Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Back to Scotland

Alan preparing for the unexpected
After a short stop off in the Lake District to see the family, I was itching to get back onto the hill.  I had secretly missed Ben Nevis and the great climbs there.  My regular client Alan has been recovering from a broken ankle and hand so has had very little time on the hill but we teamed up for both of us to blow away the cobwebs.  Only a top shelf route would do.  Something we hadn't done but something which wouldn't be horrendous...Ben Nevis is a great winter venue.  To be off the well trodden routes can be quite 'memorable'!

Going well for 70 years old! 
So I decided we should climb the 'Crossing of Tower Ridge' which is in the scrambles guide.  Given grade 3...aye right.  So anyway...we started up The Garradh which was 7 pitches of hard, unprotected VD climbing.  A bit of a shock to both of us as we were expecting a grade 3 scramble but it was still fun.  We topped out on the Garradh and decided to call it lunch and gave us some time to do a spot of litter picking below some of the routes...we had quite a haul.
Every footstep had to be placed with great accuracy

Our haul!
I also had a day working on Liathach with a group of 5 clients.  I was working for Torridon Adventure's and had one of their instructors along to shadow and help out which was great fun.  He did a great job.

The team on the 'easy' traverse
Since then I have been away working on a friends boat which we are converting into a passenger boat...it's a fishing trawler so it's pretty big and had some days climbing at the local crags and walls.

Great light and views
The 'youth' leading the way
Im away for the next month for some Sport climbing in Greece and Italy and will be back in mid November for, hopefully some early season mixed climbing and good winter conditions.








Thursday, 21 September 2017

A week in Wales

After wrapping up in the Alps for the summer I decided to head straight to North Wales for an annual 'working holiday' there.  I had a few reasons to go.  See important people, do some work, climb some routes and hopefully climb a particular line I have been hoping to do for a long time.  The way it worked out, I did about 80% of that...the particular line will have to wait!

Crags don't get much better than this

After arriving back I teamed up with my regular client Sean.  We have had a trip to Wales in the past and managed to escape the weather but this time luck wasn't on our side.  A forecast nobody really wanted to be out in, so as we had the option we chose to go to the Beacon Climbing wall which served its purpose.

Thumbs up for greasy, tech big boot climbing!
Sean happy to be high
 Our second day wasnt much better.  Anyway, we got stuck in.  On a previous trip we climbed Original Route on Idwal Slabs but this time we opted for the harder Hope.  I had only done this in dry conditions so it was great to seek it out while it was soaking.  It went fine, our big boots did the job, however I do remember having to do quite a few strenuous moves to advance up.  A strong effort by Sean to dispatch this.

Katya, an IML, gets stuck into rock climbing
Rope shortened, Katya leads to glory...in the rain
After this followed a spot of personal climbing, surfing and catching up with friends.  Before I knew it, I was back out working with Katya and Aide.  We have done heaps in the past, mostly in winter so this time they were keen to advance their skills rock climbing.  So day one they swung leads on Original Route on the slabs (in the rain) in their big boots, put alpine skills into practice to scramble off which was packed with some good laughs and piss taking as we always do...and obviously some technical input! ;)
First time on the sea cliffs...Check out the power pants!

Aid negotiating the crux of Lighthouse Arete
Day two they were sold on some sea cliff climbing.  So an early start saw us abseiling into Castle Helen before anyone else had turned up.  I led them up Light House Arete, Rap and Pel before we shifted over to Holyhead Mountain so they could do some more leading before we called it a day.  As this seemed like the last day of nice weather, my mate John drove out at warp speed to meet me after work so we could stretch the arms and do a couple of pitches in the fading light.  A mint day.
Hanging out at the seaside
A rare shot of Aid smiling and not swearing.  A classic Aid quote 'Put my foot up there?? Im not a f#@king gymnast!'

My last day, I was climbing on the Orme with the Evans.  It was a multi activity day.  Sport climbing, Trad climbing, bouldering, falling off and good craic.  I do quite like Wales...I always feel like moving there when I'm on my working holidays there.  Maybe one day.  Anyway...back to Scotland...hopefully in time for an Indian Summer!

Saturday, 9 September 2017

My first Alpine season

The summer has flown by and as a result I have hardly had a moment to sit down to write about what I have been upto.  I can't decide if I have just been too busy or I have just avoided spending time on my computer.  Mostly because the weather has been great and I have been outside most of the time.  Probably a combination of the two.  But, now as I am back in Scotland, I finally have a chance to sit down and catch up from where I left off.  I hope I can remember what happened 3 months ago let alone remember all the clients names!

It all started with a week climbing with Jack who got me psyched for the summer

After my last post climbing with Jack, I was engrossed in my Summer Alpine Training run by two BMG IFMGA guides (Andy Teasdale and Neil Johnson) teaching everything they knew about becoming an alpine guide.  The week's course was essentially the gateway to working in the alps because as soon as we finished, I was straight into work.
Alpine training

My first week of work was for ISM.  A long standing alpine guiding company who run's courses throughout the summer and winter.  The course was an introductory course to 4000m peaks.  Myself and Andy Teasdale guided and taught the group for 6 days with the finale being that they led themselves up a 4000m peak.  We packed in training and skills throughout the week and it all came together as all teams executed the Weissmies is fine weather.  A top week to start my alpine guiding career!

The full team on the Weissmies

With a few days off, I firstly teamed up with another guide and we guided our clients over the brilliant Cosmiques ArĂȘte from the Aiguille du Midi.  For some reason the Scottish weather turned up for a day so we had a bit of a battle but made a smooth ascent and down in time for a nice lunch in Chamonix.

Cosmiques in the calm before the storm

After this I had a few days of with Lou who flew out to visit.  A spot of mountain biking, climbing and flying filled our days which left me well rested for the next block of work.

A spot of flying with Lou above Chamonix

Early morning views on the South ridge of the Lagginhorn 
The Matterhorn week.  I had been looking forward to this for quite a while!  We had 1 client each for 6 days and the weather looked good at the start.  Fortunately the guys were acclimatised so on our 1st day, we walked to the Hornli hut.  The following day we climbed and descended 'the horn' in 10 hours, which to date, was my most enjoyable days guiding.  It is so sustained, never desperate and really good fun.  The ridge was pretty quiet, the views were stunning and the company was super.  I remember thinking...'does it get much better?'
On the summit of the Matterhorn
After this I had a spot of time to play with which involved escaping the mountains (weather was poor) and I headed to Italy with Swaily and Rudders for some crack climbing, another summer highlight.  What a place.  Like a mini Yosemite.  Endless amounts of granite cracks and we were only there for 3 days.  I was broken by the end of it.  Fortunately a quick flight back to a wedding in Scotland enabled a good rest before I flew back out with Lou for another week of crack climbing, yet another summer highlight.  I could certainly get use to this way of life!

Lou spotted a bat in a crack

But, all good things have to come to an end.  I was back to work.  Fortunately, I love work and I was keen to get stuck in.  This week I was working for Frost Guiding with 5 other guides of whom I know very well.  So a super social week with a group of 20 school kids.  A great week introducing them to the Alps.  Although we did not achieve everything we wanted too, they had a good experience.  It was a super useful week for me as the weather was horrendous...so we were all putting our heads together trying to come up with suitable plans and I think we just about made it work.  Did you hear about the landslides this summer in the Alps?  It was that week.  So much rain.  Poor kids!

Team young on their first alpine summit
The following two weeks were taken up with Martin Morans Alpine High peaks tour.  This was a 'mega' trip.  5 countries and their highest peak.  So Liechtenstein, Germany, Austria, Slovenia and Switzerland.  Martin has done a great write up, far better than I could do so here is the link to his words.
It was a total success, we summited all peaks by our planned routes, all peaks I have never been on before.

Heading up the Studlgrat
So all was left was a trip up Mont Blanc.  What a great way to finish the season...the highest peak of them all (well in the Alps anyway).
So this time working for Stu MacDonald, we had a team of 3 and set off on our 3 day conquest onto 'The Blanc'.  Day one faultless...we arrived at the Tete Rouse hut.  Day two...started well but once we got too 4200m the weather turned biblical.  High winds, zero vis and bitterly cold.  We concurred that this was not the place to be teetering up and down ridges so we decided to call it a day and save it for another time.  A great effort by the whole team and it's great to have a good team who understands the importance of turning back while its still safe too.  We salvaged our final day with some brilliant Via Ferrata in the valley.

After turning back on Mont Blanc
Mont Blanc wasnt quite the end.  I had one final week working for ISM in Switzerland.  The Saas 4000's.  Working with Paolo, an Italian guide we explored the high peaks around Saas Fee with our team of 6.  Due to a wide spread of fitness abilities, not everyone summited every peak we planned to do but we had a good trip nonetheless.  Finishing on the Nadelhorn was a good finale for most of the team.
Heading up to the Nadelhorn
So after my first summer in the Alps, I am happy to report that I wont be giving up guiding.  It has been a great journey so far and I have barely touched the surface in the Alps.  Next summer I will be out guiding again and hopefully on lots of different objectives.

Some faces from the Alps