Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Skye Ridge Traverse

No view on our fisrt peak

Best view of the 2 days

After an absence of ridge traverses, today I was back up there. We made another successful two day traverse. Unfortunately the weather was less than optimal. Visibility on the tops was down between 10m-50m, sometimes more, but mostly less. The first day was damp and dank, meaning a bypass on the TD Gap and Kings chimney. The Inn Pinn went fine. We bivied near Sgurr a Ghreadaidh after a full day of moving steadily through the mist and moisture. We were blessed with a peaceful and dry night but woke to mist and the threat of rain. After 10 minutes if setting off it rained...and it did so all day. The rock was slimy, simple sections became icy ponds, slabs became death traps. Our eyes were on stalks and our concentration levels became almost tiring. We pressed on, slowly and surely, the thought of bailing was ever present but I kept it locked down. Safety was my main concern, Andy and Pete were still smiling and happy to make progress. We pressed on. The intensity of the rain increased and decreased throughout the day, boots were full of water, gloves were soaked and the rope doubled its weight with the water. Our finishing point was the Sligahan where we were greeted with a round of applause, a round of beer and a round of whiskey. It was worth it! Not one view from any of the summits. The magic of the Cuillin was hidden from us this time. I don't need to put too many photos up because it was just grey!

Evening clearing

Home sweet home

Thursday, 25 July 2013

East Face of Aonach Dubh

Alan laughing at his own jokes again

Perfect mountain cragging conditions

Alan cruising up the 3 star classic

Me leading up Spider Right Hand

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Beinn Eighe Day 2

Murdoch cruising up another E5
Today was a 'one route day' for us as we had to get back to Fort William and go for a swim in the Lochain.  We climbed Sumo (E3 5c) which was a brilliant route up the Far East Wall giving all 3 of us a great pitch.  It was great to see the mountain crags busy with teams on many or the other classics in the coire.  A brilliant location and cant wait to et back here and climb some of the classic routes.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Beinn Eighe Day 1

Finally arrived at the lochain
Fortunatly the weather is holding so we decided to cash in on the fantastic mountain cragging Scotland has to offer.  Blair, Nona and I went to Beinn Eighe for a two day trip.  I have only every climbed here in winter, climbing on two of the Triple Buttresses, East Buttress and Central Buttress.  As we had a long walk-in from our night in the Ling Hut, we opted for a route on Eastern Ramparts.  Blair has done most routes so we went for the 2 star routes he hasnt done, firstly Pale Rider (E1 5b) and then Paleface Wall (E3 5c).  After these I headed into my bivi bag where I had the most unpleasant night in the mountains ever!  With a combination of midges and heat!

2nd pitch of Pale Rider

Blair ....smiling!  

Friday, 19 July 2013

Cleaning a Extreme Rock classic

Blair approaching the crux
Over the last few years of living in and around Fort William, I have climbed in Glen Nevis on many occasions.  One route, Quality Street (E3 6a) has always stood out but I had never been near it for two reasons.  1) It was too hard for me and 2) it hasn't been climbed for years so is very dirty.  So I took it upon myself to abseil down it today and give it a good clean.  Blair read his book as I did all the hard work.  After loosing all the feeling in my legs (and not cleaning the bottom section) I had a wee rest and then went for the lead.  The route was clean but unfortunately I wasn't feeling up to it.  Again my ability (or lack of) let me down.  I felt tired, from cleaning the route, multiple days in the mountains and the temperatures we have been experiences.  But excuses aside, I'm just too weak!  Blair took over and climbed the route clean, and thought it to be hard E3/easy E4.  It was well protected and I should have just committed because I seconded it fine.  I led the top pitch too which was really nice before we abseiled off.  Kenny turned up so tied onto the bottom and had the mother of all top ropes.  Good thing he never fell off. So another brilliant route in Glen Nevis ready to be climbed.
Blair through the crux
Kenny loving the newly cleaned route

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Getting back to fitness

Since my trip to Pabbay and Mingulay back in June, I have been undergoing the frustrations of torn intercostal muscles.  Its such a annoying injury as it is very easy to aggravate them so my best remedy was to rest.  Finally I feel that my rest can be put to one side as today when I went climbing they didn't hurt.  Kenny and I drove East, again, to escape the rain in Fort William, again.  We went to the Camel, the brilliant conglomerate crag near Loch Ness.  I was feeling tired after 9 days on the go, on the back of a wedding but as conditions were so good I felt a burst of energy and psyche.  We both started off by climbing Stone of Destiny (6c+) which I was pleased to get, maybe I wasn't as weak as I thought.  Then I climbed Paralysis by Analysis (7a+) after a couple of goes so was pretty pleased with that too!  We finished off with going up Inverarnie Schwarzenegger (7a).  I onsighted this a year or so ago, but couldn't touch it today.  A good day none the less.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Long drive, long walk and a short climb

Not looking ideal
Climbing in Scotland during the summer months requires a wee bit of driving around, especially if your based in Fort William like I am.  If your not prepared to travel then the next thing you will know is that it will be winter and you have only had a handful of days out on dry rock.  Alot of friends seem to be blaming the weather for not getting out climbing but I disagree.  Usually a drive East will avoid the worst of the West coast weather.  Now, this is not always the case.  Today Blair and I drove  over to the Cairngorm's to find conditions were sub-optimal despite what the forecast said.  Windy, cloudy and a treat of rain.  We bit our bottom lips and walked into Coire nan T-Sneachda, up the Goat Track and into the winds on the plateau.  Our original plan, or Blair's plan, was to climb Cupid's Bow on the central slabs on the Shelterstone.  The threat of rain put us off that idea.  Desperate slab climbing in the thanks.  Also not wanting to get committed onto a big route we opted for a nice wee route called the Devil's Alternative (E1 5a).  The first ascensionist was Allen Fyffe, Blair's dad!  The climbing was fairly easy but felt quite exiting in the on and off rain.  As the weather showed no signs of improving we packed up and went for an orange juice in Aviemore because the electricity was off at the Fyffe residence.

Blair pulling out on wet slopers

Blair on the 4th pitch

Chalk didnt stay on my hands for very long

Monday, 15 July 2013

Creag Dubh

Nice and dry view from Creag Dubh
Believe it on not, rain was falling in Fort William so Kenny and I headed east for some sunshine.  On arrival to Creag Dubh, it was dry, breezy and ideal.  We went up to Sprawl Wall first and I climbed Jump So High E2 5c), the best pitch on the crag!  Kenny then tried Instant Lemon (E3 5c) but felt it was a little too serious to start.  We though it was definitely a ankle breaker so left it as we want to spend the next few month being able to climb!  Instead Kenny climbed Over The Hill Variation (E3 5c) on Main Wall.  Deziree and Mark were chilling out on Inbred (HVS 5a) before heading onto L.M.F (E1 5b) which Kenny and I quickly followed them up as we had to shoot off.  On the drive back we hit the rain as we got back to Fort William....what a surprise.  Looks like another drive Eastwards tomorrow!
Kenny going for it on Over The Hill V

Mark abseiling all over Kenny! Tut tut! ;p

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Ledge Route

A quiet North Face
How to look cool in the mountains!

Jane didn't want to push the stack over

Chilly on top

Today I was back on Ben Nevis and out with Jane.  Jane has never been into the mountains before, never climbed, scrambled or been exposed to heights.  The aim was to summit Ben Nevis but not via the tourist route.  After a bit of humming and hawing, we went for Ledge Route.  Now as we walked in, Jane was nervous, anxious and thought her arms were going to fall off because they were cold..! ;)  Now when we topped out of Ledge Route, there was a 'Is that it?!' from Jane.  Turns out, a true natural at climbing, heights don't phase her and general fitness is far better than she thought.  I have discovered, that in my climbing one of the main things that hold me back from pushing myself is my disbelief in my ability.  The 'head game' of climbing has always been a challenge and is something (most) climbers experience.  Some climbers are blessed with the ability forget about the fear, however alot of us have to work hard to keep it away, that's one of the many characteristics that really draws me to climbing.  I think fear is a healthy trait to have whilst climbing, its what keeps us alive.
Very different weather on the top

Saturday, 13 July 2013


A beautiful place to climb
After getting back from Skye last night, Blair, Nona and I went for a hit over on the Shelterstone over in the Cairngorms.  Lots of time spent in a car recently but today I got to sit in the back, stretch out and relax.  Legs were feeling good after 5 days on Skye and excitement was high for another adventure up this colossal face.  We block led the route so we all had a few pitches each, Blair had unfinished business on one pitch which he resolved.  Haystack (E3 5c) is such a great route with pretty much every pitch having a special experience.  We had a couple of other teams on Steeple which we met where the routes shared a pitch and again at the top.  Blair being Blair, we couldn't walk back without touching the snow, looking at the layers and having a little 'ski' down it!  impressive snow feature to be honest.

Nona and Blair enjoying the easy (hard) initial pitches

Dr Snow doing his thing!

Trainer skiing in July

Friday, 12 July 2013

New routes on Skye

Today I had an unexpected day off as my clients cancelled last minute.  The weather was great and Mike had a project he wanted me to try.  He had tried it yesterday but wasn't able to fully commit so offered it to me.  I headed up to the crag early doors to meet Mike and Lucy, who had bivied up there, and they pointed out the line.  It looked great and I led both pitches giving a really nice E2 5c which I called Too Hard for the Old Man.  Mike was very sporting and didn't mind us using that title.  Also the the crag has a resemblance to a face which the route crosses through.  Unfortunately i didn't take any photos but Mike has a write up and photos (here).  We then went on to make the First Summer Ascent of Deliverance (VII,7), a route Mike and I did the First Winter Ascent last winter (Here).  Another excellent day on Skye, as always!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Final day. The Northern 3

The only picture I took today
Today was our final day and we finished off with Bruach na Frithe, Am Basteir and Sgurr nan Gillean.  The weather gods were on our side and allowed us one more day of nice dry weather.  Again the team were moving very confidently with the rope only needed for the 'bad step' on Am Basteir and the chimney leading onto the west ridge of Gillean.  Fortunately the temperature rose as we descended and warranted another fantastic swim in the pools which was amazing.  The jumps were pretty cool too.  An absolutely ace 4 days with such a great team.  One of the best weeks on Skye I've had!  Cheers chaps.  And thanks to Skye Guides for 'employing' me! :)

Loads more great photos HERE

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Day 3 on Skye

Playing with my phone camera
Today we went into the mid section and summited Sgurr a Mhadaidh, Sgurr a Ghreadaidh and Sgurr na Banachdaich in excellent style.  Everyone was climbing exceptionally well so I ended up carrying the rope for nothing more than to keep me warm!  We made great time over the 3 peaks and in the scorching heat too.  We all knew that a swim in the pools was on the cards!  And it was so refreshing and warm!  An absolute must on a hot day in the Cuillin!

More photos HERE

The team happy on their 8th Munro of the trip

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Inn Pinn onwards

The could just cleared after I got the second team up
The siege continues today and the team and I headed for the Inn Pinn.  We were the first team there and got on right away.  Unfortunately for Andy and Ian, they went up first and we were surrounded by cloud.  Views were obscured as was the exposure.  As Ian is a professional photographer there were plenty of shots being taken, plenty of good results too, check them out!  Nothing my amateur camera could produce!  After I took the rest of the team up the Pinn we headed for Sgurr Mhiccoinnich.  After some scorching hot scrambling we arrived at the summit to be asked by a chap 'Are you Mountain Rescue?'  Unfortunately we weren't but we did have two doctors in the team.  A chap had fallen off whilst scrambling but was not in an easy place for me to get to with the team.  Fortunately the Mountain rescue were on the scene very quickly and the chap was winched away to safety.  I hope he is ok.  Very impressive flying, as always, by the helicopter team!
The cloud dropped

So nice to have these slabs dry

Andy focused as the chopper comes in

Monday, 8 July 2013

Southern Munro's on Skye

The team on Sgurr Dubh Mor
After a busy weekend of best man duties, getting Graham to his wedding on time, I was back on Skye.  This week started off with taking the team over the Southern Munro's of the Black Cuillin.  The aim of the week is to complete all the Munros and the team are very psyched.  Forecast is perfect!

Heading upto Sgurr Alasdair

Misty Skye

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Back onto Skye

Our first summit

Taking a breather as the cloud clears and the exposure creeps in

Looking back to where we have been
After a good 3 months break away from Skye I was back and this time working for Moran Mountain.  Driving to Skye for a day trip is only usually done by me if I have a day off and want to go climbing, but this was different.  Despite climbing and skiing in the Alps and sport climbing in the south of France for over two months, I missed Skye, I had to go up.  Whilst on the Summit of Am Bastier, with Grant and Graham, the clouds opened, exposing the magic the Cuillin holds.  I was almost lost for words up there, gazing into a misty abyss, rocky peaks emerging like ice bergs in the sea.  Our first summit, Bruach na Frithe, was negotiated through thick cloud and drizzle.  There was no weather that would dampen our enthusiasm today!  Doing this peak first gave Grant and Graham, experienced hill walkers, a gentle start.  From here Am Bastier was their second objection.  Fortunately the rain was subsiding and the rock was drying, as the clouds cleared the exposure was obvious.  For Grant, the excitement brought him to his knees.  Cursing, crawling.  We waited to regain composure before making our way to the summit.  Our approach to Sgurr nan Gillian went like clockwork.  The summit views over to the Red Cuillin were spectacular but the Black Cuillin was cloaked by a heavy duvet.  The elation (exposure) brought Grant to he knees once more, he crawled off the summit to the start of the South East ridge where we made our descent.  Very impressed with both Grant and Grahams determination to keep going and pushing hard when their legs turned to jelly, well done chaps!   Being back on Skye was bringing back all my fondest memories of the Island; my first ever traverse, the one day winter traverse , new winter route , climbing at Elgol, Kilt Rock and Neist .  Plus many more fun memories with clients both new and old.  Looking forward to spending more time here this summer.

Eerie atmosphere

Threading the needle

Monday, 1 July 2013


Today my ribs have been feeling better so Kenny and I headed East to Dunkeld to find some dry rock.  Last time I was here, I managed to climb Hamish Ted (7b+) so I was keen to see if I could remember the moves, let alone do them.  Unfortunately the first sequence of moves was very depended on the muscles I injured so after getting to the top I decided it wasn't a good idea to try again.  Kenny climbed the route on his first red-point of the day and was totally chuffed with that.  We then went on and climbed some more gentle trad routes Coffin Corner (HVS 5a) and Deaths Head (E1 5b) before Kenny had a look at the moves on Marlina (7c).  A good day but another week should bring things back to normal.