John : Climbing Instructor and Guidebook Author

Go Climbing  Information about the services I can provide as a Mountaineering Instructor, including first ascents and new routes!

This new page has some information on new routes in the Galloway Hills, Kirkcudbrightshire and other parts of Dumfries and Galloway. The picture above was taken on Chippy's Downfall Direct, Black Gairy of the Merrick, 5th March 2010 - this direct finish first climbed and recorded a few weeks earlier.

Cairnsmore of Carsphairn (winter routes)

The Rhinns of Kells - Boxing Day Buttress  (winter routes)

Rhinns of Kells - Gullies (winter routes)

Rhinns of Kells  - Upper Gusher (winter routes)

Rhinns of Kells - Milldown NE ridge (winter route)

The Merrick ( many winter routes!!)


The Lookout

Meikle Ross


Memorial Crag   (lots of new routes so opens up a new page)

Craignaw Slabs  (lots of new routes so opens up a new page)


Cairnsmore of Fleet   (lots of new routes so opens up a new page)

Crammag Head   short new routs on the Lighthouse Walls

The Fleshmarket   nine routes across two new buttresses climbed in June 2009 - The Minimarket and The Vegetable Market are both described on this page.

Grey Mares Tail - a possible first winter ascent of the Grey Mares Tail in Galloway

 The climbing in Galloway is not sensational, but between the endless ankle-breaking tussocks and the heather, on a day when it is neither too wet nor too midge-ridden, if you can find someone to climb with and if you go to one of the better crags/routes, (and remember your wellies for the walk-in) then the climbing can actually be very, very good. You certainly won't be queuing for a route. If you ever want to go call me ....

Cairnsmore of Carsphairn

There is limited climbing on the two subsidiary hills to the east, Beninner and Moorbrock. Both hills are best  accessed from the south using a minor dead-end road off the B729. Leave from Craigengillan and walk in to Moorbrock Farm, then carry on to whichever hill you are heading for. If you climb on Moorbrock first you can then traverse over to Beninner Gairy.

Moorbrock Gairy   

GR.622985   E facing  Altitude c.550m

An impressive crag from a distance but there really isn't much climbing closer in. Towards the N end of the crag is a small buttress split by a shallow gully. Twisting Gully, I 50m, climbs the gully from the lowest rocks with a couple of easy steps. The rocks on the right of the gully are quite ice-glazed and give an entertaining variation. First recorded ascent 22nd January 2005 K. Livingston and J. Biggar

New Poons and Panties, Beninner Gairy, Cairnsmore of Carsphairn

Beninner Gairy   GR 608972    E facing  Altitude c. 600m

Pictured above. Just left of the ridge which splits the buttress is a  wide ramp that rises back rightwards above steep ground. The following route starts from the bottom of this ramp. New Poons and Panties II, 3  100m  Kenny had new poons, I had new panties (though I wasn't showing them). From where the ramp goes off to the right climb directly up ice glazed rocks and shelves for about 30-40m, surprisingly continuous ice, and some variation in line is possible. Then cross easier ground to finish up the gullies  either side of the short rock ridge under the plateau (if you're lucky they will have neve in them).  First recorded ascent 22nd January 2005, K. Livingston and J. Biggar

Rhinns of Kells - Boxing Day Buttress

Boxing Day Buttress,  Milldown   GR  514842    N facing  Altitude c. 650m

The climbing on this buttress is mostly on nice turfy rock, and the best conditions are a good freeze after a dusting of snow. There isn't always lots of protection but there is usually enough. Bring rock gear, wires and nuts are best. More reliable as a climbing venue than any other crag in Galloway, with the possible exception of the Howe of the Cauldron on the Merrick. Access via Forest Lodge, see the current SMC guidebook for details.

A wide gully runs down NE from the summit of Milldown. On the south flank of this there is a steep turfy buttress, Boxing Day buttress. See picture below.

Boxing Day Buttress, Rhinns of Kells, Corserine

 The most obvious feature of this buttress is a very straight gully towards the right hand side, this is the line of Baby Gully I/II, 120m **, which gives a really nice climb at the grade after a good freeze, when it is full of ice and frozen moss. First recorded ascent J. Biggar, L. Biggar, 6th March 2005. The buttress left of this is climbed by Boxing Day Buttress III, 4, 120m. Avoid the steepest section of the lower buttress by turfy grooves on the left (crux) then move slightly back R to climb the obvious vertical groove in the headwall on good turf. First recorded ascent J. Biggar, L. Biggar, 6th March 2005.   Boxing Shorts II, 3 100m takes a ramp line on the left of this buttress to a huge perched boulder.  The ramp goes leftwards here (easy finish) but a better finish goes directly up a wide turfy groove and the short headwall and narrow slot above. First recorded ascent 26th December 2004,  J. Biggar and I. Livingston


Rhinns - Biggar and Better Gullies


About 200m north of this buttress the gully running up from the wall is Biggar Gully III, and another 200m north or so is the parallel Better Gully, III **. Both of these can hold quite large amounts of ice, often invisible until you get to the bottom! Both gullies area series of short pitches of up to 10-15m, giving relatively technical and enjoyable climbing.

Myself on Better Gully.

Rhinns of Kells - Upper Gusher, Little Flusher and the Great Cleugh of Auchniebut

We got back in to Milldown's southern corrie several times during a good week in January 2013, climbed several new routes including the excellent Upper Gusher icefall and the long rambling Great Cleugh of Auchniebut!

See our Rhinns of Kells Winter Climbs page for more details.

Top pitch of the Upper Gusher, above and below.

The neighbouring Little Flusher was another nice climb. Myself leading this 30m ice pitch.

....and then Stephen and Colin went back for the epic Great Cleugh of Auchniebut. 700m of grade II, though not all of it climbing!


Rhinns -  Milldown NE ridge

On the NE ridge of Milldown, an enjoyable grade I/II scramble, December 2012.

On the NE ridge of Milldown, an enjoyable grade I/II scramble, December 2012. Such an obvious and entertaining line must have been climbed before, but just never recorded.

More info on new routes on Milldown at this page:-
Rhinns of Kells Winter Climbs


I've been involved in two new routes on this wee crag of nice sandstone. Further details and a crag photo here.

The Lookout

I've been involved in two new routes on this wee crag on the coast near Clifton - a good spot to visit if its wet or midgy at Clifton, though there are only a few routes its a pleasant place. Details of other routes in the SMC guidebook 'Lowland Outcrops'  or at the Needlesports website.

Tombstone Slab

The Old Grey Wacke Test 13m VS 4c ** (2005)   Climb the main slab on the left, crossing the overlap via a thin crack near the left arte, and finish via a left-facing groove. Stephen Reid, Linda Biggar, John Biggar, 26th August 2005

The Tombstone 13m VS 4c ** (1982) Climb the main slab on the right, crossing the overlap via a thin crack just right of centre. Finish up the diamond shaped top slab via a scoop to the left of the cracks. The original route on this slab climbed in 1982.

 The Long and Winding Road 13m VD * (2005)  Climb the main slab via its right edge until it is possible to step right over the offwidth crack onto the hanging slab. Go up this and finish up the diamond shaped top slab via cracks on the right.  John Biggar, Linda Biggar, Stephen Reid, 26th August 2005

Meikle Ross

We've done a couple of lines at Fox Craig on Meikle Ross that aren't in any of the guidebooks, although they have probably been done by someone else before. We called these Left Arete VS 4b and Twin Cracks S 4a, see our Meikle Ross page for more details. In summer 2007 we've put up several lines on the small (but nice) Crab Slab, see below.

Crab Slab

A pleasant wee area just east of Limehouse Blues and somewhat dwarfed by that cliff, although the routes here are still 12-15m long..!.  The best access is down the grassy ramp at the west end of Fox Craig. This area has a nice base, good solid block belays at the top, very little loose rock, generally good protection and has routes from Mod. to VS. Not at all like most Meikle Ross climbing then. Routes were first recorded and named in summer 2007, by myself, Ian Brown, Linda Biggar and David McNicol, though they may have been done earlier.

Ian Brown on the first ascent of Mutant Slater.

Ian Brown on the first ascent of Mutant Slater, HS, September 2007. The slater, at least 5cm long, emerged from the crack into the sunlight and raced towards the top of the route ahead of Ian.

The routes are 12-15m long, the crag is generally non-tidal though at very high tides or very high seas might not be accessible. Descend the gully at the back or abseil.

The slab was named after the numerous crab body parts lying around at the top on our first day here. Arthropomorphic is particularly recommended, micro cams in a horizontal break at 5m provide the only runners though. Start at the small triangular niche (like an Up Elevator symbol). Runners on other routes are generally OK, mostly small to medium cams and wires.


The highest peak in Galloway, Kirkcudbrightshire and indeed the whole of the Southern Uplands, the Merrick has some good winter climbing on the North West side. Contrary to what the guidebook says the best climbing conditions appear to be after a long hard freeze, with no snow necessary (Although the classic icicle of Interstellar overdraft appears to need melting snow to form...?)

The ice falls on the Merrick, brilliant winter routes in southern Scotland

The Merrick ice-falls in excellent condition with fully fat ice, March 5th 2006, White Rhino, Icicle Thief and Lonely Warthog all appear to have had first ascents around this time, if you know better please email me!

White Rhino, III ** 180m. Two pictures form the first recorded ascent below. This route climbs 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 the left and right. Poor rock gear so take ice-screws and warthogs. First recorded ascents, Left Variation L. Biggar and J. Biggar, 5th March 2006, Right Variation, D. McNicol and A. Brooke-Mee, 5th March 2006.

White Rhino ice climb, Galloway Hills              

Lonely Warthog. III/IV, 3, 180m.  Called the Lonely Warthog for good reason, don't expect much more protection! In particular the rock gear is very poor. 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. The route passes a reassuringly large and chunky spike belay at the left hand end of a square wall after 40m. Above these two pitches another 100m or so of easy angled ice, or grade I snow, lead to the plateau. First recorded ascent J. Biggar and L. Biggar, 16th March 2006.

Icicle Thief, III *, 180m, Climbs the nice continuous ice line left of the Lonely Warthog, start up the same easy angled access pitch. First recorded ascent S. Reid and C. Wells, 16th March 2006

About 100m the left of the Black Gutter is one further route, climbed 19th February 2008 by J. Kinnaird and J. Biggar. Monsieur Marmalade, III, 4, 150m  starts at a narrow slot in the lower tier below a leftwards dog leg ice stream on the upper face. Climb the slot, cross the grass and climb the dog leg upper ice stream, in about 4 or 5 pitches altogether.

James Kinnaird finishing the technical crux at the top of Monsieur Marmalade, III, 4.... and below on one of the easier sections, conditions were a little bit thin.!

2010 - New routes on the Right Hand Side of the Black Gairy

Further right from the main routes on the Black Gairy is a good long buttress giving many easier grade routes of up to 100m long. This area is very convenient for the descent route, great for a short day out or grabbing one more route before it gets dark! These routes really require a bit of snow on them to be worth doing. All those routes in the topo below first recorded on 4th and 5th March 2010 by Stephen Reid, John and Linda Biggar, Ian Brown and Sandy Currie.

Linda Biggar on the awkward crux of Chippy's Downfall Direct finish, March 2010. James K and Stephen made the first ascent a few weeks earlier - at least like this!

Linda Biggar on the awkward crux of Chippy's Downfall Direct finish, March 2010. James K and Stephen made the first ascent a few weeks earlier - at least like this!


Rock climbign at Clifton - new routes topo

Three new routes in this area which lies just left of the Twin Cracks buttress were done as detailed below. The routes are 10-13m long and the slab of Piece of Cake is a particularly nice little route. Just left of Piece of Cake we also climbed Chimpish, finishing at the highest part of the crag, but it's not a very good route.

First Recorded Ascents : - Gorilla Warfare, J. Biggar, L.Biggar, 3rd May 2006, Chimpish, J. Biggar, K. Berry, 3rd May 2006, Piece of Cake, L. Biggar, A. Brooke-Mee, 3rd May 2006.

Also climbed in  2007 were two probable new lines on the slab - Sidecrack VD, J. Biggar and J. Kinnaird, April 2007 gives some nice enough climbing but is still a bit mossy. It takes a line about 1-2m left of Crack Up. On the right, about 1m left of the corner crack (Diff.) is Frictional Belief, E2 5b,  first recorded ascent by J. Biggar, I. Brown, K. Brown, 25th September 2007. This gives good independent climbing up the blank slab on the right, although if you are the type of climber who likes to place runners you will have to weave around a bit. Probably only E1 if you weave about a  lot, E2 if you go for the top with belief.



We've done a few new routes here in September 2007. On the big slabs on the right we climbed a line left of Capricorn Relish, S 55m. Start up the left side of the lower slab then by a small left facing overlap up the upper slab, a bit less bold than the other slab climbs here. We've also done a couple of extra lines on White Slab. See our Craigdews page for details of these.


Grey Mares Tail

There is a much less famous Grey Mares Tail in Galloway as well, and despite the fact that it is less than 100m form the road near Murray's Monument there was no record of it receiving a winter ascent before the big freeze of January 2010 when we went there and climbed it - a short but enjoyable grade II, 3, about 25m in total length - not bad for a 1 minute walk-in.!

Ice climbing  on the Galloway Grey Mares Tail




Map of Dumfries and Galloway showing climbing areas

Galloway Climbing Links

Merrick Summit Panorama  The longest theoretical  line of sight possible in the British Isles is from the top of the Merrick to Snowdon in Wales, a distance of 232km  - see this site for details and other great summit panoramas.

Galloway Climbing Index  Route Diagrams and topos on this website. An index page on this website with links to lots of information about climbing on the various crags in Galloway - mostly the Kirkcudbrightshire end.

Galloway climbing   A web page run by Stephen Reid of Needlesports with some good Galloway climbing information, including some more new route information.

Winter Climbing in Galloway - Some winter photos.

Galloway Mountain Rescue Team - The local rescue team.