Introduction There are several good but remote rock-climbing areas on the 711m high hill of Cairnsmore of Fleet. The rock is all very good quality granite, The Slab of the Spout is a particularly fine 25m sweep of rock in a lovely isolated area. There are also a couple of good winter routes
Pictured above is myself on the first ascent of "Faith in Flares", E1 5b, The Slab of the Spout, 20th April 2009. Photo copyright and courtesy of David McNicol of Gatehouse.
Detailed on this page are the small Knee of Cairnsmore, and the Slab of the Spout and Spout of the Clints on the large rambling crag on the east face known as the "Clints of the Spout". Pictured above are the last two areas as seen from the approach walk.
There are also a few good winter routes in the Clints of the Spout corrie.
Access The access is long, quickest from the parking area to the south by the viaduct near the Clints of Dromore. To get to the Clints of Dromore drive north up the B796 from Gatehouse of Fleet to the disused Gatehouse of Fleet station. From here a short public road leads rightwards past the SNH Nature Reserve office to the big old railway viaduct where you can park (NX557644). From here a forest road continues northwards, after 500m or so stay left (the righthand road goes to Loch Grannoch crag), and continue for 2km to the end of the forestry at grid reference NX533646. From here walk in a more or less straight line to the Knee of Cairnsmore (about 40mins.), continuing onwards for another 20 minutes for the Spout of the Clints and the Slab of the Spout, about 80 minutes from the viaduct if using a bike. A few days of dry weather are recommended prior to a visit to either of the slabby crags, a week or more of dry weather is recommended before trying the Spout. In winter, about a week of good hard frost is needed to bring the routes into condition.
Dangers These are remote mountain crags and still a bit mossy and grassy. Protection on most of the routes on Slab of the Spout is either non-existent or merely faith based.! There are lots of adders on this hillside, but not a problem on the routes....so far.
Splendid isolation, perfect granite and a new route. David MacNicol on the easy moves between the cruxes on the excellent arÍte of The Sugar Loafers, Slab of the Spout.
This small crag is the first encountered when following the approach detailed above, about 40 minutes walk from the end of the forestry road, across generally benign Galloway moorland. The crag is easily seen and approached and is at NX514659. The crag is more easy angled than it first appears and there are three very easy routes, all about 20m long. Descend either side. This crag is nice as a quick warm-up venue if you are heading for the Slab of the Spout or the Spout of the Clints.
A grand piece of Galloway granite, fairly clean and smooth and largely un-interrupted for 20 to 25m. The Slab of the Spout is located about 100m south of the Spout of the Clints and about half height on the hillside. There is a flat grassy base and a very pleasant outlook to the east. The crag loses the sun early, typically at 2-3pm. Protection is very tricky to arrange and requires many small to medium cams and faith in small flaring cracks. Luckily the crux's of many routes are relatively low down, only 5m to 6m off the grass. Though the routes are only 25m long, a 50m or 60m rope is needed to reach belays which are well back from the top of the crag. Approach the Slab of the Spout as for the Knee above but continue onwards for about 20 minutes. The crag is clearly seen if following this approach.
David McNicol leaving the heather behind on the first ascent of Pao de Spout, HVS 4c, Cairnsmore of Fleet.
Descent The best descent from the Slab of the Spout is a short, easy and genteel path made by the local goats on the left of the crag when facing inwards. Much calmer and less fraught than the climbing.!
Linda Biggar topping out on the first ascent of The Sugar Loafers, Hard Severe, Slab of the Spout, Cairnsmore of Fleet.
John Biggar on the first ascent of "Faith in Flares, E1 5b"
One of the longest routes in Galloway is the long cleft of the Spout of the Clints, which splits the crag of the Clints of the Spout. A very obvious feature in the centre of the crag when seen from the east, the route is normally wet and contains four pitches of VS. It was originally known as Lost Pilots Gully after the two WWII Avro Anson aircraft crashes in the corrie. Remnants of the engines can still be seen below the crags and there are even odd bits of aircraft aluminium in the gully.
Looking up the Spout of the Clints in good winter conditions December 2010.
A number of winter routes have been recorded on the east side of Cairnsmore of Fleet. The Spout of the Clints has been climbed at Grade V and further to the right the prominent continuous icefall of Smear Test gives a really good three pitch Grade IV. Twenty meters right of Smear Test is another less continuous line, giving the grade III route, Mulled Wine (FA 23rd December 2010). These climbs need a good long freeze due to their low altitude and proximity to the sea. First ascents were made by Stephen Reid, Colin Hossack, John & Linda Biggar and Chris Bonington and Doug Scott.
Above and below. Colin Hossack on pitch three of Smear Test, December 2010
Pitches two and three of Smear Test.