Thursday 29 January 2009

Nice morning out

This week I've been trying to catch up on paperwork, proofreading a book for on Climbing Walls and running a Climbing Wall Award Training in the evenings. Yesterday looked nice enough that it would have been a shame to stay indoors all day so I went to Aonach Mor to take advantage of the 0800 Gondola. I walked round to the west face with 2 parties from Adventure Peaks and headed up to the bottom of Golden Oldy on some nice wee ice bulges. There is a good trail broken around here at the moment. At the last minute I headed right onto Western Rib (II/III) which gave a few hundred metres of nice knife adge rock and snow aretes to the summit of the mountain. I wandered over the the top of the East face and met Blair from SAIS performing his checks and we both agreed that much of the slab was stabilising slowly but surely. There are however some large cornices about that will descend at some point in the future! Spike and his party had abseiled into Right Twin and Kenny found Stirling Bridge hard going as the cracks were thouroughly iced up. I headed back down before lunch to do some prep before the mayhem of February and March- I've been booked solid for a while now folks but can still recommend some other good people to try for those looking for instruction.

Monday 26 January 2009

Mamores on Sunday

Yesterday Chuck, Lorenzo and I were working with an adventurous stag group on the Mamores. Despite blizzard conditions the mixed ability team were keen to get up on the tops. We walked from Mamore Lodge up to Stob Coire a Chairn where half of the team decided to retreat to The Ice Factor for a brew. The rest battled their way with us up onto Am Bodach. The Mamore Ridge is sporting some amazing windforms of snow, cornices, aretes and double cornices. As you can see from the pictures we were all looking a bit windswept by the end of the day!

Sunday 25 January 2009

Sobering thoughts

Few British mountain goers can have missed the tragic news of yesterday when a large group of people were avalanched in Coire na Tulaich on the Buachaille and, unfortunately, 3 were killed.
Its been a while since we had this volume of snow and with increasing numbers of people visiting the hills in winter its easy for us collectively to 'forget' that black spots like this can be very dangerous. The SAIS forecast is an excellent service, blogs like this one can give some information about conditions, but an hour of thaw or snow, moving a hundred metres from where you dug your pit to assess the slope, a few degrees change in aspect or a hidden terrain feature can all put us in harms way. IF you feel you have a gap in your knowledge and want to learn more something like the workshops on avalanche awareness at the Fort William Mountain Festival or one of the Avalanche courses at Glenmore Lodge (have you tested yourself with this excellent quiz) could make a difference to your undersanding of avoiding becoming the victim of an avalanche.

Friday 23 January 2009

Glencoe snow again

Jamie B and I were hoping to go and try something he's had his eye on for a while but when we woke to earl heavy rain confirming the forecast we abandoned it for SCNL in Glencoe. The snowpack had thawed a little overnight but we were very careful picking our way to the bottom of Pinnacle Buttress Grooves. I only got 1 feet up it when the snow arrived in force and then spent the pitch struggling with the spindrift. We abseiled back down and crossed to North Wall - described in the guidebook as loose. Jamie was offline prospecting for interestin climbing when the block he was hanging from (and that had his gear behind) moved providing a heart stopping moment. By this stage I was cold enough to be happy to climb up to him and was pleased to find that surprisingly North Gully wasnt holding much fresh snow so we headed up to retrieve our ab tat and home for a warm bath. Ed Chard was on Ordinary Route Central Buttress finding it quite time consuming under very heavy snow, otherwise we didnt see a soul.

Sunday 18 January 2009

Snow, snow..... and more snow

After a wild night in the West we woke to snow at sea level today. Jamie B and I each had a pair of clients to take out and with the copious amounts of fresh white stuff we opted to go to the Zig-zags on Gear Aonach. We found that Rocio and her team had the same idea and were quite happy to let them pass us to break trail (thanks guys). We headed into the coire at the south end of the ridge and dropped back down to the car as the weather worsened. Well done to the team on the first day's wild winter mountaineering. For those wanting an update on conditions its copious amounts of snow with soft slab forming in sheltered locations at about 800m, our high point today.

Saturday 17 January 2009

Today I was out with a party of 4 people lookng at introductory winter skills in Glencoe. After checking the weather and avalanche forecast last night we got an early start this morning to make the most of the weather before the predicted storms arrived. We went to Stob Coire nan Lochain and looked at movement on the snow using the boot and axe with and without crampons, emergency snow shelters, snow profiles and a walking Rutch block test before the predicted bad weather arrived sending us safely back to The Ice Factor for a brew.
Teams were out on Dorsal Arete and Tilt or something around that area. The water ice on the paths and low down on Summit Buttress from a week or so ago is all gone but there was plenty of wind transported snow about and evidence of sloughs beneath Forked, SC and NC Gullys.

Monday 12 January 2009

Climbing Wall Awards

I'm indoors for three days hiding from the weather in Glasgow Climbing Centre running Climbing Wall Award courses. The bright side is that some of this precipitation will fall as snow higher up brining some much needed snow to top up the limited amounts we have been chewing up climbing for the past few weeks! Out again at the end of the week. Until then Mike from Abacus has a reminder of the Fort William Mountain Festival from 6-14 March this year. We can hope for good late season conditions as we've had the last couple of years, slightly quieter routes than the February school holidays and great entertainment in the evenings too.

Thursday 8 January 2009

Wednesday Thursday

I've been out doing som winter climbing with Alsion and Alistair for the last 2 days. We enjoyed and icey Garadh Gully yesterday on ben Nevis. I lead the first 2 pitches and alistair took over for the rest - his first winter leads and Alison's first multi=pitch climb. Today we went to Dorsal Arete in glencoe as a slight thaw settled in. Alistair led coping well with the verglassed cracks and despite being a bit knackered from yesterday well done to Alison for her first lead of a pitch as well.

Sunday 4 January 2009

The last 3 days.

On Friday evening Nina, Davie and I went to the Ice Factor to spend a little time loking at efficient movement, gear placement and retreating from ice climbs in advance of their upcoming honeymoon to Japan (i'm suitably jealous).
Yesterday and today I have been out with Merlin and Michael looking at mountaineering ropework and some skills specific to the International Mountain Leader syllabus. Yesterday we went to Ben Nevis and looked at moving around on the narrow firm snow patches on the way into Coire a Ciste. Then we moved up into No. 3 Gully which the guys led using snow anchors to belay from. The right fork gave a small icey step to add interest. Ice was continuing to build (there is more in Garadh and on the line of the Curtain than 5 days ago) and the snow is iron hard. Parties out on all the usual suspects mentioned in the last post. Mike Pescod climbed the bottom half of 2 Step Corner, Richard Bentley climbed Comb Gully Buttress with a spicey icey finish and a party who climbed Gardyloo reckoned the final step would provide a shock to the average Grade II leader.
Today we went to rockier ground to look at some ropework and chose the Zigzags on Gear Aonach in Glencoe. A little light rain lower down was providing a dusting of much needed snow on the tops to supplement the copious amounts of water ice around. We came up and down the same route so didnt see the tops but in general the peaks are looking whiter than yesterday round Glencoe although it is just a light cover over the ice, frozen turf and pathes of very hard old snow in hoolows and gullys.