John : Climbing Instructor and Guidebook Author

Rock Climbing at Memorial Crag, Craignaw

Introduction   Craignaw is a great wee rocky hill in the middle of the Galloway Hills, with some of the best ice-climbing in southern Scotland on its eastern flanks. This page has details of  new routes climbed on Memorial Crag near the summit since the 2004 guidebook was published. There are links below to summer climbing on two other areas on Craignaw.

There is also lots of good winter climbing on Craignaw for which we have a separate page.

The Slabs  Easy but unusual routes on good clean slabs.

Snibe Hill  Good routes on a disjointed buttress at the south end of the hill.

Memorial Crag

Memorial Crag, Craignaw

Introduction  This small, steep, west facing crag of impeccable granite sits immediately below the summit of Craignaw and overlooks Loch Neldricken. The bottom of the crag is a fine grassy area, and the crag would make a fine bouldering venue too as the landings are generally very good. Just below the crag is a small memorial to two US Airforce pilots (Captains Spaulding and Hetzner) who were killed in a plane crash there in 1979. Hence many of the route names. On a sunny day Memorial Crag is an idyllic spot with wonderful views. It is, however, also a long way from anywhere and can be approached either as for the Dungeon of Buchan, or from Glen Trool (2hrs 30mins). Main Wall is very steep, and potentially home to some of the hardest routes in the Galloway Hills. Only the easiest lines have been done so far.

Access  The access is pretty long. To get to Memorial Crag park at Craignecallie at the end of an unmarked road around the west side of Clatteringshaws Loch. Then bike about 5km to the Backhill of Bush bothy. Follow a forest ride from just south of the bothy to reach the Cooran Lane and the large floating bog of the Silver Flowe beyond. From here you have your first real view of Craignaw. Cross the bog more or less directly westwards, to the round Loch of the Dungeon, then it is best to head up the valley towards the Nick of the Dungeon, then head southwards to the summit of Craignaw. Memorial Crag lies about 200m SSW of the summit of Craignaw (645m spot height), it faces west at an altitude of 600m. It can also be reached by a long walk from Glen Trool.

Dangers  This is a remote mountain crag but the vast majority of the rock is impeccably sound and clean. Some large loose flakes were removed from he routes on Zebra Wall and there may still be one or two of these around.

Descents  You can descend either end of the crag, routes are obvious.

Memorial crag route topo, Galloway Hills

Mij's Chimney    8m  VD   SJH Reid, J Biggar,      15th June 2006

Not marked on the photo-topo. The short steep chimney in the upper wall on the left, can be combined with Midge's Slab

1. Mij's Slab   10m D *  J Biggar (solo), 1st June 2006

The slab can be climbed anywhere, to a walk off left. The upper wall has not yet succumbed. Descended immediately beforehand (solo) by Midge the Border Terrier (in full control) much to the astonishment of the rest of the party!

2. Captains Crack   20m E1 5b **      SJH Reid, J Biggar, L Biggar, S Baxendale, 1st June 2006

Steep and strenuous, but thankfully juggy, and will take as many cams as you can carry - in fact it may only be sustained HVS. Follow the crack system to awkward moves to overcome a bulge and gain a grass ledge ledge. Move up to a smaller grass ledge on the right and finish up the left slanting cracks above. (Pictured above on the title banner is  Stephen Reid making the first ascent)

3. Memorial Wall    25m E2 5c ***  C King, SJH Reid 15th June 2006

Start just left of General Dynamics and climb the crack system up and leftwards to a large ledge. Climb the steep cracked slab above.

4. Aerial Combat   15m E2 5b **    C King, SJH Reid, J Biggar  15th June 2006

Start as for General Dynamics to the horizontal break, then move up and left via a large ledge to a hard finish at the grass ledge. Steep and strenuous, but well protected.

5. General Dynamics   20m, E1 5b **   J Biggar, L Biggar, SJH Reid, 1st June 2006

The next obvious feature, some 5 metres to the right, is a short left facing groove that leads at 4 metres to a long crack leading rightwards. Climb the groove and hand traverse the crack rightwards with a long thin reach to gain a good hold on a block. Commit to this to make a wild swing right into a shallow groove up which the climb finishes. Pictured below, myself on the first ascent.

John Biggar on the first ascent of General Dynamics, E1, Memorial Crag, Craignaw

6. The Murder Hole  15m E3 6a  *  C King, SJH Reid 15th June 2006

Climb a steep left facing groove to the left end of the roof, step left with difficulty and finish up the  shallow groove of General Dynamics. May only be hard E2 5c.

7.  Granny Eggface 12m E2 5c  *   C King, SJH Reid 15th June 2006

Further right another groove leads to a deceptively small roof. Climb to the small roof and make hard moves through the roof and up the steep slab above 

8. Aardvark 10m  VS 4b     J Biggar, SJH Reid, 2002

Immediately round to the right of Main Wall is a short left leaning slab with a crack on its left side in the upper half. Climb the slab which is not particularly well protected, then the crack.

9. Back to Bax 10m S 4a     S Baxendale, L Biggar, 1st June 2006

Just right of the slab of Aardvark is a short trench-like groove/crack system. Climb this to a ledge then make a hard move up right to finish.

10. Frog Grooves 15m HS 4b *, L Biggar, J Biggar, SJH Reid, 1st June 2006

A parallel line just a few metres further right leads to the long grassy ramp. Finish up the cracked wall above the ramp.

The next climbs lie on the small stripy Zebra Wall, which lies above the grassy descent ramp. The wall has many parallel leaning cracks.

11. F-111  8m VS 5a  J Biggar, SJH Reid,    15th June 2006

The leftmost of the slanting cracks is shorter and more awkward than it looks.

12. Zebra  12m VS 5a  ** L. Biggar, J Biggar, 1st June 2006

2m right climb the most prominent left slanting crack system with a hard move near the middle on a downward spike. Only 4c if you can jam!

13. Camelot Crack 15m E1 5b **      SJH Reid, C King, J Biggar,  15th June 2006

In the middle of the wall, climb the short corner/groove and the continuation left slanting crack above

14. Cameater Crack 15m VS 4c  * J Biggar, SJH Reid, C King  15th June 2006

2m right climb another left slanting crack system , longer and easier than it looks!.

15. Sword of Damocles 15m S 4a *    J Biggar,SJH Reid 15th June 2006

1m right climb another left slanting crack system, this one quite straightforward. The sword now lies at the foot of the crag.


Dungeon of Buchan    There are some great rock climbs on the neighbouring Dungeon Hill buttresses, the longest routes in southern Scotland.

There is more climbing on Craignaw at  Snibe Hill. and at The Slabs (links open new pages)

Winter climbs on Craignaw


Pictured Below :- Giant tussock grass in Galloway, Winter 2006.  Known locally as "Dougals" (remember that wee dog in the Magic Roundabout...) We found these ones on the way across the Silver Flowe towards Craignaw, they were the deepest yet!

Giant tussock grass, Sliver Flowe, Galloway, known locally as "Dougals", Winter 2006

 Text Stephen Reid & John Biggar.