Thursday, 26 March 2015

Winter season has come to an end for me

Pink Panther
Despite climbing hard, Murdoch is such a baby!
I did my first every winter climb 10 years ago when I was 18.  10 years on I have just finished a decade of continuous winter seasons in Scotland.  Am I tired of it? chance!  Each year brings it's own dimensions and challenges and this year has been no exception.  I have so many highlights from this season, a list too long to name them all.  Both work and personal days have been very memorable as well as all the days spent with great people.  I have been very fortunate to climb with many regular clients who I have spent alot of time with which is great.  One of the best days at work was climbing the brilliant 'Nordwand' on NW face of Ben Nevis with my regular client John.  Everything about that day was brilliant.
Rose, Phil and I in Norway
Ade, Katya and I after Ledge Route
Rose, me and Phil in Norway

 Other work highlights have been spending two weeks in Norway climbing beautiful ice falls with clients, mostly climbing route's I haven't done before and in some cases new routes.  It's such a great place to work with motivated clients.

Winter skills weekend for the Austrian Alpine Club

Claire descending into Number 4 Gully
For me, what makes my winter season, is the personal climbing I do.  It is so important to me that I can get out with keen folk, not need to look after them and have a great laugh.  So a massive thanks has to go to Murdoch Jamieson who I have done quite alot of climbing with this season.  He has been patient when I have cancelled last minute and other times when I have been a wee bit tired after working for a big stink.  Thanks Murdoch, you keep me entertained on the hill.

John walking off the top of Nordwand
Coaching lead climbing with Dunc from the Torridon MRT in Norway
I have had loads of great days out with loads of other folk over the season so thank you to everyone I have had days on the hill with - Kenny and Rhona Grant, Laila Duncan, John Sutherland, Donald King, Blair Fyffe, Paul Swail, Iain Small, Uisdean Hawthawn, James McHaffie, Nadir Khan and many brilliant clients.  I think if I was to name one personal highlight of the winter season...I would have to say the 'Shield Direct'.  It came into condition, I had a day off, I climbed it with my flatmate, the climbing was really interesting and the weather was great.

A moment of contemplation on Liathach
Blair loving a wild day on Ben Nevis.  Great Chimney
Now I shall be going out to the Alps for a month of skiing and climbing.  The reason for the lengthy trip is because I am hoping to gain enough experience to apply to become an Alpine Guide.  It will be a great journey.  Also this winter I have been very fortunate that Millet have agreed to sponsor me as the brand relaunches into the UK.  It will be great working with this very successful brand and I'm really looking forward to using their equipment in the mountains.  Winter is still here in Scotland, make the most of it while it is still here!  Enjoy and safe climbing.
Murdoch showing me what can be achieved if you eat well and train wise.

Great day skiing with Rhona and Kenny.  Love these days!
 When I get back from the Alps I shall be straight up to Skye for a stint on the Cuillin Ridge.  Im almost fully booked in May and most of June so get in touch if you want some adventures in the mountains.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Two Step Corner

Great light on Carn Dearg
The task in hand
As I sense this Scottish winter drawing to an end, I'm definitely feeling some mixed emotions.  Part of me is really looking forward to sunny rock climbing, summer mountaineering, t-shirts, trainers and a light rucksack.  Lazying in the sun, taking time to eat my lunch and spending long days in the mountains.  With that all around the corner I was keen to finish my season on a good route.  So today I was back out with Alan today and he was keen for his first every grade 5.  At 68, this was going to be no easy feat so we decided not to do one of the longer classics, Point 5, Hadrian s, Orion etc but opted for a shorter route which wasn't too sustained.  It was a little bit of a gamble on my part as I had never done the route before but it paid off so well.  It was perfect for us both.  I was able to break the first part into mini pitches so I could see Alan all the way up.  I made the belay on the top pitch so I could see Alan all the way up and so I could tell him to slow down and enjoy it rather than his usual attempt at 'Ueli Stecking' up the route.  A brilliant day finished with a nice descent down Number 4 gully.  A great finish to the season.  Thank you Alan.

Alan arriving after the lower steep pitch

Alan in the crux pitch

Alan cruising

Alan below the cornice

Great views as we walked out

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Good Friday Climb

Alan with Tower Scoop behind

Alan heading up Observatory Gully
Alan loves a belay
The first and last time I climbed this route was back in 2012 when I was being assessed for my MIC.  Alot has changed in the past few years but Good Friday Climb has stayed the same as a brilliant route.  As we left the car we knew it is a looong walk but to finish a route on the summit is worth it.  I was back out with Alan who has been very eager to get out this winter and finally he was able to unleash.  Before we left the car I did something I have wanted to do for quite a while.  I emptied Alan's rucksack and re-packed it with the essentials.  I far too many spare shoe laces, a book called hill walkers survival guide, too much water, too much clothing, several first aid kits and all sort of unnecessary equipment.  We ditched it.  Alan was reluctant to leave it behind but after 1 hour of walking I think he warmed to the idea.  Good Friday Climb (III) was in great condition and lived up to its 'Cold Climbs' classic status.  We saw several teams enjoying Orion Direct, Zero, Minus 2, Point, Smiths and Ledge Route.  A great day despite a wee bit of cloud.
All the walking was worth it
Still got it at 68!

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Wednesday, 18 March 2015

A Ben Nevis link up

Amazing climbing
With a day off today and the weather and conditions perfect, we stormed back into Ben Nevis (again) for some fantastic ice.  It was a bit of a tricky day to decide what to do as between Murdoch, Uisdean and I, we had done quite alot.  SO inevitably we would have to climb a route we have already done.  So we headed up into the Ciste and made our way to the Cascade (IV,5), Uisdean and I had already done this so Murdoch got to lead.  Then we climbed La Panthere Rose (VI,6), Murdoch won this as Uisdean had done this before and I was to lead Kellets as both Murdoch and Uisdean had done it.  Le Panthere Rose is probably on of the best ice pitches I have done this year, worth more than it's one star for sure!  Then after a little sun bathe we dropped down Tower Gully and climbed the Brilliant Kellet's Route (VI,6) which had two fantastic pitches.  A great day off and I'll be back on Ben Nevis tomorrow.
Murdoch sunbathing

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Photo shoot on Ben Nevis

Murdoch and Nadir on Hadrians
Nadir and Murdoch

My start to the week has been pretty straight forward and I climbed only 4 pitches in two days and set up 3 abseils.  Oh I also held a flash a couple of times.  I was working with Nadir Khan who had been tasked with taking some shots of RAB athletes in their new range of clothing.  The aim wasnt to climb anything super hard but to get a variety of shots with many different combinations of clothing.  So some of the time was spent taking 'lifestyle' shots, such as sharpening axes, reading guidebooks and having a chat.  It was great fun because I had to lead every pitch and then give Nadir a tight rope so he could shoot Murdoch Jamieson and James McHaffie as they did their thing.  It was a great laugh as we all know each other very well and have all climbed together in the past.  It's great when work feels like personal time.  We climbed Hadrian's Direct and Boomers Requiem, giving some good opportunities for Nadir to get the shots he wanted.  A night in the CIC hut meant we had rested legs and plenty of food.    Thanks to RAB for the work.

Caff posing for the 'bursting for a wee' shot

Murdoch being a massive softie, cant handle the cold

Caff being the legend that he is.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Aberdeen Mountain Rescue Team

It's great to come back to the UK and be met by a weekend of sunshine, I had been really looking forward to getting involved in the hills again.  This weekend I have been working with Di Gilbert, Heather Morning and Ken Applegate with Aberdeen MRT.   We had two days to play with, beautiful weather and a list of topics the team wanted to cover in their training.  The first day was taken up with some full on nav in beautiful weather.  And yes I did want to be ice climbing on Ben Nevis, but it was nice to be wondering around some unfamiliar ground in the southern Cairngorms.  We saw 2 golden eagles, 2 Peregrine Falcons, Hare's, frog spawn, ravens and a buzzard.

The second day the groups broke down and Di and I took a team to the Pass of Ballater, a rock climbing crag to look at improvised rescue.  The day was more focused on personal climbing rather then big rescues which was great fun and I had to work hard to remember everything as Di and I still had our winter heads on.  Fortunately, our memories are good and we had a great day covering everything from tieing off a belay plate all the way through to rescuing a lead climber on a traverse.  Unfortunately no pics today but it was a stunning weekend.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Skiing in the Alps

Chadders doing what he does best....looking cool.

The trip started with a random meeting of Chadders in the airport, at 6am in the morning we didnt make much chat but we did agree we would Ski in the afternoon when we got to Chamonix.  After feeling a little more awake we grabed our kit and hit the Grand Montet, bumping into Andy Nelson, Mike Brownlow and Kenny Grant.  We had a great day hitting the off piste from the lifts and a perfect warm up for me.  
Ali and Kirby in a ping pong ball
From Cham, I hooked up with School friend Kirby and Ali for 3 days in the Ecrin.  Conditions started pretty wild but soon improved form white out and windy one day, clear but windy the second then calm and clear the third day.  Perfect!
Windy and Clear

Proper windy, no ridges today!

Clam and clear...climbing, ridges and steep descents on ski's.

Kirby leading up to the summit crest.
 From the Ecrin, we headed back to Chamonix and were based there for the rest of my trip.  From here I did several day tours seeking out some great snow, steep descents and some great summits.

Ali overcoming her fear of climbing

Ali in her element on skis

Touring with Andy, Mike and Brains

Abseil descent before skiing out

Touring from the Midi

Not much pow!


Monday, 2 March 2015

Norway Ice Climbing

Another brilliant week out in Aurland this week working for Moran Mountain.  I was working on the final week of courses in Norway for MM and it was starting to feel that we were just in the nick of time.  Unfortunately there was no ice low down but we found fantastic ice higher up from the fjords.  I was climbing with Rose and Phil, both fantastic clients in their own right.  Both strong and keen and willing for anything steep and solid.  All week we never climbed under WI4 unless they were leading, we climbed some good pitches of WI5 and found the limit of their abilities and set them up well for doing some great leads on the final day.  We visited new crag everyday and as the rest day was to be very snowy, I decided to go skiing rather than climb an ice route.  Dave Kenyon and I skied at Voss resort with some fantastic very Scottish weather.  Glad to be back in Scotland.  I'm just down from |Nevis range where I have had a morning ski and now I'm packing for the Alps.  Back on the 13th.