Friday, 30 December 2011

CMD Arete

Today was my final day with Stephen and Andy so we opted for a journey day where they could put together some of the skills they gathered over the last few days. We headed up over the Carn Mor Dearg arete which exposed us to some wild conditions. After getting in to the snow line it was pretty steady going up to Carn Mor Dearg, on arrival we donned our crampons and descended onto the ridge which is great fun. The wind was blowing quite hard which so goggles and face masks were essential. There was a good cover of snow on the ridge and we were above the freezing level all day, there was also lots of fresh snow being blown around the mountain. On the summit of Ben Nevis we hid in the shelter for 15 minutes recharging and wrapping up for the decent down which required a reasonable amount of navigation which Stephen helped out with. On our decent down the red burn, it was clear that it was warming up and all the snow was turning to slush. It looks to be a wet and windy day tomorrow. Have a good new year everyone.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Is winter back?

Yesterday wasn't feeling very wintry, however today was a different story! Stephen, Andy and I headed into Glencoe and ascended the Zig-zags on Gearr Aonach. The snow line was about half way through the route but it was all slushy and wet so we were able to make a rapid ascent. It was a good option today as it remained pretty sheltered from the westerly winds, sleet and snow. It was Andy's first time out in the mountains so we wanted to give him a little variety in terms of something hands on but also give him the opportunity to pick up some important winter skills for the future. After walking along the top of Gearr Aonach we nipped into the corie and covered lots of winter skills which the guys were eager to learn. We looked at moving around with and without crampons, ice axe arresting, moving on rock and snow and plenty of digging into the snow pack to develop their knowledge of avalanche awareness. Several teams out today, Dorsal Arete had an ascent, a couple of walkers on the NE ridge of SCNL and I'm sure there was much more going on! Finished off the day with a good session in the bouldering wall.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Wet and Wild

Today I was out with Stephen, Kate and Dexter who were super keen for a day out in some pretty foul weather. The aim of the day was to brush up on Stephen and Kate's navigation whilst Dexter ran around in circles and got under our feet (yes, Dexter is a dog). As the forecast was for high winds and gusts up too 100mph we stayed low and headed up behind Fort William. From the view point we headed south east up on to point 287m revisiting the basics of navigation and developing strategies that will work in winter. Kate and Stephen have both done their fair share of navigating but have lapsed for a while and also not done much in winter. Despite it not feeling very wintery we covered plenty of ground, headed up towards Bidhein Bad na h-lolaire and back down to Glengour covering a variety of techniques which we can consolidate over the next few days. Well done to everyone for not getting blown over! A good day finished with a good session in the bouldering wall.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

North East Ridge Stob Ban

For today we were looking for a good grade 3 ridge leading to a summit. The weather forecast wasn't as good as yesterday but low winds and moderate avalanche forecasts gave us a few different options. After a recommendation from a friend we decided for the North East Ridge of Stob Ban. On leaving the Glen Nevis car park it was snowing heavily and this continued for most of the morning. The route began by crossing a snow slope into a NE facing gully. Whilst I was ascending I triggered a small slab avalanche but managed to move over to a rocky area quickly. At the belay we witnessed the leader of the team behind us set off a further slab avalanche on the higher section of the gully. We continued up the fantastic, alpine style ridge mostly pitching due to the massive amounts of soft snow. The route contained adequate protection and opportunities for consistent belays. The visibility cleared slightly at the top giving fantastic views over the Mamores and Glen Nevis.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Curved Ridge

Today Katy and I headed into Glencoe armed with sunglasses, an axe and crampons and hit Curved Ridge (III). I had thought (or hoped) that it had an ascent yesterday and put a nice tracks in, unfortunately there wasn't, so today required a lot of digging. Fortunately I remembered where most of the spikes were and some of the cracks. Katy was keen for leading too, so she got on the sharp end a couple of times which was great. Saved me doing all the digging! We didn't see anyone else on the route but saw some tracks on the summit. There was lots of avalanche debris around the bottom of the route but every part of the route was nice and solid. Going up behind Crowberry Tower was fine too. From the summit of Stob Dearg, we had a look at Coire na Tulaich but as there was quite a lot of soft snow at the top. So we headed down the ridge, which allowed Katy to practice some winter skills coaching and route finding for her forth coming Winter Mountain Leader Assessment. Great colours on the Aonach Eagach whilst we descended!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

South West Ridge - Douglas Boulder

Today Katy came over to visit. It was her first day out this winter, after working non-stop over in the North-East. With a great forecast we had lots of options but we agreed that we wouldn't do anything too big and get too tired. So we had a leisurely stroll up to the CIC hut, then onto the SW ridge of the Douglas Boulder (III). Today we saw Ken and his mate on Fat Boy Slim, John and his mate skied up ledge route and down something else. Two guys headed to the base of number 4 and then headed back and there were a few teams on the CMD arete. It was quite a social day with Craig and Graham coming up behind us.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Glovers Chimney

Today Mandi and I headed up the North Face of Ben Nevis to see what was going on. The forecast stated high winds in the evening so I thought we would be able to get a route in. At first I was going to head for the SW ridge of the Douglas Boulder but there was a team already heading for it so instead we went up high and climbed Glover's Chimney (III,4), which I hadn't done before. We topped out just as it got dark and a blizzard started. This made getting off the top both exciting and hard work. The mountain was very quiet, with only one other team out. Conditions were good on the mountain. The ice routes were looking good but there was a lot of snow being blown around. Whilst climbing, I heard three significant avalanches somewhere below us. Then we were swept off our feet and partially buried whilst descending the Red Burn. Lots more snow was falling with high winds.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

The Citadel

Today didn't go quite as expected! Last night Tony and I decided to head over to the Cairngorms for a look over at the Shelterstone. On arrival it was clear that both of our possibilities were in. It was either Sticial face or Citadel. We opted for The Citadel (VII,8). Everything went well and we moved quickly. The climbing was tricky and felt very bold, as neither of us were able to place much gear. The route is very sustained but with two significant crux's. A lower crux and the top crux. Tony had got through the top crux just as it got dark... School boy error, we both left our head torches in our rucksacks at the bottom of the route. Tony couldn't see where to go or what he was hooking on and was unable to proceed. Instead we abseiled pretty much the whole face of the Shelterstone in darkness back to our bags. We were just one pitch from the top and pretty sure we had done all the hard climbing. So near but so far. A team to our left had a good day on Stical Face which looks to be in good condition. Coire an T-sneachda looked great to with lots of teams out today.

Friday, 9 December 2011


Today our plans changed last minute as we soon realised the Corran Ferry road was closed. So we weren't able to get down to the Southern Highlands for plan A. Instead we loaded up the bikes and headed up to Stob Coire an Laoigh. We couldn't get the van very high as there were too many fallen trees on the road and when we cycled up there were lots of trees down in the forest. On arrival to the crag it looked fantastic, We could tell on the walk-in that the turf was going to be bomber. Kenny and I agreed it was some of the best turf we climbed on, perfect condition. We had both done the classic Taliballan before so we opted for the awesome line of Centrepoint (VI,7). The route was brilliant, 3 pitches with the second one being the crux. The whole crag is in great condition and there is now a track in, well worth the early start. Fantastic views on the tops and to make the day better all the trees were cleared from the track so we had a rapid decent on the bikes!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

My first day of winter

Today was the test to see if I have eaten too many cakes over the summer! On the walk in to the North Face of Ben Nevis, I was starting to think that I had. I just couldn't keep my knees above the snow. After 'swimming' up to the CIC hut, I realised that its not my 'winter weight' that was the problem but the vast amounts of snow up there. Kenny and I swam up to Fat Boy Slim (VI,6) on Secondary Tower Ridge hoping we would find tracks from Blair and Dave the day before. Unfortunately there were none! We did the route in two pitches, I did the first in a long 60m section, covering some great mixed terrain and an icy gully. The top pitch had a fantastic squeeze which we just managed to get through with a little bit of grunting! If you climb with a rucksack you will have to push it through first! A quick abseil down Vanishing Gully led us back to our packs for another swim down to the car.