Monday, 23 February 2015

Some winter skills and a team ascent

After returning from the Cairngorms I spent two days with Nicolas, who has some big ambitions and goals for the future. He has never really been on snow before so we spent our two days covering the basics and trying to give him the skills to help him summit Jebel Toubkal in a couple of weeks before he moves onto some higher peaks later in the year. Good luck to him!

The weekend was about team Naar de Top vor Kika and their challenge to summit the Ben. Saturdays forecast was definitely the most promising so we changed our plans and decided to go for the top then. Hannah made her way round the CMD with a group and two of the guys made their own way up Castle ridge whilst I took two up Ledge route. A great effort by all, considering the amount of fresh snow that was around too but the guys were treated to a day of  'Scotland at it's best'.

Yesterdays forecast was far from promising but we had a plan for a quick hit. Saturday turned out to be a huge challenge for most of the group so I was left with three, very much the most experienced of the group with Bart a very competent mountaineer, Edmond, the second Dutch person to summit Everest and Wilko, who has completed the 7 summits without oxygen. It's fair to say we weren't slow, with a quick ascent of the zig zags and back to the car in three and a half hours, which meant we didn't have to put up with the poor weather for too long.


Tuesday, 17 February 2015

A few days over east.

I've been over in the Cairngorms for the last few days helping Al and his team from Worksop college prepare for their trip to Greenland in the summer. It's been a mixed couple of days with some strong winds but the team did a great job getting to grips with all things winter and the ropework required for them to move over the glaciers.

Strange goings on in Aviemore.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Great conditions on Green gully!

I was back out with Luke yesterday for his second day out in Scottish winter and after seeing how good the conditions were on Tuesday we decided to step it up and head for the ice. Green gully was our first choice and thanks to Paddy and Ivan we had the route to ourselves, as always it gave us four great pitches of ice. It is very stepped out in places but well formed with the crux pitch holding more ice than I have seen for a few years. Ice is definitely the way to go on the Ben at the moment!

No.3 gully buttress and Creag coire na ciste.

The western flank of Tower ridge. 

Luke getting stuck into the good ice on Green.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Great conditions on the Ben!

So the forecast for today wasn't the best and looking out my window this morning it was grey and drizzling. I decided there and then that after two or three days of thaw the ice would be mushy and horrible so opted for Ledge route which would fit the bill too. I should have kept the faith! As we approached up the Allt a Mhuillin today the summit of the Ben cleared and blue sky ruled everywhere east of Castle ridge and the snow and ice firmed up the higher we got. The cloud did come and go and things did warm up a bit in the afternoon but it was a great day on the ice according to all of the people we chatted to. 
Our day on Ledge route was fantastic too and a great route for Luke to get his first taste of Scottish winter and with some teaching on the way. We descended No.4 gully along with lots of other teams and made our way down through a very quiet Coire na Ciste.

Topping out into the sun.

Climbers at the top of No.4 gully.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

First taste of winter!

I was out with Colin and his son Alastair today to give him his first taste of Scottish winter. We headed up into Stob Coire nan Lochain and with compact snow on the path and a hard frost in the glen we had crampons on from very early stage which gave Alastair plenty of time to get use to them before we started climbing. Once in the coire things starting to warm up a bit and the snow was soft, we headed up to NC gully and topped out in quick time and Alastair was chuffed with his first route. Things were a little damp in Glencoe but it sounds like things on the Ben are holding on a little better.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Another stunning day.

Well these great weather days just seem to keep coming, today I was back on the Aonach Eagach but with James, Giles and Andy for Abacus Mountain Guides. We were bathed in brilliant sunshine all day and the guys couldn't believe their luck. There is a good trench in place showing the easiest line at the moment but the strong sunlight is striping the snow off the southern side of the ridge quickly.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

A wade into the west face.

It was Haydn and Garry's last day today and we thought we had better get another classic done, so we caught the early gondola and made our way round to the bottom of the west face. Travel is difficult at the moment, you are either stood on exposed grass or waist dip in a drift and we had lots of drifts to cross today. As always Golden oldy delivered, with some fantastic climbing and a great position as it narrows near the top, this route is far more sustained and interesting than Ledge route and I don't know why it doesn't have four stars. Although it was a bit of a swim at times today, the boys did a great job and topped out with big smiles on their faces. What a great three days, a day off for me tomorrow and I have a bathroom to decorate so no play time for me.

Smiles after a small direct variation for fun.

It's starting to get a bit thinner.

Haydn 'elegantly' tackling one of the narrow sections.

Not a bad view.

A fine arete to finish with.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

The sun just keeps on shining.

I was back out with Haydn and Garry today and Ledge route was at the top of our list. We ploughed in through last nights fresh snow and brightening skies but with a strong and bitter wind from the north. A few teams ahead had put in a track but this was drifting over quickly making for slow progress at times.
The approach to No.5 gully had been scoured with the winds and we were through and heading out on the first ledge in no time. The tracks that had been put in over the last few days were also there for us to follow but there was waist deep snow if you strayed off them. We were soon topped out and enjoying the sunshine and dancing snow devils that were being blown up out of No.5 gully but we didn't hang around for long with the wind. Another great day to be out in the Scottish hills.

The snow devils blowing up out of No.5 gully.

Leading the way home.

Evening light on the Ben.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Sunshine on the Aonach Eagach.

I spent yesterday looking over at the Aonach Eagach bathed in sunshine and it looked so inviting, with a good covering of sparkling in the sun. So, when Haydn and Garry said it was on their wish list and the forecast promised clear skies for today, it would have been rude not to. Of course the ridge delivered, as it always does and with nearly 80 photos taken on my camera today I'm just going to have to give you a couple for now and put more up later when I have some time.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

A stunning day on Stob Coire nan Lochan.

Day 2 with the MUMC and today was about putting yesterdays skills into context and going on a journey. We opted for the classic coire round of SCnL and it was a fantastic day, blue skies, views in every direction and some fantastic snow for moving around on, a great weekend working for Hebridean Pursuits.
Quite a few teams out enjoying the good conditions, with teams on the usual routes. There are some very large areas of slab about but with the good visibility we were able to stick to the scoured slopes today. I'll let the photos say it!