Sunday, 31 December 2017

A busy end to a fantastic year.

It has been a busy few days to end 2017 with teams out on Ben Nevis and winter skills courses in Glencoe. It has been cold for a good few days now and although the steeper mixed lines have been the routes to go for, we have still been missing the 'glue' that holds most of our winter climbs together. Hopefully, after a couple of days of heavy and wet snowfall, the new year should bring in some great climbing conditions.

I'd like to take the time to thank all of our customers of 2017 and beyond, that have made this a great year and thanks too to the people that have worked alongside me to help people achieve their ambitions. Happy new year everyone and here is to new adventures in the near future.

Ben Nevis guiding
Elodie and Maxime smiling through difficult conditions on Ben Nevis today.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Winter begins!

Although I had a great day of early winters work on Ledge route a couple of weeks ago today really felt like winter started for me. The first route of the season and Dave and I decided to gamble on a little-known crag on Carn Dearg Mheadhonach.
We abseiled in to have a look around and although there was some fresh snow about it wasn't of any concern, this changed considerably as the day went on, with some deep pockets of soft windslab forming. The crag looked wintery and the turf is frozen but there is nothing holding it all together at the moment so we decided to play it safe and climb what looked to be the best line for the conditions. Casablanca IV,5 80m, isn't in the guidebook but it is the SMC journals and it gave us two interesting pitches but we thought it was more like IV,4 and the route length is actually only 60m but it is definitely worth looking out if you want to climb on a quiet crag or somewhere a little different.

Winter climbing courses

winter climbing courses

Sunday, 29 January 2017

A wintery weekend for an intro to winter climbing.

I was working an intro to climbing course this weekend for Hebridean Pursuits with a group from the Manchester University MC. It has been a great weekend of climbing and very sociable too with two other climbing groups out. We were in Stob Coire nan Lochan on Saturday and climbed Broad gully, along with most other teams and today we climbed Ledge route. The guys have come on leaps and bounds and I wish them luck with there future climbing.

A few inches of fresh snow fell overnight Friday and into Saturday, enough to make the mountains look and feel wintery. This snow is mostly just sat on rock or grass at the moment which means there is a lot of loose rock, care is needed but there is climbing to be done. The steeper crags didn't really look white today and most parties were in the larger gully lines or ridges. Teams have been climbing on the East face of Aonach Mor and reporting good conditions. Hopefully the coming freeze/thaws that are forecast will improve things a bit. Winter is out there and there are routes to climb as long as you have an open mind at the moment.

Ben Nevis, winter climbing

Ben Nevis, Ledge route winter.

Ben Nevis winter climbing course

Winter ledge route, Ben Nevis

Winter climbing course, Ben Nevis.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

A wee catch up.

I'm back home after a few days over in the Cairngorms and have just found some time to catch up on the blog. Saturday was a stunning day with blue skies and lots of snow but warm temperatures and heavy rain made Sunday feel like a completely different experience. Angus Gary and I headed for Golden Oldie followed by Ken with Gam and Tom. The bottom half of the route was very much snow free but with frozen turf. We made a very quick ascent and there was more snow in the upper half but not a lot.

Golden Oldie, Aonach Mor

Angus and Garry enjoying a classic route, even if it wasn't the most wintery.

Ken belaying Gam and Tom over the narrows.

A quick turn around at home and I was heading over to the Cairngorms to work on a winter residential with students from Skye. It hasn't exactly been a winter trip, in fact we didn't even take out axe and crampons for day 2 and 3 but we did have some great days out and some new experiences for some of the guys on the course.

We are in need of some snow in the highlands. The highest gullies are holding snow but most buttress' and ridges have no or very little snow. It is due to cool down over the weekend but there is no substantial snow forecast at the moment. The big ridges are dry at the moment and although there is little snow the great weather is still making for great days out.

Fiacaill ridge

scrambling on twin ribs.


Aladdins and Fiacaill buttress.

Mess of Pottage

Mess of Pottage.

Hells lum

Coire an Lochain

Coire an Lochain

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Sunshine on Ledge route!

I'm climbing with Angus and Gary this weekend for Abacus Mountain Guides, they have been out with me for a few years now and whilst we were chatting this morning we found out that they hadn't done Ledge route. Decisions made and what a day for it! We shared the route with a few other teams and managed to do some teaching on the upper part of the route as we made our way up into the sunshine.

Ken was out with Colin and Alastair on the East ridge of the North top of stob Ban and it looks like they had a great day out.

Lots of people out today with teams on Tower ridge, SW ridge of DB, No.2 gully buttress, Comb gully, Green gully, Rand hand chimney on Moonlight gully buttress and  No.3 gully. I'm sure more were out but I didn't see them. A couple of people backed off routes reporting thin conditions and apparently Point 5 was climbed with just three screws but I doubt it is V,5 at the moment.
There is plenty of ice about and forming on the usual drainage lines but it isn't quite there yet. It is set to get wet and warm tomorrow and with mild temps for the next few days. Hopefully it won't do too much damage and will just help feed the drainage lines when it does refreeze.

Ledge route, Ben Nevis

Ledge route, Ben Nevis

Ledge route, Ben Nevis

Ledge route, Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis in winter.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Winter skills in Glencoe.

Day two with the West Highland students and today we wanted to build on yesterday's movement skills and some ice axe arrest. With stronger winds and for a change of scene we headed up to the Glencoe Ski Centre slopes which are holding a good amount of snow and we were going to be protected from the strong westerlies. Yesterday's fresh snow was wet today and it was still raining at 850m but there is a reasonable but thin cover that hopefully will freeze tomorrow, if it survives tonight's heavy rain. There was some obvious signs of drifting so snow should be building in the higher gullies and faces.

Glencoe winter skills

Self belay.

Glencoe winter skills

Trying to learn the basics of ice axe arrest and using some peer feedback to help the process.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Winter has returned!

It has been a very dry December and January and the Highlands have not looked as white as they should do for a while now. We have had some cold temperatures and people have been climbing routes but mostly just the big gully's and the odd mountaineering route.
I wasn't too hopeful for today in terms of what we would find on the hill but I should know better than that by now. Gill and I headed up onto Aonach Mor today (probably the lowest lying snow in Lochaber) with a winter skills group from West Highland college. Although there was less old snow than we thought there would have been we did spend the whole day moving around on snow and managed to cover a range of movement skills and the drifting snow and strong winds definitely tested some members of the group.

I think they are just excited as I was to be playing in the snow.