Monday, 6 July 2015

Gone climbing...

Off today for a month to Greenland.
On our last trip there a large lake and its uncrossable outflowing river blocked our way and sitting on a hillside observing this my friend Neal said: "Alan… do you know what we need? We need a sea plane".
Knowing Neal I should have been prepared for the email. "Fancy a trip to Greenland next year? I've got that sea plane!" So now we are taking a group from Worksop College to Eastern Greenland (this will be my 7th trip now- time flies) in the G-PBYA Miss Pick Up. In its time this glorious aircraft has been a submarine hunter, a photo recon aircraft, search and rescue plane and latterly a firefighter. Now its going to fly from Loch Lomond to Lewis to Akureryi to Contablepynt. I'm going out ahead by commercial flight but in Greenland we'll split the already freighted kit and the team in two and make the shorter hop to a lake landing (I'll also be flying home in her).
Plan A is to hunt for some unclimbed peaks in Scoresbyland the extreme southern end of the Stauning Alps but, like here in Scotland (where we may have white stuff falling atop Ben Nevis tomorrow!) the winter has been holding on late and our lake may still be ice covered. If this is the case we'll go south to  an area south of Paul Stern Land to land on the very lake that sparked the idea.
The Worksop team have done some training with me during the winter ( and and other logistics will be through Tangent Expeditions.
I'll be a wrench being away from my kids for so long now that they have their own personalities (and agendas for dad's time when present!) but it'll be great to feed my polarhula a little more.
So I'll be out of comms for a month. Back in early August to an already busy back half of the year!
The further lake as a landing site
 Cairngorm training for the team
 Miss Pick Up
Packing for the trip

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Volcanic temperatures at Ardnamurchan

Today I took Nathan and Ruairidh to the Ring Crags out at Ardnamurchan to work on R's climbing. It was hot. Its rare for it to feel almost too hot to climb in Scotland but today almost did it!
Great to see Guy and Alan out there sweating and smearing too.
Ruairidh led his first pitch of Severe and a good long pitch of VDiff and we showed him what he could do as he followed pitches of 4b, 5b, 5a, and 5b!
 Guy hanging out on Yir
 R leading his first Severe
 Bringing N up
 N with his feet dancing on nothing
 Guy on the excellent Greta Gabbro
 Alan following on Claude
 Nathan heading Up Pompeii
 Starting the run out
 R styling the seconding
 R leading on Wedge Buttress
 Doing it for himself
 Sweating gently
 Guy and Alan on Ring of Fire
 N reaching for the gear on Krakatoa
 Happiness is a good cam
Last route of the day

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

More Glencoe Mountaineering

Out with Ruairidh today. He's been developing his climbing and mountaineering and today we let him find the route to the base of North Buttress on Buachaille Etive Mor before getting on the sharp end as we moved on up. It was wet in the steep chimneys and we pitched some sections with R leading his share. We arrived on the summit in hot heavy mist and probed our way back down to the top of Great Gully Buttress with care. Together we soloed down each preparing 1 of the 2 abseil that make the a more straightforward scrambling descent. 1 heavy shower caught us just before we hit the car but now the sun is out and feeling powerful and I can see the top of Ben Nevis for the first time in ages.
 Ruairidh working on his route finding
 And upwards
 AMI and Rab a great partnership and the Sawtooth Hoody was great today!
 R cruising
 Last bit we pitched
 Dry with views!
 R sorting the second ab on Great Gully Buttress
Clouds seeming to reflect the u shaped glen below

Sunday, 28 June 2015

A proper mountain day

I'm spending the weekend with MIA Trainees Jess, Gordon and Lena. Today they wanted to look at what they will be assessed on on their mountain day. I offered them a pretty standard up and down day on the Buachaille or a 'serious' challenge. They opted for the latter…
We started up B Buttress on the West face of Aonach Dubh in Glencoe discussing some of the local botanical life on the way. After Gordon negotiated the team over the greasy steps to the middle ledge Lena took over and traversed the Middle Ledge into No.4 Gully. From the consequential but easy path along the ledge things got steeper, looser and damper in the bed of No.4 Gully. We paused to admire the amazing rock architecture of this quiet part of Glencoe (once upon a time the rock climbs here saw regular ascents now they are less frequented) before Gordon took over again to take the team up the slab, north along Rhyolite Romp and down into the Ampitheate at the top of Dinnertime Buttress. I jumped in for a short way to give an example of how I move a roped team around the mountain before handing things back to Lena for the last couple of slippery tiers as we dropped back down the Buttress.
The weather was on, off as were the waterproof trousers. We could often see sun over Ballachullish whilst we were being rained on but it was rarely too bad.
The guys stepped up to the mark with a day designed to stretch them all round. Despite not reaching a top its a 'proper' mountain day.
 Geared up, ready to go
 A rare spike on B Buttress
 Jess and Lena
 High above Glencoe
 Starting out on the Middle Ledge
 Lena on the sharp end
 Small ledge, big exposure
 In No. 4 Gully
 The 'spike' belay
 Lena on the rib
 Great scenery
 Jazz hands- Lena's Michael Jackson gloves (are these yours Max ;-)
 Big rock architecture
 That way!
 Gordon getting some friction
Last steps
 Top team!

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Dry and a little midgey but DRY

Today I was at Polldubh with Lena, Gordon and Jess who are all working towards MIA Assessment. They wanted a good long look at the problem solving aspects of the syllabus so we went up and down and occasionally round and round. We had rock fall, sea cliffs, fainting, knots, damaged ropes, dislocated shoulders, cramp, mountain crags,  sudden torrential rain storms, and unconscious people.
Actually it only trained once and although the midges were present the bright light, smudge and a breeze did the trick!
 Lena and Jess
Further assistance on the assisted hoist 
 Come on! She's not that heavy
 Cross 3
Hanging around