Thursday, 31 January 2013

East Buttress

Today was the final day for this weeks winter climbing work and I was keen to finish with a bang. Beinn Eighe delivered the brilliant East Buttress (IV,5). The two hour walk in enabled us to view the whole triple buttress in all its might. I had seen the place in photos but never ventured here before. To visit here for a day at work was a dream come true. Unfortunately Simon and I lost Lloyd on the walk in (not literally, he was feeling ill) so Simon and I quested on. From leaving the car, it took us 4 hours to make tracks on the first pitch and we weren't exactly moving slow. The route was amazing. Great sustained climbing at grade 4 with a nice crux section at the top which led to a nice scramble to finish. We were blessed with fine views out to sea before being swamped in snow showers and cloud. From the top of the route it was only 1 hour 20 mins back to the car where we found Lloyd with the music pumping. After he had a sleep he went for a wee boulder and tried to find a bit of dry tooling but to no prevail. A great end to a great week working for Martin Moran.

Camera has been placed in a coffin, it has served me well.  I shall try and replace when i'm not climbing, not sure when that will be though...

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Dry Tooling Crag

After yesterdays 10 hour session on the hill and dealing with some of the strongest winds I've been out in, we opted for a 9am start and a 8 minute walk in to a dry tooling crag which Martin developed. The aim of the day was to experiment with what axes and crampons can and cant do on rock as well as having a great work out. Simon, Lloyd and Andy all managed to get up the easiest route which they were really pleased with as it equates to a grade V mixed route. I then popped a rope on a harder route where they all put top efforts in but unfortunately unable to keep the lactic acid away and make it too the top. The crag provided so great options for Andy to practice his gear placements and belay building, something he has done little of and aloud Simon and Lloyd to carry out some problem solving.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

A' Cioch Traverse

Big day today, a fine 10 hours on the hill. 126Mph winds recorded on Bealach na Ba. Simon, Lloyd, Andy and I went for a sheltered day on the A' Chioch Traverse (II). With the initial grade I terrain the team moved together alpine style to cover the tricky sections in a safe and efficient manner, including some tricky down climbing. On arrival to the final steep wall Lloyd took over and led a couple of pitches. When the heavens opened...with rain...I took over and led them to the top. That was the easy part done. Now fully exposed to the winds we were barely able to move over the Plateau of Beinn Bhan. Frequently we were blown to the ground turning this day out into quite a serious proposition. We pressed on this time linked together like the forwards in a rugby scum. The wind kept winning the ball and forcing us to the ground. Unable to proceed in this struggle, a quick consultation with the map we made a drastic detour to lower our altitude and escape the winds. Fortunately we were unscaved and all in one piece however we were along way from the car. I left the team and made a long trip round to pick up the car and pick up the team. We were all soaked to the skin, tired and thoroughly enjoyed our exciting day...well I did anyway! Easy day tomorrow maybe?

Monday, 28 January 2013

Turquoise Gully

Simon leading up some great snow

Lloyd getting pummeled on the lead

Simon bring Andy and Lloyd up
Today I was back out with Simon and Lloyd and we also had Andy along. We had very high winds forecast so we headed to Meall Gorm to climb Turquoise Gully (III,4). A short walk in and sheltered crag. The thaw has had a slight effect and removed a lot of snow but actually made the ice really good to climb on, like some sweet toffee. I led the first pitch to get a feel of conditions then I was happy for Simon and Lloyd to lead each other and Andy up the route whilst I soloed just ahead of them. The guys were moving slickly as they both have a good rock climbing backgrounds and dealing with the winter technicalities very well. Gear, good techniques, belays were flowing like clockwork. After topping out into the wind we walked 50m and made our way down (all slipping and ending up in a bum sliding position, totally accidental!) the descent gully to the bottom of the route and traversed back to the van. A great day escaping the wind.

Sunday, 27 January 2013


Simon enjoying full on winter

in the cave
Back to work today and work I did! I was out with the Technical climbers today Simon and Lloyd and with the forecast for the week we grabbed our kit and shot off to get a route in before things become extremely hostile. We went to Liathach, another mountain I haven't visited and what a stunning place. Loads of potential ice lines to climb in the super impressive corries. We walked in to Coire Dubh Mor in the driving rain, eventually it turned to driving snow and waded up to the base of George (III,4). The whole route was a total wade fest, progress was slow but the climbing was brilliant and there is a ace tunnel to squeeze through. After topping out on the route we headed up to the summit of Spidean a Choire Leith whilst getting blasted by the wind. From here we headed east and made our way down the south side of Liathach where I ran a few miles to get the car. A great 8 hour day in very hostile conditions.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Mad Hatters Gully

Today was my last day off before another weeks work so I was keen to go and climb a route for myself. I met up with Murdoch who is coming back from a bad knee injury so we had a nice slow walk in and opted not to climb anything too hard, save that for a later date. It was a nice 2 hour walk up to the base of Silver Tear in Coire na Poite and we did initially get psyched for this classic route. We realised we would have traverse out or rap back down the route as it wasn't complete so instead we decided to save it for when it is complete. Instead we climbed Mad Hatter's Gully (V,5) which had had a great steep 2nd pitch which Murdoch led well whilst getting a flash pump. It didn't look too steep from below but when I got flash pumped as well I realised it was a great lead by Murdoch who hasn't climbed ice for 2 years and it was steeper than it looked! We had a wander over Beinn Bhan summit and down via Coire an Fhamair which is one of the most impressive cliffs ive seen. Really keen to get back and climb here. Well psyched! Another great day in the North West, conditions are due to change over night so looking forward to seeing what happens.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Dry Tooling

After a fantastic week of new venues in the North West, I was keen to get out on my day off. Martin has developed a crag for dry tooling and we were both keen for a couple of hours training. Unfortunately it was raining most of the time so we only stayed for a couple of routes which was ample time to get pumped and have a good work out. The great feature of this crag is that it is very natural, only 2 or 3 drilled holes, the rest is cracks and flat ledges. Far more amenable for normal people who don't climb me. Looking forward to having another blast soon but only if its bad weather in the mountains.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

High Domain

The Isle of Skye is looking spectacular

Today was the last day of the Intro Winter Climber course and Chaz, Rob and Ian were keen to push it out today. The thought of a big walk in didn't interest them so we headed to Sgurr a' Chaorachain and opted for North Buttress. We down climbed and lowered down No.5 Gully (I or II) which brought us to our chosen objective of High Domain (IV,6). We climbed the route in 3 pitches giving good interest through out up this turfy groove. The crux was short lived and right at the end of the route, where a crux should be. This was a big grade step for all the guys and they all managed it after some huffing and puffing. It was a great finale to the week and at tea and cakes it was clear that they had enjoyed themselves and the course had met their expectations. Its been fantastic weather up here in the North West. Climbing conditions have been interesting. The turf is bomber but quite dry in places, ice is forming nicely but generally snow cover is thin. As everything is so dry care must be taken with blocks and boulders, some just aren't frozen in. This week I have been working for MoranMountain.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Turquoise Gully

Ian Bringing up Rob and Chaz
Nice ice
Ian leading to glory

On the summit of  Meall Gorm

Great place to top out!
Short walk in, how about 5 seconds..?! Today we went to Meall Gorm for a short approach day and on arrival found some roadside ice. This was perfect for the team to refine their technique and practice some more with ice screws. I set up a couple of ropes and the guys practised climbing grade III and IV ice. After massive improvements to their technique, we made the 10 minute walk in the the base of the brilliant Turquoise Gully (III). One main tricky pitch gave access to some great easy climbing. Ian took over for the last pitch and led the team to glory and we were rewarded by panoramic views and a great finish to the day. Before tea and cakes we all built some abolokov threads and hung off them. Another great day in the North West. Last day tomorrow and the forecast looks great!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Deep South Gully

Rob happy after leading his block of pitches

Ian enjoying his first winter lead

rob squeeeeezing through the chock stone
Today winds were gusting above 50 and we really felt it. The aim of the day was to have Rob and Ian leading whilst Chaz cleared the gear and focussed on his movement technique. We walked around the Horn's of Beinn Alligin and headed for Deep South Gully (I). This was by far the best grade I gully I have climbed, great atmosphere, fantastic location and really interesting features, it weaves through the mountain to a great finale. Rob block led a few pitches before I took over for a bit of trickier ground before Ian took over and led us to the crest of the horn. A 2 hour descent with some great mountaineering terrain finished our day off nicely. Another new venue for us all. Its great working up here!

Monday, 21 January 2013

North Gully of A' Chioch

Silver Tear not quite there yet

Chaz entering the gully
Who ever gets their screw gate first wins!

Today I was back out with Rob, Ian and Chaz for more winter climbing on their Intro Winter Climbing course. Today we opted for a route out of the wind and headed into Beinn Bhan in Applecross. This gully is a fantastic deep gash in the mountain which led onto the A' Chioch Ridge. Conditions in the gully were ok. A lot of the snow was quite soft and powdery however there was some bomber ice to swing into. The turf was pretty exceptional too. It did feel quite spicy in places so I thought it felt a bit more like grade 3 in the current conditions. We could still do with a bit of a thaw and re-freeze. But as yesterday, the North West is amazing and there are some fantastic mountains up here. I cant believe I haven't spent much time up here!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Access Gully

Today was the first day of an intro winter climbing course for Rob, Ian and Chaz. Today was a bit of a shake down day and skills day. A reminder of how to use axes and crampons, how to not slip, how to stop a slip, use the snow as an anchor and some simple rope work. After a good session we then ascended Access Gully (II) on Fuar Tholl which had fantastic views of the highlands. It was an amazing place to be and this happens to be the first winter route I have got to the top of here in the North West! Every day is going to be unknown territory for me! :) Access Gully was good but lacking some snow near the top. Turf is bomber. It was a great first day for the guys, set them up nicely for the rest of the week.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Great Gully and North Buttress

Nice bit of grade III ice

John enjoying the ice
Abseiling off
Still windy higher up
John finishing the last tricky pitch on North Buttress
Final day for John and we were really psyched for having another good day.  The forecast was for strong south easterly winds increasing with height.  We headed down into Glencoe and headed for North Buttress on Buachaille Etive Mor.  We geared up where the path crosses Great Gully and spotted that the water course was nicely frozen.  I suggested we follow it up and see how high we can get.  So after soloing some grade I ice with a few grade II steps we were blocked by a steep pitch of ice.  We popped a rope on and I dragged the rope to the top.  My North Buttress rack didn't consist of ice screws but they weren't necessary as the ice was like toffee, it was super fun.  And best of all, the wind wasn't getting to us.  After this pitch we traversed onto North Buttress and got stuck into the high winds and mixed climbing.  We climbed all the way to the top of the difficulties which was brilliant and exciting with the strong gusts.  Alot of the snow had been blown off so we were able to use our gloved holds on the rock to make progress on some sections.  We abseiled off passing Nigel and his mate who had decided to call it a day after one pitch.  It was a great end to a great week and I looking forward to getting back out with John in March.  Off to the North-West for the next 3 weeks so will hopefully get some great routes done through work and some amazing days out on my days off.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Ledge Route

John catching his breath from the breath taking views

John leading to glory

Solo walker

Windy views

I love Scotland!
Today John and I changed from plan A and went and climbed Ledge Route (II) on Ben Nevis. Thursday blues left us with heavy legs and the resistance from the wind and accumulations of snow made things hard going.  We veered off the old tracks on Ledge Route, seeking out little tricky steps and walls to add a bit of spice to the route before John took over on the second half and led to the top.  We both knew that we had to make the summit push, the views were amazing and the snow combined with strong winds made for an amazing few hours.  Once on the summit we didn't want to leave, we could see out to the Isle of Skye and all the mountains looked fantastic.  The cameras were snapping like a bus load of Japanese tourists.  We only saw one other walker on the tourist route who will have had a fantastic solo day, Rich had his team on the summit just as we were leaving after coming up Coire Leis, they will have also had a priceless day standing on the summit in such fantastic weather.  We caught up with Ken and his client who had ascended Ledge Route behind us for a nice sociable descent down from the half way lochain.  A brilliant day at  Snow was blowing all over the place, the upper crags were getting plastered and signs of small avalanches here and there.  Not sure if any other routes got climbed today on Ben Nevis, did see one team heading up left below Comb Buttress, not sure what the were up to.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Left Twin

Today John and I froze our fingers off on the chair lift at Aonach Mor.  The pain was worth it as we were able to rest our legs a little bit by having a shorter 'walk in' day.  Johns third day on was all about ice.  We met Rich and his team at the bottom who were planning Right Twin.  That was good so we still had plan A all to ourselves   We were psyched for Left Twin (III,4).  Then, out of nowhere like some stealth giraffe, Mike strolled past us with sharp elbows and went for our chosen route!  All in good humour though.  Mike decided to abseil down the route so we decided to zip down Easy Gully and check out the rest of the routes.  This would give Mike a chance to get up a pitch.  So John and I built a snow bollard and abseiled in to find plenty of snow which was stable where we walked/waded.  There was plenty of ice forming on the Ribbed walls, nothing steep was quite there such as White Shark and Aquafresh but the mixed routes looked good.  Left Twin was in great condition with Siamese Twin nearly there.  There was a team on Stirling Bridge and I think that was it.  John led the last pitch up to the cornice via a nice little mixed step which Mike and his client put tracks through.  A fantastic day followed by some great soup and coffee in the cafe.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Ordinary Route (Raeburn's Route)

Today was another fantastic day in Lochaber and I was back out with John for the second day of his 5 day climbing course.  He was keen to see how he faired on a grade IV.  We opted for Ordinary Route on Central Buttress of Stob Coire nan Lochain in Glencoe.  He faired up very well.  A clean ascent.  After the last few days of snowfall there was alot of swimming and clearing to do on the route but the approach was easy thanks to Blair, Matt and Adam.  Great tracks.  We climbed the route in 7 pitches and the route was nicely sustained at the grade.  A brilliant route.  Must be even better with bomber neve!  The turf was superbly frozen, every swing was a sinker once you get through all the snow.  Light winds and cold temps mean the snow is firming up nicely.  Blair, Matt and Adam were on a tricky route, not sure how they got on as the were still having fun on it as we left.  A team also on Twisting Gully, Dorsal Arete and Crest Route.  Cant wait for tomorrow!

Monday, 14 January 2013


Today was the first day of John's 5 day sending program.  The aim is to climb lots of routes around grade III and hopefully at different venues. Today was a last minute change of plan as John's friend Colleen joined us.  This was Colleen's first time in crampons outside, all she had done in the past was a couple of session on a artificial ice wall.   A quick introduction was on the cards.  We opted for a short route, which was low down and had an easy descent so we jumped on the South West Ridge of the Douglas Boulder (III).  We put fresh tracks in up the route, used a little bit of front crawl and breast stroke but generally we had some good climbing on the route.  Still quite a few loose blocks so care is needed throughout.  We made a swift abseil into the Douglas Boulder gap where I lowered the guys back to the first stance.  A really stunning day today, shame I forgot my camera but the snow really made Ben Nevis look magical.  I'm sure Mike got some good photos from Tower Ridge.  I saw teams ascend Ledge Route and North Gully...?

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Austrian Alpine Club Winter Skills Day 2

Plenty of snow had fallen over night and continued to do so all day which meant we had a winter wonderland to play in.  This enabled us to practice some ice axe arresting back on Aonach Mor, which we didn't do yesterday as I didn't find an ideal place with a nice run out.  Today we got some serious speed and mastered the art of ice axe arrest with plenty of 2nd, 3rd and 4th attempts.  The guys put in a good show today and were really keen to throw themselves down the slope like rag dolls.  Not bad considering the average age was 65!  After filling every crevasse with snow we headed up on to some steeper slopes and did some digging, slashing and kicking (all important skills to learn...honest!) and made our way onto the nid ridge again where we got stuck into some navigation.  From the ridge I manufactured a route which aloud the group to practice their newly honed navigational skills and they got themselves back to the top station in one piece.