Tuesday 23 June 2009

Away until...

...26th July. I'm away to Greenland first thing on Thursday and not back online until 26 July. I'm one of 4 Instructors guiding a party of 12 pupils from Glasgow Academy in Gaaseland in East Greenland. All of the pupils have snowholed, been on several winter skills courses, climbed indoors and outdoors (several of them lead). After flights via Iceland and Scoresbysund we will be flown by twin otter to a beach at the end of a 20km long valley. About a dozen glaciers spill off 2 ice caps on either side and no-one has climbed any of the peaks on either cap. Excellent!
In the mean time my wife Jane will man the e-mails. I am available the first 2 weekends in August and the third in September and have a fair amount of availability left on week days- so feel free to get in touch of you want to book walking, mountaineering or climbing in Scotland or The Lakes. Enjoy the first half of summer.... I will!

Past few days

Sunday was staff training at The Ice Factor: some SPA rope work revision, discussion of how accidents occur at walls and how to avoid them- based on two excellent articles in Horizons (1 from http://www.lessonslearned.org.uk/, 1 from http://www.aals.org.uk/) and some site specific training on working with taster groups. Yesterday Adam Hughes was working with me on a CWA Assessment for 7 candidates at Glasgow Climbing Centre- well done to all; those that passed and those that didn't but learnt something new.
Today was a day off but I went cragging in Glen Nevis with an old mate wo hasn't been on the rock for a few years (he moved to Barbados) so we jumped around getting up 9 pitches of rock around V Diff to Severe in baking hot sunshine (Outward Bound had a group hiding in the shade, JSMTW Ballachullish were stripped to the waste out in the sun and a handfull of other climbers were braving the heat). Brendan also got back onto the sharp end to 'give me a break from leading'.... once a climber..... always a climber.

Friday 19 June 2009

An Steall Ban (The White Spout)

Today I was again working with junior instructors from the Ice Factor. We took a school group walking up to Steall Falls and introduced them to wood sorrel, pignuts, scots pine and various other bits of nature on the way. It was a cool and wet day again in Lochaber with the rivers higher than for a good while.

Thursday 18 June 2009

Glen Nevis

Today I was supervising Lorenzo and Ben, 2 SPA trainees from The Ice Factor. They were running a cragging session for some local youngsters who are just moving from primary to secondary school. The weather was less than ideal with very heavy showers and strong winds stopping play early but well done to the kids for the climbing and abseiling they did!

Tuesday 16 June 2009

Ardgour and Knoydart

I've been away for 4 days shadowing a Duke of edinburgh Expedition for The Gaslgow Academy. Their route was great taking them from the Corran Ferry to Inverie on the Knoydart peninsula. My role was to keep an eye on the group from a distance letting them do as much for themself as possible whilst providing input where needed.
Starting up the Cona Glen in hot sultry weather we were 'forced' to stop for a swim in the great pools high up the valley. The group reminded themslves of how the tents worked and enjoyed the early evening breeze.....
........ that was absent the next morning. This meant that they packed and legged it to higher (breezier) ground for a (relatively) midge free breakfast. Passing Glenfinnan for lunchtime they pressed on to the head of a bealach for a nice breezy camp.
The following day saw them traversing a warm and humid Glen Pean, Glen Dessary and dropping down to camp near Sourlies. I took a couple of the many opportunities for a little bouldering/soloing whilst waiting for the group in these remote and lovely Glens. There were plenty of deer near the campsite - down at the coast grazing on the short turf. In the evening I introduced the group to pignuts, tormentil, lousewort and wilkwort and talked about the effects of dehydration on performance.
Today the team opted for an early start; up at 5, away at 6.15. They crossed the rickety bridge at Carnoch and made the steep pull up the pass above. I watched from the ridge of Meall Buidhe above. From there it was all downhill for an early arrival at Inverie and a pub lunch in The Old Forge whilst waiting for the rib to come and take us back to Mallaig.
A grand walk and a fit and well bonded team. I had relatively little to do and spent a lot of time admiring the wildlife and botanising at a distance from them as they negotiated the wild land themselves.

Wednesday 10 June 2009


Ron and I just spent the last 3 days in Torridon. The weather was fine, we had sunshine and the odd shower of very light hail or rain on a cool notherly breeze and very few midges. Ron wanted some scrambling on the main peaks in the area so day 1 saw us on Beinn Alligin which we traversed via the horns. the views out west were stupendous, these great north western mountains shoot straight up out of the sea and the defined ridges make you feel like you are walking a fine line between air and water.
Day 2 we walked round to Coire Mhic Fhearchair - one of my favourite places in Scotland. We were headed for Ling, Glover and Lawson's route. It runs up Sail Mhor to the right of a deep gully which a friend and I precociously tried the first winter ascent of many years ago. Back then I was a Grade IV leader at best and we were thoroughly spanked, abseiling off in the dark. I think the first winter ascent was at VI some years later.... Anyway the scramble starts with a short steep scree fan before some less than pleasant vegetated slopes. Finally we reached the clean sandstone and the fun began with some great scrambling in a nice position. We carried on up the ceum allagan - the short ridge taking you up the side of the triple butresses and onwards on our traverse. This was a long day, Ron has osteoarthritis in his ankles which leaves him with almost no flex at all. This means that loose quartzite blocks and Torridon's steep rough descents can seem a bit purgatorial!
Day 3 was Liathach. I love this long inaccessible looking ridge. The walk up is covered in butterwort and starry saxifrage just now- taking our mind off of the steep pull up to the crest. Then there is the traverse of Spidean a' Coire Leith to get to the fun bit - the pinnacles of Am Fasarinen. We took all these sandstone nobbles directly to maximise the enjoyment before heading on and down to Torridon. Again Ron showing serious fortitude (or was it just stubborn-ness) on the lengthy and rough descent.
A cracking 3 days!

Saturday 6 June 2009


North East Buttress on Ben Nevis today with John and Neil. There was plenty of wet snow about today and we didn't see the sun until the summit, enduring hail, sllet and rain whilst climbing. Last week was spring, fels like the Scottish summer must be just around the corner. Huge crouds on the summit and a few parties on Tower Ridge.

Friday 5 June 2009

Busy, busy

I’ve had another busy and interesting week. After Monday’s climbing I was in Aberdeen on Tuesday in my capacity as Technical Advisor to Transition Extreme doing some staff training and reviewing some procedures and documentation. On Wednesday it was the Glasgow Climbing Centre for a Climbing Wall Award Assessment (congratulations to the 4 successful candidates). Then on Thursday and today it was back to Aberdeen for a Single Pitch Award Training Course. I’m out working on the hills for the next 4 days – we’ll see what the weather brings!

Tuesday 2 June 2009

Cairngorm Granite

I’m doing some work in both Aberdeen and Glasgow this week. On my way east I went with Jamie B for a climb on some perfect Cairngorm granite. If slabs are your thing (with the odd wee steeper bulge) then I can heartily recommend Stac a Fharaidh. We walked in from the ski car park via 1141 and down the east side of the crags (wet and slippery as the guidebooks promised) and started with Pippet Slab. I’d forgotten how good the friction was on granite like this and soon we were padding up the improbable slabs of this great Severe (a little sparse of gear – but there where it’s needed) in sunshine with just a gentle breeze to take the edge off of the heat. After a bite to eat we left the bags at the top and abseiled back down to avoid the wet gully and headed to Whispers. This VS starts with a perfectly straight 4a crack for 45m which proceeded to gobble cams, hexes and large nuts. I belayed as a few clouds appeared on the horizon but it was still a day for t-shirts only. Jamie dance and laid away up the 4b cracks above to the impending dark wall above. I won’t say too much about the excellent final 4c pitch suffice it to say that the traverse starts juggy and finishes with a bouldery little rock over to safety. If you are happy at VS and have faith in friction get on it! Enjoy the sun and climb whilst you can folks.