Friday, 31 January 2014

More wind and more snow!

I was out with Tim today for Mountain Motion and our plan was to get a quick hit in before the weather turned later in the day. We were the first at the car park this morning and set off in the drizzle which soon turned to snow, our progress up to Far eastern buttress was slowed as we had to brake trail as the trench from the previous days had already filled in but we were gearing up in just over an hour from the car.
Eastern slant III,4 was our route for today and it gave us three pitches of climbing with great climbing at the grade on the first and last pitch. There is some useful ice about and the turf is well frozen where exposed though not as much neve as I was expecting. Route done, then all we had to do was break trail back down again. Lots of snow falling today and constantly being shifted about in the blustery conditions.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

A stormy weekend

Yesterday Pete, Dave and I drove to Glencoe with the constant hope that it would stop raining so heavily or at least turn to snow. As we sat in the lay by looking up at the Bauchaille another flash of lightning spread across the sky. Decision made, we headed to the Ice factor for some teaching in the ice wall, looking at some rope work and even a bit of dry tooling.

Today was very similar but at least it has been snow on the tops and reports from the ski centres are saying there is lots of it. The wind is due to shift to the east tomorrow and temps are due to drop a bit and there is even some sunshine forecasted for midweek. 

Getting to grips with some steep ice.

Friday, 24 January 2014

A quick blast up School house ridge.

So Scott's last day on his mountaineering course and yet again the forecast wasn't brilliant but we managed to get a good route in and be most of the way back to the car before the rain really started to come down. We made our way up school house ridge putting into practise some of the ropework we had looked earlier in the week and how to change between the different techniques efficiently. The ridge had a good covering of wet snow and even some helpful frozen turf at times, we topped out at lunch and decided to take in the summit of Sgurr Bhan before we headed down. A great week of work and good luck to Scott with  his future mountaineering ambitions.

Still smiling!

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Wild on the Ben.

Scott and I headed up the Ben this morning with a plan to get a route in low on the mountain given the forecasts. It wasn't long after leaving the car park that we hit the snow line and by the time we got to the CIC there was a good covering of new snow and more still coming down. We geared up and picked our way up round the deep deposits of new snow to the foot of the west gully of Douglas boulder. The wind was howling up the gully which was promising for our ascent but was probably going to cause a problem when it came to going down east gully. We climbed the route in three pitches looking at stance management, ropework and gear placements with snow falling the whole time and the wind blowing it around in all sorts of directions. I got a good rock runner to see me round the cornice but as a popped my head over the top the view down east gully wasn't promising, so back down we went. As we made our descent of west gully the weather took a turn for the worse and it became a case of just getting the hell out of there. We headed back down retracing our steps, of which none were to be seen and headed back to the CIC for some shelter. 

Just to prove there was some sunshine today.

It looks like it's quite calm but Scott wearing his goggles is a give away. 

This is the snow that was falling and sloughing down the gully as we ran away.

This is what most of the day looked like.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Another stormy day.

Scott and I headed into Glencoe today and headed up the zigzags on Gearr Aonach. We used this great little scramble to look at different techniques we could use on varying length mountaineering routes and placing gear. We headed up on to the top of Gearr Aonach just in time for the rain to start coming down hard. As we made our way along the ridge towards the coire the rain slowly turned to snow and there was a good covering of wet snow from yesterday too. The crags of SCnL looked very white and the freezing level was probably just at about summit height. We decided to head for the car here and have a slightly shorter day so Scott would be rested for the next two days, it rained constantly as we made our way back down to the car and more snow is due to fall on the tops overnight with the freezing level dropping during the day.

Scott doing some leading

It became a 'head down and get on with it' kind of afternoon.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Stormy on Stob Ban!

Day 2 with Scott and we headed up the glen to the East of Stob Ban, we spent some time looking at snow belays and talked about the pros and cons of each one. We headed up on to the east ridge to head up to the summit but the winds were strong and gusting which didn't bode well for our intended route so we headed back down and looked at rock belays and anchor selection for quick easy belays.
It snowed for most of the day with strong southerly winds which was putting a lot of snow down in sheltered locations. The snow started to fall harder as the afternoon went on and the snow line dropped to about 500m, we were both pretty soaked by the time we got back to the car and I'm looking forward to a drier day tomorrow.

Monday, 20 January 2014

A trip around the Ben.

Day 1 of Scott's mountaineering course and we spent the day having a nosey around the Ben. Scott has never been out in winter before so today was an opportunity to cover the basics. We had a look at kicking steps, cutting steps, ice axe belay and self arrest and spent a good few ours in our crampons. We went on a bit of a journey round the north face looking at the snow pack and putting his newly learnt skills into practise.

It was quiet up there today,  we saw a team on Ledge route and spoke to Steve and Dave, who had abseiled off from a route on the Douglas boulder saying things were loose and a bit damp. No photos I'm afraid, I forgot my camera.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

NC gully and Dorsal arete.

Back out with Angus and Gary today for Abacus mountain guides and the guys wanted to have a bit of a skills recap so they could be a bit more self sufficient. We headed up to Stob Coire nan Lochan with a couple of option and ended up on NC gully which the guys led themselves up with some coaching. With a bit of extra time to kill before we had to head down we headed over to Broad gully, descended this for 50m and then headed back up the fin of Dorsal arete for some fun and exhilarating climbing.
The freezing level was at about the top of the crags today with the rock dripping in places. We did have a few showers of wet snow but not enough to be any bother. Lots of teams out, SC gully, Twisting gully, Twisting grooves, Dorsal arete and Forked gully to name a few.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Curved ridge in great condition.

I was out with Angus and Gaz today who wanted to build on their experience of doing Diam buttress on the west face of Aonach Mor with myself, a couple of years ago. After a bit of a discussion this morning we opted for Curved ridge and to do some teaching on the way.
From the bottom the ridge didn't look like it was holding much snow but after the first steep section out of Crowberry basin it became obvious it was still plastered in snow and with a fresh dusting from last night too. We made great progress to the top of the ridge and round a heavily rimed Crowberry tower and were on the summit for a late lunch.
The conditions above 900m where great with the old snow frozen and firm, exposed turf was also frozen and with the cold and damp conditions the rocks were rimed but no sign of any iced up cracks. Today I was working for Abacus mountain guides.

Friday, 17 January 2014

The school of Adventure studies winter residential.

I headed over to the Cairngorms on Sunday night as part of the winter residential with the UHI students in preparation for the Monday morning. I spent the week with Kate who wanted to improve her winter climbing and learn as much as she could in the time we had.

On Monday we climbed Hidden Chimney and then spent some time in the afternoon on snow belays in the sunshine at windy col. Tuesday was another glorious day and we spent the morning looking at placing screws and making Abalokovs and then headed up to the crags with the plan to climb something a bit harder, the one route that was free was Hidden Chimney direct which would have been fine if it wasn't so banked out that it gave us a pitch of III rather than IV,5. Wednesday was not such a nice day but we managed to get Kate doing some leading on the twin ribs and ran away at about 1pm when we were running out of dry gloves. Unfortunately 'man-flu' caught up with me on Thursday morning and I had to give the hill a miss.

Kate enjoying some wide bridging on a snowy Hidden Chimney.

Conditions in the Northern coires are unusual at the moment, the lower slabbier sections of the buttress' are buried making the climbing technically easier but with very little gear. the steeper sections have some very usefull ice but again gear is hard won.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Always up for an adventure.

Alex and Andy are friends that are up for a few days and I tagged along today for some banter and climbing. We headed up the Ben with a plan to head somewhere new, with the amount of snow we have at the moment and the freeze/thaw cycles we've had I hoped we would get on Reaburn's arete, which finishes on the first platform of N.E. Buttress, I've walked under these crags for years and never seen them look at wintery as they do at the moment. We had a look at Reaburn's but it looked buried and the guide wasn't too clear so we went back round the corner and had a look at Newbiggings route - right hand variation. The guide says that this route is reliant on neve and iced slabs and it all looked good with just enough climbable ice and snow with some mixed in too but unfortunately we ran out of useful ice and snow about 50m up so ran away. Still it was nice to climb in a new area of a mountain I spend so much time on.

Looking down the first pitch

Alex just beneath our high point,where the ice and gear got too thin.

Looking up to the Minus, Orion, zero and Observatory ridge areas.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Firm snow at last!

I opened my front door this morning to see some blue skies and feel a chill in the air, I knew then it was going to be a good day. I was out with the other half of the West Highland College group from earlier in the week and working alongside Andy Spink. We headed up on the Nevis range gondola and stepped out of the top station onto firm snow, which felt like bliss after walking through knee deep wet snow for the past few days.

Morning sun on the mist in the Great glen.

 We managed to cover lots of stuff around the Nid and went on a small journey taking in some steeper ground and the guys did well and are looking forward to their next two days in the Cairngorms next week. The snow did soften a little towards the end of the day and was a little variable on different aspects but is firming up nicely. It was so nice to come home with dry kit, a great day out on the hill.

Scott's enjoying himself.

Andy Spink taking in the views towards Loch eil.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Morwind and a better day.

With the freezing level forecast to be around 1100m Avi and I headed up to the east face of Aonach Mor today looking to find shelter from the westerly winds and some firm snow. There had been a brief freeze overnight and the snow had firmed up with an icy crust, it all looked promising.
We abseiled down Morwind but out of the wind the snowpack was still wet and yesterdays thaw hadn't really penetrated, the freezing level did rise above the summit today and we had some light snow showers.

The route was in reasonably condition with useful turf under the snow and gave us three great pitches of climbing at III,4. There is some useful ice about covering the rocks but this has made gear hard won.
Tomorrow is looking drier and colder again so the snow covering the lower slopes will be great neve, routes below about 1000-1100m should give some great climbing. Today I was working for Lakeland ascents

Things got a little grey and wet but Avi just kept smiling.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Not a lot to say!

I was working with students from the West Highland College for a recap on their winter skills today. With driving rain and strong winds there wasn't much enthusiasm to get out the bus but we made our way up onto Bauchaille Etive Beag and had a wander around the coire going over what we could with the conditions. We managed to stay out until about 1pm but we were all pretty soaked and quickly running out of pairs of gloves. It looks to be getting colder towards the end of the week which should improve the climbing conditions and hopefully give us some ice to climb.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Calm before the storm.

With the weather due to deteriorate sometime after lunch Tim and I had a slightly earlier start and headed up the Ben with the plan to get a route done low down and run away before the weather hit. We bumped into Jamie and Rich at the CIC hut and followed their steps up to the foot of the south west ridge of the Douglas boulder. This gave us three great pitches of climbing if very snowy but thanks to Rich and Jamie we didn't have to do much digging. The usual abseil tat on the summit of the boulder was nowhere to be seen, even after digging down for nearly a metre. We were back down to the CIC just as the wind was picking up and the snow started to fall. Today I was working for West Coast Mountain Guides.

Rich and Jamie clearing the way.

Tim getting stuck in.