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.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Skills in Glen Coe.

Day one of three today for Abacus Mountain Guides and myself and the team headed into Glen Coe to enjoy the sunshine and neve. We went up the Lost valley looking at movement skills and carried on up and over Stob Coire nan Lochan to take in the views out to Skye and North to the Ben. Back home to see lots  of friends have been out enjoying the great climbing conditions at the moment. I'm looking forward to my four days of climbing work later in the week.

Friday, 22 February 2013

What a weekend it's going to be!

So climbing and mountaineering conditions in the Highlands can only be described as fantastic with good sticky ice and solid neve to climb and with routes of almost every grade available. We are missed the higher end mixed routes at the moment but with some cloud holding a bit of moisture around the tops we might see some of the mixed routes turning white. The forecast for the weekend is looking good with little wind, cold temps and a chance of some blue sky. It is going to be busy because of this and if you think out of the box and avoid the usual areas you might avoid having to queue. Also if you're in the Fort William area the Fort William Mountain Festival is on at the moment and will provide some good entertainment in the evening.

For the last two days I have been out with Michael for West Coast Mountain Guides who was up to climb some easier routes. Yesterday we climbed Tower gully on the Ben and today we climbed NC gully in Stob Coire nan Lochan.

Tower gully, it's a long way up.

Not a bad view to top out to. 

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Golden Oldy, Aonach Mor

Another stunning day with alpine conditions today and Dave and I headed to the West face of Aonach Mor knowing we'd get some sun. We spent the day on Golden Oldy recapping some mountaineering techniques and even gave Dave a chance to have a go on the sharp end. The route was pretty snow free on the bottom 100m or so but the turf is still frozen solid and the upper part of the route is still holding snow well. I'm supposed to be having a rest day tomorrow but when the weather is like this it's hard to stay at home.

Monday, 18 February 2013

I'm not sure it gets any better!

I'm with Dave for the two days of mountaineering and with the forecast saying 'Alpine conditions' we decided on the Aonach Eagach. The forecast was right, blue sky's, light winds and rock hard neve under foot. We obviously weren't going to be on our own on a day like today but everyone was very accommodating and just loving the situation. The snow on the South side and just on the crest was starting to soften in the afternoon but out of the sun the snow was excellent. I'm not going to say any more, the photos say it all but don't do it justice.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

A great day out.

It started cloudy but dry this morning and the cloud was slowly lifting as Ben, Andy and myself walked into the Ben this morning. It was busy with large numbers of people in front and behind us and a lot of people heading round to Observatory gully. We headed into the Ciste and headed for an empty Central gully right hand so the guys could get there teeth stuck into something a little harder. We climbed a couple of bulges on our way there at about tech 5 ice and carried on up the gully which was actually very cruddy and the rock gear was a bit of a blessing. It was sociable too with two teams on Central left hand.

We topped out to a glorious day and made our way to the top of No.4 gully to have a quick look at ways to descend but decided instead to walk down the Red Burn to make the most of the weather. Too many routes today tell you what was climbed but of note was a team high on the Orion face. Today I was working for West Coast Mountain Guides.

A glorious day in the Outdoor Capital.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Soggy in SCnL but still worth the effort.

I met up with Ben and Andy this morning for their intro winter climbing weekend for West Coast Mountain Guides. We headed up to Stob Coire nan Lochan with an open mind and spotted a couple of avalanches that looked like they had gone in the higher temps of the last couple of days. The guys took this on board and we had a talk about choices when we got into the coire. The guys sensibly opted for a buttress route without any cornices hanging above so we went for Boomerang arete on the Summit buttress. This gave us four good pitches with a bit of everything and then some easier ground to the top. 

Turf was still good today and the ice was nearly first time placements every time but is a bit mushy on the surface. Other teams out on Dorsal arete and Reaburn's and we had on and off showers all day right to the summit. No photos today with the clag in and a bit too wet for my non-waterproof camera.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Lots left to go at on the Ben.

I was up on the Ben today with Sophie and John working for the Ice Factor. Sophie had had a quick go at ice climbing out in the Alps and had brought John along with her to give it a try in Scotland. They were out with Pete yesterday getting use to crampons and axes and today was the day to get on the ice but unfortunately Sophie's knee was playing her up so we stayed low. The CIC cascades still look just about climbable but with quite a few holes. We found good solid ice in the Gulch again and managed to get a few pitches of grade III/IV ice. 

John enjoying chewy Scottish ice.

The mountain looked better than I expected after the warm wet weather of the last two days. The Curtain and Vanishing gully both got a couple of ascents today and Waterfall gully, Compression crack and Boomers requiem still looked in great shape. Higher up the mountain ice was still visible with the upper cascades looking good and a big blue streak of ice coming out of the basin on the Orion face. Bumped into Jon and Guy who said the rock was quite heavily verglased though and there were some very large cornices visible today. So lots of options for the weekend but the freezing levels are set to be quite high until midweek, hopefully we'll get a drop in temps overnight to keep it all together.

Monday, 11 February 2013

North East ridge of Stob Ban, what a gem!

Morning light on Stob Ban.

I was out with Tim today for West Coast Mountain Guides for a day of mountaineering. Tim had done Ledge route and a couple of other easier routes in Scotland and wanted to try something a little harder. After seeing how much fresh snow there was yesterday I decided to stay reasonably low so we headed to Stob Ban's North East ridge at grade II/III. I'd not done the route myself but a couple of trusted friends had raved about it and I can see why. It may be a bit rambling in it's lower half but the upper part of the route had a fine arete and a couple of nice chimneys with that require some wide bridging. If you're looking for a longer route at that grade I can highly recommend it. It stayed clear for us all day today but with a biting wind, there wasn't too much snow about on the move though and the freezing level was higher than forecast.

Tim hanging around on the final section of the arete.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

A bit wild on the Ben.

Day 2 with Gaz and Andy and with a low avalanche forecast and dry conditions forecast we had planned to head high on the Ben but it was soon apparent that the MWIS forecast had been the one to trust as we were met by heavy snowfall and the drifts just got bigger the closer we got to the CIC. We opted for plan B and spent our day in the Gulch looking at techniques for climbing ice, placing screws, building Abolokov's and a few other things. The wind was blowing snow around all day and there were some very large deposits of fresh snow sitting on top of the older snow which is firming up nicely.

The ice we climbed today was fantastic and took screws but a couple of other teams said they had come across more variable ice. Most of the mid level ice routes were climbed today with a lot of people choosing to stay low.

About the best view we got of the crags today.

Concentrating on moving our centre of gravity and footwork.

Putting it into practise on something steeper.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Twisting gully.

Headed up to Stob Coire nan Lochan today with Gaz and Andy who are with me for the weekend. The guys want to climb some grade III/IV ground to get some mileage and look at a couple of coaching aspects. We headed up with plan A being Twisting gully and thankfully there was no one on it so off we went and it gave 3 great pitches today each one with a nice little step to negotiate. The snow and ice was thawing but was still great to climb on but the ice certainly wasn't going to offer much protection.

The crags this morning.

Teams out on the usual suspects in the coire, Dorsal arete, Boomerang gully and SC gully. Forecast for a good freeze in the next 24hours so it should really firm things up.

Gaz loving the crux pitch.

Friday, 8 February 2013

A couple of days with the College.

Yesterday I was working with the other half of the students on the Higher course and again it was an opportunity for them to put into practise some of the things they've learnt this year with a group of primary children, Clare and Calum did a great job and yet again all the kids went home with a smile on their faces.

Today was the second day of the 1st year degree students winter skills days, with a plan of building on the skills they had learnt last week and putting it into practise on a journey. We headed to the Bauchaille so we could hit snow as soon as possible and made our way up the gully to the back of the coire and took in a few rocky steps to get us to the Bealach and then onto the summit of Stob Dearg.

Looking good boys.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Stob Ban's North ridge.

I was out with a group of four today for West Coast Mountain Guides who wanted to learn some of the basics of rope work so they could head out on their own for the rest of the week and get some classic mountaineering routes done. We headed up to the North ridge of Stob Ban which has a great section of grade I broken ground, and with current conditions we were able to have a good look at some of the things they had heard about at last nights 'winter safety talk' at the Clachaig. At the graded section we had a look at tying into the rope, attaching ourselves to the mountain, body belaying and selecting quick easy direct belays. The guys did well working in two teams of two and it wasn't long before we'd covered the graded ground lost the ropes and were stood on the summit enjoying the views on a stunning day.

Fantastic day to be out today and with a good cover of snow above about 600m with it being firm and icy on the wind scoured slopes but some very deep accumulations on other aspects with some very easy shears.

A stunning day!

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

First steps!

Yesterday I was working with the students on the Higher Outdoor learning program at West Highland College, they are nearing the end of their year and it is now time to put some of those new skills into practise. I was working with Dave and Lewis who had designed a session plan for their group of 6 Caol P.S. children. We started in the Ice Factor which considering the weather was appreciated by everyone I think and then we headed out for a walk around the village to Grey Mare's tail for a spot of lunch. Dave and Lewis did very well considering that neither of them had any experience with working with young groups and the P.S. kids had a fun day out so a good day but obviously their first experience of working with this kind of group threw up quite a few learning points and it will be great to see them put those into practise on their next couple of sessions.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Skills on Aonach Mor

Day 1 with the first years on the Adventure and tourism degree winter skills program and we headed up to Aonach Mor to get a intro to winter skills. There was a lot of fresh snow around the Nid area and not a lot of old snow showing but we managed to find enough to look at kicking steps and crampon work. We also managed to squeeze in ice axe arrest and an intro to avalanche assessment. More of the same with them next Friday.