Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Archangel, Ben Nevis

Today Kenny and I went for a look up into Creag Coire na Ciste on Ben Nevis with very open minds.  We would have just been happy with a walk up to the crags if it wasn't cold enough.  Fortunately as we got higher the temperature gradually dropped and it was game on for a route.  We had a few options in mind and also we could see new opportunities arising as we wandered up towards Number 3 gully.  We agreed that we would have a look at Archangel (VI,7) , a route Tim and Keith did the second ascent of back in 2011.  It was a brilliant route with interest throughout but never desperate.  It was really nice to climb on this section of the crag and doing so has just extended my tick list.  Some brilliant looking line around here!  Conditions were ok today, snow was sticking to the rocks and turf was generally good.  We did encounter a reasonable amount of loose rock on the route but was never a major problem.  Routes that are generally facing NW seem to be in better condition for sure.  Freezing level was pretty high (1200m ish) and could do with dropping just to secure everything in place. A quick abseil saw us back down number 3 gully followed by a slow descent down loose scree covered in soft snow.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Old Man of Stoer

Today Donald and I left Ullapool and headed back up north to Stoer.  The forecast wasn't quite as good today so we opted to climb the Original Route (VS 5a).  Having never climbed a sea stack before I was pretty excited.  What I wasn't looking too forward to having to swim across to attach the ropes for a Tyrolean   Donald some how convinced me that I should be the one swimming, something to do with the fact that I'm younger?!  On arrival Donald stopped and said 'Oh No, bugger!'.  I thought about what it could be... wet rock, other climbers on it, covered in birds, fallen down.... No none of these, just an in situ Tyrolean   Looks like I don't have to swim!  Get in!

So we shot across the in situ rope and had a good look.  We could see it was pretty wet so the E2 was definitely out the question.  So 4 pitches of climbing done and Donald and I were sat on the top happy to be alive.  That was by far the hardest and scariest climbing we had done in the last few days.  Wet and slimy rock was not easy to climb and in some sections it felt very serious, not quite what we had expected on this classic route.  On the odd dry hold we encountered, the friction was brilliant on the Torridonian sandstone so on a dry day the route would be fantastic.  After a long, scary 57m abseil we found ourselves back at the Tyrolean and I headed across  failing to notice the tide had come in....  Donald almost wet himself laughing, I was just wet!  After I got over I re-tensioned the rope so Donald had a nice dry trundle across.  A great day in sub-optimal conditions.  The E2 looks brilliant for my next visit.  Drove back to Fort William to get the climbing gear washed and ready for tomorrow.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Inbhirpollaidh Rock Gym

Day two of our mini rock trip and today we had a slightly different criteria.  Yesterday we were climbing on slabs which took its toll on our toes so today we opted for something south facing and steep.  This crag was perfect.  A secluded crag of gneiss with steep line and good holds.  Gear was a bit fiddly in places but generally ok.  Being a single pitch crag, we got through plenty of routes, all giving great climbing and a memorable experience, nothing under 2 stars.  We started on Calum's Rest (E2 5b), Gneiss Pump (E3 5c), Original Master (E2 5c), Tyrantanic (E4 6a) and finished on Failte Gu Inbhirpollaidh.  Again we had fantastic weather so it was great to be climbing in a t-shirt in October and also have a south facing crag all to ourselves  I haven't spent much time exploring the north west and to be quite honest it is absolutely breath taking.  Seeing Stac Pollaidh in the evening light was just amazing.  Another fantastic day on the rock, arms are tired, might need an easy day tomorrow....sea stack?!

Monday, 22 October 2012


Today was the first day of our mini rock trip in the North West of Scotland.  Donald and I both had a few days off and were keen too seek out some south facing crags which we haven't been to.  Today we ended up at Diabaig, which has several crags to it.  We opted for The Main Cliff as it had some great routes and more importantly it was in the sun.  We started on the two 4 star routes of the crag, firstly Route 2 (HVS) which has 2 fantastic 5a pitches, then followed Northumberland Wall (E2) which also has 2 brilliant 5c pitches.  The crag is equipped for an abseil from the top and half way.  If you have 60 metre ropes then you can do it in a oner.  Finally we finished on a combination of Wall of Flame (E4 6a) and The Black Streak (E1 5c) taking in the best looking pitches as we were running low on daylight and feeling in our toes.  We have enough routes to go back to, especially The Pillar which looks brilliant.  A great day climbing on perfect gneiss.

Friday, 19 October 2012


Scottish rock

Veritas Splendour E2 5c

Mothers Pride E4 5c

Bad footwork

1st pitch of India E3 5c

Top pitch of India

Today Donald and I drove up to Skye to escape the worst of the weather and it turned out fantastic.  Rock climbing in Scotland is by far the best in the UK and if your prepared to travel around to find dry rock and sunshine.  You wont be disappointed. We went to Suidhe Biorach which is a short walk from Elgol passing over the Jurassic quartz sandstone cliffs, caves and a large sea stack.  So many two or three star routes to climb we started of on Altar Ego (E1 5b) which I led in one pitch.  Donald then went on and led a variation on Veritas Splendour which was somewhere around E2/3 5c.  I then went on and led Angel of Sharkness (E1 5b) which is by far a brilliant route.  After feeling warmed up we got on Mother's Pride (E4 5c).  Donald dispatched the first steep and airy pitch to the niche and I led the crux pitch which goes over some steep and impressive rock.  Amazing route.  We abseiled back down and decided to finish on another 3 star route and climbed India (E3 5c).  Again Donald led the first pitch which was a wee bit damp in places, I think we both nearly lost contact with the rock there!  I then led up the hand jamming crux pitch which was brilliant and in an amazing situation.  I would quite happily repeat all those routes again.  I abseiled down one last time to collect our trainers, I tied onto the abseil rope and climbed Jamie Jampot (VS 4c) which is a brilliant route also, one of the best VS's I've done!  So a brilliant day escaping bad weather, 11 E points, one VS and 18 stars!  If you havent been to Elgol.....go there!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Glen Nevis

Today I was back out with Alan who was keen for some more rock climbing as the weather was good.  Like yesterday, it was cold and crisp but we stayed low in Glen Nevis where it was a little warmer than up on the tops.  One of Alan's ambitions is to climb the Old Man of Hoy so he was keen to see how he perform's on some trickier routes.  We started of on Ressurection (VS 4c) which Alan climbed without too many problems.  We then climbed Damnation (VS 4c), a route Alan had tried in the past but failed, this time it was no problem for him.  We then made our way down to Calvery Crack Buttress and climbed Storm (HVS 5a).  With the top pitch a little damp and a little steep, Alan made a great attempt getting up to the belay but was unable to make it this time. Not many others out on the crag today, a group on SW Buttress and a chap self lining on The Old Wall.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Tower Ridge

Taking out an axe and a pair of crampons paid off today for Dave and I on Tower Ridge.  I may have to think about getting some of my other winter kit out if this weather continues....would have been nice to have my flask today!  Dave was keen to check out Tower Ridge as he plans to climb it in winter with a friend.  Today he got pretty much a complete winter ascent, a little more than expected.  We encountered snow below the Little Tower and we donned our crampons and had an axe at the ready from half way through the Little Tower.  All the old snow from Friday had firmed up nicely with a fresh dusting from yesterday.  Plenty of verglass was sitting on the ledges low down but were avoidable most of the way to the snow line.  Small amounts of rime ice were forming on the upper sections, plenty of crunching going on underfoot, it was brilliant.  Again we had the whole North Face to ourselves and many walkers were watching Dave and I make our way up onto the Great Tower and over Tower Gap.  Very busy on top with plenty of walkers, several pairs of shorts were on show too!  A great day and a nice start to what looks like a promising winter.  Now where is my winter ticklist.....

Sunday, 14 October 2012


Another day off today so I met up with the two gingers, Donald and Ewan.  After yesterdays thrashing down at the Ice Factor with Donald, Ewan and Andy, I was pretty keen to do something that didn't require too much arm strength...a slab!  We agreed to head down into Glenfinnan and try (top rope for me) an E7 slab that a friend had done.  On the drive in we saw lots of crags that looked dry and Don Wan suggested we went to do some new routes instead.  So after a wander up the hill we picked a crag, with an imposing line and Donald set off.  He made great progress but got defeated by a wet and mossy crux so Ewan then had a go and managed to get through with some cunning.  So after all of this I had a go at seconding the route and cleaning the gear...with cold hand and weak arms, my ascent was far from clean!  After topping out Donald had spotted another line which he cleaned but didn't fancy a go today, wicked looking groove.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Snowy Tower Ridge

So the 'heavy' rain came a day later than expected, it was forecast just to rain today but instead it was persistent   The Allt a'Mhuilinn was in high spate so we had to take a high detour to get to the bottom of Tower Ridge and unsurprisingly we didn't see a soul!  On the approach we could see a dusting up high so we knew we would encounter some snow.  And we weren't disappointed.  We encountered snow below the Little Tower and it just kept falling as we climbed.  It was all very wet snow and wasn't until we got up to the Great Tower where it started to become dryer snow.  And when we got above The Gap, it became icy snow covering all the rock and cracks.  The snow was getting blown in by the westerlies and sticking nicely to what ever it hit, a good cold spell to follow would be quite nice.  Finn and I delayed our start at Nevis Range Cafe so didn't leave until 9.45 (to allow the worst of the weather to go through and to have a really good coffee) and found ourselves inside the summit shelter at 13.30.  Good going considering the underfoot conditions.  We had planned to come down Ledge Route but instead we slid down the Zig Zags and back to the Allt a'Mhuilinn to finish off the day with a wade through the river with the water up to our thighs.  We could have wandered down a bit lower to the bridge but Finn was up for more challenges!  A brilliant day under very wintery conditions.  Well done to Finn for keeping going and smiling all the way.  Today I was working (taking one for the team) for Abacus Mountain Guides.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

East Face of North Buttress

Today I was back out with Alan and we were after some sun kissed rock.  Original plan was the East Face of Aonach Dubh but on arrival it was shady and looked cold.  So we nipped round to Buachaille Etive Mor and head up to the East Face of North Buttress.  Plenty of folk were out today, many teams on Rannoch Wall and Curved Ridge and many out just to bag the Munro's.  We had the whole crag to ourselves and got a couple of great routes done.  We started off on Shackle Route (severe) which was brilliant, the rock is so good with great friction.  After abseiling off we jumped on Crow's Nest Crack (VS 4c) which is very sustained for the grade.  It was perfect for today because it kept Alan warm and brought all his climbing experiences together to make an (almost) clean ascent.  After abseiling back down, instead of heading back down to Curved Ridge to descend, we traversed off and had a look over at Slime Wall and descended down the North flanks of North Buttress.  A brilliant day in the hills!