Monday 23 April 2007

Bedford CCF Hillwalkers

Just spent a great 5 days with Bedford CCF walkiing in the hills around Glencoe and Lochaber. We had fine spring weather for the most part and being spring the midges arent out yet! On the first day we climbed Buachaille Etive Beag (both peaks), on the second we did the pleasant scramble up the North ridge of Stob Ban and contiued to Sgurr an Iubhair. The 3rd day was a little damper so we crossed the Devil's Staircase (via Stob Mhic Mhartuin, the peak to the west) and then we prepped for our overnight trip. My group left Mamore Lodge above Kinlochleven and headed past Loch Eilde Mor and Loch eilde Beag. We had lunch in the sun at the ruined lodge at Luibeilt before continuing to camp beside the lovely bothy at Staonaig. The next day we headed east to Loch Treig and then north through the Lairig Leacach before returning to the hostel for a well earnt meal.

Sunday 8 April 2007

An unexpected day off and some quick phonecalls saw a late start for Nick and I heading up the Ben (left the car at 1.30pm). This meant that we reached the bottom of Tower Scoop (III) just as everyone else was descending. We had the 2 pitches of the scoop to ourself and the ice was fat (although Nick got a start when his first swing of the axe produced a jet of water - the sun had melted enough snow to allow water to run behind the ice. After just over an hour we were ready for the main event - Smiths Route (V) a steep sustained route at the top of Ben Nevis. I had the shorter and easier first pitch to belay on screws in a small ice cave, then Nick led on. The second ice pitch is steeper and he had an awkward move to make right to get onto the upper rank (I could here distant exclamations from above my head and then a query about whether I had still got the a few extenders from the last pitch - cue cursing from Nick). Following the second pitch I found it very steep, partly because of the amount of travel it had obvioxly had in the last week! An excellent route and we topped out into a deep red sunset.

Late season on the Ben has been awesome. I started the end of season climbing with an ascent of Menage a Trois (V,6) on Beinn an Dothaidh with Henry. After an easy first pitch he led a short (10m) awkward wall to get into the main groove. Then I had the 45m crux pitch of successively harder steps and bulges to overcome. The gear is excellent (its a very well protected pitch) and the climbing sustained and strenuous. A final 45m pitch at about III feels easy after whats gone before. We were lucky to catch the route in superb condition. The next day we were sampling the ice on Thompsons Route (IV) on Ben Nevis which has one sustained ropelength. followed by 2 easier pitches.

Next up my wife Jane and I spent the night at the bottom of Observatory Gully on Ben Nevis in order to beat the hordes on a Saturday morning. We watched another party climb it overnight and got a good fright from a big rockfall at 2am. Then I had to lead the first pitch by head torch to stay ahead of the crowds (led by Jon and Billy - locals I know from The Ice Factor). The route was in grand condition if a little chopped about. Jane made a great lead of the awkward second pitch, her second V and only about her 8th route of the season. That probably goes some way to explaining how wide her eyes were when I reached her belay. This uber-classic gully line sees climbers travel from around the world to climb it because of its position in ice climbing history.


Welcome to my new blog. On here you'll find descriptions of what i've been up to recently, climbing and instructing wise and anything else I feel like putting on!

I work as the Centre Manager at The Ice Factor in Kinlochleven but also do climbing instruction work for other providers as well as advising The Glasgow Climbing Centre and Transition Extreme in Aberdeen on safety matters. I'm in process of writing a website for my own Instruction Company , bear with me whilst its under construction!