, which you don’t often get in bouldering. This was a real eye opener for everyone, not just the kids.
A solid eight hours of crushing later, and leaving all the skin behind, we bailed back to camp for dinner, with everyone wondering what Saturday evening would bring.
“Can we go swimming in the sea?”
One of the Gorillas jokingly asked, The response: “Yeah, of course, go tell everyone that’s the plan.”
After dinner was demolished by everyone, we grabbed some towels and clothes and wandered down the road to the beach at the end of Upper Loch Torridon. A few faces still didn’t believe we were actually going to go in, but as we reached the beach and the first brave souls tip-toed into the water it didn’t take long for a stampede of kids to take the plunge.
The idea was to swim, but we all soon discovered that the water was only a couple feet deep and we could all stand so, after seeing there was an island not far away, everyone decided that was the goal. We walked out as far as we could and swam the last 25m to the island for a team photo.
Bunch of nutters the lot of you!
A quick photo opp and we were all back in the water making our way back to the beach (with me pushing a log that little Anna was using as a float). As our merpeople all resurfaced, we were all glad to find the Fort William team had built a nice fire for us all to warm and eat marshmallows around. Good plan!
A ceilidh? In a tent?
“I had an AMAZING time!!!”
Myself and Jamie bailed from the beach early to prepare. In 20 minutes we had the eight-man tent up and sound system in place. We ushered all the kids into the tent, all of them with huge smiles, excited to hear what we were planning.
You should have seen their faces drop when we said we were having a ceilidh!
With no planning, some interesting bagpipe dubstep, an eight-man tent and 30 kids it was one of the best ceilidhs I have ever been to, with memories of having to duck when you reached one end as the roof got too low, a Gay Gordons on a wet floor sending me and Hannah out the bottom into a puddle, little children hiding in corners trying to trip people, and everyone fully committing to having such a laugh.
Best Ceilidh ever!
Sunday home time
“There’s more skin on the boulders than there is on my hands now“
Sunday morning. Original hopes of a morning climb were not to be, with the single layer of skin left on everyone fingers, so we packed up camp leaving nothing behind, started making plans for the next trip and said our good byes.
Huge thank you to Jim Cross, Ian Rendall, Hannah Francis, Mike Pescod and Bekki Christian for being just as nuts as I am and helping me organise this mega event. Thank you to everyone in the Glasgow Gorillas, Orkney Climbing Club, Inside Out Climbing Club and Caithness Climbers.
What an amazing weekend with a truly awesome group of people.