Monday, 21 May 2018

Duff(y) the Munro Slayer

Now Grahame is no Sarah Michelle Gellar but he certainly can get his way through several mythical beasts in one week.

Slioch NW buttress with Loch Maree in the background
Our plan way hatched a while ago to spend some time in the North West to climb some of the munro's he is yet to climb.  We didn't want the easy options so when the weather forecast was perfect it was game on.
Grahame trying to see the island on the loch which is on the island which is on Loch Maree ... We could just make it out...one of a kind in Scotland.
A loch with an island, which has a wee lochain which has an island on!
First up was Slioch via the NW Buttress  - A great route with a long and scenic approach.  The ground was dry but I suspect it is really boggy after the usual rainfall.  This week it was so easy to walk in.  The route itself is worth seeking out.  The crux is the first wall and then its nice scrambling over a combination of solid and loose rock at around grade 3.  From the summit we descended the regular route to make a really nice 7 hour round trip.

Super pace to climb - East Buttress with  Loch Coire Mhic Fhearchair behind
Day two we walked into Coire Mhic Fhearchair and climbed the brilliant East Buttress (VDiff).  Totally amazing route and one on my favourite on the mountain.  With stunning weather and Grahame keen to tick Ruadh-stac Mor and Spidean Cnc, we pressed on and traversed the mountain.
Super climbing
Day 3 we opted for a slightly shorted day and climber the A'Chioch Ridge on Beinn Bhan.  It weighs in as a Corbett but the scrambling is great and as its only a 5.5 hour day we were ready for another giant tomorrow!
Grahame's unique smile...or is it fear?  A'Chioch Ridge providing some cooler conditions
The top of the A'Chioch Ridge
Day 4 was one of the best.  A traverse of Liathach via the Northern Pinnacle's.  Just superb.  Two hour walk into the base and we had brilliant scrambling, again with the difficult section near the start.  With everything being bone dry we didn't experience any 'greasyness' as mentioned in the guidebook and just had pristine rock.  Some looseness in the upper parts of the Northern Pinnacles though.
Start of the Northern Pinnacles

Just fun!

Nobody else

On the main traverse

Final munro of the day
Day 5 we were due some different weather (no photo's today).  The cloud came in, the rain fell but that didn't stop us.  We drove down to Glen Shiel and finished our week on the two munro's by the Forcan Ridge which brings Graham's munro count down to the final 50!  I'm sure these will fly by and best of luck with finishing them off.

A week I won't forget in a while, truly brilliant routes and weather.  Thanks Grahame.

The traverse ledge to get into the start of East Buttress

Dude!

Glad I had my ice screw on my harness

The whopper I caught on Loch Maree on evening

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Strength and conditioning in the mountains

Alan wrapped up warm on a very cold day
Unfortunately no scientific research has gone on here, just the classic 'the best way to train for the mountains is to go to the mountains'.  That's the approach I take and also the approach Alan takes and at 72...it seems to be working ok. 
So we have had a good couple of days.  The aim is to get a bit of practice and fitness in for an upcoming Cuillin Ridge traverse attempt.  Possibly a 'one dayer' but with recent illness Alan has lost a wee bit of stamina.  Still a few weeks to go so we shall see.

Best way to tackle this in the winds we were experiencing

Balancy climbing on Crowberry Ridge

A welcome ledge in prep for some airy climbing
So we headed up North Buttress on Stob Ban (Grade III) for a bit of shelter from the very cold wind.  With fresh snow on the tops it was a bit of a 'hoods up and go'.  Wind was howling over the tops and as it was Alan first day out for a while, and not wanting to over do it, we headed down the North ridge.
Focused
After the weekend we teamed up again and the sun was shining and the breeze was light.  We basked in the sun on Crowberry Ridge, surmounted the Tower and during our lunch break we opted for a descent of Curved Ridge to get used to scrambling down again.  Alan certainly is capable of a moving well over the Cuillin Ridge so looking forward to making an attempt with him.
Great exposure on a brilliant route

Saturday, 5 May 2018

South West Climbing

So I was meant to be working this week in Scotland with Sean but we had a drastic change of plan.
Not Scotland...but felt cold
Unfortunately Lou has bust her ACL and has gone home to rest and repair in Devon.  So a long story short, Sean was happy to relocate to Devon for some climbing and everyone was happy.  Turns out his elderly mother only live 20 minutes away from Lou's mother so we all had somewhere to stay!  Love it when a plan comes together!
Amazing granite to climb on
So Sean and I headed out into a pretty unsavory forecast to Torbay.  For our first day and managed 2.5 routes before heading off to the local climbing wall to hide from the rain.
A big boot/rucksack to exit the crag
The next few days looked much nicer by Lands End so we opted for 3 days climbing down there.  We booked a B&B and Lou came along to get some fresh air whilst resting her leg for 3 days.
We had a brilliant day climbing some classic at Bosigran in a very strong wind.  The sun was out and the rock was superb.

What a place this is
Our third day we climbed at Chair Ladder which was pretty exciting getting onto our first route with the fast approaching tide.  Again it was sunny and super windy.  This kind of weather that you notice when you get home....zzzzzzz

Happy to be a pitch above the sea
Day four was a write off... I couldn't persuade Sean to go climbing in the rain so we drove back to our homes ready for a day on the Moors for our final day.

Sean found the wrap-around jug
Dewerstone.  I'd quite fancied going here.  There were some brilliant routes, right up Sean's street and they were totally dry.  We did 4 routes there and they were all ace.  

Happy to tick a classic of the crag
Again, I was pretty inspired by the climbing down there and super keen to go back down to Devon for some more climbing in the future.  I think I will arrange some trips soon so let me know if you are keen.
Mega VD scenes
This had a spicy top pitch...good ol' Patey route. 
Mega VS...very good route
Back home in Scotland now.  Found a bird in the chimney so needed to get up there to cover it up with wire...all good fun!

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Winter is over, spring has begun, the end is nigh!

After 4 months away, I am finally back home.  The house is still intact and only a few jobs to do while I acclimitiese to living at sea level again. 
Finding fresh snow on a hut to hut trip
I finished on a high in the Alps, I passed my exams for the ski test, so when I say the 'end is nigh', I mean for me completing the Guide's scheme, not the end of the world!  In 4 months time, I will carry out my final test, which will be in the Alps and then I am done!  Wish me luck!

In the meantime I will be back home for a wee while.  Looks like a busy spring coming up with several requests to do one day Cuillin Ridge traverses so I'm hoping the weather plays ball and we have a successful season.

The last part of my Alpine ski season was mostly spent hut to hut touring with various different guides.  We generally had nice weather but some plans weren't carried out due to the constant changes we were experiencing.  It wasn't until my final week (The Test!) where the weather was settled and we could enjoy the summits and cols.  It was a total relief to 'finally' get the word 'pass' and I could come home knowing I had learnt enough to pass what I thought would be the hardest test for me.

I came away pretty inspired about ski guiding.  It is something relatively new to me and I'm looking forward to spending more time guiding folk either freeriding or ski touring. 

So...lets see how the climbing has been affected by taking 4 months off...!

Goodbye Mont Blanc.  See you in the summer

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Alpine part 2 (and 3 - 6)...when will the season end?

This winter, what a season!  April has started and here in the Alps, it doesn't look like it's slowing down...or warming up as we would expect or hope for.  Even back at home it is looking to be a superb season and with no signs of slowing down either.

Since my last post there has been quite a lot going on.  In February I jetted off to Aurland in Norway working for Moran Mountain.  I had some of my regular clients along and working alongside some great friends made for a brilliant trip.  Ice climbing is always good fun.

Skiing in the Alps has been close to non stop.  Im just back from two hut to hut tours where we found some great snow but some rotten weather sometimes.  Before that, I was observing guides with their clients, helping out and trying to learn as much as possible from them.
Rock climbing season doesn't seem that far away so I have managed to squeeze in a couple of cragging sessions in after skiing...to hopefully remind myself of how to do it!

The winter season is very close to the end for me.  My final winter challenge is to pass my ski test.  This is a 6 day assessment based in the Alps.  Hopefully, the next time I post, I will be back in the UK with a big smile on my face.  Results on the 20th April.

After that I will be back in the UK working my socks off before I go into the final stage of becoming a fully certified IFMGA Mountain Guide.

Here are a few pictures...but in no particular order!
Tom topping out on a brilliant WI4

Day off with Donald.  Always an adventure.  Unfortunately we DNF this route.
Katya making her way up to join me on the first ascent of this route
Natcho bring some colour to yet another first ascent
A super WI5 with the strong Irish youth Neil
The WI5, mega route
A spot of leading for Neil (the youth)

Natcho and Neil organising themselves whilst leading Dambusters WI3
Natcho on the sharp end


Dream team from Alpine Guides.  Just before we set of on the Silvretta tour
The hut is this way....honest
More like it...
Good snow, good skiers, good times
Lori contemplating where to go next
Deserted ski resort in Val Stura in Italy

Neil pausing to take it all in
The team join me ready for the freshies on descent
Another day, another blank canvass
Great snow
Freshies, an overused but relevant word this season.
We found a hidden bunker...took some digging to get in
Filling the gaps
They were arguing about who gets to go next...there was plenty for everyone
a snowpack evaluation session
When the bed bugs hit!
Powder in Italy
More powder in the 'magic woods'
Vallee Blanche team
Skiing down to Italy with my mentor Andy Nelson
The client get to lead