Monday, 28 February 2011

Some photos from yesterday.

Today was always planned to be a rest day after 8 days of work or climbing in a row and I knew I was going to feel a little delicate this morning after some Birthday drinks last night. Unfortunately today is a stunning day with a frost down at sea level. This will really of helped with firming up some of the cruddy patches of ice left and conditions today should be fantastic but hey there is the rest of the week. I've included a couple of photos from James' camera from yesterday.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

What a difference a day makes.

The boys enjoying some sunshine on the Zig Zags.

 Yesterday I was working in a very spring like Glen Coe for Abacus Mountaineering. Ken and I were working with a very sociable stag do who wanted a day out with a bit of adventure. The snow line had gone up a very long way due to the thaw this week so to break up the walk in we opted for the Zig Zags on Gearr Aonach as our way up to Stob Coire Nan Lochain. Once we got a view of the coire we realised we had a long walk to find the snow. We made our way up the East ridge and didn't have to put crampons on until the last 100m. We continued down the West ridge and back to the car and a quick pint at the Clachaig.  

Some very black looking crags in Glen Coe.

After hearing some good reports about Coire an Lochain in the Cairngorms from yesterday we had an early start today to try and beat the crowds. We left the Car park at about 7.30am with only a couple of teams in front of us. James and I started along the path to Lochain behind Ken and Alex who were looking at the same line as us. There was fresh snow on the ground and the turf was frozen at about 700m so James and I quickly changed our plans and headed for Coire an-tsneachda to have a look at what had changed from yesterday. We arrived in a very quiet coire and decided on The Lamp (V,6) on Aladdin's Buttress.

The rock was covered with snow and the turf was frozen so I set off up the first pitch. The first pitch starts up a slabby groove and then steepens at about third height and gives a steep and sustained pitch with excellent hooks and in current conditions loads of gear placements. There were still a couple of loose blocks on the right wall but these should freeze in the very near future. Pitch two pulls out from the belay and climbs a slabby ramp to the foot of the final groove. The groove above didn't look as 'wintery' as we would of liked so we decided to ab of and go and have a look at the direct start of Original summer route which goes at the same grade. This too didn't really look as 'wintery' as we would of liked so we decided on coffee and cakes back at the ski centre whilst we waited for Ken and Alex. They had a good day on Savage Slit (V,6) saying it was in similar condition with lots of helpful neve and clear gear placements. 

James on Pitch 1 of the Lamp.

Monday, 21 February 2011

A windy day on Aonach Mor.

After a week off it was nice to be back out in the snow. Yesterday I was working for Mountain Motion and I was out with Steven who was looking at covering some mountaineering ground in preparation for a guided attempt of Tower ridge. So from the gondola station we headed up to the Nid so Steven could spend some time in crampons again before we got on to something steeper. At the top of the Nid the wind was so strong we could hardly stand so we dropped down onto the East face to try and escape the wind. Once the wind had eased we climbed back onto the ridge and continued up to the climbers col and abseiled back on to the East face.

I had planned for us to pitch back out of Easy gully but the wind had now really picked up and as we were traversing the corrie the snow started to get a bit worrying. So we dropped back down to the Lochain and continued back round to the gondola which due to the wind was closed so left us with a bit of a walk out.

The crags were heavily rimed and vis. was down to about 10-15m. A lot of the snow has consolidated but there are still some large areas of snow that need to be avoided. I'm working at Outward Bound this week so no reports until Saturday.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

A week off.

Well I supposed to be out yesterday and today shadowing Mike but unfortunately I've managed to pull a muscle in my back some how. So Doctors orders are to rest for a while. Fortunately I'm not going to be missing too much as I'm due to be in the Peaks for the next few days and I'll be back out climbing on Sunday.

Hopefully by then conditions will have settled down a little. There is a lot of fresh snow around at the moment and with more forecast for the next couple of days so keep an eye on the forecasts and stay safe while you're out.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Avalanche awareness on Aonach Mor.

Today I was running an Avalanche awareness course for Abacus Mountaineering as part of the Fort William Mountain Festival. It turned out to be a good day for it with a lot of fresh snow over night and more falling during the day meaning we had a lot of things to look at. I headed on up by the quad chair and across to the Nid just below the summit and then back down to the cafe for a debrief. We spent a lot of the day looking at the snow pack and using a number of techniques to access what was happening under our feet and even looked at using some methods of safe travel.

There is a lot of fresh snow on the hills in the Lochaber area and careful route choice and keeping an eye open when your out and about is essential. I did hear voices from the East face but saw nothing of the climbs because of the conditions.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Back on the Ben again.

I've a busy period coming up and I am feeling a bit under the weather but with a good forecast I didn't want to waste a day. James and I had a late start this morning, knowing it was going to be busy we couldn't really be bothered to fight for routes so we thought we would just take what was left.

When we arrived at the CIC hut it became apparent that most of the big lines had been taken in Observatory Gully area and there was still a line of teams heading that way so we decided to head into Coire na Ciste and see what was there. It was busy here too so we kept our eyes open as we geared up just above the lochains. Teams were on the Clanger, Slab climb, Glovers chimney, Thompson route and Central gully right hand to name a few.

James leading the ice pitch on Central gully.

The guys on Thompson route had been there a while and I haven't done this route yet so we went for that hoping the team on it would have cleared the first belay by the time we had got there. Unfortunately this didn't happen so we changed our minds and traversed right to the foot of the central gullys. James Thacker had just started up Central gully right hand and I knew Richard Bentley was heading there too so we thought we would just head up central gully to stay out of the way. 100m of good steady climbing on some very friendly ice saw us top out onto the plateau. We descended No.4 gully which did have some pockets of wind slab but they were avoidable and headed back for an early bath. Busiest I've seen the Ben this season.  

Friday, 11 February 2011

Back on the Ben.

Heading into Observatory Gully with Observatory ridge in the middle.

I was out shadowing Mike again yesterday and his client had been out with him a couple of times before and this time fancied some steep ice. We arrived at the CIC hut to see a team in point 5, a team round the corner on Orion direct and a team starting up Minus 2 gully(first pitch still looks thin). We decided to go for orion as it meant we wouldn't be stuck in a gully with teams above kicking stuff down on us.

We geared up at the foot of Observatory Gully and then mad our way up to the base of the route. As we turned the corner we saw there were about 6 teams all gearing up and it turned out most of them sere heading for orion and two teams had decided on Zero gully because it was already too crowded. We decided to link a few routes together to try and avoid the traffic so we linked Orion Directisima, Slav route, Zero gully and Observatory ridge to give a big day out at about V,5.

Other teams were on Hadrians, Observatory buttress, and a few teams on Tower ridge. The climbing was pretty steady with good snow ice most of the way but poor protection and belays and in some places it was cruddy as the fresh snow had insulated the ice and prevented it refreezing as the temperatures had dropped.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

A good look around the Ben.

Coire na Ciste.

As part of my progression before my MIC ass. I'm spending some days shadowing Mike Pescod who has kindly agreed to be my mentor. Today was one of them and Mike was planning on taking his client up the S.W. ridge of the Douglas boulder. When we got there we changed our mind and headed for a icy groove just to the right of Fawlty Towers.
This gave a great little route with a small ice step at about grade III and a little mixed step at about IV. The top of the route brought us out on top of Tower Ridge about 50m up from Douglas gap. We descended the east flank and headed back to the car.
When we walked in this morning the cloud was pretty low but this lifted just in time for us as we arrived on Tower Ridge.
This was almost the prime spot to have a look at conditions. The Minus face is coming on, there is ice in all three gullys but they are not quite complete yet. The Orion face has ice on it too and there was a team on Zero gully. On the other side of Observatory ridge, Hadrians and point 5 are looking fat, there were three teams on Observatory buttress and Indicator wall and Gardyloo buttress are getting whiter.
On the other side of Tower ridge Vanishing gully is still looking good and all of the crags in Coire na Ciste are white although we didn't see anyone in there today and there looked to be a lot more snow higher up. Mega route X and the shroud are starting to form but still have a long way to go yet. Boomers Requiem looked good and there were a couple of teams on Compression cracks. Even as low as we were the turf was frozen and the old snow had firmed up giving good axe placements in the snow.
The weather tonight and tomorrow are going to change things in terms of mixed climbing but I think the ice is only going to keep getting better.  

The Minus and Orion faces with Hadrians and 0.5 on the right.

Looking up Observatory gully.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Creag Meagaidh.

With a better forecast over East in terms of weather and avalanche we decided to go to Creag Meagaidh. We arrived at the car park to find only two other cars and rain, we kept our hopes high and our heads down and started walking. The freezing level was forecast for 800m but it was still sleeting when we arrived in the corrie.
We had our sights on Smiths Gully(V/VI,5) depending on which guide book you looked at and both of us really wanted to do the route. Alex started up the first pitch which gave good axe placements but screw placements weren't fantastic. As he approached the crux bulge of the pitch the ice started to turn very sugary and both axes started to shear, he gave one good swing and a big plate of ice fell off leaving exposed rock. He made a wise decision and started to down climb, half an hour later and he was back at the belay.
Not wanting to waste a day we carried on up Reaburns to have a look at Ritchies gully which looked in a similar kind of nick so we just carried on to the summit and walked out.

Pinnacle Buttress in the middle. You can just make out the line of last post on the right.

There were a few snow showers today with light winds but the freezing level was closer to 1050m and there were a few patches of slab around but most were avoidable. There was a 6 inch layer of quite firm slab sitting on top of some graupel which was giving us some worries and if this layer stays buried under any new snow it could become an issue.
John climbed Last post and the Wand saying the ice was a bit cruddy lower down but improved with height. I think a lot of the routes need a couple of days of freezing temps to consolidate them.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

A wild day to be out.

Day four of MIC training and we woke this morning to a fresh covering of snow in the Lodge car park. Today was our personal climbing day and with strong winds and fresh snow fall not to mention that it was supposed to get worse we headed into Coire an t'Sneachda.
There were a number of climbing teams heading out from the lodge so there was a quick pace set as we all tried to find our own space to work. We headed up towards Goat track gully and found the approach to be safe so headed on up this. We only lead a couple of pitches each as today's focus was to concentrate on a refresher of some skills and to build on them in terms of stance and rope management. Whilst this was going on the weather started to worsen with heavy snow falling and vis was reduced to white out at times, so we abseiled off and headed back to the van.
That wasn't the end of it though. As we left the coire the wind really started to kick us about with a couple of guys being taken off there feet. Not a nice afternoon to be out and with the forecast worse for tomorrow and more fresh snow overnight we'll wait and see what tomorrow holds.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Day two and three at the Lodge.

Yesterdays forecast was pretty miserable so we were looking for some shelter from the wind. So we headed to the slopes on the westerly side of Coire an Lochain to have a look at cramponing skills and movement over some more complex terrain. After some of this we continued up some bullet hard snow to some ice that we would be able to look at placing screws, building Abolokovs and coaching movement on climbing grade ice. The amount of snow that fell yesterday was less than was forecast and the day as a whole wasn't too bad but there was a lot of snow being blown about and redistributed and pockets of slab were being formed but all were avoidable. The crags were black today and apart from two teams in the Vent the crag was quiet.
Today was our mountaineering day and with a forecast worse than yesterdays we were looking for shelter again. We spent most of the day in the twin ribs area looking at short roping two people using a number of techniques and testing some of these techniques to there limit. It rained all day with freezing level only dropping at about 2pm when it slowly started to turn to snow. The crags were starting to fill in with fresh snow and there is more forecast overnight. Sorry I've got no pictures this week. I did remember my camera but forgot the card reader.