Sunday 28 February 2010

More ice...

Finnesg-aig Falls again with Dave and Steve today. We found that again Kenny had the same idea and were pleassed by the trench dug by the parties who have climbed it since the major snowfall.
There is a lot of snow on the flanks of the gully approach to the climb but we found a safe approach and plenty of ice on the left side to start the route on. The middle 2 pitches are less steep and lead to the final excellent pitch of good ice. Dave had his headcam on today so the video gives an interesting perspective on the route. Unfortunately my much used G14s broke today- the main foreplate of one sheard right through :-(
A large crown wall is visible, 500m long running north from the Red Burn above and parallel to the pony tack on Ben Nevis, further evdince of huge avalanches is visible on the flanks of the Ben high above Glen Nevis. Climbing has been possible on a handful of routes in and around Lochaber such as the East Buttress of the North Ridge of Stob Ban and Taxus as well as the CIC Hut Cascades, Finnisg-aig and Steall Falls but as the Lochaber SAIS forecast makes clear things are still VERY unstable around here. If you are venturing into the hills think carefully about your route and be prepared to turn back rather than take un-necessary risks. The mountains will be there another day, the trick is to make sure we are!

Saturday 27 February 2010

Return to Steall

As Adam reported yesterday An Steall Ban is formed again and although it was thawing today there is enough snow on it thagt the ice should last for a few days of the forecast weather.
Today I was out with Steve and Dave whose Scottish Climbing experience had yet to include water ice. So we took the opportunity to avoid the hills in their current condition and make and ascent of this great we climb. The guys looked at placing and removing screws, rigging v threads and movement on ice as we climbed up in 4 pitches. We then rigged an abseil descent to end our day.
Andy joined another 20+ people on the zigzags today reporting some heavy going on the crest of Gear Aonach and the descent from Coire nan Lochan. Still lots of unconsolidated snow high up as these skiers found out today.

Wednesday 24 February 2010

Not the best day...

Woke up after a crap nights sleep with a head cold caught off of my wee boy. Rich had forgotten his boots so I could have had an extra hour in bed whilst he fetched them. The poor weather had come in in force with wind and snow but we went to Ben Nevis anyway.
Lots of freshly blown snow drifting as we walked in and lots of teams giving up and walking out (including a team who had escaped injury after being avalanched at the base of Vanishing Gully).
It was obvious to us that anything involving crossing a sheltered snow slope was out so after chatting to folk at the CIC we headed towards the cascades only to get avalanched just after crossing the Ciste path.
We were on a low angle (20-25 degree) slope with rock above and grass below, about 30m long and 5m wide at its maximum and we were fairly near the edge when it slid breaking up around us into large blocks and taking us 8-10ft onto flat grass. The crown wall was about 50cm at its highest point.
After that experience we carried on to the main CIC hut cascade and had a chat with Mike from Abacus who was about to warm up his clients on the next fall to the right. I geared up and led the main cascade (very featured- steep but stepped, some brittle ice and some slush too) and was about 3/4 of the way up when the sea king buzzed close above me.
It soon became obvious that something had happened below us and just a little further away from the hut. After we abseiled back down we found out that a solo climber passing below the 3rd cascade away from the hut had also tripped a small slab but unfortunately he had been carried over the boulder field and outcrops below and was seriously injured.
An instructor working for Alan Kimber saw the accident and carried out first aid and raised the alarm. Other passersby also came to help and the Lochaber MR Team were soon on the scene (well done to the sea king crew- grotty conditions, spindrift and strong gusts of wind).
The fresh wind blown snow has fallen burying the surface hoar as an unstable layer creating potentially dangerous avalanche conditions, see the SAIS report. Just as I'm posting a mate in the Glencoe team is off to another avalanche incident on the Buachaille. Take care folks.
The video gives a flavour of the weather today.

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Tower Ridge

Yet another stunner of a day as Mike and I went to Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis. Conditions were great and we were on the summit by 1pm soaking up the sun but only when we could shelter from the strengthening breeze. I was working for Mike from Abacus today who found good conditions on Point 5 whilst other teams were on Zero, the Minus Gullys, Orion Direct and in Glover's Chimney. We also saw Andy who had a good day on Ledge Route and passed Ian on Tower Ridge. Will it all end tomorrow.... we'll see what the weather brings.

Monday 22 February 2010


Euan and I went to Stob Coire nan Lochan today on another stunning day. We were going for a look at Crest Route but it looked a little black so we opted for Innuendo (V,6) which neither of us had done before as it looked shaded and potentially icey (we'd been told it needs ice). The route was great fun with just enough ice to make the distinct lack of gear feel less of an issue. didn't feel hard enough for Technical 6 but gear was too poor to warrant IV so we reckoned that it felt about V,5 today.
Post holidays the Coire wasn't too busy, only 1 team on Dorsal, a team on Scabbard and Chimney Route, a group coming up Broad Gully, a pair on Forked Gully and a group working on snow anchors across the coire.
Another corker of a day. But watch out for the enormous surface hoar crystals (saw one the size of a jam jar lid today) being buried by fresh snow over the next few days and causing an instability in the snowpack. Working on Ben Nevis tomorrow.

Sunday 21 February 2010


Jane went for a ski over onto the back corries at Nevis Range today and I took Sandy for a walk. Ben Nevis is very white looking and Jamie B reports that No. 6 Gully on Aonach Dubh is in good if well used condition. I'll be out in Glencoe tomorrow.... lets see what the day brings.

Saturday 20 February 2010

Time off...

After a long spell in the East I'm back home and taking a few days off in the next week. Booked up from now to end of March except 15,16,22,23,24,27,28,29 March if anyone wants to go out and do something.
Today I went to a service in celebration of Ed Grindley's life. An amazing event with people talking about the wonderful things he meant to them as a climber, skier, Guide, teacher, colleague and friend. Much laughter and irreverant humour and given the excellent weather and conditions on the hill it was a testament to what he meant to everyone to see such a large number of climbers, Instructors, Guides and skiers there to pay their respects and raise a glass to him.
Then many of us did what he would have done and went up the hill. I went out with Jane and Sandy to Aonach Mor. The wee man is already a better skier than me!
Sorry, only baby pictures today.
Lovely weather, still a lot of powder high up but mid level routes on Ben Nevis are reported as great, Udlaidh, Meagaidh, Glencoe, Cairngorms, Toridon........ man what a winter!

Last day Intro. Winter Climbing Course

My last day at Glenmore Lodge for a couple of weeks and the last day of Hugh and Jim's Winter Climbing Course. They opted to lead something easy today and we joined another party in Spiral Gully (II) who were freindly and sensible so climbing together worked just fine. We could see the base of the routes through the mist as we began but when we descended the Goat Track it was back to 'the white room' - watch out for those cornices, there is so much snow the edges are often invisible.
Round 2 and we just had time for another route and we opted for Red Gully which had a team moving fairly quickly on already. My lead this time and the guys raced up behind me as i took in the rope as fast as i could just to keep up!
The other team in the gully were using 'interesting' ropework techniques (clipped into the end of the rope rather than tied in, no runners when they were easily available- one good early runner would protect the belay in the event of an ever possible slip- slack tie in to anchors...). I'm not usually one for 'right and wrong' in terms of how other people climb but in this case it seemed that pointless shortcuts were being taken that served no purpose and saved no time over better practise techniques. Hope they survive long enough to learn better........
Anyway I've had a great few weeks (with some really great people to be on the hill with) over in the east and am now taking a couple of days off before some personal climbing time back over west and a week of my own work. Awesome conditions at the moment.... long may it continue!

Thursday 18 February 2010

...another top day!

I've been climbing in the Cairngorms for over 20 years (being a Huntly loon) but i've never done Fingers Ridge, until today that is.
Another bluebird day in the Cairngorms and again we are first onto a classic route. Fingers is still heavily plastered but some kind soul had cleared it fairly well yesterday and I got more runners in today that most of the last 2 weeks put together!
I was looking to push Jim and Hugh a little today as they have been cruising along so far.... job done, Fingers was a good step up for them.
James, George and Colin were all instructing on routes on either side of us (lots of opportunity to exchange pictures) and Smiler came up behind us (thanks for helping the team with the stuck nut Smiler) so we had a sociable day.
Almost had a small glitch when Jim took to juggling his axe but I recovered it after a short downclimb towards Red Gully ;-)
A skier and a snowboarder descended Aladdins Couloir and Danny cut some fresh tracks down from the windy col. For us it was just another case of avoiding sunburn on the descent!
today i was working for Glenmore Lodge.

Wednesday 17 February 2010

Top day...

Lots of fresh snow today. after a bit of debate the sunshine and blue skies swung it and we headed up the hill. There was a weel trodden trail into Sneachda and we took the chance and headed past the Twin ribs and around to Fiacaill buttress. A few teams were gearing up just below the Couloir so we headed up to join them. Luckily they were all heading to Invernookie or Bellhaven so we had Fiacaill Couloir to ourselves. I was pleasantly surprised to find only 2 large patches of soft slab in there and a a lot of firm scoured snow ice. After a couple of pitches I coiled up one rope and soloed on as Hugh and Jim each led a pitch to the top.
Ficaill ridge was heaving and the views were stunning. There was evidence of an avalanche on the Mess of Pottage, a large crown wall adorned the exit slopes of The slant and its fall looked to have triggered the slope below. 2 climbers made it up Hidden Chimney and said it was ok.... between the avalanche forecast, the winds depositing fresh snow on that aspect and the fresh debris I don't think I'd have even gone for a look.
Other teams were out on Fluted Buttress, Spiral Gully, Patey's, Mirror Direct and Aladdin's Couloir was also reported as surprisingly scoured once the wade in was over.
Awesome day..... we carried on down Fiacaill Ridge and descended the Twin Ribs with a long abseil to end still under perfect blue skies.

Tuesday 16 February 2010

Snowy second day

Woke this morning to heavy snow on the roads which kept the ski road shut until mid morning. So we walked up to the Ciste Crag to look at winter gear placements, belay building, multipitch ropework and stance management and thrutching on some of the short routes there. After topping out we conducted an abseil retreat and spent some time learning to place pegs. Woprking for Glenmore Lodge again this weekend.