Saturday 30 August 2008

Kingussie Crag

Kingussie today for a little ropework and leading revision. We revisited belay construction and anchor placement, retrievable abseils and protecting them and the guys both managed to lead a Hard Severe for the first time. We travelled from the west in a successful search for dry rock and shred the crag with Jamie B (also working for the Ice Factor today) and Tamsin who was working for Glenmore Lodge. Loooks like another unsettled week ahead - I'm back out on Monday on Ben Nevis, here's hoping for a little sunshine.

Friday 29 August 2008

SPA Assessment

I was runninng an SPA Assessment for the last 2 days in the central belt of Scotland. We went east from Glasgow to Traprain Law in search of dry rock on thursday and then we were at Neilston Quarry today. Congratulations to the new SPA holders!

Tuesday 26 August 2008

Slightly damper - on Tower Ridge

The rain wasnt quite as torrential this morning so Willie and I headed for Ben Nevis. We paused to admire the CIC building site - there is some quality craftsmanship going into the new 'wing'. We saw Alan Kimber and his client stopping off for a brew on their way to Ledge Route but with a forecast of worsening weather we pressed on to Tower Ridge. It wasn't too windy and although the rock was wet it never rained too hard on us. Despite the mist and the moisture it is difficult not to enjoy a day out on this cracking ridge - the rock was a little greasy but the glimpses off of the side of the ridge made it all quite atmospheric. The poor visibility didn't seem to deter the hordes on the tourist path, following the line of carefully crafted cairns across the plateau, either. It also seemed to be a day for dog walking as we passed 6 on the way down- we made it to the car just in advance of the heavier rain.

Monday 25 August 2008

A touch damp

Willie is a returning client back for a couple of days climbing and mountaineering. This morning it was raining hard in Lochaber so we used the walls in the Ice Factor to practise some ropework with the promise of a brighter afternoon ahead. So after lunch we went to Buachaille Etive Mor to put things into practise. We made an ascent of D Gully Butress and crossed onto Curved Ridge which we descended in lighter showers - and we put a few scratches on Willie's shiney rack!

Saturday 23 August 2008

Skye for the day

Jamie and I made a day run from Kinlochleven to the Cuillin today. the weather was kind with just a gentle midge proof breeze and a wee bit of very light rain round the middle of the day. The rain wasnt enough to make the gabbro feel insecure and we had a great day's rock climbing in Coire Lagan. We started with cioch west and then headed on up the nose of the Cioch itself to have a spot of lunch and watch a pair of climbers on Integrity. Every time i've been there before there has been a queue so I'd never done this 2 pitch classic before and it was 10 years since Jamie had so we made that our last route of the day giving us 8 cracking pitches on one of the best mountain crags anywhere. It was one of those days where you dont want to come down so we headed on up over Sgur Alasdair and down the stone shoot before making the drive back home.

Friday 15 August 2008

Still, damp and midgeeeeeeey

Heather and Davey were back for a day's mountaineering today. We started the day in heavy rain and changed our plans to go to the Ben to a trip to the Buachaille. Alarm bells were ringing in the car park when the midges outside were coming close to blocking out the daylight!!

We kitted up in the vehicle and headed for Lagangarbh buttress in a downpour but the swarms followed us as we climbed. I'v been coming to the west of Scotland for 23 years and I've never been midged that bad at over 700m! The midge forecast was spot on at category 5 but I'd hoped that there would be some breeze - a forlorn hope as it turned out. Its hasn't been that bad for culicoides impunctatus this year and i'd taken my midge net out of my sack - a mistake I've rectified tonight. Heather had a midge net but Davey and I were breathing, spitting and blinking the little blighters the whole way up. Nice scramble though - very good rock and didn't feel much above grade 2 even in the wet - but we didnt hang around today, climbing the route and beating a retreat to the Ice Factor to do a little training indoors!

Wednesday 13 August 2008

Rock Climbing

Today Chuck, Guy and I went for a little staff training day. Both of them are instructors at The Ice Factor and will do their MIA Training this autumn. Today we decided to explore a new crag (Far East Buttress on Aonach Dubh) and run them through some of the ropework considerations for teaching and guiding 2 clients at a time. After the last week or so of damp weather in the West of Scotland the rock was wet and it was obvious from the odd slimey hold that this crag was less visited than the Quiver Rib/Archers/Eve's Arete area but the climbs were still good. We cleared a little loose rock from Farewell Arete (V Diff, 3 pitches), Nirvana Wall (Severe, 3 pitches - the last excellent) and Rough Slab (also Severe, 1 good long pitch with a grand finish). Overall this crag is well worth the extra 15 minutes walk - good blocky and rough rhyolite which only needs a couple of days to dry.

Friday 8 August 2008

Tower Ridge with Will

Today I met Will who had won a day out with The Ice Factor through Red Letter Days. We talked through the options and Will (who is taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh Awards scheme and has done some indoor climbing) fancied the sound of a mountaineering day. With a fine forecast we headed for Ben Nevis and Tower Ridge. Will has a long pair of legs and we set a good pace to the CIC hut. The builders working on the extension were hard at work and enjoying the dry weather. On the ridge we saw climbers on Observatory Ridge and Raeburns ArĂȘte/NE Buttress. We passed the site of the impressive Echo Wall Dave Macleod’s hard new route and overtook a party of 3 on the way to a lunch stop on the Great Tower. We provided the usual entertainment for the hordes on the summit as we crossed Tower Gap. Once on the plateau we headed to the top for Will’s first ever visit before our descent. A pleasant day out in dry weather.

Tuesday 5 August 2008

Romping on rhyolite in Glencoe

Jane kindly gave me a half day pass today so I went for a wander in Glencoe. I started with Barn Wall on the East Face of Aonach Dubh; this is a nice open Grade III scramble on good clean rock. Crossing Aonach Dubh I dropped down the top of Dinnertime Butress until I hit the traversing line of Rhyolite Romp. This Grade I scramble takes advantage of the geology of the West face of this ridge using the breaks between layers of andesite and rhyolite to weave a massive zig zag up the face. I headed along to the top of E butress first, to admire the rock architecture of the ampitheatre there, and then retraced my steps. Recrossing Dinnertime Butress I headed North and East following the narrow, damp terrace with great views across the Glen. After about 800m I reached the imposing rock wall where Yo Yo hangs next to Ossians Cave. The cave (a contender as the birthplace for the 3rd century Scottish bard) is actually the spot where an enormous block has falen out of a dyke leaving a hole with a 45 degree floor approached by a truly grotty spot of Diff climbing (if you can find it under the vegetation and water) that has been the scene of several accidents. The cave is the scene of the first recorded 'climb' in Glencoe by local shepherd Neil Marquis in 1868. Rumour has it that he wasnt the brightest character which probably rings bells with anyone else who has attempted the route. As William Brown writes in the SMCJ in 1896:

'Hands, knees, toes and eyelids had to be awkwardly spread over a mixture of mud and vegetable which affords a support as treacherous as it is dirty, and which no respectable mountaineer, having regard for his Norfolk, will care to depend on.'

Today a worn and threadbare rope hangs abandoned from the cave. you would have to be pretty desperate to rely on that in its current state! I dropped beneath the cave and traversed once more back to Dinnertime Butres to descend to the Glen floor and An Torr car park (the best place to park for the Stob Coire nam Beith path at the moment due to the ongoing bridge replacement work at the Clachaig junction).