Tuesday 30 March 2010

What a difference a day makes!

Complete change from yesterday! Woke to snow down to 200m and windy weather. Gill and I took Gordon to the East Ridge of Beinn a' Chaorainn. The walk in through the forest showed us just how much fresh snow had fallen overnight and th winds grew steadily stronger until we reached the summit. At the top the wind circled like a pack of angry dogs, one minute rushing at us from one side and the next from a totally different direction. I reckon MWIS was right on the money and we were knocked over by 80mph gusts several times as we fled back down to the car as soon as we could. Wild! No pictures from half way up the ridge until back to the forest road as I was busy trying to stagger on a bearing on the plateau then tryin not to get knocked over on the descent!

Monday 29 March 2010

A tussle with 2 Step

A return to great weather for a day and Ian and I got an early start (earlier for him, he'd driven from Stirling!) for Ben Nevis this morning. On the walk in we could see crowds streaming from the CIC Hut towards Observatory Gully which sent us into Coire na Ciste instead. We'd met a party in the car park who had done 2 Step Corner on Saturday so that became our target for the day and when we reached the Coire there was only a team heading for Green Gully there (cheers for the trail guys). Straight away it was obvious that the snow ice was great for axes, fine for feet but useless for screws- fortunately there is a little rock gear on the route but it felt quite bold. We climbed it in 4 fun pitches, the 2 steep steps in the middle of our pitch 3 providing the crux as there was a lot less ice on them (and no protection nearby). Great to top out into the sun and no wind listening to parties in Green Gully and somewhere over towards Central Gully Left or Right. The fresh snow of the last couple of days was lying on the slope below No. 3 Gully Buttress deeply enough to make kicking steps through it feel like work and we chose to come down the Red Burn (the bumslide was frozen solid and too fast for me!!) pleased with our route.

Sunday 28 March 2010

A day in Glencoe

Out in Glencoe today with a team from The Glasgow Academy and we walked up towards Stob Coire nan Lochan through rain showers this morning. There were a few other voices in the mist as we headed up to Dorsal Arete where we passed Ian teaching his team to lead climb in winter. We were after a 1 axe mountaineering day so I took Phillip and Sam, and Neal took Adam up the ridge. Plenty of snow still around on easier angled ground and ledges. We came down Broad Gully which had a little fresh snow but not enough to be dangerous. Down in the base of the coire we saw a team backing off of SC but another party had started up NC before breaking onto Raeburn's Original Route, having a good day, and Bomerang looked complete. It still felt quite mild on the coire rim.

Saturday 27 March 2010

Still loving this winter!

I went with Anatole and Emma today as they took themself up Ledge Route with me advising on footwork and ropework. I was quite a party with Gill, Mike, Cliff and Jamie B all at the base of the route with students. It was snowing around the base of No. 5 Gully but on the walk in I saw enough of the Ciste to make me think that there must be some good climbing to be had up there. The base of Glover's looked well formed and things like Garadh Gully and North Gully are still thouroughly banked out. I spoke to climbers who had done Sickle in good nick, parties were also on Orion Direct but the fresh snow was funneling down Point 5 in quantities that made at least 1 team back off. Lots more climbing to come in the next week! We enjoyed our trip up Ledge Route which is still very snowy and came down No.4 Gully (a little fresh damp snow blowing in balling on our crampons a little).

Friday 26 March 2010

The year ahead

Admin day.... catching up and looking ahead. A quick promo video with pictures from last year above. Already bookings are looking busy for CWA, SPA, CWALA, Intro. Rock courses in Scotland and The Lakes, Skye and Tower Ridge work. I expect to be on Skye a lot in May and at the end of July am off to Afghanistan for a month. Otherwise I'll be as mobile as last year with courses in Torridon and the North West, Lochaber, The Cairngorms, The Central Belt and The Lakes. In Addition new for this year I'm offering Climbing Courses in Spain. After a wet second half to last summer I got more pitches of good TRAD climbing done in 5 days in Costa Blanca than the previous month at home.
The MCofS are offering a subsidised Summer Mountain Leader course at Glenmore Lodge for members of affiliated clubs, a real bargain.

Also, along with George and Heather I have been asked to organise the MCofS's first international meet which will be to Rjukan in Jan 2011. We and 2 other instructors will each take 2 students to teach them how to ice climb more safely and efficiently. Full details on how to apply here.

Thursday 25 March 2010

Before leaving Keswick this morning to return to Lochaber I headed down to Shepherds Crag with Jane. It was pretty damp and uninspiring but we headed up Donkey’s Ears a Severe neither of us had done before. It was great fun, a bit slimey, with wet hand and footholds (note to self; anything that bright a green is bound to be as slippery as it looks) but never boring. The second pitch hand traversing below the ‘ears’ and the crux pitch- another slippery traverse in a good situation- were well worth doing. Felt nice to move on rock again after the winter...... but it’s not over yet. Starting on Saturday I have a week of winter courses left to go!

Wednesday 24 March 2010

A change of pace for a week

I've done 86 days with axe and crampons of skis on this winter so it was time for a change of pace. On Monday I was working for GOOutdoors who are opening a new store in Clydebank. I was doing some staff training for supervisors of their climbing wall. The shop has an interesting selection of gear at a fair price- including lots of accessories I hadn't seen stocked in large chain stores in the UK such as a big range of solar chargers and oddities such as Petzl's belay/via ferratta gloves.
Now I'm down visiting family in Keswick so yesterday I was out for a dash up Sharp Edge on Blencathra, over the top and back to the house via Latrigg. There were only a few snow patches on the very summit.
Good news the MCofS have given my team a grant for our expedition to the Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan this summer- hoorah.
The rest of this week I'll be taking it fairly easy (hopefully a little cragging at Shepherd's tomorrow) but from Saturday I'm back out on the hills in Lochaber for 8 days. We'll see what this winter has left to offer!

Sunday 21 March 2010

Edinburgh University Winter Hills and Mountains

I've been away for 5 days working for the Edinburgh University MSc/PGDip in Outdoor Education Course. The course is loosely programmed alpong the lines of a Winter Mountain Leader Training course and based out of Kingussie takes place in the Cairngorms. The 12 students are from a wide range of backgrounds and levels of experience. However all were super keen, intelligent and well motivated asking good questions and looking at the wider picture of winter mountaineering in the Cairngorms (the environment, the landscape and human pressures) rather than simply the technical skills. The first couple of days were spent on basics- footwork, use of the axe, crampons, self belay and self arrest- in thaw conditions and an increasing wind. Friday saw gales and we spent some time using transceivers and probes to search for 'casualties' and looking at the use of the rope to protect steep snow slopes and edges. Over the weekend we travelled up to Ciste Mhearad where the team dug (maybe that should be chipped) a number of palatial snowholes. Overnight we navigated around Cairngorm for a while before an early start to return out poo pots and head for home in much better weather.

Tuesday 16 March 2010

Financial Support for training for your Club?

I support the BMC

The BMC are repeating last years offer of funding support for affiliated clubs looking to develop. On of the categories is financial support is funding for instruction for members from someone like me. If you are interested in applying for funding to hire an instructor see here.
Note I don't just work in Scotland but am often to be found in the Lake District and Wales too!

Seen this?

I've had a couple of days off and one wet abortive morning trying to get to Ben Nevis (cheers for the tow Rich). Off tonight to Kingussie to work with Edinburgh University students for 5 days mountaineering. Looks like I might be wearing 2 sets of waterproofs this week!
I was looking at Ian Parnell's excellent blog and saw this presentation by Alexandre Buisse that won the Arc'Teryx Adventure shot competition at SHAFF. I like my photography but this is a visual feast! To see a larger version on his website click here.

Why do we climb? from Alexandre Buisse on Vimeo.

Sunday 14 March 2010

Winter Mountain Leader Training

I've been out on Creag Meagaidh for the last 2 days working on a Winter Mountain Leader Training course for Glenmore Lodge. Neil and I had a group each who we accompanied as the navigated a number of legs to their snow hole site near the summit of Creag Meagaidh. Digging was hard with firm snow and a layer of ice part way in but finally we were all safely ensconsed for the night.
Next morning we woke to a day of poor visibility (excellent navigation weather) and a mild wind. My team navigated there way to the window and along the ridge north of the Coire Ardair path before dropping down to cross the large debris cones from the avalanches a couple of weeks ago.
Climbers were enjoying fat ice on South and North Post as well as The Pumpkin.

Thursday 11 March 2010

Winter ML Trg Mountaineering journey

A chance today for the team to go on a mountaineering journey looking further at skills for managing themselves and parties on steep ground. My group put in a couple of pitches using buried axes and bucket seats to belay on the snowy ground on the flanks of the Fiacaill of Sneachda. We looked at holding falls in a dynamic fashion to avoid shock loading the anchors and carried on up towards the crest of the ridge. Crossing a large snow slope we dug a quick snow profile and discussed the practicalities of several types of snowpack tests, eventually getting a sheer with the 'last tap' of a tap test.
Carrying on up the ridge we discussed route choice before looking at confidence roping in descent and ascent as we headed into Coire an T Sneachda. Crossing the old avalanche debris from last weekend we discussed safe travel options before pausing to look briefly at coaching crampon use at the 'flat ice'. Finally we headed out to the moraines to look at how to safeguard yourself whilst approaching a steep edge to prepare it for descent/check a slope beneath and to examine a range of in situ emergency shelters.
A full day that didn't quite end there. On our return to Glenmore Lodge we looked at kit and food for our 2 day snowhole based exped- so no blog report tomorrow night.

Wednesday 10 March 2010

Winter training steep ground day

Day 3 of the Winter ML training at Glenmore Lodge and we went into Coire an t Sneachda. We were looking at the use of the rope to overcome the sort of obstacles a party leader might expect to face in winter. We covered the use of bucket seats, body belays and backups in the form of a buried horizontal axe or a bollard, as well as the use of stomper belays- all in ascent and descent. Our day finished with a descent off of the side of the Cas Ridge examining some party management issues.
The odd patch of cloud today and some cold weather in the shade. Looks like a bit of a change ahead in the weather. Good climbing conditions reported on the easy to mid grade routes in Sneachda today and Derek and Dave took their parties to climb on the ice we saw in Coire Garbhalach yesterday.

Tuesday 9 March 2010

Coire Garbhalach

Second day working on a Winter Mountain Leader Training Course at Glenmore Lodge and we went on a journey to the impressive Coire Garbhalach down Glen Feshie. Stunning weather again (shades and sun cream are not optional at the moment) as we put some of yesterday's skills and learning (step cutting, use of crampons, avalanche avoidance etc) into context.
Over in the Northern Corries many routes being climbed including The Message, Patey's, Wavelength, Invernookie, Short Circuit and Savage Slit. There is some ice in Coire Garbhalach too.