Introduction The Fleshmarket crag and The Big Gairy lie on a hill called Craignelder (also known as Craig-an-Eilte), an outlier of Cairnsmore of Fleet in the southern Galloway Hills. The Fleshmarket has excellent rock and a very nice outlook, but it requires several days or even a week of dry weather to be a good venue.
Access The access is pretty long, quickest by following the un-gated forestry roads as marked on the map up the hillside to the west of Craignelder, starting from either the old campsite at Talnotry or near Corwar crag, on foot or by mountain bike. Follow this forest road up the hillside below and to the west of the crag to the last zig-zag bend then traverse along an old forestry ride (felled on the upper side now) to the open ground, then steeply uphill to the crag. Alternatively go to the very end of the forestry road where there is a turning area, then you are almost level with the crag. This second approach is a little bit shorter and less steep, but it is over rougher ground - however it is definitely the best way to the newly opened climbs on the Vegetable Market.
Dangers This is a remote mountain crag and can be a bit mossy and grassy. The Fleshmarket crag is slow to dry due to a large weeping bog at the top, about a week of dry weather is recommended prior to a visit. However the vast majority of the rock is impeccably sound granite and the smaller area of The Minimarket does dry quickly. There are lots of adders on this hillside, but not a problem on the routes....so far.!
For details of winter routes on this crag click here.
There are three main areas at the crag now, after a day of new routing in June 2009. The original area, which has always been known locally as The Fleshmarket, gives the best climbs, but the Minimarket is a lovely little sheltered venue with good clean dry rock and the Vegetable Market has some intriguing and very long lines. The Big Gairy is a separate "crag" lying downhill below the Minimarket.
Descents The best descent is the steep grassy gully just left (looking up) of the tower. Alternatively if you don't like the look of this steep grass toboggan run, continue about 200m further west to an easy walk off. Routes that finish on the tower can be descended by abseil off a spike block, or scramble to the top and walk off.
Gloom is a good route despite the name and appearances, though it leaves you with a very unfinished feel as you are forced to traverse off half way up the crag. Original Route graded HS in the SMC guidebook is hard for the grade, maybe even at VS.!. Eilte Pinnacle Rib is hard to follow and (possibly) hard for the grade. Adder Country and Kerb Crawler are both very slow to dry, but the damp traverse high up on Kerb Crawler is well protected, not very hard and not badly compromised by the wet. Kerb Crawler is a much better route than it appears to be from below, much less affected by moss, damp, etc.
The picture above is of James leading the big crack of Gloom at the Fleshmarket..
Over on the left is a small pleasant area, something of a sun-trap in the right conditions. The rock is very nice, although the large detached flake of Trolley Wobbles is slightly un-nerving. On the left hand buttress two routes have been recorded, Shopping Around climbs the arÍte but avoids the (very) hard moves on the right. Traverse of the goats is a long, juggy traverse, 25m plus more rope to reach a belay. Descend either side of the crags.
The four routes on the right hand buttress, (about 50m right of the above buttress) are all about 15m long, but the top slab is easy.
Criag-an-Eilte's longest route is here, the 115m long and very rambling Galloway Gallivant. There is some very nice climbing, particularly on Blaeberry Buttress, but one or two large heather/grass patches as well on this crag. Route descriptions for these three new routes are listed below.
Blaeberry Buttress 80m, HS **
Some very enjoyable moves, plenty of protection where it matters and very little vegetation (apart form the blaeberries at every belay) make for an excellent route. Start directly beneath the low-angled blocky rib and clean whitish slab, 4m right of a small black recess (possible direct start here, unclimbed so far, probably HS/VS) at a short, mossy but juggy wall.
1. 25m (4b). Climb the short juggy wall, move left to a crack and follow this and the excellent clean slab above, crux at top. Belay 2m right of the blocky rib.
2. 25m (4b). Climb the rib, using zigzag cracks to an awkward mantleshelf on the nose. Easily up the slab above to belay below the next steep step.
3. 30m (4b). Finish the rib with a great move off the top of a block on extreme left. Another steep pull leads to a heather ledge and low-lying flake, traverse 2m right to the steep corner. Pull up this and climb onto a block, then step dramatically right onto the juggy arÍte and a satisfyingly steep finish.
John and Linda Biggar (AL), 2nd July 2009.
Linda Biggar on the crux slab of Blaeberry Buttress, HS**, during the first ascent July 2009.
2. Galloway Gallivant 115m HVS
An interesting climb despite some heather pulling. It improves with height. To the right of the steep cracked wall is a smaller smooth wall with a stepped arÍte on its left side. The arÍte has a small niche near its top. Start directly below this arÍte towards the right-hand side of the initial slabs at a large flake.
1 30m (4c). Climb the flake leftwards and slabs above to belay at the foot of the stepped arÍte.
2 10m (4a). Climb the stepped arÍte to just below the niche and belay on a large ledge on the left.
3 25m (5a). Monkey up the short crack in the centre of the steeply overhanging wall to an awkward exit onto slabs. Trend leftward up the first slab, then straight up to belay just left of a short arÍte.
4 50m (4c). Make a hard move up the arÍte then climb easily to a belay then pad up slabs to the top.
John Biggar, Stephen Reid (VL), 16th June 2009
3. Niche Market
The challenge of the niche direct. Start just right of the large flake on Galloway Gallivant.
1 30m (4c). Climb onto a small square turf ledge and make some steep moves to gain a slab. Go straight up heather and rock above to belay at the foot of the stepped arÍte.
2 35m (6a). Climb the right-hand of two crack systems in the wall to gain the stepped arÍte just below the niche. Gain the niche with a strange move and leave it via a tenuous swing to the right and even more tenuous mantelshelf (protection is from two or three Camelot 0.3s or equivalents). From the slab, climb leftwards up rock and heather to belay just right of the short rounded arÍte.
3 50m (5b). Make a series of bold moves up the short leftward-facing corner and scoop above. The pad up slabs to block belays on a grass ledge at the top.
Chris King, Stephen Reid, 24th June 2009
Route descriptions for Galloway Gallivant and Niche Market are © Stephen Reid at Needlesports.
This large rambling cliff, has only seen one route recorded, Pale Face, VS, which takes a line left of the central gully. The rock (where it shows through the heather) is good quality granite.
For details of winter routes on this crag click here.