Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Wet, windy and warm!

Day 2 with Andrew for Abacus Mountain Guides and it wasn't the most inspiring view this morning as I looked out the window but with the promise of improving weather and snow higher up we headed for Curved ridge. There looked to be very little sign of snow as we drove through the Coe but we persevered, after an hour of walking into the wind, rain and through deep wet snow, we passed the waterslide and it was at this point the wind hit us. The clouds were whipping across Curved ridge and it was decided that we needed a plan b. After much deliberating, Andrew decided he would rather head back than have a very wet day of 'making do'. It did brighten up this afternoon and the freezing level dropped but we really just need a good freeze to firm up the snow and help build the ice. Tomorrow is set to be brighter, so pack your bags, get out and have a good New Year!

Looking up to a very damp North buttress and Rannoch wall.

Monday, 30 December 2013

Start of my season.

So today was my first day of work this season and I was out with Andrew and Sarah for Abacus Mountain Guides. We headed for the North ridge of stob Ban today hoping that the freezing levels had come down as had been forecast to give us some firm snow to use our crampons. We put them on but we were just walking through wet snow right up to the summit. Only here did it feel like things were starting to firm up with the exposed turf frozen and rock dry, so there may well be some climbing to be had on the higher crags if the snow refreezes this evening.

The crags of Stob Ban from the North.

Friday, 13 December 2013

A summer exped in December!

I've been out with a group of 4 students from the Advanced Certificate in Outdoor Learning on an expedition that marks the end of the summer section of their hill skills module. We started from Brae Roy lodge and headed into Luib chonnal Bothy which was going to be our very comfortable home for the night. We headed out for a couple of hours of night nav to return to the fire for some dinner.

Nothing like a fire at the end of the day for some comfort.

Today we headed south past Dog falls and through the Bealach between Beinn Teallach and Beinn a' Chaorainn to finish at Rough burn. We saw very little sign of snow although it was pretty grey with low cloud for most of the time. Looks like it's due to get cold again next week and with some snowfall forecast but it feels more like September that December at the moment.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Back to the blog!

I've been a bit slack with the blog this summer but winter has arrived so it's time to start again. A couple of routes have been done here on the West, such as the Slab climb and other easier mountaineering type routes. With the mild and wet Autumn the turf has taken it's time to freeze but it looks like things are shaping up. Today I was out on the hill with some students from the West Highland College working on their nav and after a cold night the ground was frozen above about 400m and remained that way for most of the day. We are due some cold nights with milder days for the weekend which will hopefully continue freezing the turf further. We have got some snow on the hills but not so much that these temps won't be getting to the turf. Fingers crossed!

Ben Nevis from the South.

Glen Coe with S.C.N.L and Bidean on the right.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Winter's round the corner!

So the summer has flown by, I've not really been keeping the blog up to date this summer but I've been busy with both work, play and personal stuff. Booking and enquiries are coming in almost daily now for the coming winter season and it's gradually cooling down outside and the word snow is appearing more and more on the mountain forecasts.

We could have our first proper taste of winter in the next couple of weeks or we might have to wait a bit longer but peoples focus is definitely turning towards the white stuff. So why not get in touch to see what I can do for you this winter. With courses ranging from an introduction to winter walking right through to guiding on some of Scotland's greatest classic climbs. 

Looking for some inspiration then have a look at 'The festival of ice' this weekend at the Ice Factor including the 'Scottish Tooling Series' or you can have a read of a write up I did earlier in the year of my Cuillin winter traverse last December. If they don't do it for you then here's a couple of videos that always get me excited.

Fingers crossed for another great winter!



Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Ardverikie wall in the sunshine.

With a better forecast over East Neil and I headed over to Binnien Shaus to climb the classic of the crag and said to be possibly the best Hard severe in the country, Ardverikie wall. It was still drizzling when we arrived at the car park but 30 mins later it was starting to dry up so we headed in to see what would happen. Thankfully it did brighten up and it wasn't long before we were followed by Mark Chadwick and his team and a three other teams arrived when we were half way up the route.

The weather was great and the route was fantastic with good clean rock and some fantastic climbing and it lived up to it's reputation. It was nice to be out moving on rock as I've just been too busy this summer so far to actually get out climbing for myself. The rain is due to return tomorrow so it's back out on the bike.

Mark Chadwick 'working hard'.

Neil enjoying dry rock and sunshine.

Blue sky's, yes!

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Back on Skye.

I've just got back from another four days of work for Skye guides. Day 1 saw us fighting on through the wind and rain and grabbing Sgurr a'Mheadaidh, day two and we headed for the Southern Munros to get Sgurr nan Eag and Sgurr Dubh Mor which Alex still had to 'tick off'.
After a big day and with the weather set to come in, in the afternoon we had a short day three and grabbed the In Pinn and were back at the car before the rain started. With Yesterdays forecast being the best we headed for Pinnacle ridge on Sgurr nan Gillian, after topping out we descended the west ridge and headed over Am Bastier, abbing Naismith's and King's cave chimney and on to Bruache na Frithe. A great day out with lots of interest the whole way. That's my work on Skye finished for the moment but hopefully I'll be back soon. 

The view on the approach to Pinnacle ridge.

Umm, where should I thread my ab rope. At the top of Kings cave chimney.

Eddy abseiling down Kings cave chimney.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Summer time is here!

Back from another short stint of work on Skye for Skye Guides and there's not a lot to say really other than the sun is shining, the ground is dry and so are the crags. So get out and enjoy the Highlands at their best!

Monday, 3 June 2013

A Cuillin ridge traverse.

Saturday morning started wet but was due to dry up as the day went on so Stuart, Vincent and I had a plan for a late start on the first day to give the ridge a chance to dry. We start the walk in at about 11am and thankfully only had one shower on the way round to Gars Bheinn. By the time we hit the ridge the cloud was lifting and the crest was dry. We made very quick progress to coir' a Ghrunnda and made the detour out to Sgurr Dubh Mor and back to our bivvy below Sgurr Sgmain for an early night ready for our big second day.

A 4am alarm saw us fed and ready for a 5am start, we headed up onto Sgurr Alasdair to be greeted with a view of the cloud clearing from the ridge and it all looked good for a quick day. Unfortunately it was at this point that Stuart started to feel unwell and it was long before he was bent over throwing up. He decided to continue and did very well to keep going considering but he was struggling to eat anything so was going to run out of energy at some point. We made steady progress North over the In Pinn at about 9am and enjoyed the great section of scrambling over Sgurr a Ghreadaidh  but it was decided at this point that we should leave the ridge at An Dorus. A good effort by Stuart who really was battling on and well done to Vincent who was very understanding. I was working this traverse for Skye Guides.

Approaching Sgurr nan Eag.

The cloud lifting off An Stac and the In Pinn at 5.30am.

A slightly damp abseil off the In Pinn.

An afternoons cragging.

On Friday afternoon I was joined by Tom and Fiona for an introduction to rock climbing. We headed up into Glen Nevis and climbed the Gutter in four pitches and then headed over to Right wall to climb it in another two. The guys did well and we covered placing gear, building belays and some rope work. Once I'd finished it was a quick change and a drive up to Skye for a traverse attempt over the weekend. 

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Three great days on Skye.

I'm just back from three great days on Skye working with Pete and Ray for Skye Guides. Sunday saw us ticking off the southern two Munros in great weather for most of the day but the cloud did come in later in the day with a couple of light showers but thankfully we made it back to the car before the wild weather really hit.
Sunday night was a wild night on the Island and the weather was due to clear later Monday morning so we had a late start and headed up to An Dorus to get the middle two Munros and our plan worked as it stayed dry and the cloud lifted.
Yesterday we headed up the Sgumain stone shoot and over the top to Sgurr Alasdair and continued along the ridge north to Sgurr Mhic Choinnich and down the An Stac screes. Pete and Ray are having a rest day today before they head out again tomorrow with Jon.
I've got a couple of days off now before a ridge traverse attempt over the weekend, lets hope the weather holds out.  

Ray and Pete enjoying the views from Sgurr nan Eag.

Friday, 17 May 2013

A catch up and Skye conditions.

I've had a break from the blog over the last month as I've been doing some centre based work and had a great little break to north Wales with Gillian so haven't really had anything useful to report. This week though I've been up on Skye working for Skye Guides. The weather and conditions have been challenging to say the least but we still managed to get out. There is still some big patches of old snow lying around on the North facing cliffs and in some of the gullies. Most of them are avoidable or are small enough to run a quick pitch up it needed. An Dorus and the great stone shoot still have a good amount of snow that will be there for a while and Coire a Bhastier still has long approaches over snow slopes and will need winter kit for a while. The ridge itself is free of old snow and anything that has fallen this week should be melting off in today's sun. 

An Stac and the In Pin on Wednesday.

The great stone shoot and Sgurr Alasdair

Coire a Bhastier.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Tower ridge at it's best.

The forecast for today was light winds, 80% of cloud free Munros and the odd snow shower. It certainly looked like it was going to be a fine day as we walked in but the wind soon picked and just above the CIC hut the snow was starting to blow around. We carried on up into Observatory gully and up towards our plan A but now it was snowing at reasonable rate. Conditions weren't optimal for our plan A so we had a think and decided to head up Tower ridge instead.

The ridge is in fantastic condition at the moment with good firm neve and ice from bottom to top and with the new snow and wind today it felt like it was the middle of February. The rocks high up were riming up nicely and there is more snow on the ridge in places than I have seen before, banking out some of the more awkward steps. We had snow on and off all day and a lot of it was getting shifted around and we did come across some pockets of very unstable wind slab.

Carn Dearg and Castle ridge area this morning.

East gully Approach

Neil throwing some shapes climbing out of Douglas gap.

The end of a great day.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Winters not going anywhere fast!

I've had some time off in the last week or so to rest after a busy winter and have been enjoying the sunshine with a bit of mountain biking and time with the other half. Today though it was back to work in the winter with a trip along the CMD arete with Jack for West Coast Mountain Guides. We never quite got the amazing views that this route can provide but they weren't bad. We made quick progress thanks to the good covering of firm snow along the arete itself and the descent down Red burn is so banked out there isn't even a waterfall at the bottom to look out for. 

This pair kept us entertained today.

Ben Nevis from the CMD.

Descending to the arete.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Not a bad consolation route, Italian right hand.

So plan A was to head for Point 5 but unfortunately a team beat us to it, we gave them a bit of time whilst we geared up but it soon became apparent they weren't going to be moving fast. So we thought lets go round the corner to the Brenva face and have a bit of an adventure and an explore. Yes it was catching the Sun but things weren't falling down so we headed up. As we were routing around for the first belay it began, a pretty constant shower of bits of ice from further up the route. "Ah, well! Don't fancy that, back we go."

After some discussion about which routes Connor had done and which routes I had done we finally stumbled across the fact that neither of us had climbed Italian right hand. Which by now was going to fit the bill as we had done enough faffing and could ab back out. Two good pitches of ice and a good chat to Scott and Ian who we were sharing the route with and then back to the CIC for a brew. 

Monday, 1 April 2013

A great day on Crowberry gully.

Out with Joe and Jay today and with a great forecast 'again' and so many routes in condition it was a difficult decision, deciding where to go. We headed for Crowberry gully in the end and the guys took the lead for the easier lower section. I took over after a couple of pitches and lead us to the top. Most of the route is very well stepped and hooked but the ice in thinning in some places making for some more 'interesting' climbing but a great route non the less.

Joe, enjoying the setting.

Jay getting stuck in!

Relaxing in the cave belay at the start of the last pitch.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

An introduction to Scottish winter.

I've spent the last five days with Jackie and Jane on an introductory winter course for Maximum Adventure. We spent the first three days in the Cairngorms covering the basics of winter skills and looking at winter navigation. We also had a quick hit up Fiacaill ridge on a very wintry day with lots of fresh snow and strong winds.

Fiacaill ridge

Yesterdays forecast wasn't exactly promising but initially looked better than today's so we decided to make that the day we would try and get the girls to the top of the Ben. It was always going to be a 'lets just see how it goes' kind of day, and the winds above the CIC were pretty strong and it didn't bode well for the upper section of Ledge route. We carried on, bit by bit, with me always thinking that maybe we would be turning round after the next section, but it was actually very manageable and on the summit plateau the wind wasn't even an issue. We navigated over to the summit and quickly descended next to the Red burn. A great effort from the ladies on a pretty wild day.

High on Ledge route.

After yesterdays effort, today was always planned to be an easier day. We decided to remove as much of the hard work as possible and headed into the Glen to cover some of the climbing elements that Jackie and Jane had wanted to cover. It was still chilly and with the odd snow flurry coming through but we climbed the Gutter in four pitches and placed some gear and then headed home.

The Ben at the end of Yesterday.

Today was my last day of winter work, at the moment, but winter is still well and truly with us in the Highlands and actually with some fantastic conditions. There is still plenty to go at I'm looking forward to getting out and playing in it myself. April is still a couple of weeks away but if you still want some winter climbing and it's still here please get in touch. 

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Combe gully to ourselves.

Back up the Ben with Paddy today to get him on something a bit harder and on the walk in we saw team after team head up to Creag Coire na Ciste and No.3 gully buttress but no one had headed round the corner towards No. 2 gully. So we popped round to find that it was in fact empty with just two teams on the White line. The great conditions continued today and in fact the snow is now bullet hard making secure and easy climbing. Combe gully itself is fat and very stepped out at the moment with very little need to swing at all but still great climbing, the wind was cold today and I was glad to be moving quickly.

The ice routes are in great condition and some of the mixed climbs are back in condition with enough cloud around today to stop the sun doing too much damage.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Windy on the Ben.

I was out with Paddy today for our first day of two, and his first ever winter day, and it was a wild one. We battled in to the CIC hut passing a few teams that had decided to turn around which didn't bode well but our plans meant we could be flexible with were we went. Just above the CIC hut we had a look at some boot work and using crampons and moving about on some more difficult terrain which Paddy picked up quickly, so we headed up through the left hand gulch, which has some fantastic steep ice and made our way up to Garadh gully. The route goes at about II/III at the moment and Paddy cruised it, so something a bit more difficult is needed for tomorrow. We topped out and descended back towards the hut and had a look at placing screws on the lead and building Abolokovs.

The wind did ease as the day went on but it was still wild, lots of teams out on the lower routes with Vanishing and Italian right-hand seeing lots of traffic. I saw two teams on central right-hand but both abseiled off I think and I saw two teams back off from Combe. The ice is in great shape and the snow has firmed up giving fantastic conditions for climbing and even the buttress' are white again.

Friday, 8 March 2013

A short break to Creag Meagaidh.

I was out snow holing with the third years of the Adventure and tourism degree students last night. Andy, Gillian, Julie and myself took the fairly large group of 16 up through the window and out to a popular snow hole sight nick-named the W's. As we've had no fresh snow for about three weeks we were pretty sure any banks of snow in this area would already have snow holes in and thankfully we were right. The students had to do some digging to make the snow holes larger and were quite glad that was all that was needed. It wasn't a cold night but we did wake up to freezing temps and a bit of fresh snow. 

The routes in the inner coire are looking in great condition and we did see a team on Last post yesterday. The forecast is for a return to cold weather for the next few days and overall, very little precipitation. Fingers crossed for some great ice climbing in settled conditions in March.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Ledge route.

Day 2 with Kevin and Yen and we headed for Ledge route to give them some more experience on the lead. I lead us up the lower ramps which still have a good covering of snow and they took over when we hit the ridge and did a great job of leading four pitches before we carried on up to the top.

It wasn't freezing at all today and there are a few big holes appearing but it is due to cool down again over the next couple of days. Plenty of teams out today but the cloud was down for most of it so I didn't see what they were on but plenty of voices bouncing round the coire. I was working for West Coast Mountain Guides today.

The Sun did shine today too.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Damp on Dorsal.

I was out with Yen and Kevin today who had returned after their New year course had been plagued by bad weather and other factors that actually prevented them from climbing anything. We headed up to Dorsal arete so they could get straight on the lead. The weather on the walk-in looked promising but the cloud soon came in and it started to rain. The snow pack was wet on the surface but still gave good solid placements and the ice was holding on well. We could do with some snow though as some parts of the routes are now starting to look a bit bare. Today I was working for West Coast Mountain Guides. 

Friday, 1 March 2013

A couple of days with the UHI.

I've spent the last two days with James and Mark on the UHI winter workshop climbing programme. Yesterday we were round on the West face of Aonach Mor having a skills check and throwing in a few problems that usually occur during winter routes and how to solve them. The lower parts of the West face buttress routes are pretty bare now but the gullies are holding snow well and we pitched the ground below the routes to give us 200m of turf, ice and snow.

A bit of movement practice on a small step. 

Today the guys wanted to look at some mountaineering rope work to help them work towards some of the Scottish classics like Tower ridge and N.E. Buttress. We spent the day looking at moving together whilst placing runners and using natural pro, taking chest and hand coils and switching between the appropriate techniques efficiently. Last nights frost had really firmed things up, with the snow being rock hard this morning and it stayed that way all day in the shade. Plenty of people out on the classic ice lines and Observatory ridge.

The lower section of Tower ridge.

Mark on the traverse.

Abseiling into Douglas gap.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Schoolhouse ridge.

Final day with the Abacus Mountain Guides team and we headed to Ballachulish and up towards Schoolhouse ridge. We spent the day putting into practise some of the rope work we covered yesterday.  The ridge is now mostly clear of snow with the odd patch in the shade holding on but with plenty of steps, we didn't even put the crampons on today. Another stunning day in the Highlands and it looks like it's set to continue for a while yet.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

An office with a view.

The Abacus Mountain Guides team and myself headed up to the Ben today to give the legs a bit of a rest and stay low to look at some rope work and scrambling skills. We walked in looking at some navigation (I know we could see for about a 100 miles but you have to work with what you get) and made our way up to Coire Leis with N.E. buttress and the whole of Observatory gully as our back drop. We managed to cover quite a bit and the team had to dig hard for their snow belays and we kept stopping to look up at teams on Orion, Point 5, Zero gully and a few other classics, all good inspiration for the team.