Wednesday 30 September 2009

CWA Assessments and Technical Advice

For the last 2 days I have been in Glasgow running CWA Assessments ( basic and Abseil modules), a re Assessment and having a successful meeting with one of the Councils about taking on a role as their technical advisor. Back in Fort William to a sunny day today and looking forward to some exercise on the tooling wall in the cellar tonight and maybe a leg stretch tomorrow on the Ben.

Tuesday 29 September 2009

I've been away.

I was away working for The Glasgow Academy on Skye for a few days last week and since then I've been doing a bit more sedentary work (see next post above). The weather was pretty horrific but it didn't prevent Instructors Bill, Sally, Neal and I (aided by techer Ian) helping 9 very determined students with 3 days mountaineering. We made a mass ascent of the Cioch by Cioch corner, climbed the Inaccesible Pinnacle (with Adam in a wedding dress after promising a bride to be on a hen night at our bunkhouse- the wind almost tore it off) and made an ascent of Sgur a Mhadaidh via An Dorus (on the way down the wind was blowing the rain back up the gully so hard you really couldn't look into it! Well done to the team for sticking with it in some of the wettest, windiest and most slippery conditions of the year- especially those who had never been on a trip like this before! As Bill shouts over the wind in the video- 'Exceptionally well done guys'. To see a larger version of the video click on the DailyMotion videowall to the right.

Wednesday 23 September 2009

Lochaber SPA Day 2

Success for all 3 candidates today as we took day 2 of our SPA Assessment to Polldubh. An early start saw bright spells but just after the middle of the day we were treated to torrential showers before drier spells again. The team today were demonstrating their ability to plan, organise and manage different types of groups climbing and abseiling at the crags. We finished by exploring the limits of the award looking at thinking outside of the box and creative setups for some further training.

Tuesday 22 September 2009

SPA Assessment Lochaber Day1

Today was day 1 of an SPA Assessment for Graham, Mark and Paul. A vile night in Fort William and a wet beginning to the day sent us scurrying east to Kingussie crag. With just the odd smir of rain the guys quickly dispatched a dozen routes between them in the Diff to Hard Severe range. Today was mostly about me learning about the candidates approach to their personal climbing. We looked at a few simple problems that can occur when climbing in a single pitch environment with peers. Towards the end of the day we also assessed the crag as a group venue, had a look at some peer belaying setups before moving on to the climbing wall section of the syllabus.
We weren't alone at the crag today with large teams from Outdoor Education courses from both Edinburgh University and The University of Highlands and Islands.

Saturday 19 September 2009

Sharp Edge Blencathra

It was wetter and drizzly over The Lakes today so I spent the morning in the time honoured tradition of trawling the Keswick Outdoor shops. This afternoon I took advantage of a drier spell for a quick burn from Scales farm, up Sharp Edge, over Blencathra, down to the Blencathra Centre, over Latrigg and back to Keswick (getting stung in the head by a wasp 5 minutes from home- ouch).

More Classic Rock on Friday

Second day of my trip to the Lakes and Jane and I had our first day together without Sandy since he was born (14 months ago). We walked into the Napes for another Classic Rock tick- Tophet wall. This felt much more ‘Scottish’ than yesterday. The sky was grey, there was moss and water streaks on the crag and the wall was dark and brooding. It’s a great route though! I led the first 2 pitches and the first was a rude awakening – steep but positive with a little loose rock. The second didn’t disappoint either with a lack of gear for the first few metres before a delightful corner crack leading to a capacious belay. Jane has only led once in the last 18 months but was itching to get on the sharp end for the hand traverse pitch (which she waltzed across grinning from ear to ear). That left me the last pitch where I’ll admit to looking up at and getting intimidated. A steep crack and quotes from Classic Rock about ‘gritstone technique’ – ‘Oh god am I going to have to jam?’ (Scottish climbers are notoriously poor at jamming). But I needn’t have worried; small but neat footholds, positive edges and excellent gear all in a superbly exposed pitch led me laughing to the rock ledge atop the crack. A quick race down the scree and back to Keswick to celebrate out 4th wedding anniversary (ok it was yesterday – but close enough).

Gimmer on Thursday

I got an early (0530) start from Glasgow to meet Jamie B in the Lakes. Today we went to Gimmer crag to enjoy some dry clean rock, sunny weather and a nice short walk in (although there were still a pair bivvying on a ledge at the bottom?). We were after a relaxing day hunting Classic Rock ticks so we jumped onto Bracket and Slab Route – but I couldn’t resist the clean Mild VS Direct start. Jamie got ‘the bracket’ which left me the juggy well protected ‘neat bit’ as I had no desire to tackle the overhung layback of ‘Amen Corner’- or the masochistic chimney above!
We made use of the chain to abseil (a good example of common sense ad in no way the thin end of a wedge) down the face and then climbed C Route which gave a nice contrast to our first climb of the day- steeper and more exposed before abing twice back to the bags.
The climbing in the Lakes feels quite relaxing compared to Scotland, short walk ins, lots of groups, very clean well travelled, solid rock (and dry weather too).

Wednesday 16 September 2009

Blue sky day on Ben Nevis

Today I took Chris up Tower Ridge- I just can't get bored of it- and we had a belter of a day. The cloud burnt off as we hit the ridge and overtook another party and by the time we stopped for lunch on the Great Tower it was hot and sunny with views that seemed to go on forever. The helicopter was taking bits and pieces to and from the CIC today and there were plenty of people working on their tan on the way up and down the pony track. Summer may be on the way out but it seems to have a last gasp left yet!

Tuesday 15 September 2009

Tower Ridge

Today Neil and I helped a team of 5 mountaineers from Aberdeen climb Tower Ridge. They moved well as a group of 2 and 3 and we were up and down betwen 9 and 4.30. We had a glimpse of blue sky as we geared up and then it cleared as we it the top of the Great Tower for a spot of lunch to emphasise the exposure on Tower Gap. There are less people around on the Ben now the holidays are over but that still meant 30 or so on the summit. The helicopter was hard at work shifting loads of stone for th pathwork all day. In the past couple of days parties have been out reporting mostly dry rock on Raeburns Arete and Minus One Direct.

Monday 14 September 2009

Rock Video 2

Here is one of Ardnamurchan this weekend. If you want to see a larger version then click on the relevant video on the videowall to the right.

Rock Videos

A half day looking after Sandy today so I'll post a couple of videos from the weekend.

Sunday 13 September 2009

Another sunny Ardnamurchan day

Day 2 of our Introduction to Outdoor Leading weekend and we went to Meal Fhir Eoin Mhor. We warmed up with me leading the 2 pitch Vulcan (VS4c) and then the guys made a 4 pitch ascent of Beth's Route - a nice long VDiff which they took the most direct and interesting variations on that they could find. Topping out with great views out west in warm sunshine we spotted a clean looking slab on the bealach to the east. There is no record of anything in the guidebook there so we wandered over to see what we could find. The answer was a 10m high perfectly clean sheet of gabro split by 4 crack lines. Will and Greg each led a line (about Severe and VDiff) and I soloed the other 2 (4b and VDiff). Neal and the girls also climbed Beth's route, abseiled from the summit and then they led a route on wedge buttress too. A Great weekend in a stunning place.

Saturday on Ardnamurchan

Sticky, slabby, bulgy, cracky, SUNNY, clean, rough and solid gabbro.....
I love it out at Ardnamurchan. The views to Rhum, Eigg, Skye and beyong are to die for, it's like Reiff in that it sticks out as a low lying peninsula into the prevailing westerly airstream but isn't elevated enough to cause any lift and condensing. So, often, when the moist air hits Glencoe its clouds and rain but that same air passed Ardnamurchan by without shedding its load.
This weekend I was working with Greg and Will, 2 pupils from Glasgow Academy who lead indoors and have sport climbed in Spain. Whilst Neal from the school was teaching Emily and Julz I had the 2 guys to introduce to the joy of trad for 2 days. We started on Meal Fhir Eoin Beag where I had the guys follow me up the crag classic Yir (VS4c) looking at gear placement and building their own belays. Then they led An Deireadh and Krakatoa with me in close attendance before we finished with a quick ascent of Great Gabbro (VS4c). We were looking at all aspects of leading: guidebook interpretation, selecting and racking gear , planning and assessing your route for protection, crux moves and rests, placing and removing gear, lead belaying, routefinding, communication, belay building, changeovers and plate orientation at stances and retreat and protecting a personal abseil..... phew.
It was another sunny day - well earnt after a month of weather misery!