Saturday, 31 January 2015

Winter skills weekend.

After a slightly more chilled out week, assessing some of the students from West Highland college on their leadership skills. Today I was working for Hebridean Pursuits with a big group from Manchester University Mountaineering club and todays plan was to go and see what skills we could get covered due to all of the new that we have. After a bit of a wade from the gondola station just as we hit the bottom of the Nid we found some great areas of scoured old snow for us to work with. More of the same tomorrow but hopefully, more of a journey.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Wet outside!

I was out with another couple of guys from Heriot-Watt today and with a far from promising forecast we opted to spend the day at the Ice factor and avoid a day like this. We managed to cover lots and fill in some of the gaps of knowledge Owen and Mike had and talked about how things might be different in winter. We got a good couple of hours in the ice wall looking at movement and then finished the afternoon off (and their forearms) with some dry tooling.
The weather is set to get cold again tomorrow and things are looking good for another cold spell, today was just a blip and we need some of them for good old scottish winter conditions. 

Saturday, 24 January 2015

A busy day on Ben Nevis.

Witold, Iain and I headed up the Ben this morning with the plan to climb some of the lower level ice, it appeared that this was everyone elses plan too. The boys wanted to look at placing winter gear, abolokov's and of course to climb some ice, so we spent some time bouldering around, looking at movement skills, placing and removing ice screws and they had a go at building their own threads. Once the routes had quieted down a little we headed up to Waterfall gully to put it all into practice.
All of the low level ice routes got multiple assents today along with routes on the Douglas boulder and there were quite a few teams on the CIC cascades with a couple of teams saying they were cruddy. We're due a thaw again tomorrow with some heavy rain but I think the ice will hold up well.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

A fun morning on the Curtain.

With today the last blue sky day before the weather changes Hannah and I decided to get a classic done that neither of us had been on. So, we made an early start to try and beat the crowds, which thankfully worked, meaning no queues, nothing falling down on us and clean ice. The Curtain gave three great pitches and we were back at the bags for 12pm and just as the weather was changing. It's no secret that there is plenty of ice on the Ben on the moment and I'm sure most of it will survive the next couple of short, warm spells.

Stunning morning light.

Hannah coming up the first pitch.

Approaching the belay after the crux pitch.

The Ben is looking fantastic at the moment.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

A days climbing at last!

After a busy first family christmas and then heading straight back into a busy period of work, I've not really had a chance to get out and enjoy the winter for myself yet. Today I headed out with Ken and Hannah for a quick hit on Aonach Beag's North face. We started up one route in the clag only to discover it was the wrong one, so we topped out and headed back round for Stand and deliver. There is just one pitch of grade 5 climbing on this but it is a great pitch and Ken swiftly dispatched it and we were back down for coffee and cake at Nevis range at a reasonable time. I was either climbing or holding ropes today and Han was the 'official' photographer so see the Apple mountaineering blog for more photos.

Good climbing with good friends.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Sunshine and snow!

I'm out with Angus and Garry this weekend who want to build on their leading. With snow down to sea level again overnight we decided to stay low to avoid the wade through all the snow. We headed for the Ribs on Meall an t-shuide above Fort William, the main rib is a grade 2 summer scramble and I had heard it was an alright grade II in winter. The guys did a great job of leading themselves up in 5 pitches with a little coaching from me and I took over for the final 100m to take us to the top. The route was great for what we needed and we got to climb in the sun all day. I was working for Abacus Mountain Guides.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Some sunshine at last.

Yesterday was a bit of a wash out and the college was closed to all staff and students but today we managed to make up for it. We had a great day in Glencoe managing to cover a lot of the things we had left to do. There is a lot of snow on the hills with deep drifts from low levels and snow was still being shifted about today. The wind had eased overnight and there was even some periods of blue skies today but every now and then the weather decided to kick up and just give us a quick reminder of how it could be.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Lots and lots of snow

Back out with the ACOL course today and the weather was to be better than yesterday but we knew travel might be an issue. We managed to get into Glencoe and to the car park for Bauchaille Etive Beag even if it had taken us a while. By now we had realised that we weren't going to be walking far as there was just so much snow, so we spent the day looking at emergency shelters and the snowpack and we didn't need to go far to find drifts deep enough to dig into.
Loads more snow forecast and with a 'High' avalanche forecast for every area tomorrow, route selection will be key for the next few days, Stay safe!  

The A82 is in there somewhere.

Andy in a sea of white.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Wild weather on Aonach Mor.

I was supposed to be in the Cairngorms this week instructing on a UHI residential course but they decided with the forecast for the week and the conditions of the roads, they would stay in Fort William. Today Graeme, Andy and myself took advantage of the Gondola at Nevis range and took the group up onto the Northern slopes of Aonach Mor. We managed to cover lots of new skills and refresh some from last week and spent a lot of our time looking at the snowpack. There were a lot of deep, unstable drifts even just at 800m that certainly made us think about where we were heading. Strong winds and heavy showers passed through all day putting down even more snow and there is more to come.

Poor visibility during showers.

Moving over steeper ground.

There were some brief brighter spells.

No hiding from the weather today

Sunday, 11 January 2015

A wild weekend in the Cairngorms.

I met up with Ben and Marc yesterday morning in Aviemore ready for a weekend of winter climbing, the forecast wasn't exactly great but we thought we'd go and have a look. We managed to get into coire an t'sneachda with a few other teams but it was wild. We managed to get Ben moving around in his crampons for the first time and looked at a bit of climbing movement on some of the bulges around the flat ice and then got a couple of easier pitches of climbing done at the foot of 0.5 gully.
The forecast for today was a little more promising and the guys had proved that they could handle the wild stuff so we headed into the coire again but this time for a route. We managed to get on Hidden chimney, which gave Marc the opportunity to lead a couple of pitches and then I took over for the last two. The route had some useful turf and a bit of ice but with the wind blowing most of the snow off the crag it was still very rocky today but well protected.
The wind did pick up as the day went on and it was snowing heavily as we walked out but the crags are looking white at the moment, with frozen turf and the approaches to Mess of pottage, Aladdin's and Fluted buttress were still clear of new snow. The gully's are thin at the moment but there is lots of ice around and if you were planning on heading that way I would add a couple of screws onto your rack.

A lean Jacobs ladder.

Looking back down the crux chimney.

Friday, 9 January 2015

A sheltered Zig Zags in Glencoe.

After spending most of last night listening to the wind howl outside louder than I have ever heard it from inside my house, it was decided we would stay low. It was still blowing a gale as we made our way up to the Zig Zags but we were soon behind the mass of Gearr Aonach and out of the worst of it. We spent the day looking at mountaineering rope work, up and down and finished with a retrievable abseil. The wind did ease at about lunch time as forecast and it looked like plenty more snow had fallen during the day, it looks like we're in for a wild weekend and I'm off working in the Cairngorms for the weekend. Today I was working for the Highland Mountain company.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

A return to winter

Yesterday was the first day of my winter work for 2015 and it was a wet one to say the least. We headed up to the Glencoe ski area for a bit of shelter and managed to cover quite a bit before we ran away, with some soaked to the skin.
Today on the other hand was a proper winters day out, fresh snow, strong winds and cold. We headed up above the CIC hut to find some old snow to look at some skills and with plenty of snow being shifted around we had loads of things to look at. These days have been the first days of winter skills with the West Highland College Advanced Certificate, next week we'll be in the Cairngorms for a bit more action.
Quite a few teams out today and a few turning back but it looked like the SW ridge of the Douglas Boulder got a couple of ascents, Ken was on No.3 gully buttress, Guy was on Green gully and Steve was climbing on Moonlight gully Buttress. The ice in the large drainage lines has survived yesterday's torrential rain and more looked to be building quickly in today's colder conditions.