Friday, 20 February 2015

Ledge Route

The extent of our views
 Today was my final day with Sam, Katya and Aide and to finish the week we had full winter conditions.  It was snowing all day and very heavily so a ridge was a must and we quickly moved out of any gullies.  We climbed ledge route with Sam and Katya sharing all the leading and we ascended via some off the beaten tricky steps to add interest for the guys.  Up on the top was pretty much a white out so Sam, who is gathering days for him Winter Mountain Leader Award took the map and compass and did 3 brilliant navigation legs to get us into the Red Burn for our descent.  We didnt see much all day but it certainly was freezing so all the ice routes will be building nicely.   Teams climbed Vanishing Gully, Kenny climbed the Curtain, Mike climbed Tower Ridge, Simon bailed off Route 2...too much snow!  Looks like much more snow is on its way, too much for the mountain to hold so there will be avalanches in places. Check SAIS whilst you are planning at home.

Sam battling through the conditions

Team red on the summit

Sam leading us down in a white out
Im going to Norway now for a week so I will post when I am back.  I may update my work facebook page HERE whilst away.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Ice Factor yesterday, Dorsal Arete today.

Sam bringing up Katya and Aide
Katya leading the way
Like every other climber and mountaineering instructor in the area, I went to the Ice Factor yesterday as there was a serious melt down in the mountains.  Summit temps were well above freezing and it had been raining all day.  Blair told me people were skiing in Glencoe so fair play to them.

Katya loving her huge spike belay
Katya leading Sam hanging out..
Today Katya, Aide, Sam and I all headed back into Glencoe, dry after our Aonach Eagach traverse on Tuesday, we headed up to Stob Coire nan Lochain.  Sam and Katya were keen to be on the shape end so they took turns in leading Dorsal Arete with Katya getting the crux over the fins.  As usual there were several other teams on the route but everyone seemed to flow quite nicely.  A couple of teams avoided the just did Dorsal (no cigar for them) but we were joined by about 5 or 6 other teams on the route.
Stand up...
Final belay, Aide on the Arete

The crags were looking great with teams in Twisting Gully, Ordinary Route and some of the easier gullies.  Super blowy on top so we headed straight down Broad Gully which had small accumulations of soft snow and wind slab.
Aide on the arete
An excellent day with freezing level around 700m.  The thaw will have done wonders to Ben Nevis ice, sure it will have stripped things back but I think it will be mega tomorrow and over the weekend!

Lots of folk coming down!

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Aonach Eagach

It started nice
 Today I had a super day with 3 regular clients Katya, Sam and Aide.  In the past we have done the Cuillin Ridge, An Teallach traverse plus several days in the NW so we started off with a big day in Glencoe.  The Aonach Eagach was high on Sam's list, Katya had an aborted attempt in the summer and Aide was up for anything.  With 70mph winds forecast we knew it would be a bit of a battle but it was great non the less.  On our ascent to Am Bodach, the weather was looking quite pleasant, Aide even put a spot of sun cream on!  As we got to the technical sections the wind and rain came.  We pressed on ticking both Munro's and got back to the car at 5.30.  A good 8.45 hour day.  We decided on a big day today as tomorrow is looking pretty damp so a late start is on the cards.  Kenny climbed D Gully Buttress and several teams were in SCNL.
Then got windy...

Then got cloudy

Then got wet, windy and cloudy!

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Winter Skills Weekend with the Austrian Alpine Club

The Team

Great winter environment on Aonach Mor
 This weekend I have been working with some member of the Austrian Alpine Club who signed up for a winter skills weekend.  Our group had a wide variety of experience covering 2 or 3 generations and a variety of mountaineering experience.  To optimise to teaching time and skills we opted for some mechanical assistance and got the gondola up to Aonach Mor, bringing us out in the snow.  As the weather was more desirable we opted for more of a journey and to get up high, so armed with the appropriate skills we set off for the summit station.  Unfortunately, time evaporated and we didn't make it to the true summit, sometimes the case when there is lots to teach.  We made our way back down avoiding all the pistes and back to the comfort of the gondola to save some knees.

Lunch shelter 

Interesting terrain to blow away some cobwebs

Prepared to head into the 'Ping Pong ball'

In the ball

 Day 2 there was a strong desire to make use of the mechanical uplift again however the strong wind's didn't allow and the gondola was off all day.  So instead we opted for a drive over to Glencoe and headed up Coire na Tulaich on Buachaille Etive Mor to pick up where we left off.  As the winds were high today we stayed sheltered and opted for a more static skills based day covering any aspects we didn't have time for yesterday and equipped the team with enough tools in their tool boxes to go out and have a save and fun day in the hills.  The team were great sports and put great effort into everything, Mike put in a great effort trying to break the sound barrier on his ice axe arrest runs and I was very thankful of the Sloe Gin from their hip flask at the end of the day.  A great couple of days and the weather wasn't too bad either.
Steve sporting equipment older than me.

Steve's wooden Stubai axe.  Lovely piece of equipment.

The team in Coire na Tulaich

Friday, 13 February 2015

Avalanche CPD

Working as an independent MIC it is great to have opportunities to further my knowledge and understanding with a group of other independent providers and hill enthusiasts.  The day was put together by the Chris Walker Memorial Trust.  This charity provides funding for expeditions to greater ranges and also helps mountaineering instructors to attend courses to further their knowledge and understanding, helping avoid further incidents and pass on crucial information to clients.  The day was split into two, we had a classroom morning looking at the theory of avalanche awareness and how we can teach this to our clients, followed by a hill based afternoon showing how we can utilise the mountains and teach clients exactly what they need to know.  As a member of the Association Mountaineering Instructors (AMI) it is important that we attend these CPD courses to make sure we stay current and in-line with modern ideas and thinking.  A fantastic day ran by Graham Moss from the SAIS.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

North West Highland delights

Abseiling on the Forcan Ridge
This week I have been working a Intro to Mountaineering course in the North West Highlands for Moran Mountain with a team of 3 French chaps living in London.  The weather and conditions have taken a slight change here.  We climbed everyday but as the week went on it was clear that there was less and less snow to go around.  We spent a day refreshing skills at Fuar Tholl in quite wild conditions, we then climbed the A'Chioch Ridge on Beinn Bhan and the Forcan Ridge in Glen Shiel which were all showing lots of rock.  We had a crag sessions too involving all sorts of rope work and lead practice as well as a great session of dry tooling.  Not many photo's as we didn't get many views!

Saturday, 7 February 2015

A brilliant 2 days on Ben Nevis and Buachaille Etive Mor

Spoilt for choice

What a brilliant two days out with Claire and Ian.  After our day out last year HERE, they were keen for some winter adventures.  As they have never worn crampons before, we started off with some basic skills and got hem both moving up the classic Ben Nevis route of Ledge Route (II) ****.  It was stunning weather and great conditions underfoot so we pressed onto the summit for stunning panoramic views.  Took plenty of photos today.  More Here.

Heading back down

Going down Number 4 Gully

Claire leading to the summit

Great place to be

Ready for action, first time in crampons

Day two was looking very promising also, clear skies greeted us as we drove through Glencoe to Buachaille Etive Mor.  Claire had Curved Ridge on her sights for years and was keen to put it to bed.  So with a stellar forecast, perfect conditions and the right team, it would have been rude not too.  We made good steady progress up Curved Ridge (III) and made our way onto the summit of Stob Dearg.  From here we thought it would be best to make the most of the day so we continued onto Stob na Broige for the full 'Buachaille' day out.  It had been a while since I had been on Stob na Broige and was a view you get.  Well worth the walk.  We back tracked to Coire na Tulaich and made our way down mostly on snow.  A great couple of days to round off a great week.  Thank you everyone.  More photos HERE from Curved Ridge and beyond.  Off to Torridon now!

Day two in crampons, heading for Curved Ridge

Lunch spot

Getting there..

Thursday, 5 February 2015


Nordwand starts at the fat ice centre left

Great views as we walked off

The beauty exposed and the ugliness hidden by the clouds

Wow, what an amazing route!  Yesterday John and I climbed Vanishing gully so today I promised a longer but easier route.  I hadn't climbed this 420m route before so I went on what the guide book said.  So we did the direct start, grade 4.  Felt more like 5 but maybe it was because we were not warmed up.  I shouted to John 'thats the steepest pitch on the route'.  Oh dear!  I was so wrong!  We did 9 pitches of climbing, 7 of them had steep climbing on.  It was brilliant.  I honestly thought it was harder than Orion Direct, definitely more sustained.  The ice is fat and very good condition.  If you have a chance to climb it then go and do it!  Brilliant.

Like the Eiger but closer to home
One more pitch to go

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Vanishing Gully

Vanishing Gully

John happy to be up a grade 5 on his second day out this winter

Today I was back out with John and we headed into Ben Nevis to see what routes didn't have too much traffic on.  John did fancy the Curtain but as we spotted multiple team on the route and queuing for the route then we opted for Vanishing Gully (V,5) instead.  We only did the 2 pitches and abseiled off the side and headed down.  A nice easy day to rest the legs for a potentially longer day tomorrow.  Conditions are looking great on Ben Nevis.  Teams on Point 5, Zero, Hadrians, Gemini, Shield Direct, Curtain, Italian right-hand (I think), Tower Ridge, Ledge Route and Harrison's Climb Direct.
Cave belay!

Tim and Twid on the Shield Direct

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

The Shield Direct

Blair climbing up to my belay (Keith Ball)
Unfortunately John couldn't make his second day, but every cloud has a silver lining.  I knew Blair was looking for a partner and as the Shield Direct was in, I was happy I had a day off.  There was no discussion about what we would climb, we both were super keen to do this.  We opted for an early start and were almost pushed back to the car because of the winds.  We persevered and we were rewarded with 6 pitches of brilliant VII,7 climbing.  Blair won the rock, paper, scissor duel, so he went first and climbed the nice ice pitch, which is becoming thinner as climbers keep hacking away.  Above the ice pirch we were greeted with great icy mixed climbing up a fantastic feature on Ben Nevis.  Nice long pitches too.  This route has true classic status and is rightly deserved.  It was great to be out climbing today as it does feel like I haven't done a great deal of personal climbing this winter and to catch a rare day off on such an amazing route is the icing on the cake.  Sadly Blair and I didn't take a camera so have no pics but thanks to Keith who was on Gemini with Dave, he sent me some really poor quality shots.  (Its ok, he knows I'm grateful and he doesn't read this blog so he wont know I said this! ;)