Spent a few hours this morning building an appetite for my turkey. Jane and I walked into Coire nan Lochan. The weather started clear and there were a dozen or so people headed into the Lost Valley. Lots of evidence of old water ice on the path in but it was defintiely thawing. I nipped up Dorsal Arete - having it to myself was a novelty! There were blobs of ice and some very firm snow and turf on the ridge. Descending Broad Gully I met a lone mountaineer making rapid progress up the hard snow there (there was a little isolated windslab near the top but not enough to concern me). Boomerang gully was bare and turfy at the nearrows and the steeeper butresses looked a little black and bare to be justifiable. It will be warmer for a few days now but the colder weather will return at the end of the week.
Tuesday, 25 December 2007
Monday, 17 December 2007
It was a stunning day on Ben Nevis today and the temperature inversion meant that whilst it remained sub zero in Fort William the temperatures up near the summit were much milder. Jamie B and I walked in to Coire na Ciste this morning. We spotted another pair heading into Number 2 Gully so we headed for Raeburn's Easy Route. There is a fair amount of ice around but very little outside of the main gully lines climbable, the snow, where you can find it, is firm after the thaw and refreeze. Towards the end of the route we broke up left and found a couple of good pitches to give a line that went at about III,4. The ice was brittle on the surface but hollow underneath and there was water flowing behind the ice 10m from the plateau. Popping out into the evening light we were rewarded to amazing views. We passed by the summit and descended Coire Leis (patchy snow, ice routes forming but not quite complete on the Brenva Fave).
Saturday, 15 December 2007
Al took Dave and Gerry out onto Buachaille Etive Mor for a days mountaineering. The guys are fit keen mountainbikers keen to develop their skills in the mountains. The snow of last week has largely disappeared and Curved Risge was almost completely bare. There was a lot of deep, soft, wet snow at the top of Coire na Tualich to be waded and slid down though! We managed to look at some simple ropework, direct belays and placing gear and the use of the boot and ice axe on small snow patches near the summit.
Lets hope for a quick return to the great mixed climbing conditions soon!
Wednesday, 12 December 2007
Over the weekend I was at Glenmore Lodge at the provider's seminar for Mountain Leader Training Scotland as an SPA provider and on Sunday was learning all about the new Climbing Wall Supervisors Award. On Monday I led Derek up Opening Break (IV,5) on the Mess of Pottage over in the Cairngorms. On Tuesday Kenny and I started up the winter Version of Genie (V,7) in Coire an t Sneachda. A routefinding error saw us wander onto Salvation (V,7) which finally defeated us and we headed back to the coire floor still happy after a good pitch or two of hard mixed climbing. A bit warmer today and the crags are stripping back again but its been a good start to the winter climbing season.
Several parties have been in the Ice Factor asking me about conditions locally and in the Cairngorms. Its worth noting that whilst the current spate of hard mixed routes have come in and gone out of condition quite quickly, many easier routes (especially gullys) need more of a build up to avoid grovelling on loose rock that there isnt yet enough buildup of snow and ice to cover or hold together. It only takes a day like today of thaw conditions to strip of a lot of the apparently healthy covering of early season snow so be careful out there.
Via Valencianos on the stunning Penon D'Uchaf was a nice change from bolt clipping. This long route (trad gear but bolt belays) sports a very polished 3rd pitch but we did it on a pleasant cool day. The 'sport' via feratta was continuously steep but a great alternative for a non climbing day. With a big group of friends the week worked out cheaply for food, accomodation and transport but word of good early season climbing conditions made me keen to return to Scotland......
Although I've climbed all around the world I actually havent done anything on mainland Europe except ice climbing in Norway, until now...
A dozen friends (and four children) took a villa in Javea and spent a week climbing near Calpe. We spent days at Toix, Gandia, Orla and on the Penon dUchaf. Jane and I also spent an afternoon on a fun via ferrata above Benidorm on the Ponoch.
Saturday, 3 November 2007
For the weekend I was working for Glasgow Academy who have an excellent outdoors programme of activities. Saturday saw myself and 3 students making a rapid ascent of Curved Ridge in, again rather wet conditions, before heading down to the hut at Lagangarbh for some excellent cake. Sunday saw torrential early morning downpours in Glencoe and 3 brave souls went off to the Zig zags on gear Aonach whilst the rest of us went to the Ice Factor for some indoor rock and ice.
Last Friday Andy and I were on Curved Ridge. We climbed to the top in torrential rain and abseiled off Crowberry Tower. On the descent the paths were doing good impressions of streams but Andy's jacket got a chance to show how well water beaded off it. Even though I do this route many times a year doing it with different people and in different conditions keeps it fresh and interesting for me and of course its usually the first time for each client I'm out with. Andy is an ex miner so we chatted about Andy Cave's (another ex miner now climbing Guide) excellent book about his climbing and his background, 'Learning to Breathe'.
Wednesday, 24 October 2007
Neil and I went to the Wst Face of Aonach Dubh to do B to F route on Saturday. This scramble ascends the buttress to the right of Dinnertime Buttress and traverses across the middle ledge (the fault line between the andesite and rhyolite layers) to No. 4 Gully. A shallow rib allows the gully to be climbed to the upper ledge where you can keep to the crest of F buttress or double back across towards Dinnertime to escape. From there we carried on over Stob Coire nan Lochain and Bidean before descending by Coire nam Beith. The exposure on middle ledge alone is worth doing this scramble for. Its never difficult but feels a really wild place to be. Its been a moslty dry week here in lochaber and has warmed up a little since last weeks dusting of snow so there's still plenty of mountaineering to be done before winter arrives!
Thursday, 18 October 2007
Mike, Neil and John and I went out yeaterday. the original plan was Tower Ridge on the Ben but after sitting in a queue of traffic on the A82 north of Corran Ferry for half an hour (the road was blocked for several hours after another accident on this terrible section) we cut our losses and went to the Buachaille.
The guys are all competent scramblers and lead single pitch VS so we decided to use an ascent of D Gully Butress to practise a range of mountaineering skills. We looked at different types of direct and semi-indirect belays and moving together as ropes of 2 and 3 and carried on up Curved Ridge from the top of the route. After a quick ascent and abseil from the top of Crowberry Tower we passed over the summit in a snow flurry. The weather had been pretty kind to us - the sun being quite low in the sky to the south painted the Buachaille's shadow clearly on the moor below and we had the evidence of rainbows in the distance to show the many showers that were missing us! The guys had all bought matching jackets for the occasion- very fetching lads :-)
Friday, 12 October 2007
Day off today and although it started damp the day turned into a scorcher for October. I went with Jamie B to meet a friend, Robin, at Craig Y Barns for a few climbs. We warmed up on Holly Tree Groove (VDiff) and the Creep (Severe) before Robin (who hasnt climbed for a while) reminded himself what its all about by leading Kesterl Crack (Severe). Jamie B took us up Springboard, a nice VS with barely adequate protection, which I hadnt done before. I finished the day with The Groove, one of the brace of VS 5as that all start off by pulling through a roof beside a (now aging) peg. The only problem with the day was the heat! We almost ran out of layers to remove!