Friday, 30 December 2011

CMD Arete

Today was my final day with Stephen and Andy so we opted for a journey day where they could put together some of the skills they gathered over the last few days. We headed up over the Carn Mor Dearg arete which exposed us to some wild conditions. After getting in to the snow line it was pretty steady going up to Carn Mor Dearg, on arrival we donned our crampons and descended onto the ridge which is great fun. The wind was blowing quite hard which so goggles and face masks were essential. There was a good cover of snow on the ridge and we were above the freezing level all day, there was also lots of fresh snow being blown around the mountain. On the summit of Ben Nevis we hid in the shelter for 15 minutes recharging and wrapping up for the decent down which required a reasonable amount of navigation which Stephen helped out with. On our decent down the red burn, it was clear that it was warming up and all the snow was turning to slush. It looks to be a wet and windy day tomorrow. Have a good new year everyone.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Is winter back?

Yesterday wasn't feeling very wintry, however today was a different story! Stephen, Andy and I headed into Glencoe and ascended the Zig-zags on Gearr Aonach. The snow line was about half way through the route but it was all slushy and wet so we were able to make a rapid ascent. It was a good option today as it remained pretty sheltered from the westerly winds, sleet and snow. It was Andy's first time out in the mountains so we wanted to give him a little variety in terms of something hands on but also give him the opportunity to pick up some important winter skills for the future. After walking along the top of Gearr Aonach we nipped into the corie and covered lots of winter skills which the guys were eager to learn. We looked at moving around with and without crampons, ice axe arresting, moving on rock and snow and plenty of digging into the snow pack to develop their knowledge of avalanche awareness. Several teams out today, Dorsal Arete had an ascent, a couple of walkers on the NE ridge of SCNL and I'm sure there was much more going on! Finished off the day with a good session in the bouldering wall.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Wet and Wild

Today I was out with Stephen, Kate and Dexter who were super keen for a day out in some pretty foul weather. The aim of the day was to brush up on Stephen and Kate's navigation whilst Dexter ran around in circles and got under our feet (yes, Dexter is a dog). As the forecast was for high winds and gusts up too 100mph we stayed low and headed up behind Fort William. From the view point we headed south east up on to point 287m revisiting the basics of navigation and developing strategies that will work in winter. Kate and Stephen have both done their fair share of navigating but have lapsed for a while and also not done much in winter. Despite it not feeling very wintery we covered plenty of ground, headed up towards Bidhein Bad na h-lolaire and back down to Glengour covering a variety of techniques which we can consolidate over the next few days. Well done to everyone for not getting blown over! A good day finished with a good session in the bouldering wall.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

North East Ridge Stob Ban

For today we were looking for a good grade 3 ridge leading to a summit. The weather forecast wasn't as good as yesterday but low winds and moderate avalanche forecasts gave us a few different options. After a recommendation from a friend we decided for the North East Ridge of Stob Ban. On leaving the Glen Nevis car park it was snowing heavily and this continued for most of the morning. The route began by crossing a snow slope into a NE facing gully. Whilst I was ascending I triggered a small slab avalanche but managed to move over to a rocky area quickly. At the belay we witnessed the leader of the team behind us set off a further slab avalanche on the higher section of the gully. We continued up the fantastic, alpine style ridge mostly pitching due to the massive amounts of soft snow. The route contained adequate protection and opportunities for consistent belays. The visibility cleared slightly at the top giving fantastic views over the Mamores and Glen Nevis.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Curved Ridge

Today Katy and I headed into Glencoe armed with sunglasses, an axe and crampons and hit Curved Ridge (III). I had thought (or hoped) that it had an ascent yesterday and put a nice tracks in, unfortunately there wasn't, so today required a lot of digging. Fortunately I remembered where most of the spikes were and some of the cracks. Katy was keen for leading too, so she got on the sharp end a couple of times which was great. Saved me doing all the digging! We didn't see anyone else on the route but saw some tracks on the summit. There was lots of avalanche debris around the bottom of the route but every part of the route was nice and solid. Going up behind Crowberry Tower was fine too. From the summit of Stob Dearg, we had a look at Coire na Tulaich but as there was quite a lot of soft snow at the top. So we headed down the ridge, which allowed Katy to practice some winter skills coaching and route finding for her forth coming Winter Mountain Leader Assessment. Great colours on the Aonach Eagach whilst we descended!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

South West Ridge - Douglas Boulder

Today Katy came over to visit. It was her first day out this winter, after working non-stop over in the North-East. With a great forecast we had lots of options but we agreed that we wouldn't do anything too big and get too tired. So we had a leisurely stroll up to the CIC hut, then onto the SW ridge of the Douglas Boulder (III). Today we saw Ken and his mate on Fat Boy Slim, John and his mate skied up ledge route and down something else. Two guys headed to the base of number 4 and then headed back and there were a few teams on the CMD arete. It was quite a social day with Craig and Graham coming up behind us.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Glovers Chimney

Today Mandi and I headed up the North Face of Ben Nevis to see what was going on. The forecast stated high winds in the evening so I thought we would be able to get a route in. At first I was going to head for the SW ridge of the Douglas Boulder but there was a team already heading for it so instead we went up high and climbed Glover's Chimney (III,4), which I hadn't done before. We topped out just as it got dark and a blizzard started. This made getting off the top both exciting and hard work. The mountain was very quiet, with only one other team out. Conditions were good on the mountain. The ice routes were looking good but there was a lot of snow being blown around. Whilst climbing, I heard three significant avalanches somewhere below us. Then we were swept off our feet and partially buried whilst descending the Red Burn. Lots more snow was falling with high winds.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

The Citadel

Today didn't go quite as expected! Last night Tony and I decided to head over to the Cairngorms for a look over at the Shelterstone. On arrival it was clear that both of our possibilities were in. It was either Sticial face or Citadel. We opted for The Citadel (VII,8). Everything went well and we moved quickly. The climbing was tricky and felt very bold, as neither of us were able to place much gear. The route is very sustained but with two significant crux's. A lower crux and the top crux. Tony had got through the top crux just as it got dark... School boy error, we both left our head torches in our rucksacks at the bottom of the route. Tony couldn't see where to go or what he was hooking on and was unable to proceed. Instead we abseiled pretty much the whole face of the Shelterstone in darkness back to our bags. We were just one pitch from the top and pretty sure we had done all the hard climbing. So near but so far. A team to our left had a good day on Stical Face which looks to be in good condition. Coire an T-sneachda looked great to with lots of teams out today.

Friday, 9 December 2011


Today our plans changed last minute as we soon realised the Corran Ferry road was closed. So we weren't able to get down to the Southern Highlands for plan A. Instead we loaded up the bikes and headed up to Stob Coire an Laoigh. We couldn't get the van very high as there were too many fallen trees on the road and when we cycled up there were lots of trees down in the forest. On arrival to the crag it looked fantastic, We could tell on the walk-in that the turf was going to be bomber. Kenny and I agreed it was some of the best turf we climbed on, perfect condition. We had both done the classic Taliballan before so we opted for the awesome line of Centrepoint (VI,7). The route was brilliant, 3 pitches with the second one being the crux. The whole crag is in great condition and there is now a track in, well worth the early start. Fantastic views on the tops and to make the day better all the trees were cleared from the track so we had a rapid decent on the bikes!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

My first day of winter

Today was the test to see if I have eaten too many cakes over the summer! On the walk in to the North Face of Ben Nevis, I was starting to think that I had. I just couldn't keep my knees above the snow. After 'swimming' up to the CIC hut, I realised that its not my 'winter weight' that was the problem but the vast amounts of snow up there. Kenny and I swam up to Fat Boy Slim (VI,6) on Secondary Tower Ridge hoping we would find tracks from Blair and Dave the day before. Unfortunately there were none! We did the route in two pitches, I did the first in a long 60m section, covering some great mixed terrain and an icy gully. The top pitch had a fantastic squeeze which we just managed to get through with a little bit of grunting! If you climb with a rucksack you will have to push it through first! A quick abseil down Vanishing Gully led us back to our packs for another swim down to the car.

Monday, 28 November 2011


John and our hire car

Over the last two weeks I've been in North-East Spain - with a strong team from Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales - trying many different venues. First we visited Terradets, which comprised stacks of amazing tufa climbing. It took a while to adjust to this style of climbing, which provided us all with many challenges. I didn't want to red point any routes. I just wanted to onsight everything I tried. Alas, I was not quite as strong as all the others, so I only managed to flash one 7b (which I was really chuffed with). Every route I did was brilliant.

Terradets - La Bruixes

Ian Small on yet another 7c!
Dave wishes this was his hire car

The second week we went to Margalef, which was a whole new ball game. No tufas to be seen. All pockets. It was fantastic! I found this pocket climbing much more achievable for me and managed to get up all the routes that I tried - not always in the best style but I did get up them.

Callum and Dave at Margalef

It wasn't all climbing. We had to take rest days because our arms began to feel like soggy newspapers after a couple of days. This gave us an opportunity to read, go shopping, drink coffee, beer (coca cola for Calum). I think we played a thousand games of cards when it was raining or to find out who would be doing the washing up. A great holiday - just what I needed before moving back to Scotland.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Hold breaking at the Orme

Today the weather wasn't great but Luke and I grabbed our harnesses, shoes and rope and headed down to the Great Orme. On arrival it was very cold and damp so we didn't risk going into the diamond which was our primary aim. Its a little bit of a risk if its a bit wet as it has a interesting approach which is great fun but wastes some time if the conditions arnt great. Instead we opted for climbing right next to the road. It was great Luke parked right below the climb..... Well it was great till a large palm sized hold broke and landed on top of Luke's car taking away some paint but fortunately just missing his windscreen. We did a few routes but it was a bit of a miserable day so we bailed for some coffee. Tip of the Day - Don't park car directly below a route!

Monday, 7 November 2011


John and I had a chance to climb at Armscliff after I came back down from the Lakes. Unfortunatly we didnt have a guide book so we picked some lines and climbed them. It turned out pretty well, it turns out we did some sweet lines. We climbed 5 routes in a few very cold hours before running away for a coffee and a hot dinner thanks to Johns sister.

Sunday, 6 November 2011


Today I was running a practical rope work session for the Austrian Alpine Club. Unfortunately there wasn't a massive turn, but this meant I could focus more of my time to each person. The group had various different needs from belay construction to tying coils, to rescue scenarios and gear selection. It was a good practical morning on the ground of Ambleside Youth Hostel. The weather was great so as soon as I finished I met up with John and headed down to Yorkshire for a nice meal with a friend so we could discuss a expedition were planning for next year.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Big walk

Today Plas Y Brenin were running the Big Acoustic Walk so I took a team up Snowdon. I've not much to say about today other then it was absolutely perfect weather, a cloudless sky, wall to wall sunshine and a nice cool breeze. Obviously being a Saturday we weren't alone on the mountain, it seemed like everyone wanted the view we got. The team made it up and down in a great time which meant time for tea and cake in the cafe before heading back for drinks in the bar and live music. Unfortunately I could join in as I have to drive up to Ambleside.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Mountain Leader Training

This week I was working for 4 days on a Mountain Leader Training. On Monday the group and I spent the day mainly inside covering areas of the syllabus which are covered best in a classroom. In the afternoon after the torrential rain had eased, we went outside and we introduced the group to the rope work which they will need to learn for their assessment. We covered the basics on the grounds of the centre so on Tuesday we were able to get cracking on with putting it into context and practicing lots of skills. On Monday Dave and I took the group river crossing on the upper parts of the Nantygwryd. Tuesday we went out and spent most of the day looking at rope work around the Ricks and Rack and came in to get prepared for expedition. Wednesday and Thursday we walked from Ogwen up and over Creigiau Gleision and camped by Llyn Cowlyd Reservoir and walked back to the centre on the final day. Weather was pretty bad all week but cleared up just as we got back to Plas y Brenin! Good effort to all the team who kept on smiling in the worst weather!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Climbing in the rain

Today went for a quick hit over at Clywd near Llangollen. It was drizzling on and off all day so we did a couple of easy routes to warm up (6b's and 6c's) before Evans decided to siege a 7c. I had a go on it and it was nails, i found it to cold to hold on to the holds. Dave had a good few goes but basically realised that it was a bit cold and damp. With a couple of routes under our belts, we headed home.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Slate Hit

After getting back from expedition, Tim and I ran up to the slate for a few routes. We headed down into Australia and I led up Off the Beaten Track (E3 5c) and Tim led up Crazy Train (6c). A couple of nice lines with some immaculate climbing. Unfortunately we didn't have a great amount of time so we bailed before it got dark!

Mountain Leader Assesment

This week I have been working on a Mountain Leader Assesment. I was assesing the candidates on all aspect of the syllabus from navigation to ropework, campcraft to environmental knowledge. Day one we walked from Ogwen back to the centre giving the candidates the opportunity to demonstrate their navigation ability as well as demonstrating they have what it takes to become mountain leaders. Day two we headed into Llamberis Pass and covered some steep ground so the candidates could demonstrate how they would look after a group. Day 3,4 and 5 we went on expedition. We walked out from the the centre and camped near Pen-y-Pass, then over Llwedd and camped below the Watkin path. The group had nice weather for their assesment, only a small ammount of drizzle.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Gritstone Hit Day 2

After a good breakfast at the Outside Cafe we all headed over to Stanage End for our second day. We did several routes some easy solo's and several harder highball problems. The main event for us was Chip Shop Brawl (E5 6c/V8). Dave sent it after only a hand full of ascent but Tim, John and I were unable to get to the top. A super high and scary problem, not to mention it is super hard!

Gritstone Hit Day 1

This weekend John, Dave, Tim and I all headed over to the Peak district for a spot of bouldering and sending some routes. We arrived at Ramshaw first and soloed several routes to get warmed up. Loaf and Cheese (VS 4c), Wall and Groove (VD), The Arete (S 4a) and Leeds Crack (D). We then went down to the main event. Everyone wanted to try Tierdrop (E5 6b). Its a classic mirco route which is usually climbed with pads and spotters which is exactly what we did. Quite a high ball problem but safe with a big team. Andy joined us as well with his big pad too. After a good session on this we went and tried Be Calmed (E2 6c/Font 6b+) and Force Nice (E4 6c/Font 7a). We then went and had a play on Night of Lust (E4 6b/V5) and a few other problems. After the sun had gone round we jumped in the car and nipped round to the Nth Cloud and everyone had a shot on the very bold The Pillar of Judgement (E4 5c). After John and Dave didn't want to commit to a massive rock over I didn't feel I should give it a go. We then went and did a few boulder problems just to finish our fingers off! A great day, cant believe I havent been here before!

Friday, 21 October 2011

Mountain Equipment Testing (day 2)

Today I was out with another team of outdoor equipment stores from around the country. The group of 8 all have some hill walking experience but they all wanted something a little more hands on but with no use of ropes. We opted for the North Ridge of Tryfan which stretched the group in different ways. The weather was particularly grim and not a great day for hanging around but great to test out the new gore-tex jackets and the warm down jackets. As always the conclusions were that Mountain Equipment clothing works very well!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Walking Group Leader Assesment

Over the last two days I have been working on a Walking Group Leader Assessment. I was assessing 7 candidates with Helen over 3 day, I worked on the first two. The group were demonstrating their ability to navigate groups around the upland environment, keep the group interested with their knowledge of the environment and also how to deal with emergency scenarios. We also went out night navigating so the group could show me that they can navigate in poor visibility and darkness. Well done to the 4 that passed.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Mountain Equipment Testing

Today I was with Emma and Beth who work for Gaynor Sports in Cumbria. They had come down on a meet with Mountain Equipment to test out some of the latest gear. So we headed down to Tremadog for a spot of rock climbing in the sun. Neither of the girls had rock climbed outside so I led them both up Boo Boo (VD) and then Oberon (S). After realising that they both climb well and keen to learn more Emma lowered Beth into the top of Merlin Direct (HVS 5a) for a little bit of a challenge.