Thursday, 29 November 2007


Today Kenny Grant and I decided to go and check out Ben Nevis North Face to see if we could get a climb in. On the walk in from the car park, we were greeted by a light snow blizzard which gave the ground and the crag even more snow cover. We walked up into Coire na Ciste and headed up to Number Three Gully Buttress and climbed Babylon (VII,8**). This route was amazing. The protection was pretty good, bomber where we needed it and the climbing was challenging and sustained. This is by far he hardest route I have climbed to date, and by far one of my most favourite and memorable. During the climb the weather held out very nicely, calm most of the day, a couple of snow showers here and there. The route itself was in good nick. A little bit mushy lower down but good build up higher up and plenty of rhyme. It got dark as we topped out, we abseiled down Number Three Gully to our sacks and headed back to the van.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Little bit of Nookie

After a weekend off work spent with the family in Glasgow (which I nearly abandoned due to tempting climbing conditions!), I managed to scrape an extra day off so I could get out for a climb. Today Joe Adams and I ventured into the Northern Corries, which was, as always, a stunning sight. Cloud level was low as we arrived with blue skies trying to squeeze through with little success, and as the day progressed the cloud base dropped until visibility was pretty poor. We climbed Invernookie (III,4*) on Coire an t'Sneachda which was a pleasant route with some great technical 4 moves. The mountain was plastered with snow as was the route, which made gear finding less than easy, but generally there was gear where I wanted it. This was Joe's first ever winter climb, and an appropriate one as it had many difficulties and obstacles for him to solve, he seemed very confident when he was climbing (just wouldn't stop moaning about his aching calf muscles!-) and enjoyed his first day out very much. So much that he snored all the way home!

Friday, 16 November 2007

Back to the Gorms

After a successful day yesterday, Kenny Grant and I were keen to get back out to the Northern Corries and ascend another line. We decided to head into Coire an Lochain, but we were not sure what line to do, until we had a closer look. As we arrived, the crag looked very attractive and we ended up climbing The Migrant (VI,7**). This spectacular 100m route had some very good climbing and some very 'interesting' situations. I lead the first pitch which was quite tricky and Kenny finished the route off with some amazing climbing. Conditions were good, however we were racing against time as the crag was thawing. We finished the route and descended back down to our bags via The Couloir (I*) and walked back to the van in darkness. Another great day with some pretty serious moments.

1st winter climb this season

Yesterday Kenny Grant, Tom Kilby and I, ventured out to the Northern Corries of Cairn Gorm in the hope of finding some climbable lines. After our 6.30am start, we were all very optimistic and very excited, however on the drive there, we were beginning to wonder if there was going to be any snow?! We had our rock climbing shoes just in case, so we could tick a few routes at Creag Dubh if needed. As we approached there was a cloud inversion, so the corries were not visible. We got to the car part to see Andy Nisbet getting geared up so we did the same. As we got in view of the coire, we realised it was a winter wonderland! We marched up to the crag and decided to climb The Seam (IV/5*) as it was quite high up and also short (we were pushed for time). This was Toms first ever winter climb so Kenny and I took turns in giving him some movement coaching and useful tips for being out in winter. Tom climbed very well, and thoroughly enjoyed the day. I lead up the first pitch and Kenny finished the route climbing up the chimney fault (crux pitch), I had previously done this route last winter so I climbed next to Tom giving some hints when needed. Great day out. The route is short but sweet.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Summer Mountain Leader Assesment

Well, what an eventful week the assessment was. I did pass all areas of the criteria and the hardest part of the assessment were the few hours waiting for the results! There were 8 hopefuls on the course, with a respectable 5 passes and 3 deferrals, 2 on security on steep ground and 1 on navigation. I feel I was well prepared for the course, however most of the guys there, were just about twice my age and have spent alot of their time in the hills walking and studying the flora and fauna which was my only weak area. I've been using a map and a compass for many years and been in very poor weather condition, so I dealt with the navigation very well especially as we had cracking weather, even the night navigation wasn't too challenging. Being a climber, my rope work and knots on the 'security on steep ground' day was solid and the assessors didn't have any issues with me.

The course was very inspiring for me and also I learnt a whole load of new skills. It was tough, but if you are going for assessment make sure you are prepared and fairly confident. Try and remember the things you did right, instead of stressing about the things you did wrong and enjoy it. It exactly what I did.

North Buttress on Buachaille Etive Mor

Whilst at work I bumped into a friend of mine called Al. I have worked with him in the past rock climbing in Glen Nevis, but this time we had a different agenda. He was up for a long weekend and was really keen to climb Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis but due to bad weather we abandoned that idea and went for a shorter day on North Buttress. This is a great scrambling route. The chimney sections are quite steep and exposed so we agreed to rope up and pitch through the difficulties. I have soloed the route before in the summer but never climbed it in winter, where as Al had never climbed it in the summer but attempted it in the winter. Unfortunately he did not finish the route as his partner fell, was badly injured and had to be helicoptered off (has made a full recovery now). So climbing this route again brought back memories for Al but also made it easier for him to regain his confidence. The weather held off most of the day, no blue sky unfortunately, so we descended quickly and went for a pint in the Clachaig Inn!

Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis

This route on Ben Nevis is by far one of my favourite in Scotland. I enjoy the feeling of remoteness, exposure and the definite alpine feel about this route. This was the first time I climbed this route in the summer but I have made an accent in the winter of 2004. The terrain was very different this time compared to when it was covered in a substantial snow build up so route finding was not as slick as I had hoped but we still made good progress. My climbing partner was Tom, a new trainee at the Ice Factor. This was his 2nd scramble since moving to Scotland (his first being curved ridge with me on Buachaille Etive Mor a month before), so Tom did find the experience rather scary due to the exposure and the terrain however he claims it was his best day out to date. This also was the first time he had been on Ben Nevis so we finished at the very summit where we enjoyed a celebratory shot of hot chocolate in the shelter then descended back down via the zig-zags.

Where's the summer gone?

Thats right folks, the summer of 2007 has now been left behind in our wake. I have had a very eventful summer, despite struggling to have a day off work when it was nice!! Highlights for me this summer include climbing Spartan slab and Hammer down at Etive slabs, ticking off several E1/2's down at Glen Nevis which have been on my wish list for a while, climbing the classic Yo-Yo in Glencoe with my flat mate Ed, spending time with Graham on Slime Wall in Glencoe (despite tricky route finding!) plus many more venues such as Buachaille Etive Mor and Aonach Dubh in Glencoe, Reecastle crag in the Lakes and Ben Nevis North face. Most of the wet days I have been training for my Mountain Leader assesment, so I have been out in the Glencoe hills, the Mamores, Nevis range, Cairngorms, Torridon etc ticking off a few munroes and corbetts on the way and working on my group management and navigation.