Friday, 27 January 2017

British Mountain Guides Winter Training

Mountain Guide Paul Warnock and fellow trainee Jack Geldard on Tower Ridge


Just finished a great week of being a client.  It was brilliant to be on the receiving end of some experienced guides and to be taught more.  Part of the process of becoming a British Mountain Guide is a winter training course where we are taught how to look after folk in winter.  Even though I work alot in the winter it was great to learn some new tricks, receive some confirmation that I was doing the right thing and also give me some prep for the assessment which I will be doing in the Alps.  We had pretty good weather for the week with two days ice climbing on Ben Nevis, a day of mountaineering on the Buachaille and 2 more days of snow craft and mountaineering back on Ben Nevis...where most of the snow was.  I enjoyed taking a break from my camera this week so only have a couple of shots.

Todays trainer Paul Warnock.  Smith's Route behind

Descending Number 3 Gully

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Exploring with the three amigos

Sam top of his tricky pitch.  Castle Ridge

Ade finished on the Clach Glas Traverse
The time had came around.  Sam, Katya and Ade were here for another instalment of the winter.  'Mid january would be fine' I said, 'there will be enough snow' I promised.  I was wrong and I'm sure I was not the only one.  Fortunately Sam, Katya and Ade just love being in the mountains so there was no need to cancel or reschedule.  Out of 3, we had two days in summer conditions, our final day gave a wintery ascent of Castle Ridge (III).
Katya belays on the final pitch on Clach Glas Blaven Traverse

Katya leads up the final pitch on CGB Traverse

View from the summit of Blaven, Skye
With a pretty flexible itinerary throughout, one objective was mentioned and that was of Tower Ridge.  In an ideal world I would have liked to do this on the 2nd or 3rd day but due to weather and weekend crowd avoidance, we opted for the friday.  With a Cuillin Ridge Traverse, multiple days in Torridon, a An Teallach traverse and several days in Glencoe and Ben Nevis all under our belts together, it was obvious that Tower Ridge would go with no problems.
Team shot on Castle Ridge

Summit of Blaven

Top of Tower Ridge

Sam and Katya on the start of Tower Ridge

The team on Tower Ridge

Sam belays Katya on CGB Traverse
We had the ridge to ourselves.  Sam and Katya climbed on a rope and Ade and I were on a separate line.  I led the way and they followed safely and carefully for a great day out on the ridge.  We topped out in glorious weather which I shall let the photos do the talking.
Views from Ben Nevis

Katya belays on Tower Ridge
Day two, Saturday, we went to Skye.  An early start, 2 hour drive and a brilliant 8 hour (car to car) day on the Clach Glas Blaven traverse.  Again the weather was fantastic.  We (ahem...I mean me) managed to pick the only mountain in Scotland which was covered in cloud (gulp) but fortunately as we climbed the cloud lifted so our views were never blocked.  We had the ridge to ourselves and as always the scrambling was fantastic.
The only cloud in Scotland on Blaven
Team on the top of Tower Ridge

Team in the gap
Day 3, a 7 hour day, car to car on Castle Ridge.  Our first taste of winter this trip and Katya and Sam, like the previous two days, safe guarded themselves and made the ascent on their own rope.  A great effort by both Sam and Katya who both had a tricky pitch.  Top job.  Ade and I cruised up ahead finding the route and hurling advice (and some banter) as we climbed.  Today was a snow day, unconsolidated snow....but still snow.  Thanks team for a great 3 days.

Ade, Katya and Sam on Castle ridge

Ade on the Crux.  Plenty of runners for Katya to clip on her lead

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Curved Ridge

Simon was up for Curved Ridge.  To be fair we had both hoped for a winter ascent of Curved Ridge but as the topsy turvy winter continues to stip the mountains, we had to settle for a summer ascent.  Warm and wet, it felt like July.  Fortunately for simon, he had limited scrambling experience and we made a great day of scrambling skills and Simon did some leading up the route.  Andy Hogarth was out behind us with his two clients and Grant was out with his group bagging some summits.  So a pretty quiet day on the hill.  I couldn't see into the corries in Glencoe as I drove through but there is snow still up there in the gullies.  Still a couple of days until it gets cold.


Monday, 16 January 2017

Avalanche Training

As part of the process to become British Mountain Guides as well as Mountaineering Instructors, it is essential that we know about avalanche awareness and stay on top on current thinking and techniques from the experts.  So this is one course I never get tired of going to.  I tend to participate in an avalanche course every year and each one is different.  Unfortunately there was no interesting snow too look at but the class room session was useful and has armed me with some new methods in teaching and information sharing.  The course was funded by the Chris Walker Memorial Trust.





Sunday, 15 January 2017

3 day Mountaineering course


Avalanche education and hopefully a shelter
Over the last 3 days I was out working with the KMC on a mountaineering course for their newer members.  Unfortunately one was ill so a team of 3 joined me for the first day.
Wild
Hold on to your hats!
Wild, windy, whiteout.  Teaching was a struggle but we found some sheltered terrain with some snow in.  Enough for us to carry out snow skills and craft.  The three days consisted of one cold day and two mild days where everything started to melt.  We ended up having two days that were relatively static, using the limited snow patches to develop skills.  Our final day we had a journey up the Fiacaill Ridge....in the rain and didn't even need crampons.  We resorted to summer tactics and the team led themselves up the ridge as I gave input and instruction along the way.  The topsy turvy winter continues keeping me on my toes!
A break in the cloud, spot all the climbers

Home time!
 3 day Scottish Winter Mountaineering course - See Here

Thursday, 12 January 2017

The Rampant

video

Max and Kev on The Seam
Another cold day had arrived in this topsy turvy winter.  We certainly are being kept on our toes.  One day I'm digging the car out of the drive, the next I'm on the top of the mountains in the rain.  So despite having several days off, I haven't been able to climb every day.  But today I managed to get out with my fellow British Mountain Guide Trainees for some climbing.  I teamed up with Tamsin.  Max and Kev teamed up and we were all really psyched as it was cold and going to be a good days climbing.
Kev and Max on a gear exchange
Kev cruising The Seam
We knew that we had to be selective as not all routes were in good condition but we ended up on Fiacaill Buttress in the Northern corries.  It was whiter than the rest and had plenty of routes we had never done.
Tamsin questing off on the top pitch

Tamsin cruising
Today was Tamsin's first route of the season as well as the first winter route after breaking her pelvis last year in Glencoe so we opted for the Rampant (IV,5) as a nice warm up.  I have never done it either and it was great.  A good turfy route with a couple of good pitches.  Generally if the foothold were poor then the axe placements were bomber so pretty important for this route to have good frozen conditions.  Kev and Max topped out on The Seam in good time and we all decided to head back for coffee and finish the day without getting tired.  Stress free days like this are brilliant!

Team top out

Team descent on Fiacaill Ridge

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Limerick University

It's the 8th of January and it would be fair to say that the winter season so far has been a little frustrating.  Just a little too warm.  I have just finished 3 days with 2 Limerick University students who, with me shared enthusiasm for the remaining snow.
Eoghan and Ashlynn were 2 of a group of about 20 students from Limerick University Mountaineering Club.  Most of the group were out for 2 days doing some introductory winter skills with two instructors, 2 were out with Dave Barker and three were self-sufficient.
Eoghan and Ashlynn were keen to winterise their rock climbing experience.  With Alpine trips under their belt as well as plenty of rock climbing in Ireland they were keen to get their crampons stuck in here in Scotland.



With very little snow, we headed into Coire an t-Sneachda and looked for the 'whitest' line for the team to lead up.  With a check of skills they armed themselves with the rack and pitched up 0.5 gully.  A nice easy route but ample terrain to pack in 5 pitches and winterise their skills.
An avalanche training course!



Day 2 we suffered a thaw and headed into Coire an Lochain and climbed The Couloir with plenty of drips and rime ice falling off.  We hoped to climb a different route but a team was already there and there was no way we were going to climb below someone.  With poor visibility on the tops, we practiced some navigation over the plateau before making our way down.
Our final day, warm temperatures and limited snow pack.  We opted for a summer day.  An alpine training day looking at efficiency and a few little tricks to develop their current climbing techniques.  They led up the Twin RIbs and continued onto Fiacaill Ridge before coming down the Goat Track for a de-brief back at base.

A fun 3 days with 2 very motivated future alpinists and winter climbers.  Good luck with the journey.
Scottish winter Jan 7th 2017