Saturday 30 January 2010

... And relax...

A day off before another busy stint of work and I've been maintaining and repairing kit. Off to the Ben for a day's Guiding tomorrow and then back to Glenmore Lodge for a 5 day mountaineering course next week.
Unfortunately I'll be over in the East when the Fort William Mountain Festival is on, the program looks great this year. Enjoy....

Friday 29 January 2010

Winter Skills Day 5

Last day of our Winter Skills Course at Glenmore Lodge and we went on a jouney to let the team put it all together. Plenty of snow fell overnight which meant a delay whilst the road was cleared and further snowfall meant another temporary closure behind us. We headed across to Lurchers Gully and made our way up to Cairn Lochan in a total whiteout. Careful navigation was required to avoid straying over the edge of the coire as we continued on to the top of the Goat Track, over 1176 and 1141 and down the Fiacaill Coire Cas. After a good blasting of wind and snow all day and a view that would have done credit to the inside of a ping pong ball it was with some surprise that we dropped out of the cloud to see sunshine down on Aviemore and a ski centre enjoying a busy friday in pleasant weather. Well done to my team this week who have let me teach and challenge them in often harsh conditions. Back home for a weekend on the west (climbing sunday) and back to the Lodge to run a mountaineering course next week.

Thursday 28 January 2010

Winter Skills Day 4 and rescues

A very busy day for team Lodge today. Our winter skills group had headed up the steep frozen slope to the left of the Mess of Pottage (Hidden Chimney reported in good nick) when first words of an incident came over the radio.We weren't in a position to assist but the large Winter Mountain Leader Training Course and various Glenmore Lodge employees and ex-employees (Instructors, domestic staff and ex-nightwatch) and an RAF MR Team were all on the scene. An unfortunate climber had fallen from near the top of Aladdin's Mirror Direct breaking a leg. Glenmore staff above him radioed in the incident and descended to help (nice work Dave), first aid was applied and the casualty was lowered (great work by the Winter ML Trainees and the Ski Patrol from Cairngorm Mountain who brought a stretcher in on a skidoo- the rescue box is still buried deep). A helicopter from Prestwick then flew into the Coire in very poor visibility to complete the rescue. Meanwhile we navigated our way to a heavily rimed weather station atop Cairngorm and onwards down to the Ptarmigan (picking up a 'navigationally challenged' walker near point 1141 on the way). After a break for hot chocolate at the restaurant we continued on and the team navigated me back down windy ridge to the car park.

Joris and the Chancer

A couple of days ago (Monday) some of the Lodge Domestic staff went to try The Chancer over on Hells Lum. Joris took a good fall on the lead and managed to leave his axes behind (elastic leashes clipped to his sack rather than a chest sling or his harness).
After his big whipper the team decided to go around and ab for his tools!
No injuries except to his pride!

Wednesday 27 January 2010

Wild and mild

Day 3 of our winter skills course and it was warm, wet and windy. We headed in to the small coire behind the Fiacaill Ridge looking at using the axe for a self belay on steep wet snow slopes. We then crossed the bealach and dropped down into Sneachda buffeted by 60mph winds and were glad when we reched the base of the coire where it was calmer.The flat ice beneath Fiacaill Buttress made a good venue to look at the use of crampons and then we headed for home and a brew where we also looked at the Glenmore Lodge Avalanche Spotchecks Quiz and some useful books and DVDs to remind the team of all of the skills they are picking up this week.
Conditions on the climbs looked very wet- black rock running with water..... a freeze now would give some very firm snow conditions.
Today I was working for Glenmore Lodge.

Tuesday 26 January 2010

Winter skills Day 2

Day 2 of our winter skills course and we were back into Sneachda. We walked right in to the area beneath Aladdin’s buttress to look at self arrest with and without an ice axe in the event of a slide on snow. Much milder today- although the wind never reached the levels threatened in the forcasts.
Climbers were out in Aladdins Couloir, Patey’s Route, Aladdins Mirror Direct, Red Gully, Goat Track Gully, Invernookie and The Seam. An avalanche came out of the Runnel (plenty of other evidence of wet snow slides overnight beneath the gullys) shortly before someone chose to solo it (very large drooping wet cornices above :-( and the rocks were running with water and quite black where exposed by the end of the day.
After investigating how to stop ourselves with an axe we moved back to the moraines where everyone dug an emergency shelter before heading home still in better weather than expected.
Today I was working for Glenmore Lodge.

Monday 25 January 2010

Glenmore Lodge winter skills Day 1

Day 1 of an Introductory Winter Skills course for Glenmore Lodge and I was out in a snowy Coire an t Sneachda today. We were getting a feel for walking in the winter environment and introducing avalanche avoidance and the use of the boot and the axe as key walking tools.
Climbers were out on Pateys, Alladin's Mirror Direct (about Grade III, a small ice step) and Red Gully amongst others. A team from the Lodge domestic staff were over in the Loch Avon basin with Joris catching some air time falling off the Chancer (no injuries- bottom of Hells Lum completely banked out) and unsurprisingly there were ski tourers out enjoying excellent conditions everywhere. Firm snow under some powder and isolated patches of windslab about- gear on the routes is very hard won just now.
Another team from the Lodge reported continuing good conditions on Creag Meaghaidh- they did The Pumpkin.
Today I was working for Glenmore Lodge.

Sunday 24 January 2010

Final day with Julian and James

The last day of Julian and James' introduction to the steeper side of winter. They've progressed rapidly with a solo of Ledge Route, a rapid ascent of Tower Ridge and today was spent on the ice around the CIC hut- initially following me and then leading some easier pitches on the Ciste burn. We ended the day with an abseil from an ice thread.
Fine weather but less teams around today. Speaking to those who did Point 5 yesterday and another team on Green Gully today confirms what we saw on Tower Ridge yesterday. The snow ice higher up is mostly good for climbing but too poor for good screws and obscuring all of the rock gear. Plenty of ice still to go at though.
Time for me to migrate east for a week. i'm writing this at Glenmore Lodge where I'm working until friday.

Saturday 23 January 2010

Busy day on the hills

Great day to be out today. I hear in Glencoe Stob Coire Nam Beith and Stob Coire Nan Lochan were heaving (queter on Bidean). Guy and Rich did Menage a Trois (icet cracks but busy on Ben an Dothaidh). I took James and Julian up Tower Ridge (accompanied by Sal and Ant) and again the guys moved like lightning. I've rarely seen the Ridge quite so plastered- easy climbing but hard to protect unless you know where the gear is in advance.
Plenty of other teams out on routes like Green Gully, NE Butress, Observatory Ridge (multiple teams), someone poking around the base of Point 5, Tower Scoop, the CIC icefalls (getting thinner and a bit chopped up), and the Coire na Ciste burn amongst others.
There were only 2 other teams on Tower Ridge following us up and the weather was mostly fine- just the odd blast of spindrift and misty on top. We descended No.4 Gully (patch of avoidable windslab at the narrows) along with a number of other teams.

Friday 22 January 2010

Ledge Route

Day 1 of 3 with Julian and James today - and Sal was along to help again. We hoped to do Ledge Route but with a poor avalanche forecast we were keeping the fallback option of playing on the ice on the way up into Coire na Ciste and doing some skills work. As it was we walked up to the base of No. 5 Gully to examine some recent avalanche debris and were happy enough with what we saw there to make a brisk ascent up the gully to where you break right.
The temperatures were high and there was a little wet snow on older firmer snowpack. The often tricky initial slab was an easy walk and above it was a nice icey bulge (avoidable) to play on. In fact snow conditions were user friendly all the way up as we continued our discussions on avalanche avoidance, winter footwork and moutaineering ropework up the ridge. We wandered around No.5 (snow still moist and consolidating) and on to No.4 Gully. This looked like it had picked up a lot of snow last night at the top so we made a sharp right turn and descended the Red Burn (rewarded with a couple of hundred metres bumslide- mind the boulders) which is complete all the way to the path.

Thursday 21 January 2010

West Face of Aonach Dubh

Out with Sally and Steve again today. Day 2 of the 'winterisation' of Steve's climbing was to involve some ice and some leading for him. With a forecast for high winds later I was keen to stay fairly low so we went to the west face of Aonach Dubh after seeing pics on Alex's Blog last night with thoughts of No. 3 Gully.
On the walk in the Screen was hugely obvious above us.... so much so that after a little discussion we agreed that I'd lead the guys up this so that Steve could get a feel for some steep ice and we could ab off of a v thread. 10 ft up and I'm wishing I'd sharpended my tools and brought more screws..... belay at the bottom..... belay at the top..... that leaves 5 screws (just enough) for a steep lengthy pitch of ice that varied from; very brittle, to wet, to hollow, to thin enough that I was straight through to rock. It was excellent climbing and felt like a nice pitch of V to me, steep and sustained and mostly (but not always) on quite good ice. We rigged our thread and down we went.

A short traverse to the bottom of No.3 Gully and there are Gaz and Adele who have had the same idea- they are working together with 2 clients for Jagged Globe . The first pitch was a little steep to hit Steve with as his first ice lead so I nipped up first. After that Steve went on the sharp end happily dispatching pitch after pitch of icey steps, snow and the odd thinly ice bit of rock. Both team moved very quickly and when we reached the Rake decided to head left into a nice little mixed pitch that took us out onto the face in an exposed position above the basin of No.2 Gully. Some easy but airy snowy ramps took us to a final mixed step which I led.

All day long 'snow devils' little tornados of snow had been whipping round the crags and blasting us. We decided to go for a careful look at the top of No.2 Gully (scoured out on 1 side, soft deep slab on the other). Without much snow above us we quickly made our way down through the short narrows where you are exposed to an avalanche (we were on firm snow on a rib on one side) until we were out on Dinnertime Buttress which we descended to the cars

A good long exploratory day with a good long pitch of tech 5 ice, a 300m II/III lead for Steve, another couple of mixed pitches and some Grade I soloing above that and a careful descent of some steep ground.... phew- I need a glass of wine! Well done to Steve, tech 5 mixed and ice followed and a long lead pushing III at speed too!!