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 Ridge....in 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

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Limerick University

It's the 8th of January and it would be fair to say that the winter season so far has been a little frustrating.  Just a little too warm.  I have just finished 3 days with 2 Limerick University students who, with me shared enthusiasm for the remaining snow.
Eoghan and Ashlynn were 2 of a group of about 20 students from Limerick University Mountaineering Club.  Most of the group were out for 2 days doing some introductory winter skills with two instructors, 2 were out with Dave Barker and three were self-sufficient.
Eoghan and Ashlynn were keen to winterise their rock climbing experience.  With Alpine trips under their belt as well as plenty of rock climbing in Ireland they were keen to get their crampons stuck in here in Scotland.

With very little snow, we headed into Coire an t-Sneachda and looked for the 'whitest' line for the team to lead up.  With a check of skills they armed themselves with the rack and pitched up 0.5 gully.  A nice easy route but ample terrain to pack in 5 pitches and winterise their skills.
An avalanche training course!

Day 2 we suffered a thaw and headed into Coire an Lochain and climbed The Couloir with plenty of drips and rime ice falling off.  We hoped to climb a different route but a team was already there and there was no way we were going to climb below someone.  With poor visibility on the tops, we practiced some navigation over the plateau before making our way down.
Our final day, warm temperatures and limited snow pack.  We opted for a summer day.  An alpine training day looking at efficiency and a few little tricks to develop their current climbing techniques.  They led up the Twin RIbs and continued onto Fiacaill Ridge before coming down the Goat Track for a de-brief back at base.

A fun 3 days with 2 very motivated future alpinists and winter climbers.  Good luck with the journey.
Scottish winter Jan 7th 2017

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Winter climbing at last - Hookers Corner and The Vicar

Me on P1 of Hooker's Photo:Murdoch Jamieson
Me on P1, Murdoch Belaying Photo: Ian Stewart
New year started with a bang of firework, this year we were in Aviemore celebrating into the small hours.  With New Years day a write off for winter climbing it seemed like the right thing to do.  Fortunately I didnt have to wait long until I could get up far too early and haul a heavy rucksack to a cold windy cliff for some mixed climbing.  On arrival to Coire an Lochain in the Northern Cairngorms, Murdoch and I had a few ideas in mind but Murdoch was really set on The Vicar (VII,8) but on close inspection it was choked with ice making gear very hard fought.  Instead we opted for an easy, short day on Hooker's Corner (VI,6) which was brilliant climb neither of us had done.
Murdoch on P2 of Hookers...harder than it looks
Me in the groove on P1 of The Vicar Photo:Murdoch Jamieson
The morning alarm didn't feel too early on the 4th.  I was psyched and ready for a good day of mixed climbing with Murdoch.  We headed back to Coire and Lochain as it was much whiter that other crags.  With a day of thaw and a bit of a blasting from the wind the crag was in excellent condition.  The Vicar (VII,8) was on.  'A Lochain Test piece' it said in the guide book, Martin Moran claimed it was harder than Ben Nevis's 'The Secret' (VIII,9)!  Having only done two route's this season I started to think I was being a little ambitious.  Murdoch had fallen off this route in a previous year but was keen to put it to bed.  With only two pitches to the top I took the first, an icey groove into a nice VII,7 cracked , vertical wall leading me to a ledge below the steep crux pitch.
Me heading out there on P1 Photo:Murdoch Jamieson

Murdoch, took the rack, he moaned, wished he was sport climbing and then despatched the main pitch in great style, almost making it look easy.  I joined him on the top, elated to have climbed the route clean.  It was by far the best route I have climbed in the Cairngorms to date, despite being short, it has everything.  It was such a good day because finally Murdoch can tick the route off, once and for all.
Murdoch heading up the crux pitch, I didnt get many pictures as I was being an attentive belayer!

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Happy New Year!

That time has come again, another year passes us by and another year full of memories and adventures.  I would personally like to thank everyone who has made this year great...clients, friends and family.  I look forward to 2017 and hope that we all have a great year in the mountains.  If you haven't got plans in the mountains then you need to make some.  Here are some pictures from 2016 and there are heaps more on facebook HERE.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Calm before the storm

Not a bad place to ski
Mont Blanc and Les Drus
As the winter conditions have been few and far between this December I thought it was the perfect opportunity to book a quick hit to the Alps for a nice relaxing skiing holiday before the onslaught of Storm Barbara, Christmas and a very busy winter season.  Lou and I headed to the base of Mont Blanc and skied on both sides of the tunnel.  Some days in Italy, some in France.  This time Italy was holding far more snow and became a good option so we visited a few resorts as well as a wee ski tour to get some fitness.  Like last December when I was out, the hills and slopes were almost deserted, sometimes it felt we had the resorts to ourselves!  With several other friends around it was like a British takeover.  Despite the lack of fresh snow, it was a super fun trip and now I'm ready for getting stuck into Scottish winter.
Lou boot packing on our wee tour from Courmayeur

Lou skinning with Mont Blanc in the background
Lou showing me how it's done
Empty pistes
Becca, Lou and Kev after our tour from the Argentier Glacier
Combat skiing down the glacier