Cummingston – My local cliff needs some Care – Do you use it ?

Cummingson cliff

Yesterday and today in the sun I walked down to my local Cummingston Sea Cliffs and was amazed by the erosion on the descent path. There was a small group climbing I have been coming here since 1972 with the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams is an incredible place with the sandstone sea stacks, the huge caves and the back ground of the Moray Firth. It is a place of some lovely climbing and great views of the Moray Firth  and the sea and very often the Dolphins are about.  It is also a great place for kids and family times and the locals love it. The backdrop of the sea and the Moray Firth make this a special place for many.

The Cummingston cliff a grand place to climb.

The Cummingston cliff a grand place to climb.

Nowadays it is  so well used, large groups from many Outdoor Centres use this place especially in bad weather and the toll can be seen on the descent path and the cliff edges. Maybe it is time some put something back and started a fund to repair the erosion? It is pretty slippy just now so watch as you go down to the cliffs. There I am sure was a working group formed to look after this wonderful place but little seems to have been done any ideas? Does this mean that many locals will struggle to take their young kids done this path now, I know I would be wary with my two girls?

Erosion at Cummingston

Erosion at Cummingston

I wrote about this a few years ago but we seem to have hit a brick wall?  It seems many  just use and think nothing of the impact what can we do? Yet many of these groups are businesses and people pay for instruction maybe a balance is needing to be taken like those who use the Mountains for huge Charity Events like the Three Peaks? How much would it cost to the upkeep of the paths and look after the  mountains and crags?

Cummingston can be busy

Cummingston can be busy

I am sure there is money about and was a Trustee for a few years of the “Scottish Mountain Trust ” who have given huge sums over £700, 000 over 30 years to footpath repairs and other environmental and educational mountaineering causes. Few know about this and at least the SMT who produce mountaineering guidebooks and the great work they do and good to see that some guidebooks are putting something back. Maybe something like that would help?

Very eroded at the top of the cliff.

Very eroded at the top of the cliff.

Is it time to get together there was a group several years ago all they seemed to do was talk with no action. Any ideas before I contact some of the big group users?

If you love this area please share this and lets look after what we have before its too late? Even better if part of a group that uses this cliff get in touch we cannot leave things as they are

Think about future generations and the use of this lovely crag

Any takers ?…/cummingston%20sea%20cliff%20user%20code.p…



• Do we need to go there at all?!!!!

• Can we be imaginative? Extended bouldering session, offering different activities, etc, would all go towards reducing cliff-top erosion. USING THE STAKES.

• There should be no moving ropes going over the edge of the cliff other than when leading/seconding in the traditional manner, or in the case of abseil safety ropes and top-roping.

• All edges with anchor ropes going over them should be protected with either rope protectors or carpet, similarly if abseiling. Carpet provides better protection and its use is to be encouraged– the emphasis is on protecting the rock as opposed to protecting the rope. If you protect the rock you will protect the rope.

• All rigging ropes should be static ropes to reduce stretch and therefore the sawing effect on the ground. • Ropes should be brought to a single point before the edge of the cliff and then extended over the cliff edge and padded appropriately.


Ropes should not be put down a climb unless it is to be used within a short period of time. The rigging can be prepared and ropes left on the top until needed • Group equipment should be kept together and not strewn around the bottom of the climbs. • Those climbing with leader-placed protection will always take precedence over a group session. The instructor should therefore make any visiting climbers aware that they will be happy to move the ropes out of the way if the climbers wish to climb that particular route.

FOOTPATHS. • Until appropriate work is carried out, the descent path below Sunshine Wall should be used as little as possible. When used, it should be in such a manner as to minimize any further erosion.

EDUCATION OF THE GROUP. • On arrival, the group needs to be made aware that the site is a SSSI as well as any access issues, and be encouraged to preserve or improve the status quo whilst they are there. Their instructor is liable for the group’s actions and behaviour.

• They should not use the cave areas as a toilet. Only areas washed frequently by the sea (i.e. the back of the stack) should be used. Alternatively, there are excellent facilities in the car park.

• Instructors should ensure groups do not scratch their names onto the rock or throw stones at the crag, as the soft sandstone will never recover.

• Groups at the abseil site at the top of Green Crack should be made to sit well back on the grass and not on the turf cornice at the head of the erosion scar.

INTER-USER COMMUNICATION • If the main heavy-user centres can communicate with each other about any imminent large group use it will help reduce both erosion and congestion. Emailing or ‘phoning each other prior to departure from the centre, planning ahead, and communication are to be encouraged.

The following were included in the consultation process: Pete Hill MIC, Adventure Consultants UK, Malcolm Lee MIC, Glenmore Lodge, RAF Grantown, Abernethy Trust, Active Outdoor Pursuits, Outfit Moray, Mountain Leader Training Scotland, Gordonstoun School, Moray Mountain Club, SNH, Moray Council Coastal Ranger, Andy Nisbet-SMT area guide editor, MCofS Access Committee.

About heavywhalley.MBE

After dinner speaker Lecturer and Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 36 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 4 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer and loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Enviroment, Friends, Local area and events to see, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

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