Thursday, 25 May 2017

Ossian's Cave

Brian and Martin all primed for take two

Last year I was approached by Martin Ross and his friend Brian as they had a burning desire to climb into the heavily vegetated but iconic feature in Glencoe, Ossians Cave.  As I had never climbed it, i was keen.  Last year I went and had a look on my day off and sussed it out.  On our attempt last year, both Martin and Brian were unable to join me in the cave as the climbing was too difficult but swore to come back again better prepared.

A wee approach abseil

Brian reaching the first belay, past the crux
So this year they came back and they were much more prepared.  I suggested we went a little earlier (May rather than June) and if you're thinking of climbing into Ossian's Cave then I would do it before the vegetation becomes waist high!
Brain at the top of the second pitch

Also Brian and Martin were noticeably fitter but neither had a great deal of climbing experience under their belts.  We lucked out with bone dry the ascent was on. We came in via Dinnertime Buttress and Rhyolite Romp to get warmed up and made our way down to the cave.  I arrived at the base and clipped everyone to the in-situ peg at the base of Ossian's Cave and then climbed up the first pitch.  Mostly unprotected steep grass with dome dubious and slimy rock saw me at the belay.  The in-situ rope is core shot in many places but was used (yes - a point or two of aid) to both hold onto and to clip a runner into.  I also used an ice axe which was very useful.  The 1st belay is good.  An in-situ wire and peg and can be backed up with a purple Camelot and a bite of the in-situ rope.

Unfortunately Martin reached his limit climbing up and opted to be lowered down but Brian made a good ascent and joined me in the Cave.  The top pitch is easier and slightly better protected (Large wire and a better quality in-situ rope) and the belay is two expansion bolts...equalised and extended with all sorts.  We found the wee box, signed it and headed back down in two abseils (2x60m ropes).  It could be done in one but would have savage rope drag.
The tin

Brian ready for abseil


It was a nice day so we came the long way back

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Skye peaks and rock

Andy standing back as Ryan gets to grips with the damp rock

It feel like my spring time on Skye has come to an end very quickly.  I think it has just passed in a blink of an eye in the amazing weather we had in the last couple of weeks.  This weekend has marked the last Skye work for me this season and it was great to finish it working with Andy and his colleague Ryan.

Andy trying to push over boulders
Andy sharing his extensive knowledge of the local area....mist, mist and more mist
Ryan has recently jumped on the Munro bandwagon and as he has no climbing experience, he was keen for some able hands to take him up.  Andy, who has completed the munro's twice, was keen to come along for a day out and follow it up with a day climbing at Elgol.

Chilling on a ledge on the Inn Pinn waiting for the team ahead
Summit, ready for abseiling
The weather was poor on Saturday but we made our way into the Cuillin and ascended Sgurr Mhiccoinnich, which was Ryan's first Cuillin peak.  We followed this up with an ascent of the In Pinn, nipping in between two groups.  With very limited vis and starting to get a little wet, we decided enough was enough and saved the other peaks for another day.

Andy cruising Jamie Jampot
Ryan couldn't join Andy and I on our second day.  Andy and I chose to have a day at Elgol and get some routes in before the rain came.  Andy was super keen for leading so it was a day where he did more leading than me...which never happens....maybe I should be paying him!?  He did a great job guiding me up Jamie Jampot (VS 4c), I then led us up PickPocket (E15b) and then Andy did a brilliant lead on Hairy Mary (HVS 4b), a route which has been on his radar for quite a while.  A top effort by Andy and great for him to get it ticked off.  Unfortunately the rain set in and we called it a day but all in all, a good couple of days.  Cheers fellas!
Andy cruising Hairy Mary

A brilliant route, a must do at Elgol

Happy with his lead...first climbing day of the summer for Andy.

Thursday, 18 May 2017


2nd night, what a place to bivi up

A special place I have always wanted to visit but it always seemed so far away from home.  This time the journey started from when I picked up Lou from Skye meaning only a 3 hour drive to the campsite on Sheigra beach.  A 2 minute walk in to the closest crag mean it was Ideal for a 2 day stint.
Tatties in the fire, venison on the BBQ

 On the morning of our first day it was a wee bit drizzly, as forecast so we had a lazy morning before heading off to the 2nd Geo for an afternoon of climbing.  A superb steep wall of Lewisian Gneiss meant a wide array for brilliant routes were climbed.  As the sun faded we headed back to the beach for campfire and bbq scenes.

Lou cruising Under the Pink (E1 5b)***

Making sure I don't get pumped on Monkey Man (E3 5c)****
 On our second day we were up in good time to climb before a walk out to Sandwood Bay.  We started off at 'In Between the Geos' before heading to the 1st Geo for a route.  There were some other teams out today which was nice to see and can't wait to get back.  Unfortunately no pictures from the first day.  Can't wait to go back.

Lou trying not to get pumped on Monkey Man

The finishing jugs always bring a smile

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Cioch Nose, Cuillin Ridge Traverse, Tower Ridge, Castle Ridge and more

Sean on the Cioch Nose on Day 1
 I'm sure you're all up to speed with how brilliant the weather has been in the highlands.  Sean, who is up for 8 days of climbing in Scotland, timed it perfectly.  Kicked off with a sunny ascent of the Cioch Nose (VD)**** in Applecross.  A superb way to start the week and get his head back into big boot climbing.
With the forecast we decided to get stuck into our Cuillin Ridge Traverse (VD)**** right away.  We teamed up with my good friend Andy and his client for a sociable traverse and a great bivi.  We opted for the boat in from Elgol and Sean and I climbed all the Munro's on the main ridgeline as well as all the technical climbs except Naismith's on Am Basteir.  Success all round and a great stint in the North-West.

Andy, Ali and Sean at the 1st Munro of the ridge
Andy on the Inaccessible Pinnacle
Late evening before the bivi, a great time to be scrambling
After a day off to rest and recover from the Cuillin Ridge, we continued our 8 day stint on the West Coast based in Lochaber.
Our first day we started off on Tower Ridge (D)**** which we shared with Max and his clients.  From the summit we descended Ledge Route (Grade 2)**** ticking off two of the classic Ben Nevis Ridges.  I wonder when we will complete them all?
For a change of scenery, Sean and I headed to Glencoe for some more scrambling.  As the weather was a little mixed we opted for scrambling rather than climbing, Agag's can wait.  Instead we climbed up Broad Buttress (Grade 3)*** and descended Great Gully Buttress (grade 1/2)* for a nice round of continuous scrambling and an opportunity for Sean to do a spot of leading.

Sean seeking for the best holds
Happy as Larry (whoever Larry is?)
 With all the good weather we have had, it had to come to an end.  Sean was sold on the idea of trying ice climbing so we headed to the Ice Factor for the day for refrigerated climbing and also some rock climbing coaching to help improve Seans technique for when we climb outside.  As always in there, a day fueled by coffee and cake and enough climbing to make your arms feel like soggy, rolled up newspapers.
Always smiles when it's dry
For our final day we opted for a slightly shorter day and another classic Ben Nevis ridge.  Castle Ridge (Grade 3)*** was a good choice as it's a shorter route and Sean wasn't keen to prolong the soaking we were due as the weather came in.  Fortunately, we were through all the technical climbing before the heavens opened and as they did we opted for a quick and easy descent down the tourist route.

Sean getting techy

Brace yourself....this hill is about to get very wet!
A very successful week for Sean with the highlight being the Cuillin Ridge in great style.  With a busy summer ahead, it is great to kick off with some great weather, good company and some great climbing.  Two more Ben Nevis Ridges to do.  Right, time to have a couple of days off.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Skye Wall and Stairway to Heaven

Boat in, climb out.

Life as a guide take me all over the country and abroad so I have to make early plans if I want to see friends and go climbing.  So months ago, Murdoch and I planned and hoped we could get out climbing.  The weekend finally came round and surprise! suprise!  the weather was perfect.  We could do anything and not get bothered by seepage, rain or midgies.  As always, Murdoch has a plan but we finally agreed on going up to Blaven to climb Stairway to Heaven (E5 6a) on Day one.  Yes it's in the shade but a very interesting route with a very 'adventurous' feel to it.  We bumped into Donald on the drive down so he joined in for some laughter on the belays...not so funny when Murdoch accidentally pissed on us from his belay! :(
Stairway to Heaven has a crux traverse with not a great deal of gear.  With a massive swing potential and a very high risk of both our ropes being chopped we opted for a back rope which made it slightly more comfortable.  Maybe a route best done in a pair rather than a 3!
The view from the crag

Day two was one we had been looking forward to for a while.  Murdoch wanted to climb Dave Birketts Skye Wall (E7/8 6b/c).  Fortunately with this route, it is a plumb line so if I fell off at least im not going to swing.  Donald came along also to help with carrying some kit, some rigging and took some photos.  The rest was up to Murdoch.  And unsurprisingly, he made quick work of it.  Making it look quite easy, not even needing a shake out.  A truly stunning piece of rock on immaculate gabbro made some a superb route in a superb location.  It was a privilege to climb it with Murdoch as I know he had wanted to do it for quite a while.  Just for record, I did shake out on it...I even did some 2 handed shaking out!  We travelled in on the boat from Elgol and returned to Glen Brittle via An Dorus.  A long but brilliant day.
Me seconding the 1st Pitch (E6 6b).  Photo:Donald King

On another note, huge admiration to Caff (James Mchaffie) who on-sighted it!
Murdoch cruising the main pitch (E7 6b/c).  Photo:Donald King

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Skye Delight

Brian getting to grip on day 1
Looking towards our next objective
After a mixed season of winter climbing and skiing, this week has been a dream come true.  I have been based up in Lochcarron heading things up for Moran Mountain as Martin is away in the Himalayas.  I was teamed up with Brian who was hungry for a Cuillin Ridge traverse as his attempt 2 years ago was thwarted by foul weather.  His luck came in tenfold this week.
Mighty fine
Brian and his ascent route
Our first day was a training day, an opportunity to practice the crucial skills for the Ridge so we climbed Pinnacle Ridges and traversed over Am Basteir and abseiled down the tooth.  Everything was bone dry, the views were far and wide and this was the 'worst weather' of the week!

Day two we had a slightly restful day rock climbing in Applecross before an evening of lectures and packing before we headed back to Skye.

Day 3+4 we made our traverse.

And we are off!

Moving well over the Southern End
Into the mid section.  TD Gap and In Pinn done.

Another hour to go!

Perfect ridge scrambling

Mint evening

The view from the bivi after I had done my water run
Brian feeling 'awesome'.  The overused word that we used now and again.

  We walked up from Glen Brittle and agreed that we wanted to do all the Munro's and all the technical sections of the ridge,  have a big first day and a shorter second day in tie for lunch and beers at the Slig.  Our first day was 11 hours in which we arrived at Bealach na Glaic Moire for a stunning sunset and a brilliant bivi.  An early start saw us on our final Munro, Sgurr nan Gillean at 1pm before we ran down to the pub for 3 well earned pints.
Evening sunset
Day 2 objective

Scotland is special

Top of Am Bastier i think...

Done and dusted!  Well done Brian!  

Our final day of the course we teamed up with Jeannie who was on the rock climbing course.  We all climbed at Stone Valley crag on immaculate gneiss.  It was a good rest for the legs and a good opportunity for Brian to see what all the fuss with rock climbing is all about.
Jeannie on the sharp end

Jeannie cruising some 3 star classics

Brian in the zone

Brian trying hard

Jeannie seconding the HVS

Superb week with great company and a pleasure to be working with a great team - Robin and Kev for Moran Mountain.