Saturday, 2 April 2016

Winter Mountaineeing - my final course this winter

With the warm temperatures of late, the outlook to this week was looking doubtful in terms of winter conditions in the NW highlands.  This was my final week working for Moran Mountain this winter and the Easter winter mountaineering course was full. and to top it off...we had plenty of snow.  We visited Glen Shiel, Liatach, Beinn Eighe and Skye for some fantastic days on the snow and with a great team.  Looks like I have one more day of winter before I can make a start on the rock climbing season.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Torridon sandstone, quartzite and milage

The last two day I have been working with John and we took the Torridon office as a change of scenery.  We left our ice axes and ice screws behind and took our summer boots and scrambling gloves.  John had never been to the Torridon hills so I suggested we have some big days on the Torridon Giants.  Our first day finished after a 22 km round on Beinn Eighe massiv.  We started out climb on to Sail Mor (980m) via the Ling, Lawson and Glovers route, which is just as good in summer conditions as it is in winter.  From here we left the sandstone and climbed up quartz to the summit of Coinneach Mhor which gave some brilliant scrambling.  As we were moving well we went on to Ruadh-stac Mor (1010m), a first for me and then we continued onto Spidean Coire nana Clach (993m) before coming down into Coire an Laoigh.

As the weather wasnt looking great for a Liatach traverse on day two we opted for the Beinn Alligan traverse.  Over the horns, Sgurr Mor (986m) and Ton na Gruagaich (922m) which turned out to be a great option and an easy day for me as John did all the navigating which, despite following a ridge still took some thought in the clouds.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Good weather round up

If you have been in Scotland in the last few weeks you will know it has been the place to be.  Blue skies, no wind and views as far as the eye can see.  With such amazing weather I have kept away from the computer so here is a very quick round up of the last couple of weeks since the 'weekend warriors'.  We have had a pretty good haul of route's, even went rock climbing to kick of the rock season.
First off was The Curtain (IV,5) with Alan, a gentleman's day out.  Then I was out with John on Observatory Buttress (V,4) on Ben Nevis, Twisting Gully (III) on Stob Coire Nan Lochain, followed by 3 days in the Cairngorms; Aladdins Mirror Direct (IV,4), Pygmy Ridge (IV,5) and a hill day over to Ben Macdui, followed by a 'follow my nose' day to finish off before heading back to the West.  Then I had another day out with Alan on Ben Nevis where we climbed Indicator Wall (V,4) and the following day I was out with John and we climbed Indicator RH (V,5).  Both were brilliant routes which I had never done before.  Well worth the walk!  We saw a team on Smiths Route (V,5) and that was enough to get John psyched for it.  The next day we took the walk and climbed this brilliant route.  Top end grade 5 I think and John lapped up the lactic acid!  After a good few days on ice we opted a day on Tower Ridge (IV,3), a super classic and it was in beautiful alpine conditions.  I ended up with a rest day so I put rock shoes on for the first time in months and climbed in Glen Nevis in the sunshine which was brilliant.  It was so good that I persuaded John to come climbing there the next day too rather than having a big mountain day.  We had a great time ticking off some more Glen Nevis classics I have never done.  Today, we went back to the Ben and climbed Hadrian's Wall (V,5) which was brilliant conditions but a very wet day indeed.  Here is a selection of photos from some of the days.
We had this view for many days

Indicator Wall

Great week to be in the mountains

A special summit

John leading to Ben Macdui

Cruising around the Northern Corries

Climbers on Smiths route

High on Indicator Wall

Alan hanging out

Summit belay

John high on Indicator RH

Number 4 Gully

John on the Eastern bombed by a foot!

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Weekend warriors

Dave, Mara, Jose and Ben
Ice time

This weekend I was out with Jose, Mara and Dave for a couple of days of introduction's to the winter mountains.  They wanted a bit of everything so they could get a little taste of what winter is all about and then they could go away and decide what they want to focus their time on.  We started off with basic skills at Stob Coire Nan Lochan, introducing them to the multiple spikes that we carry, how to 'faff' with gloves, how to dig in the snow and much much more.  We finished the day with a traverse of the mountain and a descent of Broard Gully before heading back to the Clachaig for beers and dinner.  
Mara making winter climbing look glamorous
Day two we opted for Ben Nevis to continue where we left off and cover some aspect we hadn't got round too.  Starting off with a bit of ice craft, then followed an ascent of ledge route looking at rope work and rock protection followed by the summit via white out navigation.  Followed by an abseil descent into number 4 gully and finished off the weekend with some ice axe arresting.
Team London on Ledge Route

Down time

Thursday, 3 March 2016

The double act stike back

Cuillin Ridge

Second summit for the day
This week I was back out with Ade and Katya who I have spent quite a bit of time in the hills with. Usually Sam joins us but this year he has become a grown up, got himself a mortgage and couldn't commit to a climbing trip in Scotland. were missed!  So with just a trio, we spent our first day having a shake down on Skye.  I suppose this wasn't a particular easy day but as Ade asked for a 'boot camp' experience.  We have a very varied week of weather, plenty of snow, fluctuation temperatures which gave us a very difficult day of ice climbing on Liatach, a dry of shelter at the local dry tooling crag, a day of epic proportion on Fuar Tholl and finally a nice day on Blaven on the Isle of Skye.
Carnage on Fuar Tholl

Ade loving the soft snow

Beautiful skyline

Katya giving me a rest by belaying Ade

Katya getting too close

Bum slide

Monday, 29 February 2016

Mid winter catch up. Weddings, tests, training, sunshine, Gemini and Skye

Dramatic day in Glencoe
With a busy few weeks out of the way and another couple starting, I have just about managed to sit down and write about my last few days out.  Since I was last up in Torridon I attended the lovely wedding of Jamie and Claire in Glencoe.  Before the drinks started I dashed off and arrived in Aviemore for the briefing of my final induction course for the British Mountain Guides.  This was the third and final induction for me.  Now that I have completed they are happy for me to precede into the training.  So I am now a Trainee British Mountain Guide.  Happy Days!  Only 3 more years until I become an Alpine Guide.  Day one I had to prove I could climb Scottish Grade 5 so I sealed the deal by climbing a Grade 6, Shark Fin Soup on Mess of Pottage.  I was totally sandbagged by my assessor, it was harder than that!  So pleased that went well, the following two days we did some training as a group, looking at how the guides operate which was very interesting and informative.  
Ledge Route

Great conditions shaping up on Ben Nevis
After the induction I was straight back to Fort William to meet Sean, who I was climbing with for 3 days and introducing him to Scottish winter.  We have 8 days planned in the summer so it was a great opportunity to test out the hill legs.  We started off in Glencoe on Buachaille Etive Beag for some skills and two Munro's in Stunning weather.  Then came Ledge Route followed by Curved Ridge, again in stunning weather.  Sean totally lucked out...3 days...wall to wall sunshine!  You can come again!  A great 3 days with great company.  If you are reading this Sean, unfortunately I have caught your cold, nothing substantial yet but will hit me if I have a rest day!
Ledge Route

Chopper searching the NW Face
Curved Ridge
So I had a day off on Saturday so I organised with Andy and Will to head to the Ben for some ice.  I was so psyched for Gemini (VI,6) that I persuaded them to meet at 4.30am so we could be first on the route!  Grrrr we were beaten by 3 minutes!!  Must get up earlier next time!  Anyway, we climbed it anyway and had a nice sociable day with plenty of teams on the route and the rest of the mountain.  That was my 4th route this season in my own time...unreal!  Usually Im up to 30+ by March!
Me heading up the crux pitch

Andy leading after the hard pitch 
Will 'off the couch' loving the steep ice
We had to get down in good time as I had to head up to Torridon for staff briefing and then meet the clients for their briefing and kit check.  With a stunning forecast, we opted for a day on the Cuillin Ridge.  Not the whole thing but a great section.  A brilliant day out.  I'll do a round up of this week at the end.  

The mountains and winter conditions are shaping up great and I'm looking forward to some great ice climbing conditions on Ben Nevis when I'm home in March.
Skye generally being amazing!

Regulars Katya and Aide on their final summit of the day