Sunday 31 May 2009

Still hot!

Well, after my brother's wedding in Glenfinnan last night it was late start today. Big Jamie and I headed to Glen Nevis and climbed a baking Phantom Slab, Flying Dutchman with its cracking little 4c finish and Spike Wall Direct before wilting off into the shade. It was a busy day in Glen Nevis with plenty of sweaty climbers chalking up on the easy classics. Like us, I don't think many of them could handle a full day in that sun though!

Friday 29 May 2009

Spring direct to summer!

It was hooooooot in Lochaber today. Jane and I took advantage of my mother's presence to grab a climb together down in Glen Nevis. We nipped up Heatwave and that's what it felt like. I've also attached a picture of Ben Nevis from outside my house in lovely weather

Wednesday 27 May 2009

Gentle week

A relaxing week ahead. I'm working on staff training as part of my roles as Technical Advisor to The Ice Factor for 3 days and other than that my little brother is getting married to Ellie, a Californian girl, in Glenfinnan on saturday. Today we took her and her family up to the popular An Steall Ban (the white spout) for a walk. It was damp but warmer than of late and the gorge is a riot of flowers - bluebells, wood sorrel, vipers bugloss, violets, orchids, butterwort and tormentil,. We enjoyed the wire bridge for a bit of fun even Sandy in the papoose on my back - he was laughing hysterically!

Sunday 24 May 2009

Tower Ridge with Davy and Heather

Tower Ridge with regular clients Davy and Heather today. We headed up fairly early to make the best of a good morning forecast and could see the Great Tower from the bottom when we started. The snow still comes down to the base of Observatory Gully and there is plenty of evidence of rock fall and wet snow slides at the end of the winter season.
A healthy breeze was drying the rock nicely until we reached the Eastern Traverse where it rained a little. The thin slushy snow of Friday was gone leaving some really firm ice and snow (but a little less overall cover than 2 days ago). We crossed Tower Gap as the wind picked up a little and were glad we'd taken an axe and crampons to make the last slope straightforward.
On the way down we passed the hoards heading blindly for the summit, many looking quite poorly prepared for the winter conditions that still exist on the plateau.

Friday 22 May 2009

Tower Ridge in spring condition

With some work on Ben Nevis this weekend I was curious to see what conditions were like on the north face. So this morning after promising Jane I would be back for a family lunch at 1 I hopped on the bike and headed for the North Face Car Park. After a warm and sweaty walk in I wasn't really surprised by the large amounts of snow visible in Coire na Ciste, No. 5 and Observatory Gully. There was a fresh dusting of snow on the CMD Arete only this morning and we have had a cool and unsettled spring. I headed up the damp rock of the lower part of the ridge and really hit snow after the Little Tower. Every large flattening has up to a foot of old snow and several inches of fresh wet stuff on top. By the Eastern Traverse I was having to take great care as to what I was standing on and kicking steps in- the new stuff is slippery on rock slabs but good for steps where deep enough on the older icey stuff. The through route would be passable to a small child but I had to go for a high step onto the top of the chockstone. The ridge out to Tower Gap was plastered in fresh wet snow and I was careful steeping down, across and up out of the gap. From here there was almost unbroken snow to the summit and I was glad to fish out my axe for the last 50m. The angle here is steeper and the fresh stuff thin in places - crampons definitely an advantage unless you are very confident on such ground. It sleeted, hailed and snowed on me but also gave me a sunny glimpse or 2. Being on the summit plateau alone at 1030 was quite bizarre- normally its very busy. As I headed to the top of the Red Burn I hit the front end of the hordes and was soon repeating a mantra of 'follow the big trail and the cairns, keep away from the cornices' in response to the many questions of 'Where is the top?' in a huge range of accents.
If you are planning to go on the Ridge in the immediate future I would take and axe and quite possibly crampons. That last slope will be very icey as the fresh snow strips off in a thaw. The pics above are (from top: the last 50m to the plateau, looking back across the Gap to the Great Tower, The Eastern Traverse, the lower part of the Ridge from the CIC hut). Oh, and I made it home for lunch :-)

Tuesday 19 May 2009

Monday in the mountains.

This post on UKC: got me thinking about Marathon Ridge. Beinn Lair is a really remote mountain and the routes on it are mongst the most rarely climbed easy routes in the UK. The logisitcs of getting to the base of these wild crags pts many off but I have a secret weapon - an inflatable canoe! Dave was up for an adventurous day's mountaineering but after a late start due to Sandy, my 10 month old son, it was 11.15 before we launched out onto Loch Maree. A 25 minute paddle through a heavy swell and choppy waters took us to Furnace on the north shore. We climbed quickly to Bealach Mheinnidh and traversed through Bealach a Chuirn before descending the Glen to the base of our imposing route, rising steeply 400m above us. We soloed up to the crux chimney which gave us 2 pitches of damp, loose, thrutching trying not to send too much loose rock down. From here we soloed again to where we found the rope mentioned above in a corner. There were scars from much loose rock having fallen recently. Carefully we followed up removing the gear we could easily reach - we also trundled a massive block perched precariously on the route. We were glad to be on the final arete (it is defintiely worth sticking to the cleaner more exposed rock on the nose from low down) and topped out just as the rain that had been threatening all day arrived. We headed off down from the summit at speed to stay warm and arrived at the boat to find the wind had dropped completely. We made it back to the opposite shore a little over 6 hours after we set out only to find that the Torridon midge and arrived for the summer season in our car park as we stripped off our damp clothes. A great adventurous day out and we will reunite the recovered gear with it owners.

Sunday climbing and the beach.

Sunday morning Nick, Nancy, Dave, DP and I went to the Applecross classic Sword of Gideon. Dave soloed whilst we mere mortals climbed as 2 pairs. Perfect rock, a great climb and sunshine! We headed back to the campsite to pick up bikes for a ride out to a coral beach for more sun in the afternoon. Great!

Saturday Bouldering.

I have a week off and went to Applecross to spend a few days with friends and my wife and son. Day 1 saw a litle gentle bouldering and a midge free Torridon boulders!

Friday 15 May 2009

Last Day of Learn to Lead

It dawned wet, windy and rainy today so we decided to stay indoors to review what we've learnt over the week and look at a little more advanced ropework. After revisiting some belay building skills we went on to look at some simple problem solving: assisted and unassisted hoists, ascending a rope with prussiks and escaping the system and a counterbalance rescue. The brains were topped up full by the end of the day!

Thursday 14 May 2009

Lead Climbing Day 4 at Duntelchaig

Today we went to Duntelchaig for some more Lead Climbing. The guys led Drum, a varied V Diff in 3 pitches and then we went to Pinnacle Crag where they tackled the slightly harder single pitch routes Stepped Corner and Left Bay Groove. Another awesome sunny day in the Highlands - more like this please!