Sunday, 26 February 2012

Glover's Chimney

Today I was back out with Jason and Willie, despite tired legs we opted for Ben Nevis again. The guys were keen for something of a similar grade to yesterday so I suggested Glovers Chimney (III,4). Conditions were damp again, with freezing level well above the summit and the snow and ice was slowly deteriorating. This meant that I found a brand new ice axe which is now in the post to its rightful owner. The ice pitch at the start was very mushy but still had good ice underneath and the top mixed pitch was fairly bare but had good ice choking the cracks. Jason knocked off a football sized rock from the chimney so be careful out there in the thaw. After getting to the gap, we finished up Tower Ridge and met Gaz and his team as they topped out on White Line. Comb Gully, Number 2 gully buttress, cascade all got climbed too. Today I was working for Abacus Mountaineering.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Soggy on Ben Nevis

Today I was working for Abacus Mountain Guides and I took Jason and Willie up into the very misty Ben Nevis. Not being able to see any routes or if any teams ahead of us, we scooted around to the Cold Climbs classic of Comb Gully (IV,4). On arrival I saw John in there belaying, I'm not really a fan of climbing below people but I knew John wouldn't hang around and be at the top before we had a chance to say 'don't knock anything down'. Im pretty sure we didn't hit the freezing level today as it was always pretty wet, the route was good, a few patches developing but generally ok. Gaz took his team on Creag Coire na Ciste taking a variety of icy lines. Tim and Keith climbed Big Wednesday. Camera stayed dry today and didn't make an outing.

Jacobs Ladder

Today I was over on the East coast with Claire and Leonie who wanted to get out there on a winter climb. Winter wasn't always present today but we managed to find some snow and ice in Jacobs Ladder (I). Claire also managed to do some leading, her first winter lead, with me soloing next to her and Leonie was happy to be on the bottom of the rope as it was her first winter route. There wasn't much to go for today at the crag, reports from Adam over on Ben Nevis sounded far more promising. A good day none the less with blue skies and cold winds.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Soggy in the Cairngorms

Well it wasn't just the Cairngorms, it was everywhere in Scotland. Temperatures were high and the rain just kept coming. Today I was working for Mountain Motion and took Davyd out for a extra day after he has just completed a winter skills weekend with Glenmore Lodge. After a chat about what he wanted, it was clear he wanted to get onto some steeper ground, possible grade I. Fiacaill Ridge would have been a great option but the winds were just too high. Instead we opted for a journey up and around the goat track, picking out steeper lines and dodging the snow and ice being blown down onto us. The crags were stripping as we moved, they looked quite white at 9am but by 12 everything had come off the buttresses. Quite a depressing scene. Plenty of climbers out and about getting routes in, Spiral had quite a few ascents amongst others too. Well done to Davyd who kept going through the strong winds and rain. Happy with ticking the goat track we navigated up to the top of Coire an Lochain then back round to Point 1141m and descended Coire Cas back to dry and warmth.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Number 3 Gully Buttress Direct

Day two with Oli and Paul and what a difference a day makes. Blue skies, light winds and fantastic climbing conditions. Ben Nevis was heaving today with folk dotted all around the mountain. Many routes had queues on so we wandered up to the base of Number 3 Gully Buttress which was pretty much free. Paul and Oli were after a bit of grade 4 climbing so I took them up a direct line to the crux of the original route and also a direct line at the top giving them the Grade 4 tick they were after. The route was in great condition, Kenny took his team up too, Evans took his chap up Two Step and reported amazing ice, Ed took his team up Central Right hand, Green Gully had lots of ascents, as did Thompsons, hard routes getting climbing right of Sioux Wall (Apache maybe). With the thaw and refreeze we have just had, the ice has been fantastic. Unfortunately is wasn't all good news today, two climbers fell out of Zero Gully, sadly one didn't survive. Today I was working for the Ice Factor.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Twisting Gully and lots of snow

Well what a fantastic day out with Ollie and Paul! We had it all, snow, wind, more snow and more wind! A nice patch of blue sky hovered over Stob Coire nan Lochain as we arrived at the Lochains. A perfect picture moment but unfortunatly my camera didnt find its way into my bag! Today I was working for the Ice Factor and took the guys up Twisting Gully with a harder variation at the top. The guys just wanted to be guided up but I drip fed useful tips to them all day which meant we had an efficient ascent and were back to the bags in good time. With strong winds and snow being blown around it wasnt the place to be hanging around so we packed up and headed down. There was a cool bunch of guys from Italy who were loving the great Scottish winter conditons, ear to ear smiles from everyone! A great day. Kenny took his team up Dorsal Arete. Couldnt see what anyone else was on.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Mountaineering Day 5

Today was Ivon and Giles last day and they were as keen as mustard to see what winter climbing is all about! Winter climbing is what they got! With high winds blowing around the mountain we just managed to get the gondola up Aonach Mor but we had to walk from there. On top there were a few other teams around, John and Adam abbed into Left Twin, another team abbed into another route but we wandered over to Easy Gully and abbed in off a bollard with two other teams. It was quite nice once we got over the edge as we became sheltered from the winds. We walked round the base of the crag, being mindful of the wind slab which has been building up, fortunately there wasn't too much. We got as far as Tunnel Vision and decided this was for us. Having never done this route, we were all super keen. The ice pitch looked great from below. 3 pitches saw us battling through the cornice (it wasn't that bad actually, good ice screw right by my feet) and pulling into the strong gusts. Giles and Ivon cruised the route leaving me thinking that maybe we should have tried something a little spicier! After topping out we dived into a ready made shovel up by the ski patroller's hut and ate bagels and chocolate! A great day, a great week and a super effort by Giles and Ivon despite having 'heavy legs' most days. Lots of snow falling at the moment on the tops which is getting blown around by some strong winds.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Mountaineering Day 4

Today it was all about the snow anchors! As I left my house this morning to be hit by the refreshing Scottish rain and tropical temperatures I thought to myself two options - Ice Factor or lots of wet clothes. When I mentioned to options to Giles and Ivon, it was a no-brainer! So we headed into Glencoe and had a wander up into Coire na Tulaich on Buchaille Etive Mor. After spending the last two days placing wires in cracks and slings on spikes it was time to dig! With minimal hard wear on our harnesses we dug and dug and dug until we had looked at all the different snow anchors and also tested them out to see their limitations. All the anchors were working well as there was a good icy layer under all the soft snow. After pitching our way up one of the gullies we looked at how we could protect others and ourselves on a descent. We bumped into Matt and Dave (PYB) on the way down who had climbed Curved Ridge via mainly gullies. As expected they said there wasn't much snow on the ridge. It turned out to be a fantastic day and we were all very glad we didn't go to the Ice Factor to get stupidly pumped and get a caffeine high!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Mountaineering Day 3

It was Wednesday blues today so Ivon and Giles were starting to get tired legs. None the less the were absolutely fantastic today and put everything they had into the day. The weather was wet, warm and windy but that didn't stop us. We blasted up to the base of the East ridge of Beinn a Chaorainn where we geared up for an attempt at the ridge. We had agreed if it got too windy we would bail. It turned out to be great sport. Snow cover wasn't great and where there was snow it was all soft and wet. The wind didn't affect us and even when we topped out it wasn't too bad. Ivon and Giles roped up and moved together on all of the ridge and pitched a couple of sections. They made great progress and are getting much slicker at handling hardware and ropes with big gloves on (practice makes perfect!). From the top the guys wanted to do more navigating so we headed to point 1044 then down the north ridge of Coire Buidhe before heading over to Bealach a' Bharnish and back out to the woods. There are alot of trees down in the wood but still a way through.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Mountaineering Day 2

With high winds and a murky outlook it was no surprise we had Dorsal Arete all to ourselves. One team got an early start and were up and down before we were even half way on the route. On the walk in there were many cars and mini buses pulling up but none of them were following us up Dorsal. Result! Ivon and Giles were keen to get on the sharp end today, so after i led a couple of pitches to get them started, I gave them the rack and ropes and off they went. Giles led a pitch and then Ivon. Giles went on to block lead through the arete and Ivon finished with a pitch to the top. A great effort by both. This was Giles first winter lead and Ivon's first climbing lead! Well done! The winds were not a problem and it was never too cold until we topped out on the route. We descended down Broad Gully which is well stepped and a little soft in places and got to the car just as the drizzle hit us. Top effort guys! Lets try and hide from the wind tomorrow too! All the rock is black up there. Twisting got climbed and said to be 'very rocky'. Forked and Boomerang Gully got climbed and were looking great.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Mountaineering Day 1

Today I was back out with Giles and Ivon for their 1st day of a week long mountaineering course. As its been two years since we last went out, we spent the day refreshing some basic winter skills. A reminder of stepping, slipping and stopping as well as moving on some steep terrain without the aid of a rope. One aim of the day was for Ivon to get stuck into her navigation so after moving up the Nid ridge we went through and practiced various strategies that can be used in the winter environment. It was helpful navigation weather as the cloud was in and visibility wasn't great. We navigated over to the Summit and then Ivon and Giles navigated us back to the comfort of the gondola. A good day, set us up nicely for the week to come! Looks like its going to be a windy one!

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Siamese Twin and White Shark

Today was Matt and Alex's final day out with myself, working for Abacus Mountaineering. With tired legs and a drive to the airport tonight, Aonach Mor was the suitable option. We jumped on the 1st gondola up and had a swift up-lift on the chair. We were the first to arrive at the top ski hut where we geared up as the vast numbers of climbers flowed in. A quick stomper down Easy Gully (I) saw us traversing the bottom of the crag to find our route of choice free for taking, Siamese Twin (IV,5). So after the guys built a belay I headed up the first pitch finding nice ice and good runners. Matt and Alex flew up too, both climbing really well, I could only just keep up with the belaying! The main pitch was brilliant too, good ice for axes and feet and ok for screws. Again Matt and Alex dispatched well! One final pitch saw us on the top for elevenses! Another stomper and traverse later we were building more belays on the bottom of White Shark (IV,4). This route was fantastic! Having never done it, it was hard to tell who was more excited to do it. On the approach the guys saw a climber swinging through the crux and they wanted to be there! So 3 pitches and some great steep climbing saw us at the top to see a rescue going on somewhere above the twins area. I hope everyone involved is ok. So over the last 3 days we climbed 810m of grade 3 and above ground, ticked off 12 stars, one Cold Climbs classic and climbed at 3 different venues. Not bad for some mild weather! Well done to Matt and Alex!

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Green Gully

It was another mild day in the Scottish mountains, woolly hats were not needed for today's Abacus Mountaineering team consisting of Matt, Alex and myself. With several teams around the mountain this morning, we were lucky enough to find Green Gully (IV,3) free for taking. After yesterdays outing the guys were super keen to get a little pumped. The route was nice and soft taking good sticks all the way up, ice screws were good to and the Ice was a little stepped here and there but still great fun. On the last pitch I took the guys up a steeper finish which really gave them the most pump of the day and also Alex reported a good stint of disco leg! Big smiles all around on the top and a leisurely walk down the Red Burn. I don't think we hit the freezing level today until we reached the top of the route, there was a slight crust forming on the snow but it felt pretty mild today. Comb Gully was reported to be in good shape. Castle Ridge, Wendigo, Ledge Route and others were climbed. We just need a good cold spell to freeze everything up.

Friday, 10 February 2012

South Post Direct

Today was the first day for Matt and Alex's 3 day climbing course, I was working for Abacus Mountaineering. With a wet and mild forecast on the west coast we decided to head a little further east to Creag Megaidh to avoid the dampness. It paid off, we were in the cloud all day but it never rained on us. Our plan was to head up Staghorn Gully (III). On the approach we passed some avalanche debris from the base of the gully however once we got into the gully the snow was wet but stable. It was nice and soft all the way up so we were able to move up most of the way un-roped. On arrival to South Post Direct (IV,4) we could see that the ice looked continuous and good enough to climb on! The guys were well psyched! They were happy to put the Cold Climbs classic off for another time and climb something a little steeper. The route was brilliant, a really cool cave half way up too! Mike was on the Pumpkin (V,4) which sounded very brilliant fun.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Central Crack Direct

What a wild day on the East! The forecast was due to be warm in the afternoon on the west coast so Kenny and I decided for an early start to get over East. On arrival it was very windy and it was clear that it was going to be hard work. Not what we wanted on our rest days. Anyway, heads went down and we battled into Coire an lochain to have a look. On arrival the upper parts of the crag looked great, so we planned to head round to number 3 buttress. On crossing above the great slab we came across some spooky wind slab so instead we headed straight up to the base of number 2 buttress. We decided to climb Central Crack Route (IV,5) which was a great little number. Good boulder problem start into some nice steady grade 4 climbing. We were relatively sheltered from the southerlies but got blasted on the top and coming down the goat track. Many teams in T-sneachda, mostly all suffering in the foul weather. Lochain had survived the Strong winds much better and was looking much whiter! A great day to be back at the car at 1pm. Unfortunatly no photos today.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Flutted Butress Direct

Today's weather was fantastic compared to the weekend so Craig, Graham and I decided to head East to the Cairngorms for a nice short walk in. Whenever I go climbing with Graham, I usually do most of the leading so today Graham and Craig guided me up a route. As the route went on they had done enough leading and I led 3 pitches, Graham led two and and Craig led one. The route was in great condition with a good covering of snow. There were reports of good climbing on Hell's Lum with Tim climbing Brimstone Grooves with his client and other climbing Deep Cut Chimney. Fiacaill Buttress looked great however getting to it may be tricky as there was a reasonable amount of spindrift lingering around the bottom of the crag. A great day out in great sunny weather.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Austrian Alpine Club Meet Day 2

Today was our second and final day of the winter meet and fortunately it did feel a little more wintry. Our original plan was to traverse the Aonach Eagach however a last minute decision saw us heading towards the Lost Valley heading for the Zig Zags on Aonach Dubh. With the mixed abilities of the group, this was a good option as some members took the lead and others were happy being on the other end of the rope. After topping out on Gearr Aonach, we then proceeded to the summit of Stob Coire nan Lochain. The weather was a little better than yesterday but still quite blowy. The buttresses were starting to look black, people were out in the gully's and also Crest Route got an ascent. A great finish to a nice weekend.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Austrian Alpine Club meet Day one

Today was the first day of the Winter Meet that I put together for the Austrian Alpine Club. We didn't have a particularly big turnout but this was a nice sociable event. Unfortunately the weather didn't play ball so the dreams of Tower Ridge, Aonach Eagach and Point 5 gully were soon diminished. With high temperatures and high winds we headed into the Mamores. It was raining at the start and raining at the end and pretty much all the time in between. We headed up to Stob Coire a'Chairn (981m). On arriving at the summit the group were more than happy to head down for tea and cakes, a good choice I think!

Friday, 3 February 2012

Number 3 Gully

Today was another fantastic day to be working in Lochaber, blue skies, light winds and fantastic climbing conditions. Due to a little slip on the descent from Stob Coire nan Lochain yesterday, Izzi wasn't feeling on top form and on our approach into Ben Nevis we agreed that we needed some Vitamin D in our lives! So we opted for a quick ascent of Number 3 Gully to the sunshine, instead of heading for our other objective of Green or Comb Gully, both of which had many teams on them. We headed up to the summit as this was Izzi's first time up there.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Double hit in Glencoe

Today I was working with returning client Izzi from Essex. She's been dying to go climbing as her last few personal trips have being either rained or winded off. So today we headed into Stob Coire nan Lochain in Glencoe. We had many options for the day but we started off on the Cold Climbs classic, Twisting Gully (III,4) which had some great neve on it. The climbing was brilliant and Izzi made quick work of it. We topped out and nipped back down and then climbed Raeburns Route (IV,4) which was fantastic. I have wanted to do this route for quite a while now and it is worth its 3 stars. The crag was pretty quiet today with other teams also on Twisting and Raeburns and also Dorsal, SC and NC Gully. The buttresses were black but where the snow is sitting (gully's and easier routes) it is of good quality.