Friday, 24 February 2012

A brief return to winter.

I was out on the Bauchaille yesterday with Hannah and Davie just working through a few things ready for next month. The snow line had gone up quite a way since I was there on Saturday. There is now only snow at the back of Coire na Tuilach for the last 80-100m before you reach the Bealach. There was water running every where and unsurprisingly we were all saturated by about 2pm so ran away for coffee and cake in Glen Coe village.

The temps have dropped today and there is fresh snow lying above 900m but it is forecast to warm up again tomorrow evening for a few days. People will be out today and I'm sure it won't be long before we get an idea of what is left to do on the Ben. In Stob Coire nan Lochan the snow is now patchy up to the very foot of broad gully and there was no snow on any of the Buttress'. Over in the Cairngorms things aren't looking too good either. Have a look at Al's and Max's blogs for photos. I'm sure winter is not over yet and we will see some more snow and ice building again but it does look a bit depressing at the moment.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Ben Nevis Winter Skills Weekend.

Over the weekend I was running a course with Rich for Maximum Adventure. On Saturday we made our way into Coire na Tuilach on the Bauchaille hoping to find some shelter from the strong winds and it is a quick walk up to the snow line. We survived the day looking at skills and went on a bit of a tour of the coire.
Yesterday was a completely different day with blue Sky's and very little wind which was great for our day on the Ben, although it did cloud over later in the day. We walked up a pretty busy tourist path passing a lot of people who were not prepared for the rock hard neve and ice on the plateau. We had a bit of a tour round having a look over to the North face, more so I could see what was getting done but the group were impressed with the climbers too.

Looking down No.3 Gully.

A busy Summit.

Lots of people out and we saw teams on Ledge route, Gargoyle wall, Babylon (I think), the Cascades, Glover's chimney, Smith's route and Indicator wall. We saw the chopper about too but didn't hear the unfortunate news of the accident on Zero gully until we got home.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Tour de Ben Nevis.

Today was the last day of the Abacus Mountain Guides course and it as an opportunity for the guys to put their new skills into practise. Unfortunately Shelly had to drop out because of a bad knee. We had planned on Ledge route hoping to be done before the worst of the weather came in but on the walk in the wind seemed to have already picked up so we changed our plan and headed for Moonlight gully. The guys lead themselves up the first two pitches then we descended the broken ground to the side and traversed round to Douglas Boulder where we did more of the same up West Gully and then Abseiled down East gully. A week of mixed weather but a nice group of people and a fun course to run.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Spring in the Coe!

Today on the Abacus Mountain Guides course was all about the rock. With rain forecast at all levels and strong winds we stayed low and headed to the Ziz Zags. This route is great if you want a shorter day or want to stay low and away from the worst of the weather. This does mean however that it seems like I'm always on this route in pretty nasty weather which could start to make me feel a little jaded about the route but thankfully after a slightly damp start the rain stopped and the sun came out and we spent most of the afternoon scrambling on dry rock with stunning views. Reminded me how nice a way up it is through some impressive rock scenery.
We spent the day looking at introducing the guys to some basic rock climbing, looking at pitching, moving together and abseiling. Final day tomorrow and a chance for the guys to put everything they've learnt this week into practise. 

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Soggy snow anchors

Today on the Abacus Mountain Guides Winter Mountaineering course we headed up in to Coire na Tulaich on the Bauchaille to look at snow anchors. It doesn't take long before you hit the snow so the short approach meant we made the most of the day. Lots of digging done today and although the top few inches of snow are wet and soft there were some icy layers lower down making digging hard work at times today. The team did well and we made lots of short pitches looking at all of the different anchors we have in our tool box and when to use them. 

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Creag Meagaidh.

Day 2 of the Abacus Mountain Guides Winter Mountaineering Course and we headed into Creag Meagaidh. On the walk-in we concentrated on Navigation so the guys could get used to some contour interpretation and breaking things down into smaller legs ready for us heading onto the tops. Unfortunately due to a couple of niggles we had to turn round but spent the rest of the day looking at emergency shelters. 

The ice seems to be holding on but there are a few holes appearing in some of the routes. We didn't hit firm snow until we were in the Inner corrie where a couple of routes were getting done. I would imagine the ice at the bottom of the routes on the Post face is going to be close to useless at the moment and the ice higher up has seen some lower temps but the rock still looked damp today.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Skills round the Nid

I'm running a Winter Mountaineering course this week for Abacus Mountain Guides and today was day one. We took the Gondola up Nevis range and walked round to the Nid and here the group had there first chance to use some of their shiny kit. We spent the day looking at all of the skills that are available to us to move around on varying terrain and went on a bit of a journey taking in some steeper ground. We finished the day off by looking at Ice Axe arrest.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Good ice on Green!

Day two with Rory and James for Abacus Mountain Guides and after the boys performance on the Pumpkin yesterday they fancied something of a similar grade and wanted to be down at a decent time ready for their drive south. The forecast was for the freezing levels to drop overnight but it didn't really feel like that was the case as we left the car this morning. It was a busy walk in to the CIC and passing a few people who were turning round too which never really fills you with hope. As we hit the floor of the Ciste the snow was starting to firm up nicely and the cloud had lifted a bit which gave us the opportunity to see what was free. Plan A was out with a team at the bottom of the route but Green gully was free so we headed up to the first belay and from then on up the route was in great condition. Bomber placements and even some good screws and after the last few days of milder temps there is a lot of rock gear available too. We topped out into an inversion and enjoyed the sun before we headed down the Red Burn. Lots of teams out today, too many to list and no photos I'm afraid.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Pumpkin soup!

I'm out with Rory and James this weekend for Abacus Mountain Guides and they were heading up from Edinburgh this morning so we decided to meet at Creag Meagaidh. Mike had been on the Pumpkin yesterday and had reported that it was a bit damp but still there so me made our way up to the Inner coire. We had the Inner coire to ourselves and there were only a couple of other teams visible which I found surprising given reports on UKC. The first pitch was pretty damp and sugary and not brilliant for screws but axe placements were ok once you'd done some digging. The ice did improve with height but the upper part of the route is almost snow free but on good frozen turf. The freezing level is due to drop tonight to about 900m which will help to improve the ice but it does need some new snow. Other teams were on Staghorn gully and one team headed up Reaburn's but I didn't see where they went.

The Post face.

The inner coire with Pumpkin on the left and the Wand and Diadem on the right.

James after the crux. 

A team on the crux of Staghorn gully.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

A last minute change of plans.

Plenty of ice in Left twin.

I was supposed to be taking Jo and Matt mountaineering today but Matt text me this morning to say he wasn't well so Jo and I changed our plans and caught the 9am Gondola up onto Aonach Mor. We descended down to a very sunny East face and it felt more like spring than February as we carried on round towards typhoon but it didn't look to be holding much ice so we climbed Siamese twin instead. The first pitch of this had been in the morning sun and was starting to look a bit crusty so we climbed the first pitch of left twin and then moved back right to finish up the crux of Siamese. We topped out into the sun and had a bite of lunch and then headed back down the Morwind abseils and climbed the last two pitches of this just to finish the day off. Another glorious day if climbing in the sun!

The ice on the East face is good at the moment but the last couple of days of sun have taken there toll on the more Southerly aspects of the coire, with snow melting quickly and turf starting to poke back through. The crags around Stirling Bridge still look very white as they don't catch the sun.

The crux of Siamese twin.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Western Rib on the West face of Aonach Mor.

Yesterdays forecast was much better but after all of the recent snow fall the Avalanche forecast was not looking so promising apart from on Western aspects so we headed round to the summit ribs to climb Western Rib. I was expecting to find this face to be pretty scoured of fresh snow but as we climbed higher the going got slower and slower as we dug ourselves a trench to the summit. A good route though and with lots of variation to be had if you want to make it even more interesting. Every time I've climbed on this face I've been the only group there but others obviously had the same idea as we saw a couple of teams on the walk in that were picking their way up some ground just to the North of the summit, one team climbed Diam buttress I think and Zac was out with his team on Golden oldy.
Today I was working for Abacus Mountain guides.

Fawlty towers.

Saturday wasn't a nice day to be out. After a week of glorious sunshine and light winds the weather returned to what we have seen a lot of this winter, strong winds, milder temps and heavy precipitation. So Gary, Angus and I headed to the west flank of Tower ridge to try and get some shelter from the winds and avoid all of the fresh snow that was lying further up the mountain. At the CIC hut we chatted to a pair that had just dodged an avalanche below the Orion face and had decided to head back for a brew instead.
We headed up towards West gully with the plan of climbing the South West Ridge but Chris and another team had beaten us to it so we opted for Fawlty Towers with a variation. The first pitch is usually a nice pitch of ice but all I found was a layer of cruddy ice and soft snow which made the climbing feel a little harder than it should. Further up and conditions didn't really improve too much but at least the turf was frozen. This gave us four pitches of what normally is about grade III but was more like IV,5. We topped out onto Tower ridge and descended down the East flank into Observatory gully where there was more evidence of a slide coming from below Point 5.
Rich Bentley climbed a line next to us and one pair managed to make it up to and back from Central gully right hand. Today I was working for Abacus Mountain Guides.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Another stunning day!

With ice conditions so good at the moment Matt and I decided to head up high on the Ben and see what was about. We arrived in Coire na ciste to see a team heading for Green gully and Two step corner and had seen a team heading round the corner towards Combe gully but they were quite a way ahead of us so we chose to follow them round. It looks like they had headed for Combe gully buttress because we had Combe gully to ourselves and it was in fantastic condition today with first time placements the whole way up. The ice may not have been so good for screws but the climbing was so secure I was happy to run it out a bit. We topped out at 1pm and had some lunch in the sun before heading down.
Reasonably quiet in the Ciste today but teams were on the routes already mentioned plus No.3 gully buttress, the white line, Reaburns route, North gully and Tower face of the Combe. I did see one team finishing off Hadrians wall as we walked out.

The Combe and No.3 gully buttress.

Creag Coire na Ciste

No.5 gully and Carn Dearg.

Milder and windy tomorrow so we'll see what happens with climbing conditions over the next couple of days but I would think the snow ice routes will hold on well and mixed climbs should be back in condition with routes riming up in the moister air. 

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Aonach Mor in the sunshine.

I met up with Matt and Jo this morning at Nevis range at 10am. A nice lazy start for me as Jo didn't finish work till 9am but both of the lads had to be back to start work at 5pm so we were planning on a quick blast. Unfortunately the quad chair wasn't running due to the winds so our window for climbing was now even smaller. We walked up to the summit into a cold and biting southerly wind and finally got high enough to see some sun. We geared up and abseiled into Easy gully along with Ed and Max who were out with clients from Jagged globe. It was now after midday, so as we traversed along the bottom of the crag we saw teams on Whiteshark/Aquafresh and could see a team on Morwind. knowing it would probably be busy around the twins area too we spotted an empty and partially sun bathed Tunnel Vision. Decision made and we climbed it in 3 pitches with the middle being the crux but with solid axe placements all the way although not fantastic for screws but well worth a visit for the grade. We topped out into the sun and fantastic views across the whole of Lochaber. A quick bite to eat and back at the cars for 3pm. It was a nice day to be out no matter what you were doing today and looks set to continue for another couple of days.