Monday 29 September 2008

Autumn on Skye

I went to Skye at the weekend with old pal Kevin. He'd never been on the Cuillin or bivvyed out before and was in for a baptism of fire! Although it didnt rain, at first, the cloud was low down and the rock very wet. Many of the routes joining the peaks take weaknesses formed by basalt intrusions in the gabbro - and basalt is quite slippery when wet! Toss in some moderate gales and it made for great sport. We hit the ridge at Sgur Dubh an Da Bheinn and traversed Sgurr Alasdair (the squirrel statue is still on the top from a month ago), Sgurr Thearlaich, Sgurr Mhic Chonnich (by Hart's Ledge) and headed up to the Innaccessible Pinnacle. By this stage we hadnt seen further than 50m since we hit the ridge and the winds were blowing hard so we didnt climb the Inn Pin but crossed Sgurr Dearg and used the rest of the daylight to drop to Bealach da Bannachdich and to find a good bivvy site. We stayed dry under our tarp until the gales shredded it at 4am but got a good nights sleep anyway. Next morning we were quite satisfied with our efforts and dropped down from the Bealach in continued poor vis. to head to the Sligachan for a well earned pint!
Its definitely turned autumnal in the West of Scotland, the plants are turning orange, brown and gold, the air is that little cooler and the air has taken on that clearer quality it lacks in summer but gets from the northerly airstreams.

Wednesday 24 September 2008

Glen Nevis

A days introductory rock climbing work with Matt and 6 students from Lochaber College today. The guys all got to bottom rope some routes up to HVS and lead or second their first multipitch routes. Off to Skye tomorrow for what the forecast is making out to be a mixed weather weekend.

Sunday 21 September 2008

A hat trick?

Tower Ridge for a third day running and a different day again. It started a little brighter but by the time Eddie and I made it to the top the mist was as dense as I've ever seen it on the Ben. For a first time mountaineer Eddie did well to overcome a few nerves about exposure and we had a good day of it. After 3 days coming down the pony track I'm (or at least my knees are) looking forward to a day in the office!

Friday 19 September 2008

Same route, different way

I had a strop with the BBC weatherman this morning as he waxed lyrical for several minutes about how dry a weekend it was going to be before mentioning as an aside that it would rain in the 'far northwest' of Scotland. Well, at least he was right - it was a pretty wet day on Ben Nevis. Rob from last weekend was back with his son Gavin. He wanted to have a look at mountaineering ropework as well as builiding on his rock climbing skills from last Sunday. So we went to Tower Ridge. Rather than me guiding as I have been doing a lot recently I spent the day helping Rob learn how to do it for himself. The guys did very well making short work of the Ridge given the very wet weather.
We didnt hang around unlike the marshalls for the local triathalon today. Well done to those who swam Loch Linnhe, put in their miles on the bikes and then ran up The Ben and back down again!

A little atmosphere

It was another dampish day on Ben Nevis today as we walked in to climb Tower Ridge. I've been up this route a number of times this month but dont seem to tire of it. Doing it with different people with different ability levels keeps it interesting for me and it is a cracking day on the hill, never failing to give a good day out and well done to the guys today. There was a new wild country rock stuck on the little tower, until I fiddled it out - if the owner wants it back let me know the size and tape colour. All this time on the Ben is keeping me fit for a trip to Skye next weekend - I'm doing my sun dance in hope.
We stopped at the CIC hut on the way up and were invited in to inspect the excellent work thats gone into the extension. The sight of the new fireplace made me long for an opne fire and a stormy night after a good days climbing.

Sunday 14 September 2008

Drier rock

Rob came to me to learn a little climbing ropework. With largely dry weather and the promise of a breeze we went to Polldubh. Lower down as we climbed Pinnacle Ridge we had the midge for company but higher up on Right Wall of Styx Buttress the air began stir and as well as drier rock the bugs were blown away. Then, after looking at a self protected retrievable abseil, we climbed The Gutter in big boots with our packs on to make a little height to get to the excellent Secretaries Direct, perhaps the best Severe in The Glen. Finally, just to give Rob the experience of something a little harder we went to Dundee Weaver to end the day. It was quite a nice change to climb on warm dry rock after a damp week.

Saturday 13 September 2008

First time mountaineers

When Bella was given a gift voucher as a present she could have chosen a day at the spa, wine tasting, even a days race car driving but keen to try something a little different she opted for a day's mountaineering with The Ice Factor and roped in her sister Rowena for good measure.
A damp misty walk in to Ben Nevis left them undeterred and they decided to give Tower Ridge a bash (because I'd said it was the longest hardest scrambley route up!). The wet rock didnt dampen their spirits (and there was a suggestion that not being able to see how far down it was may have actually helped) and after 5 hours we joined the raucous crowds on the summit of Ben Nevis with our own feeling of satisfaction at having made great use of a damp day. Well done guys, you'ld never have guessed that you were first time mountaineers. Many thanks to Gwilym too who came along to shadow me at work and made the day that much more pleasant. PS love that jaunty helmet Rowena, next time I'll just cut off the ponytail :-)

Friday 12 September 2008

Observatory Ridge

I was out on the hill with Lindsay from Australia today. Most of her previous climbing has been in places like the Arapiles, Kalymnos and Turkey. So she wanted a day of Scottish multi pitch trad. We went to Binnien Shuas but it was showery and looked to be damp for a while so we headed back to the Ben. It was cloudy here too and a bit damp but we went onto the 420m long classic VDiff Observatory Ridge. Chuck (an Instructor from the Ice Factor soon to be doing his MIA training) was along again to watch me at work. Well Lindsay is now more familiar with what Scottish mountain rock in September can mean; loose wet rock, a little drizzle and great fun! Lindsay was also a good laugh, quite irrepressible and keen to race us down from the summit too! We left the car park with the weather improving behind us giving a good view of our days climb.

Monday 8 September 2008

Sunshine on a rainy day

Yesterday Mark, Paul and I managed to avoid the deluge soaking the rest of the country by going to the ring crags on Ardnamurchan. It was hot, sunny and midge free. The guys were looking for some tips on multipitch ropework so we were checking their belay construction, plate orientation, stance management and changeovers. They made short work of Krakatoa (Severe 4a, 4b), Yir (VS 4c,4b) Crater Comforts (VS 4c,4c) and Greta Gabbro (VS 4c). After a long, hot day we retired to camp in the gardens of the ever friendly Kilchoan House Hotel and for a few 'refreshments'.

We awoke to a damp drizzly morning and headed East to Glencoe and the Buachaille. A scramble up Curved Ridge left us hot and sweaty at the base of Agags Groove. Mark and Paul led a pitch each and I led the top two in a little light rain. We witnessed a minor accident when a mountaineer slipped in the polished corner on Curved Ridge and dislocated his knee. The Glencoe Rescue Team were called and the casualty's partner began roping him down the ridge. We caught up with them descending the lower part of the ridge and soon met the team coming up to provide some assistance off of the hill. Our volunteer Mountain Rescue Teams do a cracking job. You can find out more about MR Teams in Scotland and how to support them here.

Friday 5 September 2008

Tower Ridge

Today I took Dave to do Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis and Chuck from The Ice Factor came along for the ride. This is the third time I've been on the route this month and its always great fun. We walked in in sunshine and after a cloudy spell near The Great Tower it cleared off in time for us to put on a show crossing Tower Gap for the crowds on the summit. We were followed up the ridge by Gwilym Starks and his friend Mark, and Ryan Glass and his 2 clients