Saturday, 11 February 2017

Every cloud has a silver lining

A friend Andy climbing Prore Direct (VII,8)
Unfortunately, due to a hand injury, my client for this week re-scheduled for some summer climbing leaving me with some days free.  With several keen friends to get out, I felt it would be best to make the most of it.
Murdoch battles the crux on Open Heart

So firstly I teamed up with Murdoch and we had a great forecast.  We headed to Number 1 Buttress in Coire an Lochain.  Most teams were on number 4 Buttress and we had Number 1 to ourselves.
We climbed the brilliant Open Heart (VIII,9) which is essentially 2 direct pitches into Ventrilloquist (VII,7) crux pitch giving 4 pitches of interesting and steep climbing. Superb route in great weather.

A brief shake out

4 pitches later, a snow descent
The following day I teamed up with Jack.  The weather had deteriorated somewhat.  Our aim was to scope out some routes and do some practice for our upcoming British Mountain Guides winter test and we ended up on a very snowy Hidden Chimney (III) for a quick ascent.
Jack styling out of Deep Cut CHimney

Day 3 I was back out with Jack and after a short previous day we headed into Hell's Lum to climb Deep Cut Chimney (IV,5), the Cold Climbs classic route and a route both of us had wanted to do for a while.
Jack in the 'white room' heading back from Hells Lum

Day 4 I teamed up with Duncan and Jack for some more guide practice and we headed back into Coire an Lochain and we climbed Iron Butterfly (III) as it was the safest and most suitable route to get to.
Tom styling up some route...

Day 5 I teamed up with Murdoch and Tom, both very experienced and sponsored climbers.  We had a plan to climb a tricky route but as the weather wasn't amazing, we opted for an easy route and a quick day.  We climbed something on Fiacaille Buttress.  We forgot the guidebook so we climbed a route on or around Burning and Looting which was about IV,5.
Murdoch happy in 12 jackets

So a nice week of up and down weather, some very windy and snowy days which has made it feel alot more like winter.  The conditions aren't perfect, lots of snow burying routes and insulating turf and loose rocks so care is needed in choosing the right routes.

Friday, 3 February 2017

North West Magic

Sam and Nick learning what Scottish climbing is all about
Nick and Sam on the LLG route
I have been really looking forward to getting back up to Torridon this winter season to work for Moran Mountain.  With a slightly promising forecast of snow I knew we would get some winter days in.  There was a little more pressure this week as my group had flown in from Singapore to experience Scottish winter climbing.  Gulp. Those that have been up here in Scotland this season will know what means.
A view to Am Bastier

Ross and his two clients
The day before our first day the was nothing more than the odd snow patch.  No gullies to climb...just rock.  Loose, slimey rock.  So we were pleased that we had some fresh.  Day one we headed for the Ling, Lawson and Glover Route on Sail Mor.  Crampons were needed and as I have done it in summer I avoided all the really loose rock.

Robin searching for the way down

Ross and his team questing up
Day 2 was a stunning day on doesnt get much better.  The West ridge of Gillean provided great sport in the windy and snowy conditions.
Dry tooling

Sam and Nick enjoying the views after some dry tooling
Our 3rd day was full of lectures, technical ropework and then some dry tooling so we were rested for our 4th day hit to Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis!  Well worth the drive.
Our final, the team led themselfs up the Forcan Ridge, looking at efficiency and teamwork to make a safe and slick day.
A great week and I think they are sold on Scotland!  Hopefully we will see them back again.
Nick crushing Tower Ridge

Nick doing some kind of pose!?

Friday, 27 January 2017

British Mountain Guides Winter Training

Mountain Guide Paul Warnock and fellow trainee Jack Geldard on Tower Ridge

Just finished a great week of being a client.  It was brilliant to be on the receiving end of some experienced guides and to be taught more.  Part of the process of becoming a British Mountain Guide is a winter training course where we are taught how to look after folk in winter.  Even though I work alot in the winter it was great to learn some new tricks, receive some confirmation that I was doing the right thing and also give me some prep for the assessment which I will be doing in the Alps.  We had pretty good weather for the week with two days ice climbing on Ben Nevis, a day of mountaineering on the Buachaille and 2 more days of snow craft and mountaineering back on Ben Nevis...where most of the snow was.  I enjoyed taking a break from my camera this week so only have a couple of shots.

Todays trainer Paul Warnock.  Smith's Route behind

Descending Number 3 Gully

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Exploring with the three amigos

Sam top of his tricky pitch.  Castle Ridge

Ade finished on the Clach Glas Traverse
The time had came around.  Sam, Katya and Ade were here for another instalment of the winter.  'Mid january would be fine' I said, 'there will be enough snow' I promised.  I was wrong and I'm sure I was not the only one.  Fortunately Sam, Katya and Ade just love being in the mountains so there was no need to cancel or reschedule.  Out of 3, we had two days in summer conditions, our final day gave a wintery ascent of Castle Ridge (III).
Katya belays on the final pitch on Clach Glas Blaven Traverse

Katya leads up the final pitch on CGB Traverse

View from the summit of Blaven, Skye
With a pretty flexible itinerary throughout, one objective was mentioned and that was of Tower Ridge.  In an ideal world I would have liked to do this on the 2nd or 3rd day but due to weather and weekend crowd avoidance, we opted for the friday.  With a Cuillin Ridge Traverse, multiple days in Torridon, a An Teallach traverse and several days in Glencoe and Ben Nevis all under our belts together, it was obvious that Tower Ridge would go with no problems.
Team shot on Castle Ridge

Summit of Blaven

Top of Tower Ridge

Sam and Katya on the start of Tower Ridge

The team on Tower Ridge

Sam belays Katya on CGB Traverse
We had the ridge to ourselves.  Sam and Katya climbed on a rope and Ade and I were on a separate line.  I led the way and they followed safely and carefully for a great day out on the ridge.  We topped out in glorious weather which I shall let the photos do the talking.
Views from Ben Nevis

Katya belays on Tower Ridge
Day two, Saturday, we went to Skye.  An early start, 2 hour drive and a brilliant 8 hour (car to car) day on the Clach Glas Blaven traverse.  Again the weather was fantastic.  We (ahem...I mean me) managed to pick the only mountain in Scotland which was covered in cloud (gulp) but fortunately as we climbed the cloud lifted so our views were never blocked.  We had the ridge to ourselves and as always the scrambling was fantastic.
The only cloud in Scotland on Blaven
Team on the top of Tower Ridge

Team in the gap
Day 3, a 7 hour day, car to car on Castle Ridge.  Our first taste of winter this trip and Katya and Sam, like the previous two days, safe guarded themselves and made the ascent on their own rope.  A great effort by both Sam and Katya who both had a tricky pitch.  Top job.  Ade and I cruised up ahead finding the route and hurling advice (and some banter) as we climbed.  Today was a snow day, unconsolidated snow....but still snow.  Thanks team for a great 3 days.

Ade, Katya and Sam on Castle ridge

Ade on the Crux.  Plenty of runners for Katya to clip on her lead

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Curved Ridge

Simon was up for Curved Ridge.  To be fair we had both hoped for a winter ascent of Curved Ridge but as the topsy turvy winter continues to stip the mountains, we had to settle for a summer ascent.  Warm and wet, it felt like July.  Fortunately for simon, he had limited scrambling experience and we made a great day of scrambling skills and Simon did some leading up the route.  Andy Hogarth was out behind us with his two clients and Grant was out with his group bagging some summits.  So a pretty quiet day on the hill.  I couldn't see into the corries in Glencoe as I drove through but there is snow still up there in the gullies.  Still a couple of days until it gets cold.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Avalanche Training

As part of the process to become British Mountain Guides as well as Mountaineering Instructors, it is essential that we know about avalanche awareness and stay on top on current thinking and techniques from the experts.  So this is one course I never get tired of going to.  I tend to participate in an avalanche course every year and each one is different.  Unfortunately there was no interesting snow too look at but the class room session was useful and has armed me with some new methods in teaching and information sharing.  The course was funded by the Chris Walker Memorial Trust.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

3 day Mountaineering course

Avalanche education and hopefully a shelter
Over the last 3 days I was out working with the KMC on a mountaineering course for their newer members.  Unfortunately one was ill so a team of 3 joined me for the first day.
Hold on to your hats!
Wild, windy, whiteout.  Teaching was a struggle but we found some sheltered terrain with some snow in.  Enough for us to carry out snow skills and craft.  The three days consisted of one cold day and two mild days where everything started to melt.  We ended up having two days that were relatively static, using the limited snow patches to develop skills.  Our final day we had a journey up the Fiacaill the rain and didn't even need crampons.  We resorted to summer tactics and the team led themselves up the ridge as I gave input and instruction along the way.  The topsy turvy winter continues keeping me on my toes!
A break in the cloud, spot all the climbers

Home time!
 3 day Scottish Winter Mountaineering course - See Here

Thursday, 12 January 2017

The Rampant


Max and Kev on The Seam
Another cold day had arrived in this topsy turvy winter.  We certainly are being kept on our toes.  One day I'm digging the car out of the drive, the next I'm on the top of the mountains in the rain.  So despite having several days off, I haven't been able to climb every day.  But today I managed to get out with my fellow British Mountain Guide Trainees for some climbing.  I teamed up with Tamsin.  Max and Kev teamed up and we were all really psyched as it was cold and going to be a good days climbing.
Kev and Max on a gear exchange
Kev cruising The Seam
We knew that we had to be selective as not all routes were in good condition but we ended up on Fiacaill Buttress in the Northern corries.  It was whiter than the rest and had plenty of routes we had never done.
Tamsin questing off on the top pitch

Tamsin cruising
Today was Tamsin's first route of the season as well as the first winter route after breaking her pelvis last year in Glencoe so we opted for the Rampant (IV,5) as a nice warm up.  I have never done it either and it was great.  A good turfy route with a couple of good pitches.  Generally if the foothold were poor then the axe placements were bomber so pretty important for this route to have good frozen conditions.  Kev and Max topped out on The Seam in good time and we all decided to head back for coffee and finish the day without getting tired.  Stress free days like this are brilliant!

Team top out

Team descent on Fiacaill Ridge