Monday, 22 September 2014

SPA Assessment day 1

Dry at Auchinstarry Quarry.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

In the shadows and the sun on Buachaille Etive Mor

Today I was out with Kris looking at some mountaineering rope work with his 2 willing pals acting as guinea pigs. The sun shone all day but never found us on Lagangarbh Buttress, a sign of how the year is advancing but the weather has been staying great!
 Chatting through how its going to work
 Immaculate rock
 Devil's Staircase
 Kris using the time to look ahead
 Coming up...
…and going down!

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Carpe Diem Sunshine and dry rock on Tower Ridge

Today I was working for Max Hunter with Louise and Magnus on Tower Ridge. The day was part of the Carpe Diem Zone and the pair were keen to seize the day by the proverbials and twist hard!
After a quick photo opportunity at Auchintee we were dropped round at the North Face for a brisk walk in. Tower Ridge was a busy as i've ever seen it but folk were cheery and polite. We directed a few folk onto the right route and 14 folk let us overtake (I was working hard to stay ahead of my pair).
The temperature was perfect, cool and dry with hit lifting away at all the right points.
We arrived on the summit to mingle with the 100s of charity walkers, many of whom had seen us crossing the Gap and came over to congratulate us and question our sanity. The quid pro quo for the day's guiding was a litter pick focussed on the summit (i'd already picked up used tissues, banana skins and orange peel on the ridge- sort it out folk, tropical fruit skins take years to break down up here). In only 10 minutes the guys had topped up their rucksacks with litter and we were on the way down via chats with the event marshals and a few more bottles, cans, receipts etc. picked up :-(
Nice to chat with Ali who was with an SNH colleague picking litter at the remains of the wall and clearing drainage lines too.
The path needs maintaining, the litter needs picking. I'm all for charity walks and folks experiencing the hills. I give back by clearing drains and picking litter (like last year on the Real 3 Peaks Challenge), be  nice to see the walkers or even charities themselves donate even £1 per walker or labour in kind too.
Top day on the hill and the ride down from the top car park was great fun too!
On the Ridge and ready to climb
Kindly allowed to overtake by the Bristol team- cheers!

Good lord that's a cheesy grin!

Happy scramblers
Going up
Tower Ridge stretching below
On the Great Tower
Hanging out
Magnus clearing up after ignorant mountaineers

The Gap 'sketchy but fun' was the verdict
 Topping out
 We climbed that
Quid pro quo

The next few shots are just for the snow patch observers:

Friday, 19 September 2014

Leading students

A day for West Highland College today coaching lead climbing for 4 keen students. Polldubh is soooo perfect for this and it was dry and midge free…. again :-)

Coaching for Kate

After a trip to the opticians and a stop to vote (good luck Scotland, either way) I headed up to Polldubh to meet Kate. She's interested in some trad coaching and this afternoon was a chance for us to climb together to see if we both think it would work. We climbed a couple of routes, 5 pitches in all talking about leading and the tactical, technical, physical and psychological components that make up skilful lead climbing. I suggested a couple of strategies for helping with her breathing and self talk and we agreed there is more I can contribute to her climbing… so more later!

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Serious fun on classic rock (and earth and vegetation)

It was the Freak's idea, Murko phoned to check I was up for it and being in need of a little adventure I said yes.
The Chasm "One of the most enjoyable gully climbs in Scotland and highly recommended. The length and modest grade should not be underestimated". Which explains why we didn't opt for an early start and I had a second breakfast of bacon roll at Murko's.
Lovely day

"Why are you hiding in the back of a gully in this lovely weather?" Jane's question was logical but the lure of a return to the Chasm overcame any logic. The last time I went in there I was left clinging to a couple of tufts of grass soloing low on the route as a ledge peeled off the crag and fell into the gully below :-(
The walk in is short and soon we were soloing up the first few small obstacles in the gully bed and then on the fern covered walls, rainbows formed by water splattering over chockstones.
Here we go!
Then it got a little more serious, the Freak putting his money where his mouth is and leading up the first steep crack to outflank a chockstone the size of a large camper van.
The first 'proper' pitch for us

More similar fun ensued, the Red Slab pitch a particular lowlight- wet loose and with a verdant coating of moss. Murko untied and sunbathed whilst I watched The Freak at work.
Contemplating the next pitch
Red Slab

When it was my turn I unleashed my secret weapon, an old thick pair of wool socks over my shoes- old school!
Going old school- my secret weapons!
Murko traverses off of the Red Slab

At the fork we crossed a huge pile of debris swept down by the winter snows, unfortunately much of it still covered the rock (which turned out to be not much more solid).
Tiptoeing past the debris covered shattered rock

Still the Freak's block of leads and as we seconded carefully I had a moment of deja vu. Slow motion slithering as the ledge of gravelly mud I was standing on began to slither downwards. Murko behind me stepped aside as I escalatored down until looking him eye to eye. And stopped.
The freak leading and standing on the ledge that collapsed with me on it

Sniggers. Lucky the big perched block above us didn't come down with me. Murko back heeled it in passing an it crashed to the bed of the Chasm scaring the Freak on belay above.
Sniggering and surviving

Pitch follows pitch, some steeper some not.
More climbing and even some solid gear

The steeper 100ft Pitch

More sniggering and bantering up to the Converging Walls. I take a shower on belay in the back of the cavern refreshing in the heat of the afternoon. Murko leans across and climbs the polished holds out of the dampness and onto a small ledge. One side overhangs and both look like they have been sanded by aeons of water and debris from above. Murko is climbing well bridging at his limit.
But an air weight only brass micro and much prodding with a nut key to produce a poor cam placement are followed by more impressive, grunting contortions as he seeks a way off of the ledge.

The high point

Even more impressive is his grumbling retreat bringing the gear with him (the micro fell out under his glare). The Freak has had a call from his wife ill on Skye. Its late afternoon. Peering into the rock amphitheatre  above its a long way to go. Murko has launched himself upwards in an outflanking manoeuvre and is holding on, standing on and gearing on a detached flake looking grimly determined to pretend it is solid. I glance at my watch and ask the question? Man points to be gained, work to be prepared for, last orders of coffee and cake at the cafe. A route to come back for… maybe… the rat fed starter and mains, but maybe not dessert...
In the mean time the banter, gossip, excuses and recriminations continue through the laughter and cake back to Fort William!