Saturday, 31 December 2011

Another day of climbing in the rain.

Grahams last day today and he wanted to just do more of the same as yesterday just to consolidate what he had learnt. We decided to take a wonder up to the Ben but it wasn't long before we saw the extent of last nights rain. Nearly all of the fresh snow was stripped back right up to the bottom of Coire na Ciste with water pouring over or out of anything it possibly could. We didn't see the upper part of the mountain but I can't imagine it would have been much better. Graham also wanted a reasonably early finish so he could start his drive back to London.

We made our way up towards the South-West ridge of Douglas Boulder thinking we'd be better just not trying to find anything to climb in winter that is but it turned out West gully was pretty much complete. So up we went using short pitches so Graham could practise some more rope work at the stance and change overs. At the top we had a quick look at abseiling and headed down East gully and traversed into Observatory gully.

Set to get colder again with more snow forecast for the next couple of days which should greatly improve climbing conditions. There was still ice hanging on today. The curtain and the bottom of Hadrian's and Point 5 were still iced but not climbable at the moment. Today I was working for West Coast Mountain Guides.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Shame it isn't going to last.

Day 3 of working for West Coast Mountain Guides and after having spent the last two days making the best of the weather, today we were keen to get out into the snow and do some climbing. Both of the guys were chomping at the bit to get on the sharp end and put some learning into practise. We headed up to Stob Coire Nan Lochain to see what was about for us to do.

Arriving in the Corrie we saw a couple of teams high up on Dorsal Arete and that was it. So we made are way up to the start of the climb and both Graham and Richard did well. Four pitches later they had climbed the whole route by themselves with me just soloing along side. The conditions did worsen as the day went on and a lot of snow fell. The forecasted temperature rise was definitely happening as the snow in the bottom of the corrie was wet on our way back down.

It got a bit wild later on.

Other teams out on Ordinary route, Original summer route, NC gully and one brave team went up Broad gully. There was wind slab around today but the strong winds of yesterday meant that moving around was fairly easy as there were either very deep areas of snow or a shallow layer of fresh stuff on the firm old snow. All set to change again with warmer temps and rain overnight and into tomorrow. As I write this the Aonach Mor summit weather station is reading 3.8 degrees. 

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Wet and wild again but at least winter has returned.

I'm working a 4 day climbing course this week for West Coast Mountain Guides and the weather hasn't been ideal so far. With strong winds and rain forecast pretty much up to the summits yesterday we opted to depend the day looking at rope work and theory sessions before we headed up to Glen Nevis to put some of this into practise and looked at Glacier travel techniques too.

Not a nice day to be outside.

Today was set to be a better day but not by much and with the recent conditions meaning there was little or no ice to climb we decided to hit the Ice Factor this morning giving Richard and Graham a chance to actually climb some ice. We spent a lot of time looking at technique and movement and finished the session looking at placing ice screws.
After lunch we headed to Ballachulish Bridge to go Dry tooling and get an idea of what some harder mixed climbing would be like. A good couple of sessions with a lot of things learnt and ready to put into practise tomorrow when we head out.

Starting to get the pump going with some dry tooling.
There were people out climbing today but as would be expected they reported difficult conditions with the wind and a lot of snow, some releasing very easily.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Fat Boy Slim and Ben Nevis Conditions

John arrived at mine late last night (late for me any way) so we opted on a later start and a shorter day because there was still a lot of unconsolidated snow higher on the mountain. So at the CIC we had a discussion about what to do and we had friends that had done Fat Boy Slim over the last couple of weeks and they had said it was at least worth a look. So off we headed avoiding a couple of patches of windslab on the way up and geared up before we went up the steeper grade 1 ground to the bottom of the route.

John on the crux pitch.

It's a nice route and definitely worth doing if you are in that neck of the woods but it is just a one pitch wonder really. We abseiled back down 1934 and back to the bags. Good frozen turf at this level and with some helpful ice in places but cruddy in others. A couple of teams out today with routes on Douglas boulder seeing the most traffic, probably because it requires less trail breaking. There was a team up under Slingsby's chimney but I didn't see were they went and one team braved the walk up to Gargoyle wall but said the cracks on the first pitch where heavily iced so they changed their mind and went for Lost the place.

Looking into the Ciste.

The snow is still largely unconsolidated on the higher part of the mountain with pockets of windslab around even at around 800m. More heavy snow forecast tonight and tomorrow before a slight thaw and cold again on Tuesday before the weather really turns on Wednesday.

A very wintery scene at the CIC.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Winter skills on Stob Ban.

Descending the rocky step just below the summit.

I was out with a group today from West Coast Mountain Guides who wanted a day of basic skills and to try and get a peak in. We opted for Stob Ban from Glen Nevis and with the snow level reasonably low it wasn't long before we were starting to look at how to move around on the snow. We carried on up to the head of the glen and found a good area to look at Ice Axe arrest and then carried on to the summit from there, putting the crampons on not far after the bealach. The conditions are good at the moment for looking at moving around in the mountains and avoiding areas that might be an issue and looking at the snow pack too. The snow is starting to show some signs of consolidation at about 900-1000m with an icy crust but there are still weak layers within the snow pack that would be of concern on steeper ground on N-E aspects and a couple of pockets in other places.

You can see the amount of snow on the slopes on the right.

Ice Axe arrest practise.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Wild and wet again.

So after a period of calmer weather and a bit of freeze thaw to help consolidate some of the snow we are back to stormy weather. It rained heavily overnight in Fort William and hasn't stopped all day. This has been falling as snow above about 200-300m. We also have strong winds at the moment with the Aonach Mor weather station currently showing a gust of 94mph blowing from the South-west.

So it looks like when it does settle down we'll be back to wading through deep snow to get to the routes. It might seem difficult at the moment but all of this snow hopefully will help the winter be a long and fruitful one. Again the East seems to be getting less snow and there was a lot of action in the Cairngorms over the weekend.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Route I Direct, Carn Dearg, Ben Nevis.

With a nice forecast today after the wild weather of the last few days Ken and I were keen to get out. The snow high up on the Ben didn't really have a chance to consolidate over the last couple of days but the conditions lower down on the mountain are much improved and with a really good cover of snow above 500m we decided to stay low again. We decided on Route I Direct (VI,6), which turned out to be in brilliant condition. A lot of the cracks were full of ice so gear needed some digging out but this ice was also very helpful giving first time placements and good, secure hooks. The guide book breaks this route down into 8 pitches but we did it in 4 and had no problems. All 4 pitches gave some fantastic climbing with every pitch having at least one move of tech 6.

Ken on Pitch 1.
The conditions on the mountain are shaping up well. The amount of snow cover for this time of year is fantastic. Ice is starting to form in most places on the mountain with routes like Vanishing gully, Italian climb and the CIC cascades filling in nicely. The mixed routes are still in great 'nick' too with frozen turf and a good covering of rime and helpful neve. Snow conditions on the ground are variable. There is a hard crust to the snow on the lower part of the mountain which at times does break through making for harder going. As for higher up the mountain, I haven't been there myself but I would guess there is still a lot of unconsolidated snow lying around. It was quiet today with a couple of teams going up Ledge Route and a group doing winter skills. Other than that we saw no-one else really. The closure of the A82 this weekend probably has something to do with it.

The smile on his face says it all.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Avalanche Hazard Evaluation Workshop.

I was over in the Cairngorms again yesterday but on a training workshop on Avalanche Hazard Evaluation being run by Mark Diggins from the SportScotland Avalanche Information Service. Despite the weather we still managed to spend some out on the hill and it was a good day with lots of knowledge being shared and a good opportunity to refresh things before the winter season really kicks off.

The storms of yesterday have passed but there is still a lot going on with the roads, buildings and many other repairs going on. With regards to the hill conditions the snow pack has been through some changes and there is currently a 'Considerable' risk here in Lochaber and 'High' over in the Cairngorms. The avalanche forecasts weren't supposed to start until the 15th but they have started early in these two areas. So remember to keep up to date with this information before you go out onto the hill and keep your eyes open whilst you're out.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Wild weather in the Northern Corries. Pot of Gold.

After wading through the snow on the Ben yesterday Ken and I decided to give our legs an easier day. An interesting drive over to the Cairngorms this morning and a nice gentle walk in got us into Coire an t'Sneachda. We had planned to head to Aladdin's Buttress but this looked a bit black and the Mess of Pottage looked white and was quiet. We decided on Pot of Gold (V,6), which takes the groove line to the right of the Message. Out of the three pitches it gave two very good pitches and in some challenging conditions. The cracks are still very iced as a lot people have blogged over the last few days but there was a strong, cold wind today and heavy snow at times, a very Scottish day.

Pitch 3.

It was very quiet in the corrie today with only 3/4 other teams that we saw. Matt and Keith climbed Droidless, Jon and his friend climbed the Message and the Honey pot and there was a team on Original Summer route. 
I'm back over in the Cairngorms again tomorrow but on an AMI CPD day.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Jacknife, Douglas Boulder

With a good forecast today and more snow forecast for tonight Ken and I decided to take a walk up to the Ben. There was a faint track heading up from the bottom car park but it wasn't long before we were breaking trail through deep snow. It took us 2 1/2 hours to get to the CIC hut and from here we could see that the routes high up on the mountain looked in brilliant condition but getting there was going to be the issue. We made a decision to head toward Moonlight gully Buttress but very quickly changed that to Douglas Boulder due to the depth of the snow.

Ken on the Main pitch of Jacknife.

Both of us have done a couple of routes here but neither of us had done Jacknife (V,6) before so it was decided. This is a short route and only really had one pitch of worth but a good one at that. The exposed turf is frozen but on the larger ledges the snow has insulated it. There were only two other teams out today with one team on Cutlass and the other headed round towards the area of Fat Boy Slim but didn't actually see were they went.

The team on Cutlass.

There is now a trench up to the CIC but it is snowing heavily again in Fort William as I write this so I don't think it'll be there for long. Might head East tomorrow but we'll have to wait and see what the roads are like in the morning.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

More snow!

Day 2 of our Maximum Adventure course and we headed up the Ben just up the tourist path. There was heavy snow overnight and it continued to fall today with 3-4 hours of constant snow. There are a lot of drifts even on the windward slopes, where the fresh snow has been blown away the old snow is now very firm. There is now a good cover of snow above 500m and the turf was frozen at 700m.
There is more snow forecast overnight and tomorrow so staying low would be a good option. Areas like the Douglas boulder, the west flank of Tower ridge, Cairn Dearg or Stob Coire Nan Lochan in Glencoe might me a possibility. There has been a lot of action in The Northern Corries which I think has seen less snow.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Winter skills and Ben Nevis conditions.

First days of winter work this weekend and today was always going to be an interesting day judging by the forecast. We were looking for somewhere to do some skills and get out of the wind. There has been a lot of fresh snow on the West coast over the last week so I was expecting to spend the weekend swimming. Last night though the freezing level went up to about 1300m and dropped again early this morning so I was hoping we might find some firm snow. There is a lot of old snow still around but it hasn't really frozen solid yet and was more like it had a rain crust.

Coire na Ciste

We headed up into Coire na Ciste to see what we could find and managed to cover a few things despite the conditions. There was alot of fresh snow been blown around today and large areas of soft wind slab was forming below the Trident buttress', there was also evidence of an avalanche here and under No.3 gully. The exposed turf at this level was frozen and there was a good amount of icing going on too. The freeze-thaw lines such as Mega route X and the Shroud were visible but still a long way off being climbable. The higher buttress' were white and there was a couple of teams on No.3 gully Buttress and a team on Trident buttress climbing the Minge, I think.

NE Buttress and the Orion face.

Tomorrow is set to be a better day in terms of the wind but tomorrow night and Monday heavy snow is forecast only adding to the fresh snow that is already there. Getting to the routes may well be the most difficult part of the day. There is no Avalanche forecast at the moment so remember to pay attention to the weather forecasts and keep an eye out for what is going on around you.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Winter is here.

So the forecasts turned out to be right and we've had snow and rain falling on the mountains in the Highlands this week. Yesterday and today though there has been much more snow falling. James Thacker has been out in the Cairngorms along with other people enjoying the Northern Corries. It has been a bit wilder on the West but things are due to ease off a bit tomorrow before it gets really wild on Saturday. The snow is just in time too as I'm working on a winter skills weekend on Saturday and Sunday but the wind might be a bit of a problem.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Looks like winter might be on its way.

So there has been talk for the last couple of weeks about colder temps at the end of the month leading into December. Looks like this is still on the cards. The Met office synoptic charts are showing a no. of 'lows' passing just to the North of Scotland. These 'lows' are bringing in a no. of both warm and cold fronts over the next few days. These are going to be responsible for the fluctuating temps but are also bringing in moist air from the West ready to fall as it hits the West coast of Scotland. So as a lot of forecast are suggesting there may well be some snow starting to accumulate on the hills and we may well see some action out on the hills over the next week. You can have a look at the synoptics here.

An early season Coire na Ciste from November 2009

I was hoping I might get a chance to get a route in this week but it is looking less likely and next week when it is looking more promising I'm running a course at Outward Bound. Oh well, I'm sure there will be plenty of opportunities to come. Like most people I have some personal goals for this winter with regards to progressing as a winter climber. I was hoping that early snows in November would give me a chance to ease myself into winter but I may now just have to hit it running before things start to get busy in January. 

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

A quick round of the Bauchaille.

It dawned foggy this morning in Corpach but with a good forecast I figured it would be nice if I headed high. So after enjoying a couple of cups of coffee and sending some emails I decided to head to Glen Coe and Bauchaille Etive Mor. Sure enough as I hit Corran the fog cleared and the Sun came out as it quite often does on this stretch of the road.

Looking down the glen towards Loch Linnhe and Ardgour.

I was planning on going up North Buttress so I made my way up the lower part of the Buttress to just level with Crowberry basin but as I got here I looked round to see the shadow of Curved ridge and Crowberry Tower cast over the glen beside me. That was it I changed my mind and headed for the sun. I traversed in just below the luncheon spot and enjoyed climbing in the sun to the top of the ridge. I decided to make a quick ascent of Crowberry tower which on the North and West side the rock was still covered in frost but it just added to the fun. At the summit in just under 2 hours from the car. The cloud was starting to build and the wind was cold and increasing in strength so I decided to make a quick descent down Coire na Tulaich. Around trip of just under 3 hours and a couple of new lines that I hadn't noticed before that look like they would be nice in winter.

On the drive back the morning fog had lifted and there was a fantastic view when I got home of the Ben and the Aonachs with a dusting of snow.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Observatory Ridge and the missing marker.

After a failed attempt at a day out on Skye yesterday Dave and I were keen to stretch our legs today so we decided on Observatory Ridge. The summit was clear of clouds first thing this morning but as we walked in the wind picked up and the cloud came in. The route was reasonably dry with just a few wet streaks in the lower part but as we gained height the rock became much greasier and had obviously picked up some moister from the clouds. We moved together placing runners or with hand coils for much of the route and only stopped and pitched a couple of times.

Looking down from high up on Observatory ridge.

The big yellow taxi just about to land on the summit.

Thankfully by the time we hit the summit the cloud had lifted and we were greeted with the kind of view that reminds you why you live in the Highlands, especially after the long wet summer. We were also treated to a fly-by by the big yellow taxi that was dropping some MRT guys off at the summit with some supplies.

Notice anything missing?

We decided to descend Ledge route and avoid the tourist track and I wanted to see if James Roddie's blog post was true. Sure enough it is. The No. 4 gully marker post has been removed. I know the John Muir Trust has spent a lot of time in consultation with the MCofS, Guides, Mountaineering Instructors and I'm sure many other people that use the mountain. I don't know the final outcome of this but I do know there was an overwhelming majority that believed the marker was a part of the mountains history and should remain.
I find it hard to believe that they would ignore this but I also can't imagine that they would remove the marker without publicising this decision. So what has happened to it? Maybe they have removed the bent old flag and plan to replace it with something more substantial than an aluminium pole shoved into a pile of boulders or maybe someone has decided it would look good on the wall of their living room. Whatever the answer I'm sure we'll find out soon enough.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

A possible new line?

It's Autumn and my thoughts should be on the winter in front of me and they have been until my days cragging in the sun on Monday. It just made me realise how much I'd missed the rock this summer. So sat at home dreaming of rock climbing and future goals for next season and a thought about a line I had spotted high up in the Glen popped into my head. Bags packed and off I went.It doesn't look like it is too hard but the last third of the route looks very run out so I had planned to ab down and just check that there was gear in the final break before the finishing slab. As I peered over I saw that the upper slab didn't really look that difficult. So I changed my mind and decided I didn't want to see anymore. I do know now that the crux is in the middle part of the route and not the top as I had first thought. So next Spring I'll be on it as soon as I can. Or if it stays like this maybe I should just get it done.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Ardnamurchan ring crags. A nice surprise.

As anyone who visits this blog, or any blog of anyone living in Scotland knows that the summer has been a bit of a let down in terms of dry rock. So when Al gave me a text yesterday looking for a partner I was keen to say the least. We packed the car and got a reasonably early start to make the most of the daylight. Arriving at the crag it was clear there were still quite a few wet streaks about (not surprising really). So we decided to warm up on Vulcan. A nice two pitch VS which took us upto the upper tier. Al then lead on up through a groove which he hadn't climbed before but was interesting at S 4b and took us to the top.

Al reaching a good rest after the tech crux of Dead ringer.

Back at the bottom of the crag and it was now midday and alot of the streaks had disappeared so we headed on up Dead ringer(E1 5b) which was nice and balancy on the first pitch followed by some bold slab climbing on the second pitch.
We decided to finish the day off with 'Ring of fire' that Al had pointed me at and it was a nice route but felt more like HVS 5b rather than 5a. A nice day to be out on the rock and in such a beautiful setting.

Al pulling through the crux of Ring of fire

Friday, 4 November 2011

Come on snow.

Well the warm weather seems set to continue for a while which is a bit frustrating. After having had a stint of work at Outward Bound over the last couple of weeks and a day on the Ben for Maximum Adventure things are quiet for the next month which is a good thing as it means I normally get to enjoy the early snows but not this year it seems. They will come eventually it just means I'm spending my time reminiscing and doing pull ups for when it does.
Winter work is starting to come in for after the New year and things are looking set for another good winter. Here's a video from last winter to 'wet the whistle'.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

3 Peaks weekend.

This weekend I was working on a 3 peaks challenge for Maximum Adventure. I met my nice small group of 4 on the Friday night and gave them a brief for what looked to be a wild weekend ahead. Saturday morning we set off up the Ben in heavy rain and strong winds but the team still managed a good time of 5 hours and 15 mins. Off to Scafell Pike and despite the dark and rain again we were back at the van after 3 hours and 45 mins. Snowdon was again wet, in fact very wet and we put in a good time again to come in just under the 24 hour mark.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Summer Mountain Leader training

I've been shadowing a Summer ML this week run by Bill Strachan of Scotch on the rocks. The course has been based out of the UHI campus in Fort William. It has been an interesting week of weather and learning. The weather was wild for most of the week with strong winds and heavy rain/snow. It was good for me to watch some other MI's as in this profession you quite often find yourself working alone and there were plenty of tips for me to pick up with Sandy Paterson, Mike Pescod and Ben Wallace also working during the week. Despite the weather a lot of learning for the group in terms of navigation, steep ground, rope work and river crossings along with so many other areas. No photo's I'm afraid as the forecast for the first three days was so wild I didn't want to break the camera and when there was a better forecast I forgot it. 

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Wet on the Ben.

I was working for Ptarmigan events today with a very large group on the Ben. The weather was fowl and everyone did well to cope with it and maintain their enthusiasm. Out of a 100 participants 94 made it to the top and back down again and raised lots of money for Kidney research.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Scottish Tooling Series

Autumn can be a difficult time of year in Fort William. The summer seems like a distant memory and the winter hasn't yet arrived, so keeping the fitness up and maintaining the enthusiasm to go outside whilst the wind is howling and the rain is hammering down can be difficult. So this year I decided to enter the Scottish Tooling Series for a bit of fun and for some winter training. I had a great day thanks to the welcoming nature of the regulars that attend the series and had plenty of opportunities to learn new things. I might of got a bit over excited once I had finished the three routes in the Ice wall and tired myself out too quickly but the banter amongst the entrants was enough to make up for it.


Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Dry tooling at Newtyle Quarry.

So with the forecast for the West a bit rubbish again Ken and I decided to take a long drive over to Newtyle Quarry near Dunkeld for a bit of winter prep. This quarry is a strange venue, firstly being slate which is unusual for Scotland but also has trad, sport and aid routes there as well as dry tooling. Once we'd found the place we decided to head for the easier lines for a bit of a warm up and neither of us had actually lead a tooling route outside so we didn't want to bite off more than we could chew.

We spent the rest of the day leading and top roping some of the routes and getting used to the feel of axes and crampons on rock again. A word of warning though, some of the rock on the doorjam slab area is very suspect. As you would expect for a quarry but a reasonable sized block just spontaneously came off whilst we were coiling the ropes at the end of the day. Thankfully missing both of us.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

SMC Skye Cuillin guide book

So the new SMC guide to Skye is in the shops and I received a phone call from a mate the other day to give me some good news. Both of us have a photo in the new guide and neither of us new about it until he got his hands on a copy. See the photos below. Having now had a flick through the guide I can say it is fantastic. The SMC with Mike Lates have done it again. Lots of great photo topos and inspiring shots and now a complete and up to date guide including the more recent harder mixed lines in the area. I can't wait for the winter now, to give some of these routes a shot.

Myself on Vulcan wall.

Alex on Stormy Petrel.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Escaped to the East.

Today I was working with Pete and Al who wanted to have a look at improving their ropework, multi pitch belays and using half ropes. With all of the rain we've had recently most of the multi pitch crags are still quite damp and the forecast was for the rain to move in slowly from the West. So we headed East to Kingussie and made best use of the crags there breaking some of the longer single pitch routes into two pitches. We only had a couple of little showers through the day but nothing that stopped play. It started rain though at about 4.30 just as we were topping out on our last climb. A good day out.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

I haven't seen that before.

So I've had a week off and had some family up to visit but back to work today on the Ben. I met the Maximum Adventure group at 8am this morning and they were fired up for their 3 Peaks Challenge. We made good progress and were at the summit in 3 hours and started to make our way down. On the way down we passed the usual crowds and people dressed in all sorts of strange ways. Just when you think you've probably seen everything you possibly can on this path something strange appears in front of you. Firstly there was a group carrying a gas boiler up the mountain, I didn't have time to ask. Then just as we were getting over that sight we turned a corner to see this man.

I know it's been a wet summer but i don't think he'll need that. In fact he was carrying the boat to the top to raise awareness for cancer research. I hope he manages it. In fact he's probably still doing it as I write this.
Anyway it was a dry day today with only one little shower that hit us on the mountain. Got a climbing course to run tomorrow so hopefully it stays that way. 

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Getting psyched for winter.

It doesn't matter I many times I watch this video, it's brilliant every time and it just gets me excited for the first winter route. If you've seen it before you'll know what I mean. If you haven't, enjoy!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

It's a Saturday, must mean a trip up the Ben then.

So after another week at Outward Bound I was out on the Ben again today. It's been a regular thing this year with some long and short days. Today I was working with a group of 8 from Maximum Adventure. We started off from the Youth hostel at 8.45am and were back down by 5pm. Everyone did well and the weather was thankfully better than forecast.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Wet and wild.

After an interesting week working at Outward Bound with an expedition on Tuesday in the pouring rain and howling wind, I was working on the Ben yesterday in similar conditions. I was working for Charity Trek with 42 participants all looking to complete the challenge and raise money for their different charities. Everyone did well in some challenging weather.

The long term forecast for the next couple of weeks doesn't show there to be much of an improvement. On the plus side, long term forecasts are looking good for the winter so why not get ready now and get in touch to discuss your needs for this winter.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Day on the Ben.

Yesterday I was working on the Ben for West Coast Mountain Guides with a group from Wild Green Travel. It was a busy day with the usual 3 peaks challengers and the Ben Race with nearly 500 competitors running up and down. The weather was very Autumnal with persistent rain and feeling very cold on the summit but the team did well.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Alps trip.

The veiw from the top of the Coolidge couloir, just below the summit.

Descending down the Violettes Glacier.

So summer in Scotland this year hasn't been horrific but not the best either so Ken and I have been looking foreword to this trip for a while. We both finished work on the Monday evening and finished packing and jumped into the van for the long drive to Ailefroide. We arrived late on the Tuesday night and got a fresh start on the Wednesday. I could talk you through the whole trip but I would be here forever and I'm not sure most of you would bother reading on.

The approach to the Glacier Blanc hut.

Mont Pelvoux from the Glacier Blanc hut.

So we spent about a week and a half based in Ailefroide and did a number of great rock routes in the valley and also managed a trav. of Mont Pelvoux which for PD takes you through some impressive scenery although the descent is knee breaking back to the valley. We also did a rock route on Pic de Glacier Blanc called Le Communard which was fantastic if a little bit tedious through the easy ground in the middle of the route, spending most of your time looking for the next bolt rather than climbing.

Ken on top of the Pic du Glacier Blanc with the Barre des Ecrin in the background.

After Ailefroide we had planned to go round to La Berarde but with the power of technology we found out that people had been doing some routes on the North face of La Meije. So we headed round to La Grave and caught the Telepherique up and approached via the a very interesting Facile. The bivi was in a fantastic place with awesome views of the face. During the evening and night the sound of Serac and rock fall was all around us but we kept our fingers crossed for colder temps over night. At 4am we left the bivi and all was quiet but it soon became obvious that things hadn't cooled down enough. Unfortunately after Ken fell through a thankfully very small snow bridge we called it a day as we still had far more complex ground to cross so we headed back to the bivi for a cup of tea and watch the sun rise.

The veiw from the bivi at the foot of La Meije.

We carried on round to La Berarde and bagged a route in in the valley and then headed up to the Soreiller hut to tackle the Voie Madier on the Aiguille Dibona. This is a fantastic route and my favourite of the trip, 400m of clean Granite and it turned out to be bolted for most of the way. After that we headed down to Bourg d'oisans and bagged another route the next day. Unfortunately the weather was set to change so we decided to head home early and break the drive home up.

Our first veiw of the Aiguille Dibona.

Abseil no2 I think, on the Cascade de Villard.

All in all a good trip with some fantastic climbing in a beautful part of the Alps but it is good to be back.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Kingussie, Learning to lead.

Day 2 with David and Al and after yesterdays very wet day of climbing we were looking for somewhere dry and where the guys could get their first leads in, so Kingussie it was. Both of the guys did great and we had a good day building up their skills and confidence and working through the grades slowly. We had to crag to ourselves until lunch when a group from the Lodge turned up and only had to stop play for five minutes due to rain but the sun and breeze soon dried the crag off. Since then they have had a good couple of trips to the peaks to climb some more. Good luck to them.


Sunday, 7 August 2011


Day 1 of two days working with David and Alex for Mountain Plan. Both have them have led indoors and wanted to look at how they would move on to real rock. With a bad forecast everywhere in Scotland and even some Severe weather warnings it didn't really make a difference where we went. So to try and make the most of the day we headed into Glen Nevis to do some multi pitch. With water pouring down the crags we headed for the gutter to try and concentrate on rope work and placing gear. We did well and managed to get four pitches in before lunch but the rain got worse as the morning progressed. At lunch we decided we had had enough of the rain and the midge and ran away to the Ice Factor.

Pitch two of the gutter. Note the waterproofs and midge nets.

Here we looked at consolidating the ropework, in the dry and then spent some time climbing and looking at some movement skills. It was very busy and who could be blamed for wanting to be inside on a day like today.

Friday, 5 August 2011

The In Pinn and the Cioch.

The Cuillin when I arrived on Wednesday evening.

Just back from two days on Skye with Jenni and Gordon working for West Coast Mountain guides. I met them yesterday morning and the rain wasn't forecast to start until about lunch but as we set off from the car the rain started and the cloud came in and it stayed like that for the rest of the day. We set off up the South west ridge of Sgurr Dearg and made quick time up to the base of the In Pinn. Jennie and Gordon did well with the pouring rain and a stiff breeze. We abseiled of the East ridge and quickly ran away back down Coire Banachdich. No photos today, there really was nothing to see.

The Cioch appearing out of the cloud.

This morning with a better forecast we decided to head up towards the Cioch and have a look at some teaching climbing on the slab. As we entered Coire Lagan the cloud started to lift and we got a view up to the Cioch but the cloud never cleared above the summits. We traversed in to the base of the slab and did three pitches of climbing to get ourselves onto the top of the Cioch but unfortunately the cloud had come in again and we weren't treated to a view. We then carried on over to East gully and continued up this to the top of Sron Na Ciche. A good couple of days despite the weather and both Jenni and Gordon coped well with the 'summer' weather.

Jenni and Gordon looking after themselves on a very damp Cioch slab.

Monday, 1 August 2011

A catch up!

I've been a bit slack with the blog lately so here is a bit of a catch up. On Saturday 23rd I was working for Maximum Adventure again on the Ben Nevis leg of the three peaks. Most of the team were successful with the front runners coming in at 5 hours but unfortunately two of the team had to turn round at the three hour mark as they hadn't reached the summit.

The Challenge group descending from Cairn Mor Dearg.

Last week I was Outward Bound again working on a government funded course called 'The Challenge'. This was the first week of three for the group and it was designed as an opportunity for them to bond as a group and face some personal challenges before they go onto the second and third week of their course nearer home.
They arrived on the Sunday night and I threw them straight into the deep end on Monday morning as we set off on Expedition. We left the top car park at 11am and made our way up onto Cairn Mor Dearg. The weather was fantastic if a little warm in the midday heat so we were glad to be up high. From there we carried on round the C.M.D Arete to the Abseil posts on Ben Nevis. It was a little late in the day at this point so we decided not to go up the Ben and started to drop down towards Coire Guishagen and Spent the night bivvying out on a grassy shoulder a couple of hundred meters down. It was a beautiful night and the stars were out and the group really enjoyed their night out in the wild.
Day 2 and we carried on descending and made our way out past Steall falls to our pick up.

Not a bad veiw to wake up to.

The next couple of days were spent climbing in Glen Nevis and Gorging in Glen Dubhlighe. The group did really well on what was a tiring week with the heat and some very strong bonds were built between the members. Good luck to them for their next two weeks.

On Saturday I was working for West Coast Mountain Guides marshaling a Marie Curie event which saw 52 participants walking from the King House in Glen Coe to Glen Nevis. Almost 23 miles in again very hot temperatures. Everyone but one person made the finish line and the one gentlemen who didn't make it was a 74 year old local that gave it a damn good shot.
A couple of days off to start packing before my Alps trip next week and then I'm away doing some work right up until my departure.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

A busy week.

The classic course that I have been instructing over the last three weeks came to an end today and the group left this morning. It was a busy week for them as they had their final expedition from Monday to Thursday. They did well and thankfully had a dry expedition, walking from Kinlochleven to Corrour station up to Lariag Leagach bothy then onto the water of Nevis and finished with a jump into the Nevis. So over the week I have been checking on them to make sure that they were ok, other than that they were on their own.

On Wednesday I also had a days work for West Coast Mountain Guides. Myself and Dan, Max, Jamie, Isi and a couple more instructors were guiding parties from a organised Harry Potter tour up to Steall.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Gorging in the Glen.

The weather in Fort William has been good over the last couple of days with glorious sunshine in the morning but it has clouded over in the afternoon with some showers. The group at Outward Bound are coming on well and are almost ready for their final unaccompanied Exped which starts on Monday. So to break to the course we went gorging yesterday in Scimitar gorge in Glen Nevis. A great little gorge with some big jumps and because the air temp was so high we were able to stay in the gorge for a while.