Thursday 27 September 2007

I've guided Davy and Heather on Agags Groove and on Boomerang Gully in winter. This time out we decided to start getting them to take over some of the responsibility for themselves. A cool but quick drying day at Polldubh saw us climb Styx Buttress Right Wall (V Diff), The Gutter (Diff) and Pinnacle Ridge (Severe) whilst practising gear placements, belay building, belaying leaders and seconds. Heather was ever the lady with a tissue handy at all times. After our first trip out one of my pictures of her ended up on a wall in the gents toilets at the Ice Factor (on a course brochure!). This time maybe it'll be Davy with his tree 'wig' for the ladies!

Elaine and Jonathon were out with me for three days to move towards lead climbing on their own. Our first day (16 Sept) was particularily wet but we spent it at Polldubh climbing Hangover Butress Left Edge (the first route recorded at the crags), Cross 3 (a spectacular route for a single pitch Diff - a rising traverse with the exposure doubling with every move) and the rainy day favourite - the Gutter. Withme leading we focused on belay builidng, runner placements and lead and second belaying. For day two we drove out to Ardnamurchan - the west coaster's secret weapon for dodging the rain. We had sunny ut breezy weather. We warmed up with me leading Krakatoa (Severe) with the steep 4b finish. After that the guys led An Toiseach (V Diff) before following me up Greta Gabbro (VS 4c). Jonathon finished with a great lead of a single pitch Severe. For our third and final day we followed the forecast to Kingussie. Fresh snow on the tops meant we had a greasy day at Kingussie (where the gear is harder to come by) before finishing early to go for a hot drink at The Ice Factor where we spent some time consolidating on what we had done.

N Buttress and Dunkeld

Martin was keen to learn about mountaineering ropework so we went to North Butress on Buachaille Etive Mor. The varied angled ground of the route gave us plenty of scope for looking at routefinding and different techniques. Rich was looking to practise for his MIA assessment so I let him do most of the work!

Next day Lorenzo and I let Kenny and Rich use us a guinea pigs as we practised multi-pitch rope work on routes and Dunkeld.

Glen Nevis and Borrowdale

Nukshi and Simon had a dry day in glen Nevis for their intorduction to outdoor rock on 7th Sept. We did many of the old favourites and the midges were kept mostly at bay by the wind.
At the weekend Jane and I were at her parents' 40th wedding anniversary celebration but managed to stop at Shepherds long enough to do Chamonix and CMD.


Since picking up a knee injury this year I've been doing a lot more mountainbiking. As well as our local trails at Leanachan and Ballachullish we've been to Grizedale Forest in the Lakes, Learnie Red Rocks on The Black Isle and Wolftrax at Laggan and I've done numerous trips from Fort William to Kinlochleven over the West Highland Way and the big loop from Kinlochleven-Luibeilt-Leacach-Spean-Fort William-Kinlochleven. On the first of September Karl had his stag do at Grizedale and we did 2 days biking (amongst other things) led by the 'Leader of the Pack' in full Elvis regalia.

Back to work :-)

Back in Scotland I had a great 2 days out with Jen and her father Derek. Jen is a keen young climber from edinburgh and she and her father came up to try a liilte outdoor trad rock. On the first day we did a few routes in glen Nevis (Styx Butress Right Wall, Pinnacle ridge and Three Pines) and the second day we had great wehter on Agags Groove on the Buachaille.

Back in the UK

We had a few days hols left so we stayed with Jane's family in Keswick and managed to snatch some rock climbing at Wallowbarrow crag between the showers. We also got a little climbing done in Borrowdale before heading back north.

Excursions and end of trip.

From Leopard Mountain we went to the coast and took a boat trip as Jane had never seen Hippos and Crocs before and visited another nearby game park to drive around. From here we travelled North to Waterval Boven - one of South Africas biggest climbing areas where we did a little sport climbing and rented mountain bikes for a half days cycle across the veldt. a superb trip.

Leopard Mountain

Leopard Mountain was our little bit of luxury for the trip and we certainly chose well. With our own private hut with king size bed,balcony, hammock and fantastic view from the escarpment over the bush we were really impressed with this place. The service was superb (could really teach our British hospitality trade a thing or two) with nothing to much trouble. Breakfast was enormous and we had the option of one or both of morning and evening game drives (to the river to look at game tracks or a high point to watch sunset). A hige drum was beat to announce the 5 course meal for dinner (great selection of wines too). We didnt want to leave! The staff taught us all about the Funnleweb Spider and the Nyala antleope that doesnt fight with its antlers but dances as a mating ritual - best dancer wins the girl and showed us Leopard, Elephant and Porcupine tracks among others. we went for a game walk with a local ranger who had a fantastic knowlege of the bush.

On the road in South Africa

We went to The White Umfolozi river for some trad rock. There was a school party in residence at the nice huts the farmer has built for climbers to use whilst staying there. We clipped a few bolts too and enjoyed the sun after the ice and snow of the 'Burg. The sign about the objective hazards we might encounter raised a smile!

After 2 nights here we travelled through Hluhluwe National Park (seeing Rhino, Elephant, Giraffe, Vervet Monkeys, Baboons and many antelope) to get to Leopard Mountain a private game reserve we were to stay at for a few days.


Next day we were up for a bigger climb again so we dropped down the Makaza couloir to climb back out. The wind sent little 'snow devils' of spindrift down the gully as we climbed back out. The sun had reached this ice so it was a little less iron-like. Jane led the final pitch at about Scottish V. we enjoyed that so much that we abed back in and I climbed one of the alternated finshes which was in the shade and gave me the hardest pitch of ice i've ever climbed as I bridged up between 2 columns before pulling out right - excellent!

Next day we were out of time so we walked out (or cralwed through the deeper snow patches) and retraced our steps bumping into some of the Eland; the enormous antelope the park is well known for.