Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Back into Stob Coire nan Lochan.

Pitch 2. It's steeper than it looks.

I woke up this morning feeling a little tired and a bit spaced out still fighting the back of this cold but was keen to get out and enjoy the climbing conditions. A big cup of coffee and I thought I was feeling more awake but that wasn't the case as when I got to Glen Coe I found out I had forgotten the insoles to my boots. It didn't really cause me too much of a problem but the walk out was a bit painful.
Ian and I just decided to see what was available or looked good when we got there but we had a few things in mind. Arriving in the coire the buttress' looked a bit blacker than yesterday. Summit buttress looked a bit whiter so we headed for Spectre. This gave us two good pitches but felt stiff for V,6, I would say it felt more like VI,6. One more pitch of about III/IV and we abseiled back into Broad gully. Good neve on the ledges and the turf is frozen solid but a lot of the cracks were quite icy.
Lots of teams out today doing Moonshadow, Reaburns route, Dorsal Arete, Forked gully, Twisting grooves and Ken was on Twisting gully

Monday, 30 January 2012

Stob Coire nan Lochan.

Last day of the guys mountaineering course for West Coast Mountain Guides today and we headed up to SCnL to cover some more rope work and look at how they would pitch more difficult sections of climbing and protect each other on descent. We stuck to the broken ground just to the left of Boomerang gully and you can pick any line really from grade I-III. Other teams out in the corrie climbed Central Grooves, Something on North Buttress maybe Crest route or one of the lines just to the left. Max and Ed were out with their teams and climbed Twisting gully and NC gully.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Ledge route on Day 2.

After yesterdays day of skills we decided to go and actually get a route in so headed for Ledge route. I lead the way for most of the route talking the guys through anchor selection and looking at quick ways to switch between appropriate techniques. We finished the last bit of the ridge with the guys going solo and then we descended down No.4 Gully.
Teams out on Combe, Green and a very amenable two-step corner. One team made an ascent of Vanishing gully which I would say is there but probably not at the guide book grade yet. The mixed routes in the Ciste looked in great condition and will probably last as there is no real thaw forecast until later in the week. Today I was working for West Coast Mountain Guides.

Looking up to No.3 Gully.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Winter Mountaineering.

Day 1 of three working for West Coast Mountain Guides today and Kamil, Chris and I took the gondola up onto Aonach Mor and spent the day looking at skills in preparation for the next couple of days of mountaineering. It was busy on the Nid today with another couple of skills groups out and an AMI CPD day with the SAIS. No photos, I forgot to charge the camera. 

Monday, 23 January 2012

Ben Nevis winter skills weekend.

This weekend I was working along side Ken for Maximum Adventure on their Ben Nevis winter skills weekend. On Saturday with a pretty nasty forecast we decided to stay as low as we could and out of the wind as much as possible so we headed to Coire na Tulaich on Buachaille Etive Mor. We spent the day covering the basic skills and the group did well to concentrate on what was a very nasty day.

Day 2 and with strong winds still forecast we decided to try and make the summit of the Ben keeping an open mind to the possibility that we might not get there. Fortunately the winds never really materialised and it turned into a reasonable day so we made it to the top in a steady time of 4 hours.
Climbing conditions looked great for today but unfortunately I've been struck down with the 'man flu' and it sounds like Ken and Guy had a good day on Aonach Mor. Back on the Ben and by what I saw of indicator wall area on Sunday the freeze/thaw cycles we have been getting have done some good as it definitely looked whiter than when I saw it earlier in the week.

Friday, 20 January 2012

North Buttress, Buachaille Etive Mor

Today Ken, Ian and I headed for North Buttress with the thinking that we would get some shelter from the wind and that the turf should still be frozen and thankfully we were right. We chose this route so we could get some practise rope work in and the route has complicated ground on the approach and descent making for a good day. North Buttress itself is a fantastic route and gives some sustained and technical climbing for IV,4. The freezing level stayed below us for most of the day but it did start to creep up just as we topped out. We descended via Coire Na Tulaich which today was a safe way down as all of the new snow was easy to spot and avoid. The forecast for the week looks to be windy but at least we are getting the snow we have been waiting for.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Short roping workshop on Aonach Mor

Yesterday I was on an Association of Mountaineering Instructors CPD day being run by Tim Blakemore. The six of us plus Tim made our way up round the Nid and spent the day looking at making our short rope techniques slicker and learning a few new tricks. It's always good to be out with peers too and to see and hear about the way they do things as we all tend to spend most of our time working alone.

The freezing level did rise yesterday but it was much drier than had been forecast so the snow and ice was showing very little sign of thawing. The freezing level has dropped again this morning and snow is forecast for the next couple of days. What Ice there is should stay in good condition and the mixed routes should be an option when the snow arrives as the ground is still frozen solid above 700m.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Back to work.

So the weather over the last few days have been fantastic in Lochaber. Good hard frosts and mostly sunny. Unfortunately I had other commitments but I was back at work today. Lots of people have been out climbing over the last few days and I'm sure you've seen it on other peoples blogs so I won't give you a run down. Fair to say though that people have been reporting good conditions if a little thin in some places.

Today I was working with David who is doing a winter 3 peaks and it was definitely winter today, it was freezing in the Glen when we set of this morning and only got colder as the wind started to pick up but the sun was shining for most of the day and we got some fantastic views today. I had a few peeks over to the North face and saw teams on Tower ridge, Combe gully, No.2 gully and Max popped up onto the plateau from Smith's route just as i was taking some photos of Indicator wall. Looks like conditions are set to stay this way for a couple more days, though with more cloud and some precipitation which should rime up some of the higher mixed routes.

The Great tower (with a team at the gap), South Trident Buttress and Ledge route.

Indicator wall area. Still thin in places.

Max just popping onto the Plateau from Smith's route.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Aonach Mor East Face

I was working for Abacus Mountain Guides yesterday with a couple on Aonach Mor. We headed round under the Nid and continued round under the back Coires chair lift. On the way round we concentrated on movement skills including kicking steps and walking/climbing in crampons. We carried on up the ridge bounding the North side of Coire an Lochain towards the climbers col. By this time the temperature had risen and the rain had set in. We climbed the broken ground on the left of the ridge at about grade II and topped out into some pretty strong winds. 

The crags on the East face still look to be holding some ice as Guy and Kenny reported a couple of days ago and the turf is still frozen. Given the drop in temps today I would think there would be some routes worth doing over the weekend. All we need is some fresh snow and the buttress routes would be good too. A word of warning though, there are some very big cornices at the moment and unless you want to spend hours digging through you might want to try and pick a route that would be relatively clear for the top out. 

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Where has the winter gone?

Fiacaill Buttress.

Ken and I headed over to the Cairngorms this morning to meet Joe and head into the Northern coires to practise some mountaineering work in preparation for assessments later in the winter. It was a constructive day but not that wintry. The snow cover in Coire an t Sneachda is minimal. Even the easy gullies aren't complete. Coire na Lochain has much more snow and I'd guess you would find the gullies in there to be complete. We just couldn't believe how little snow there was, all of the buttress are bare and if you fancied it you could quite happily get a summer route in and probably avoid taking any winter kit at all. On the plus side the ground is still mostly frozen so fresh snow will bring the mixed back into condition.

Mess of Pottage

Aladdin's and Fluted Buttress

Friday, 6 January 2012

Some winter cragging.

Last day of The Abacus Mountain Guides, Winter Mountaineering Course and the guys had said that they wanted to take another look at pitching, abseiling and some more rope work. So with a thaw forecast to set in again during the day, instead of walking up into the snow to have a wet cold day we decided to go cragging in Glen Nevis. We started the day going over constructing belays again and looked at placing some gear. After that we headed up to the Gutter and made a mass ascent putting it all into practise and then finished the day by abseiling off the tree.
I've got a few days off now to catch up with a few people and jobs. I'll be back out on Tuesday with some condition reports hopefully.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Ledge route and a nice day, finally.

Day 4 of the Abacus Mountain Guides Winter Mountaineering Course and today always looked to be the best day of the week on paper and it was. A nice cold day with very little precipitation and the wind wasn't as bad as the forecast had suggested again. We had decided today we would make best use of this and go and do a classic mountaineering route. We headed up to Ledge route followed by a couple of other teams who we kindly let past. More so they could put a staircase in for us and make our day a little easier. We followed their steps up the route with the guys moving together as a team of three for most of the route. They did well and the big grins on their faces as we topped out said a lot. A good day to be out in the mountains today and it seems like such a long time since we have had one. 

Mixed conditions on the mountain looked great today. Frozen turf and a good covering of Rime. Not many people ventured into Coire na Ciste but a couple of teams did routes on Number 3 gully buttress and lower down the Douglas boulder was busy. Ice is starting to form very quickly on the larger drainage lines with the Curtain and the Shroud looking white but not there yet. Higher up the cascades next to No. 2 gully were there and Glover's chimney looked like it was reasonably well formed. I didn't get a look into Observatory gully and Indicator wall but by the look of the Orion and Minus faces very little ice has formed here with just lots of snow on the ledges but I could be wrong.

 All set to change again tomorrow with freezing levels forecast at 2000m. In the long run though there is loads of snow on the mountain and I think very little damage will be done by the rain and the moisture will only help the ice.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Wet, wet, wet.

A very damp day today. Not too much to say about conditions really, we stayed low in an attempt to stay out of the forecast wind again. We headed up and down the zig zags looking at rope work and decision making whilst moving over mountaineering terrain. Heavy rain fell all day down to about 600m, the snow pack is heavily saturated at this level but higher up more snow fell maintaining the 'High' avalanche forecast for tomorrow. All of this snow and fluctuating temps might make for difficult conditions at the moment but it looks promising for the rest of the winter. No photos today it was just too wet to get the camera out. Today was day 3 of the Abacus Mountain Guides Winter Mountaineering course.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Not that bad actually!

Day two of the Mountaineering course for Abacus Mountain Guides and today we headed into Ben Nevis with the plan of staying low and trying to find some shelter. Turned out that wasn't really an issue, there was some wind about but nowhere near the kind of speeds that had been forecast. There were some very heavy showers and our footprints were filling in very quickly as we moved about. We spent the day under the Douglas Boulder looking at snow anchors and ice axe arrest. The only other group we saw on the mountain kindly did the hard work for us and dug some shelters and we just went and looked at how and why we might choose to dig or use one.

The team working up a sweat digging bucket seats.
Conditions wise, Douglas boulder area could be worth a look tomorrow with ice starting to form and frozen turf where it is exposed. Ice is trying to form again on the lower ice routes but with the freezing level due to rise again through tomorrow it might not last too long. Higher up the mountain though I think the ice will be coming along nicely and harder mixed lines would be worth a shot. There is a lot of snow up there at the moment but with the strong winds there are definitely areas of  snow erosion and deposition going on and it maybe possible to get something done if you go in with an open mind and are careful with the route you choose.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Winter has returned and it looks like it means business.

Today was the first day of a 5 day Mountaineering Course I'm running for Abacus Mountain Guides. The plan for today was to cover basic skills with the three guys who between them have some experience of winter but were definitely keen to learn more. We headed up towards Stob Ban looking at Navigation on the way in and keeping our eyes open for the signs of snow being shifted around which there was a lot of. We arrived at the back of the corrie and by now we were taking it in turns to break trail with drifts up to our waist and still heavy snow falling. We spent some time here looking at the snow pack and talking about avalanches, digging some hasty pits and getting to know as much about the snow as we could. There was a lot of snow around which meant we didn't get to cover some of the things we had hoped but there is plenty of time. We carried on up to the summit and then finished off by Scrambling down the North Ridge. A fine mountain day out and although it involved a lot of hard work from the guys they did well in difficult conditions.

Things are starting to fill in nicely again with all of the fresh snow but there is a lot of wind slab around and we came across some very deep and not that well bonded stuff that had been deposited by cross loading. The old snow is starting to firm up nicely and the turf is almost frozen and Rime was starting to build on the rocks above 900m. There should be some good mixed climbing conditions to be had if only it wasn't for the weather and getting to the bottom of the crags that might be the biggest problem over the next few days. I apologise I forgot my camera again. I must remember to take it out of the airing cupboard, I'm sure it's dry by now.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Turned out better than I thought.

I'll admit I wasn't looking forward to getting soaked to the skin again today and the drive into Glen Coe didn't exactly fill me with joy. As Donald and I got out of our cars to get the group from Warwick Uni sorted it was lashing it down with rain and a strong cold wind was driving through the glen but at least we could see it was white on the tops. We made good time up to the corrie floor and spent the day looking at moving around on the snow, Ice axe arrest and lots of other things along the way. We decided to stay in the corrie and stay off the ridges as the wind was quite strong. Today I was working for Abacus Mountain Guides.

New snow lying above about 650m in Glen Coe today, still quite wet though but the freezing level did seem to drop as the day went on and the old snow is starting to firm up again. Al Halewood was climbing and has a report on conditions (and photos as I forgot my camera). It is set to continue being cold on the tops for the next couple of days and I don't think it'll be long before ice is forming as there is so much water about.The turfs not frozen yet and I think with all this fresh snow it will take a while unless it is exposed.