Thursday, 28 January 2016

North West exploring

The week started during a strong thaw, it was a struggle to find some snow.  Glen Shiel delivered.
Night ascent team (Francis, Jamie, Tom, Mark and Dave)
Another week draws to the end today as I wrapped up the Technical Winter Climbing course for Moran Mountain.  I have to admit it has been a very difficult week to run as the conditions for technical winter climbing have been non existent.  Fortunately my clients Jamie and Mark were very understanding and soon realised that they had to lower their aspirations to fit in with the conditions.  As a result we had a fantastic week.
Making progress up Ben Nevis North face @10pm.  Summit at midnight, car at 2am.
Mark and Jamie on the summit at midnight, very wild night but best day (night) of the week.

Sometimes, leaving the vehicle can be quite hard when its warm and rainng and we know conditions wont be perfect but this week had a silver lining.  As we had to 'think outside the box', I ended up on the summit of 3 Munros I have never done, climbed 2 routes I have never climbed, did a night ascent under the glow of our head torches and discovered probably the most stunning corrie I have ever seen in Scotland.  Truly a very memorable week for everyone involved.  An outstanding effort from Jamie and Mark who displayed constant enthusiasm even in the heaviest of down pours.  Cheers chaps, see you in the mountains soon.

Great fun
Brilliant mountaineering on the Northern Pinnacles on Liathach
Another summit, another munro after a great climb.

Tom and his beard
Doing the shuttle to get the van.
Team ascent on Beinn Eighe
Picking out some tricky steps to make this brilliant grade 2 a little harder. 

More pictures HERE

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Bruised Violet 2nd Ascent

With it being mid January and not a great deal of winter climbing under my belt, I was fully prepared to drive up to the North West for some climbing with Murdoch knowing full well that it would be a quite hard day of climbing.  To my surprise Murdoch was very flexible with what we did and seemed to be happy to lower his grade to something amenable as I am essentially off the couch.  
Abseiling down West Central Wall (Photo credit Murdoch)
The plan was hatched to climb on West Central Wall on Beinn Eighe, a crag I have never done a route on.  Martin Moran was keen to join the ascent but after a bad nights sleep he decided against it.  So Murdoch loaded up our packs and headed off from the car at 5.30am chatting away as we had lots to catch up on.  We arrived at the abseil down the route Blood, Sweat and Frozen Tears (high on the to do list) and abseiled down to the ledge at the start of the routes.  We hummed and hawed about our two routes and eventually settled on the 2nd ascent of the winter line of Bruised Violet (hard VIII,8). It was to work out perfect for me, two grade 7 pitches and two grade 8 pitches.  I was keen for the 7's and Murdoch was more than happy to climb both the grade 8 pitches.  Everyone was happy.  I think we made pretty efficient progress up the route, the two hard pitches were really tenuous and fairly strenuous, certainly a shock to the system for me.  A stunning route and a great find by Andy Turner and Ian Parnell in a beautiful setting.  Cant wait to go back and climb some of the other routes there.
Uisdean and tom climbed Sundance which sounds amazing, another classic Beinn Eighe route that I would love to climb.
The tricky crux pitch
Great location

 I left my camera behind so unfortunately no photos from me.  All from Murdoch's camera.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Another Anonach Mor Double hit

Alan on Left Twin
Today I was out with Alan for his first winter day this season.  We have had a few days out this summer but his last winter route was Two Step Corner (V,5) on Ben Nevis back in March 2015.
The forecast was very benign, low winds with a little cloud cover and cold enough temperatures.  Alan has been suffering from a  chest infection for the last 3 weeks so a short walk in was best suited.
Despite having a chest infection I still made him coil the ropes
Alan emerging from the crux
Abseiling back down Left Twin
So we took the gondola up and the Quad chair lift leaving us with a 40 minute walk to reach the corrie rim where we would abseil in.  It was nice and sociable whilst we were gearing up with Al, Ian and Dave all heading in for a bit of personal climbing as well as two other chaps.  The best part was that Alan and I got to do Left Twin (III,4)  first the abseiled back down and climbed Right Twin (II).  So we did two routes, 6 abseils, 6 pitches, 6 stars and Alan got a nice big shower of snow on his head...I can imagine who or where it came from!?
In Right Twin

The snow could have come from anywhere! ;)

 MORE PICTURES HERE on my Facebook page

Monday, 18 January 2016

Mixed and Ice

Heading for the corner (photo: Steve)

Today I finally got to go climbing on some winter routes.  It was brilliant!  Very wintery conditions with barely a breath of wind.  This meant Steve and I enjoyed winter climbing in mellow temperatures and absolutely no suffering.  We went up to Aonach Mor, nothing like a bit of mechanical uplift to help blow out my cold I picked up in the Alps, and made our way down Easy Gully. 
I think I had a knee bar in there (Photo: Steve)
A few more moves to go (Photo: Steve)

 We started off on Sterling Bridge (VI,7) which was a great pitch of climbing.  Short but very entertaining and a nice route to get things going this winter.  We made it to the top at 11.30am so with plenty of time left we opted for another route.  Given that Steve hadn't done a route on the crag I showed him the abb points and he led us up Left Twin (III,4).  
Steve approaching the belay on SB

Unfortunately the idiot in the group (me) left the ice screws in the back at the top so Steve was faced with a lonely lead with a head of useless metal work as everything was choked with ice.  He did sling a couple of pretty useless ice columns but it was not a problem as the route was well within Steve's climbing grade, there was a good ice pillar right at the crux more fortunately.  So all in all, a great day out to blow away the skiing legs, a mixed route, an ice route and a nice finish back to the van at 2.30pm.  Happy days.  Back to work tomorrow...I think I will go back up there, great conditions.
Steve leading to the top of SB
Steve setting off without ice screws
Ice screw would be useful here...

And here!

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Is it winter yet?

Damn right it is!  Just looking out the window is enough evidence to suggest we are fully embraced in my favourite season of them all.  It seems like a silly question for mid January but as I have no winter routes under my belt so far it feels like winter hasn't even started yet.  A result of poor weather and condition's have meant I haven't been out climbing but also because I have been focussing on the next phase of inductions for the British Mountain Guides scheme.  Over the last two week I have been in the Alps working on improving my skiing technique, proving that I can ski at the required standard and then followed up with a 5 day avalanche course.
Guess the mountain game
We started of at a brilliant resort in Leysin in Switzerland for a 3 day ski technique course ran by Alex and Ivan.  These two guys are something else on ski's.  Its hard to describe how good they are but imagine skiing down as fast as you can, then look ahead and you will see Alex skiing backwards giving you tips on your technique as he weaves through the crowds on the one ski as well!  That is what 30+ years on skis will do for you.  He is also a coach for the Swiss ski teams.  We were in good hands.
Ivan strapping his boot up for an intense warm up!
Our group has 12 members, all of different abilities and backgrounds, some climbers, some instructors and some pro skiers.  Everyone was picking up good tips and knowledge off Alex and Ivan no matter what their ability.

After the 3 days in Leysin, I went to Samoens in France with Calum for two days skiing.  Unfortunately it was raining at all levels so we just did one day skiing and then had a late start and headed over to La Grave for the rest of the trip.
Who knows how to ski?
Our first day in La Grave was the Ski Induction.  A one day assessment of our skiing ability to make sure we haven't falsified our logbooks and that we are a suitable standard for the scheme.  Phew, we all passed and can continue onto the next stage of the scheme.

Misty conditions at La Grave
After we all passed our assessment we then went on and started a 5 day EAS avalanche course run by Mark Diggins (Top Man at SAIS), Bruce Goodlad (BMG Training officer), Nick Parks (BMG) and Peirre (Local Guide).  A collected wealth of experience and expertise meant we had a very informative course and we all took a great deal away from it.  I always believe it is worth doing as many avalanche courses as possible.
Digging snow profiles
Its getting cold, lets go!
Not only were we digging snow profiles and writing avalanche reports, we were also looking at safe travel through the mountains with groups and on skis.  So during the week we went on two mini ski tours looking at route choice, hazard identification and group management amongst many other topics.
Hands up for breaking trail? 
A safe place to be
A bit Scottish today
Le Meije.  A beautiful summit.  Cant wait to come back and climb it,
 So all in all, a great couple of weeks in the Alps but to be honest I am really glad to be back in Scotland.  The snow is here, routes are in conditions and I have a few days off before work really kicks in.  More pics HERE. 

One another note, I am very sad to hear two local climbers who I knew lost their lives in the mountains of Glencoe yesterday.  Thoughts and prayers go out to their families at this very tough time.  Rest in peace Simon and Joe, two very enthusiastic young lads.

Friday, 1 January 2016

Happy New Year

Is the crag that way?
2016 rolled in with a day climbing on Beinn Eighe this year with Henry and Craig on the New Year Technical Climbing course for Moran Mountain. Not exactly superb conditions but we had a good 4 days climbing Pinnacle Ridge on Sgurr nan Gillean on Skye, dry tooling at Loch Carron, the Runnel in the Cairngorms and had our final day on Beinn Eighe trying a spot of mixed climbing on East Buttress. Craig and Henry put a great effort in pretty poor conditions but our final two days were far more 'wintery'. It has been a slow start to the winter season, I haven't done any personal winter climbing so far but hope to when I return from the Alps in two weeks.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Early season sliding on snow

View of Mont Blanc to the Grande Jorrasses from La Thuile
Lunch break with Rudders and Neil
I did think I should stay out for longer but on reflection it is good to come home and get into the Christmas spirit.  You know...wind and rain...very Chrismassy!  Fortunately whilst I was away this last week we had fantastic weather in and around Chamonix where we based ourselves for the 9 days.  This trip had been in the pipeline for quite a while as I had booked onto a Off-Piste Performance with the highly decorated Alison Culshaw.  As I am now working my way through the BMG process, I want to make sure that my skiing is up to scratch and I don't catch an edge through the process.   

Practising drills off piste
John ripping it up
We had a great week of skiing with friends at several different resorts; Le Brevent and Flegere, Grande Montets, La Thuile and Verbier.  During the course we covered both piste and off piste terrain looking at drills to work on weaknesses and iron our any bumps in our ability.  A great way for anyone to start their season with a few top tips from the experts.  The Alps have lacked their early season coverage but it resulted in very spring like snow, a little bit of rock avoidance but generally very good snow.  Some routes were getting climbed in the mountains in the Alps which led me to get psyched for climbing and getting back to Scottish winter.  Unfortunately, I have no winter ascents under my belt just yet but hopefully will get a leg stretch soon.
John keeping it cool, me being an idiot as usual
Blue skies...White snow
Alison working her magic
Alison and Sophie talking to the invisible skiers
Love this place!

Monday, 30 November 2015


What a great couple of weeks.  I have dreamed about going to Kalymnos for quite a while and finally the star aligned.  I went out to the Greek Island with old friends Kirby, Ali and Donald.  Fortunately Kirby and Ali had been before so they knew all the good places to eat and knew where all the laybys were for the crags leaving me to ride my scooter without crashing and climb as much as my arms would allow.  I teamed up with good friend and regular climbing partner, Donald.  We're both quiet at this time of year with work so use it as an opportunity to get some last minute sun before the winter and build up a little bit of strength for some winter climbing.

Mike on one of the many no hands rests.

We missed some horrible Scottish weather at home!
With 9 days of climbing on the island, we barely touched the surface.  There is so much to do there to keep any climber (and non climber) entertained.  The perfect destination to take family even if they don't climb, something for everyone.  We climber every day except one.  We should have had two rest days but our first one ended up in some sea level traversing followed by some deep water soloing....and plenty of swimming!  As there was so many cool lines to climb we ended up just climbing as many routes as possible rather than spending a few hours, mornings or days on one particular route...if we fell off them we moved on.  Fortunately most of the time we stayed on but as usual we also took some hugggeeee whippers!  Might need a new rope now!  I'll let the pictures do the rest of the off to sharpen my ice axes!
Most routes ended like this....tired!

Our tour guides...Ali and Kirby

Dream team heading to a smaller island 
Looking back to the Grande Grotte

Kirby smashing his first ever 7b+

From inside the Grande Grotte, all about the tufas

Donald and I trying not to look tired...truth is that our arms barely function

See you next year!
More photos on facebook HERE