Saturday 31 October 2009

SPA Assessment

Today I was directing an SPA Assessment in East Lothian. We were treated to a warm and sunny day and we started at Forester Park Climbing wall in Tranent before moving on to buff up the polish at Traprain Law. There were a few other pairs enjoying the fine weather and we made a good tour of the routes there- unfortunately tomorrow doesn't look quite so nice!

Friday 30 October 2009

Climbing Wall in East Lothian

I've spent the last 2 days with staff from East Lothian Leisure Department helping them get to grips with indoor climbing. When the council built a new football pavillion the put a small but well designed climbing wall into the builidng but up until now they haven't had the staf to utilise it. So I've helped them create a site specific award scheme for their staff. Over 2 days we have looked at introducing and improving their personal climbing as well as talking about how they could utilise the wall with different types of groups, problem avoidance and solving, group management, teaching basic skills like belaying and tying on and monitoring existing climbers who may want to use the facilty independently. This was the training stage of the scheme and all of those involved will now go away and gain further experience of personal climbing and shadow instructors with NGB qualifications before coming back for an assessment. It was a fun 2 days with a keen team well motivated and anxious to learn.

Wednesday 28 October 2009

Ice Factor yesterday and Tower Ridge today

Yesterday was a wet day and I was glad to be inside observing and training staff at the Ice Factor. We also looked ahead to winter when the centre's client base changes from mostly tourists to visiting winter climbers and I did a presentation to junior staff introducing the skill sets needed by winter walkers/mountaineers and climbers to start them thinking about who they will be dealing with in winter.
Last night there was a big team in the basement tooling wall: Kev, Dave, Mike, Donald and the Nevisport Crew spurring each other onto wilder and wilder moves (and tearing holds clean out of the wall!).
This afternoon I'm off to the Central Belt for 4 days: 2 doing some site specific training days for a wall in East Lothian, 2 running an SPA Assessment. I'm back in off the hill just now after a quick trip up Tower Ridge in the rain (3 hours 10 Torlundy to Torlundy) as part of my own training for the winter ahead.

Monday 26 October 2009

Pipedreams coming true

I made it back from the Lakes today and other than an hour on the Drytooling wall have had a rest day. I've also received an awesome new sleeping bag courtesy of Alpkit.
They have sent me their Pipedream 800 lightweight goosedown sleeping bag to help me fulfill my own 'pipedream'. Next summer I'm off to climb in the Wakhan Corridor of North Eastern Afghanistan to finally explore an area I bought a map of for a few pennies in a climbing shop almost 20 years ago!
On first inspection the bag is almost worryingly light for a bag designed with a comfort rating of -17c. Alpkit have jigged the cut and carefully chosen the outer material to keep the weight down. Having said that it fits me like a glove at 6ft with broad shoulders, just enough airspace for insulation without any dead space that will need warming up. The loft is impressive- they send 3 different storage sacks with it and it needs some packing down after it has been released. So far I've only used it sleeping on a friends floor and it was waaaaay to warm for that. I'll give it some proper testing this winter when I'm working most of the season at Glenmore Lodge and report back again.

Sunday 25 October 2009

Giant's Crawl, Dow Crag

A gale tossed and showery day in the Lakes toda. On Sal's recommendation (hmmph) Liz and I went to Dow Crag to climb Giant's Crawl. The wind was strong enough to be whipping the tops off of the whitecaps on Goatswater beneath the crags but at least it was a little more sheltered at the base. The route was pleasant enough if made more challenging by the incredible greasy nature of the rock. We topped out into the gale again to run back to Ambleside for well deserved Hot Chocolate, Blueberry Scones, Cream and Jam!

Saturday in Kendal

Rain, rain, proper rain. Went for a bike with Liz round Kentmere on a borrowed bike a little too small for me. Fell off twice and got rather muddy- great fun!

Friday 23 October 2009

CWA Assessment in Aberdeen

Today I was running a Climbing Wall Award Assessment for 3 people at Transition Extreme in Aberdeen. Well done to those who passed. For a change the East of Scotland has had the worst of the rain...... large parts of Abderdeenshire seem to be underwater!

Thursday 22 October 2009

The price you pay....

The pic above shows the outcome of a dry tooling session in my basement with Donald and Mike (nice axes Mike, shame about the adze.... I'll be more careful next time :-).
Today I went for a quick burn up Tower Ridge. The 0.5 snow patch is reduced to a couple of small beach balls but the main Observatory Gully patch is hanging in there.... just. That's where the cloud was today as the rest of Lochaber basked in autumn sun the Ben hid her head under a grey cloud and a cool breeze. It was dry low on the ridge but anything the cloud had touched was greasy as you like. Off to Aberdeen tonight for a CWA Ass tomorrow and then a weekend wherever it might be dry enough to climb something....anything.

Wednesday 21 October 2009

Climbing Assessment for First years

Another day's climbing with UHI and working with Bill, Danny anf Gill again. Today we were also joine by lecturer Matt for the First years' climbing assessment. Many of them only experienced climbing for the first time this term (although they might be paddlers, sailors or handy on a bike) and had to demonstrate the progress they have made today. I had Ewan and Alan today and along with the others we spent the first part of the day looking at equipment and ropework on the bolts in the classroom (dodging the rain). By mid morning it was looking dryer amd we headed up to Polldubh. We climbed Styx Buttress Right Wall and abseiled off. Then the guys led the Gutter in 4 pitches (Ewan's first lead- well done). Both students had no problem meeting the criteria for their module assessment being keen and having practised what they have learnt this term.

Tuesday 20 October 2009

Autumnal weather but the climbing goes on!

This morning the clouds over Ben Nevis were telling of high winds and they weren't lying (see pic above). I was working with 2nd years from the UHI Lochaber College Adventure Management Degree course along with Bill, Gill and Danny. I had 3 students, all with a good deal of experience already (1 SPA, a SPA trainee and 1 who had headpointed an E7!)- Graham S, Jamie and Graham B. We started by getting them to lead Pinnacle Ridge in 3 pitches (1 each with me soloing) to check their gear placement and stance management. Then we hopped across to 3 Pines where working as 2 ropes we led the first pitch. At the stance everyone practised an assisted hoist of a partner before we made an abseil retreat. Up to a very windy Alp where, again as 2 ropes, we led and abseiled from the top of the classic single pitch VS Reseurrection. Down to a little more shelter and we led Reptons Right Hand Route and everyone looked at how to escape from the system when their partner was hanging on the rope. On the descent from there we just had time to take ourselves in 2 teams up the excellent Flying Dutchman with its 4c finish making a great pitch to end our day on. The guys moved well all day climbing contiuously in order to stay warm as the winds tried hard to blow us from the crags!

Big congratulations to Hot Aches and Kev Shields on their win at the Edinburgh Mountain Film Festival .
Youtube Video processing now but you can view a copy on the videowal right.

Sunday 18 October 2009

Staff Training

Feeling a little drained today-could be Jane's cold/swine flu or whatever about to hit me :-(
Fortunately a physically easy but interesting day was on the cards at the Ice Factor. I spent the first part of the day watching various instructors running different types of sessions on the rock walls, ice wall and the high ropes course. Then we had a session where I raised some questions about what I'd seen and explored the skills and techniques used by the guys.
We discussed topics as far ranging as:
Getting a perfect helmet fit on varying head shapes
When and if coaching movement technique might NOT be appropriate
How to observe clients and the difference between hollistic observation and deductive observation
And tracking a point/marker on their body as they climb to observe movement.
Its easy to go into overkill with these concepts, especially when the guys are running sessions ranging from 1-3 hours so we also discussed simple methods of getting clients to understand concepts suitable to the time frame and the group. In the best traditions of staff training sessions I picked up a new idea from Guy too.... if I ever stop learning (and stealing ideas from other instructors ;-) I must have stopped teaching/instructing/coaching.
We spent a little time in the ice wall transferring some of these ideas onto a different medium and finished off getting Guy to pass on some of the problem solving ropework he has been practising for his MIA Assessment to see how well he has grasped the concepts.
Busy day!

Saturday 17 October 2009

NE Ridge of Aonach Beag

After the discussions on the forums about snow patches that survive year round in Scotland:
I used the Aonach Beag patch as an excuse to go to that peak's NE Ridge on what was a stunning weather day. There was ice on puddles just above the gondola top station and smears of it visible on the N face of Aonach Beag but anywhere in the sun was very pleasant. I crossed Aonach Mor and dropped down left to the snow patch from the bealach beyond. It looks like it has shrunk somewhat in the last month but is still about 25m x 15m. I carried on down the coire to the acompaniement of stags baying and roaring until I reached the ramp which lets you break onto the base of the ridge. Initially its open to much variation (easier on the left) until suddenly it narrows and a tower rears up above you. A devious traverse on the right hand side takes you to a chimney (follow the pegs from winter ascents) that pops you out, with some difficulty, onto the crest of a knife edge arete. You follow a series of delightful narrow flakes until a final broader section brings you to the summit of Aonach Beag.
The walk back down to the col and over Aonach Mor was slower as I couldn't help but stop to admire the views in all directions. Back at the foot of the Gondola I hopped on the bike and cycled home via Torlundy where I bumped into Dan, the head of the Adventure Tourism Management Degree at UHI Lochaber College. He and a friend had a great day on Observatory Ridge and reported a quiet day on the N face of the Ben with only 2 other teams visible, both on Tower Ridge.
A cracking day's mountaineering to be had in Scotland today. A bigger version of the video is available on the video wall to the right.

Friday 16 October 2009

Sunny Polldubh

Stunning day in Lochaber today. A cool and nippy morning saw returning clients Davey, Heather and I blowing on our fingers at the foot of a route in Glen Nevis. After 3 cold pitches reminding them how to place/remove gear and build belays we went up to the Alp for some sunshine and discussed how and when to rig a bottom rope. Next up I led the guys up the crag classic Reseurrection- their first full on VS before we warmed down on a nice long VDiff.
Hot in the sun by the end of the day, wee Sandy was paddling in the sea today!

Thursday 15 October 2009

Glen Nevis again but no pics

I took another bike ride out to Glen Nevis today for some moe soloing. The main reason was to get a feel for what the crag is like prior to a day's work there tomorrow. It was all a bit greasier than I'd like but with a smashing forecast tomorrow I reckon we'll have a good day. Forgot the camera so you don't get to see the fine autumn colours. Guy was out on Tower Ridge enjoying another cloud inversion and some warm sunshine.

Wednesday 14 October 2009

Better weather on Castle Ridge

Day 2 for Gordon and Guy was out to practise again. We fancied a slightly technically harder, but shorter, day so we went to Castle Ridge on Ben Nevis. Although initially the rock was greasy and the day started out with us hidden in damp mist things improved. As the day went on there was a layer of mist below us and thin high cloud and the odd patch of blue sky above. We took all of the difficulties as directly as possible to give a good Grade III scramble that often feels more difficult than the hard bits on Tower Ridge. Another good day and with Tower Ridge Gordon has now done 2 of The Ben's 4 classic ridges- only NE Buttress and Observatory Ridge to go!

Tuesday 13 October 2009

Dreich on the Aonach Eagach

'Dreich' is a good Scots word for conditions today (damp, grey, miserable weather). Gordon has come up from /Brighton for 2 days mountaineering and really fancied the Aonach Eagach. Guy is preparing for an MIA Assessment in the future and today I let him guide Gordon over the ridge whilst I watched and gave feedback. The weather was very misty indeed and the rock wet and greasy but we made good time traversing the ridge nonetheless. If Katherine and Jane look in Gordon asked me to say 'hi' - he is doing great guys.

Monday 12 October 2009

Glen Nevis

Too nice to spend my morning indoors today so I cycled from Corpach to Glen Nevis where I soloed a handful of easy routes. If it has been dry for even only a few hours there is always something to do at Polldubh and the autumn colours just now are superb. The tops are clear and Ben Nevis looks to have lost the snow now although its was very cold on the fingers today. I've attached a somewhat grainy video of me climbing Styx Buttress Right Wall (V Diff) which dries well and gives pleasant climbing on a steep slab.