Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Creag Dubh

I just love this crag, such good rock, brilliant climbing, super scary at times and lots to do.  The weather was beautiful, the guidebook author was at the crag (Gary Latter) so it was a nice sociable day and good to see a jedi doing what he does best...climbing.  We had a nice haul of routes starting off with Jump for Joy (E2 5c) then followed by the brilliant bold Erse (E3 5b).  Lou then went on to lead Phellatio (HVS 5a) and I then finished up on Jump So High (E2 5c) which is a brilliant pitch.  We were thinking...'where are all the climbers?' Brilliant weather, dry rock, empty crags? Unfortunately no pictures today.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Loch Maree Crag

Blair on Arial
Today was my final day up in the North West and it was another stunning day.  Murdoch and I went to Loch Maree Crag and met Ian and Blair who had camped on the beach, quite an amazing setting.  Jarldom Reach (E5 6b), Arial (E3 5c), Spirit Air (E5 6a) were all climbed today (not by me though) as well as Ian doing a new route after Murdoch and I had left...sounded hard anyway!  A super crag with some steep lines.  Unfortunately having developed a pretty nasty cold over the last few days, sitting in a shady damp heap of heather wasn't doing me any good so Murdoch and I spent the afternoon chilling in the sun drinking orange juice for some vitamin C and soaking up the sun for some vitamin D.

Scotland at it's best

Murdoch cruising another E5/6 6a

Murdoch and Blair

Saturday, 26 April 2014


From the car park
Today was a wee bit damp as we left the Ling Hut, our cosy accomodation for two nights.  With the showers clearing we went down to Diabaig where the rain had cleared and left plenty of dry rock, a nice sea breeze and plenty of sunshine.  As like most crags here in the North Wesr, Murdoch didnt have many routes he needed to do so I got us warmed up on the brilliant 4 star route The Pillar (E2 5b).  A route that was wet last time I was here.

Murdoch cruising up Rubblesplitskin
After this Murdoch unleashed.  Firstly on Rubblesplitskin (E3 5c) and then made a brave effort on Local Hero (E6 6a).  To see the relief on Murdoch's face when he topped out was priceless!  Quite a serious proposition.  We then went over to The Main Cliff and we climbed The Black Streak (E1 5c) and then back to the hard stuff for Murdoch to lead Edgeward Whymper (E4 5c).  Again a brilliant haul of routes in such a fantastic setting.  Climbing here is very special whether on the amazing HVS's or the scary E6, something for everyone.  Make a trip!
Mucdoch checking options on Local Hero.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Loch Tollaidh Crags

Murdoch having to take his time on Balding Oldie (E6 6b)
Having just got back from the Alps and spent some time with my family, my next port of call was to meet up with Murdoch in the NW for a few days climbing.  Last year we took 5 days out and Murdoch totally 'beasted' me.  On the first day we climbed 3 multi pitch E5's which kinda broke me for the rest of the week.  I swore to myself I wouldn't let this happen on this trip.  So our first day we went to Loch Tollaidh Crag near Gairloch.  It was a great day as I got to lead 4 routes and Murdoch just got the one.  Ok his was a worthy E6 called Balding Oldie but my haul of In the Pink (HVS 5b), Buena Vista (E2 5b), Water Lily (E2 5c) and Strip-teaser (E4 5c) made for a really good day and not a bad effort after spending months on skis and wading around deep snow,  The weather was perfect, vegetation low, nie climbing and I had energy to make a reasonable dinner that night!  Cant wait to get back there.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

A very quick hit to the Alps

Our first night in the Alps
Not a terrible place to be holidaying
I haven't had many trips to the Alps but when I have they have generally been very fulfilling and crammed with steep cliffs, granite spires, icy couloirs and plenty of snow.  Usually my 10 day's/2 weeks are crammed with maximum hill time, some say not much of a holiday as I usually come home a little tired.
The brutal skin, beautiful though.
Chopper bringing in the grub, I love a good chopper performance!
I stood on top of that....na na nan na naaa!
Crab crawling, much fun!

This past trip involved most thing I enjoy in the alps however my vision did not flourish.  The success to my previous trips has been down to many factors, some which I didn't account for on this trip.

Shuffle and slide
However, I had a great little ski tour with Lou on the Verbier high level tour with some great summits and nice ski descents.  I probably experienced some of the warmest skinning I have ever endured... definitely didn't have enough water on one particular day.

After a wee ski tour it was North Face time.  Lou and I met up with Kenny, Chadders and Miles and we set off from our bivi at 2am in the morning with the intention of climbing the North Face of the Charmoz.  A fine looking face that doesn't come into condition all the time. Let's just say I have unfinished business up there.
North Face of the Charmoz
Mmm rock climbing in the sun

Feeling a little deflated I spent the next 3 days cragging in the sun, partying with friends then making the journey back to the UK to spend some unexpected quality time with my family.  Scotland tomorrow and I have a good chunk of time off still before I start work so I'm heading up to the Elphin hut for 4 days rock climbing and catching up with some friends.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Costa Blanca Part 2

Next stop ... the pavement!
Down we go!
Ok I will hold my hands up.  My enthusiasm got the better of us.  Day 4 and I had another plan up my sleeve. A 9 pitch HVS up the most striking feature on the Costa Blanca.  Diedro UBSA on the South Face of Penon de Ifach.  Unfortunately I didn't take into consideration that John has been maxing out for the last 3 days so we should have opted for a rest day straight away.  Anyway the 2 pitches and 2 abseils we did were great, we got dive bombed by sea guls, looked around another marina and topped up on more vitamin D, not a total wasted day.

The Bernia Ridge
We did get worried as the white stuff came in from the left..
Our 5th day we went for the mighty Bernia Ridge, another opportunity to keep the weight on our legs and rest the arms.  So, fantastic scrambling on bone dry limestone, in blue sky weather with a sea breeze...what's not to like?  John enjoyed the crux so much he threw a quick draw back down so he could be lowered and climb it again..!  We had the ridge to ourselves until the final summit of 1126m.  It was shorter than the Cuillin but nicely sustained.
It was very windy here...when I said 'smile' I didn't mean let go!

All good fun!
Today, we went for it, I wanted to tick the whole of the Costa Blanca guidebook, however we settled for the brilliant Puig Campana (1406m).  We had a view of this giant from our apartment and knew we had to climb it.  The classic Espolon Central, 13 pitches, early start...no problem!  "Ahh John.....slight problem" "What" "didn't pack my climbing shoes".  John response..."Oh"  Maybe I'm too stubborn or just too lazy but I didn't want to walk back down without climbing this route so we pressed on and I led the 13 pitches in my trainers which turned out to be far more comfortable than I could have imagined!

Pitch....12 I think
After a interesting beach/dinner experience in Benidorm we headed back to the ranch and John was happy to finish on a high so we are having a relaxed day tomorrow then catching a flight in the afternoon.  The drams are flowing and it's been a fantastic 6 days climbing...despite being constantly dehydrated!  This is a must for winter sun and spring time rock climbing strength!

The view didn' change much, it was nice!

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Costa Blanca climbing

John rehydrating whilst observing the weather take a turn for the worse
Well after 3 days of fantastic climbing I thought I would settle down with some duty free whiskey and make a wee note of what we have been up to.  John is really wanting to push his grade this year so when I suggested we go to Spain for 7 days climbing he jumped at the chance.  I have made an itinerary for the whole week, it took me a while to do as there is so much amazing rock to climb.  The first two days were single pitch climbing, to see what John can and cant climb.  As were staying at Sella, the local crag was ideal.  5 minute drive, 28 second walk in, 9 routes later we were done for the day.  Day two we went into Vall de Guadar and found a fantastic newly developed crag which wasn't polished which gave us another 9 routes in the perfect temps.  In the distance we could see a storm brewing..
Entering the final pitch on the Toix Ridge
Top of the climbing..now time for scrambling

Today our forecast was confirmed and it rained all night and up until about 9am.  This was fine as we knew it was to clear and this allowed time to explore to local marina and drink some lovely coffee.  After a relaxing morning we climbed the Toix Ridge.  It was bloody brilliant.  5 pitches of nice climbing to a fantastic airy ridge that required a wee bit of rope work, especially with the high winds we had.
I know Spain is meant to be warm but it was very windy!
Top of the climbing, scrambing to come
Doesnt look bad but it was super windy!
Thumbs up, start climbing!

After this our day wasn't over.  We hurried down to the sea cliffs to climb the fantastic Magical Mystery Tour.  5 fantastic pitches above the sea given sport grade 5 and felt like a nice HVS 5a.  We made two abseils in, full committed ourselves as we only had 1 60m rope, either a climb out or a swim out would be suffice but fortunately all went to plan.  So all in all a great contrasting day, 5 pitches to a summit ridge followed by two abseils and a fantastic multi-pitch sea cliff climb!

Summit shot
On the sea cliffs...baking temperatures now!
This traverse was by far the psychological crux...don't fall here!
Mmmm bliss

Mmmmm bliss

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Ski Touring Albula Alps

Plenty of snow for us..
Did make skiing difficult sometimes...
I have just returned from a great wee trip out in Switzerland with John Orr and Blair Fyffe (aka Dr Snow).  The aim of the trip was to do 5 days in the mountains going from mountain hut to mountain hut, staying high and enjoy some great summits and skiing.
Some skinning was easy...

Getting ready for some descents
Unfortunately it didn't quite go to plan.  Our arrival journey was diverted due to an avalanche that had buried the train track and this was from vest amounts of snow the fell the day we travelled out.  Lots of snow + skiing = perfect?!  Not exactly...the avalanche hazard was high on all aspects so our only options was to stick to slopes less then 30+ degrees.

Myself and John ascending Pic Kesch
John and I on the summit with cool hats on!
We did two day single day tours, one near St Moritz and one from the Julier Pass which involved some pretty nice skinning (mainly because there were tracks in) and some very difficult skiing.  And I don't mean steep gullies...I mean easy angled slopes with snow up to out waists...not easy to ski at all.  The skinning uphill was by far much easier.

Extream side slipping, felt gnarly!  John and Blair watching as I 'check it out'
So after day two the snow settled and were hit the mountains for 3.5 days staying in some really nice huts such as the Kesch Hut and the d'Es-cha Hut.  We did some fantastic summits with Pic Kesch (3147m PD) being the highlight.  The weather gods were on our side for our 3 day tour so currently dealing with a bit of sun burn.
Quiet time on top of the world!  (Well not exactly Everest but felt very tranquil)

The end brought some fantastic gress skiing!
Blair enjoying the powder

John and Blair both taking a rest ;)
Blair needing a rest after some down hill skinning! 
Hi ho hi ho its offf to the mountains we go!
Skinning through an amazing settlement which is abandoned through the winter
Extreme side slipping, John and Blair agree if I can do it then so can they!
John loving the turns!