Monday 31 August 2009

SPA Training in Glasgow Day 1

The west of Scotland continued to live up to its wet reputation today. I have 5 students on an SPA training course based at The Glasgow Climbing Centre. After an intial session indoors at the wall we went to Auchinstarry quarry this afternoon to apply some of the lessons the team had learned. I had not one but 2 texts today from friends in the Alps telling me how sunny it was..... bah, humbug.

Sunday 30 August 2009

Tower Ridge

Today I was supposed to be taking John and his 2 daughters up Tower Ridge but the forecast by friday was not encouraging so we have postponed it for another day. However, since I have a week of fairly static work coming up I decided to go out and do it myself. Jane dropped me and the bike off at Torlundy and I rattled up to the CIC in drizzley rain, then a Tower Ridge running with water. The wind was a little gentler than yesterday but I still looked askance at the foreign school group walking up the pony track in jeans, light waterproofs or polythene ponchos and trainers - or in one case open toed sandals. It wasn't as cold today as recently but if they were forced to stop for any length of time there will be some very chilly bunnies......
Anyway a couple of pics of the view and some fungi (Orange Peel Fungus - Aleuria Aurantia) and a little video today and now I'm off to Glasgow.

Saturday 29 August 2009

A walk up Ben Nevis

Today I was helping out with a large charity group walking up Ben Nevis to raise money for Marie Curie Cancer Care. A poor forecast didn't put off the team of well over 100 who embarked up the tourist path (along with a number of smaller charity groups and the team pulling and carrying a chap in a wheelchair- good effort). In the event the weather wasn't that bad - gusty on top but never too wet. We safely escorted our charges the the top of the hill and we marched them down again. Today I was working for Alan Kimber's West Coast Mountain guides

Friday 28 August 2009

SPA Refresher on Skye

Today I spent the day revisiting skills covered as part of the SPA syllabus with a client who has an assessment coming up. Conveniently he has a small sea cliff on his farm! We looked at various options for managing groups and options for rigging as well as working through problem avoidance and solving. The weather was very windy on the coast but the showers held off for the most part.

Rock Climbing at Neist

On Saturday Paul, Dave and I met up on Skye. The guys have been using the mountaineering skills we've worked on in the past to good effect on Ben Nevis and Skye. Now they wanted to push things a little further. With a mixed forecast (poor from mid-morning) we were up and on the go about 6am and heading for the sea clifs at Neist. The breeze kept the midges off and there were only a few light showers all day long.We climbed a handful of Severes and the guys each led their first 3 pitches of V Diff around Poverty and Destitution Points. Dry, rough rock.... a pleasant change!

Wednesday 26 August 2009

SPA Refresher

Working for the Ice Factor today on an SPA refresher for staff looking forward to assessment soon. Wet and somewhat midgey (we were hooded fortunately). I'm off to Skye to see what the weather brings for 2 days......

Tuesday 25 August 2009

A day indoors

Staff training for the trainees at The Ice Factor today. We've been discussing various team and peer belaying options for the busy taster sessions they get there in summer. The guys are running popular sessions and getting lots of repeat business and good feedback from customers. Today I was working on fine points of improving safety looking closely at where the instructor positions themself and ensuring that no slack develops in the system etc. We also looked at different options for preventing and dealing with a client who refuses to let go of the wall to be lowered. Dan and I also talked through simple strategies for improving novice clients footwork on the ice wall. Finally - just for a bit of fun we also looked at prussiking up a rope.

Sunday 23 August 2009

SPA Day 2 and my ankle

3 passess out of 3 on our SPA Assessment today - well done Chris, Jack and Becks. We went to a rainy Craigmore crag and the Peak Climbing wall in Stirling. Today we were discussing boulering, spotting, group management, the 'perfect' SPA crag, looking at various belaying systems for working with groups, top and bottom ropes and group abseils, problem avoidance and problem solving. I've included a picture of my ankle which 30 hours after the initial sprain has some great colour and swelling but seems to be taking weight fine (it stood an hours brisk walk on flat ground with a pack on tonight) - the wonders of frozen peas and red wine :-)

Saturday 22 August 2009

SPA day 1

I'm directing an SPA Assessment in the Central Belt this weekend and today we went east to Traprain Law to enjoy some sunny weather. The crags were busy and as polished as I remember but we enjoyed our climbs. Looks wetter for tomorrow..... again. At the beginning of the day I managed to step awkwardly off a high stile carrying 2 heavy sacks and my right ankle is now twice the size of my left and ribena coloured to boot.... ice, compression, elevation... wine...

Friday 21 August 2009

MIA ropework on Tower Ridge

I think I'm growing gills and webbed feet!
Today I was providing some staff training for The Ice Factor and had MIA trainee Chuck take me and placement student Andy up Tower Ridge. We looked at a variety of ropework strategies; mostly shortroping but using the steeper ground to look at rock-climbing ropework in series and changing to parallel too. The weather was wet and blustery with the odd hail shower. The pony track on the Ben was as busy as ever with holiday makers in various attire but at least the visibility improved on the way down and we actually got views on the summit plateau for the first time in a while!
I have availability on an SPA Assesment, Glasgow based on 3-4 September if anyone is interested- just drop me an e-mail.

Monday 17 August 2009

Castle Ridge Ben Nevis

I've had a couple of days work cancelled this week (owing to circumstances beyond the clients' control) but with a better forecast this afternoon I left the house after lunch for a leg stretch on Ben Nevis.
Its been ages since I've been on Castle Ridge; often the people I'm with really want to go to the summit and this route finishes a long way from the top and it is shorter so I use it less often for work than the other big ridges on the Ben (Tower, Observatory and NE Buttress). I reckon that for the same reason it is the least visited of the ridges by other mountaineers.
What a wee treat I've been denying myself! I crossed the Allt a Mhuillin below the CIC and cut straight up to the lowest rocks of the ridge - things were a little damp but by taking the steepest line I found plenty of good dry rock. Climbing up slabs and past ledges carpeted in blaeberries I soon reached the steepening high on the ridge. The first of two chimneys was the scene of a nasty wobble for me many years ago (soloing the route in winter a small flake I had hooked with an axe but not checked popped out giving me a black eye and almost sending me for a loooong fall). Today it was a pleasure; steep, exposed, mostly dry and with plentiful jugs and views to sunny hills out west too. The second groove is shorter and less exposed and brings you out onto a final arete. From here I raced up Carn Dearg and back down the pony track and beyond to my bike at Torlundy. A grand afternoon out.

The weather looks like it is going to continue in the same vein for at least the next few weeks: The unsettled conditions we have been having are due to the jet stream sitting further south than usual. This bringing a series of low pressures crashing into the NW of the UK whilst England is often under of the influence of the high pressures sitting over the Azores giving a north south split. The air we get is often a returning polar maritime meaning cold and wet weather which if it continues into the autumn could give some early snow in October. and

Sunday 16 August 2009

Ledge Route with Chris and Aiden

Today Chris I took Chris and Aiden up Ledge Route for Chris's 50th birthday. Originally they were due to be a party of 5 but not all their team displayed the same moral fibre as the guys in the face of gales and heavy rain. Nonetheless I was joined by Chuck and Neil, 2 instructors I am helping work towards their MIA Assessment. The conditions didn't lend themselves to much teaching as after a quick break at the CIC hut we joined the waterfalls being blown back up over the organpipes in heading up No. 5 Gully and on to the summit plateau.
At the top I provided a wee dram for the guys and Chris stripped to his t-shirt to raise a little money for Help for Heroes before we beat a hastey retreat past the plastic poncho clad hordes on the pony track to dry out in Fort William.

Thursday 13 August 2009

At last a drier day!

Heather and Davey were back again for some rock climbing today. We went to Glen Nevis (with our midge hoods) but there was an occasional breeze and the weather only improved as the day went on. We climbed Three Pines, the excellent Flying Dutchman (with its 4c variation finish), Reptons Right hand route and the guys made an abseil retreat from the top ofthe crag before we retreated to Cafe Beag for tea and cake. The cafe is now being run by local couple John and Layla and as well as serving great food at a reasonable price displays a lot of local artists' work too - I can thoroughly recommend a trip if you are in Glen Nevis.

Wednesday 12 August 2009

More rain on Skye

Despite a mixed forecast (i.e. there was supposed to be some sunshine between the showers) all we had on Skye was rain, cloud and some more rain. We climbed up to Bealach da Bannachdich before a left turn took us up the peak. An about face took us up to the Innaccesible Pinnacle with a momentary respite from the wind and rain (only dense mist and cloud). However at the stance halfway up it was like someone turned on a garden hose though - I ate a chocolate bar and felt like I'd also drunk 3 pints of water! After abseiling off the short end we descended beside An Stac and went up Sgurr Mhic Connich (finally the odd break in the cloud and atmospheric views) before returning to run the screes into Coire Lagan. As we descended back to Glen Brittle we could see perfect blue skies out towards Rhum whilst the cloud closed over the Cuillin once more.