Thursday 29 April 2010

Ardnamurchan- I love Gabbro!

Despite a damp and showery start Gill, Brian and I got up and headed west to Ardnamurchan and the ring crags. The weather is often better here as the wet air coming off of the sea is only hitting the low lying peninsula rather than the higher mass off mountains and therefore often doesn't release its moisture. We were rewarded with a cool, breezy day with only 1 or 2 minor showers- and that's not enough to prevent you climbing on the perfect gabbro of the great eucrite with its superb friction.
We headed in to Meall an Fhir-eoin past the abandoned village of Glendrian and many new lambs. Gill warmed up on Greta Gabbro (VS4c) and I jumped onto a slightly damp Claude (VS or HVS- argue amongst yourselves 5a). After that we climbed Volcane (VS4b,4c), Ring of Fire (HVS5a- a real sting in the tail), Krakatoa (HVS5b- and I'll climb that again) and the 'classic of the crag' Yir (VS4c,4b) packing up just as the rain got serious again. Another grand day on the rock!

Wednesday 28 April 2010

Drier further North

I've been out on the bike locally whilst taking some time off to recover from the winter exertions but the damp weather was robbing me of my climbing fix. A careful check of the forecast revealed a window to the north so Kat, Gill, Rich and I headed to Sutherland where we had a great day climbing on the very steep.... and only slightly snappy (well held Kat)... sandstone of Latheronwheel. We camped for the night at a pleasant small site in Dunbeath, eating at the Bay Owl (don't let the tatty transport cafe look from the outside fool you- its great inside, so's the food, and the beer). Rain the next morning didn't stop us paying a quick visit to Sarclet where the rock displays an amazing (and amazingly solid) band of conglomerate between layers of sandstone. We had time for a couple of routes and they were good enough to make us want to go back for more. Then it was home via an afternoon's great biking at Highland Wildcat Trails above Golspie.

Friday 23 April 2010

CWA Assessment in Lochaber

Wet and cold in Lochaber today- more snow on the tops- but I was relatively warm indoors at The Ice Factor running a Climbing Wall Award Assessment for 3 people. Well done Gerry, Calum and Stuzz; solid performances all round.

Thursday 22 April 2010

Cold fingers!

Ok, I've got a chip on my shoulder..... If the bl**dy BBC weather starts again with 'gin clear skies' and 'lovely sunny skies' before adding the fact that it is snowing in Scotland as an afterthought I'm going to.......
ANYway. Yesterday I cycled out to Polldubh and soloed a dozen pitches of up to Severe. The sun shone in between the light snow and hail showers. I got home to receive a late request from The Ice Factor to take a pair of beginners rock climbing today.
Amanda and Dan are moving to near Stanage and decided to take a day of their holiday to get a first experience of rock climbing. A hardy pair we climbed the Gutter and I don't think any of us felt our fingers throughout the whole climb as we were caught in a heavy freezing rain shower (falling as snow higher up on the route as well as the hills). Undeterred we abseiled off and as the weather turned drier we moved over to Styx Buttress Right Wall and climbed that too. By the end of the day the guys had learnt to tie on, helped rig abseils, placed and removed nuts, built belays and both lead belayed and brought each other up.
At the end of the day we retreated to Cafe Beag, the wee cafe near the Glen Nevis Youth Hostel. Its does excellent home baking and a good cup of tea -open Tues to Sun this month (fuller opening over summer season).
Well done guys for keeping on smiling throughout- if you can cope with conditions like that and wet mica schist then 'gin clear skies' on the grit should be a breeze!

Sunday 18 April 2010

CWA day 2

Second day of the Climbing Wall Award Training I have been directing and we visited Alan Kimber's Bunkhouse Bouldering Wall and The Ice Factor again. Today's focus was on coaching movement, games and problem avoidance and solving.
Woke to a healthy dusting of snow on Ben Nevis and the Lochaber hills today but it had retreated back by this evening- it will have helped preserve the ice though and Heike reports good conditions on Indicator Wall Right Hand yesterday. Winter is still there if you want it!

Saturday 17 April 2010

CWA Training day 1

Today was the first day of a Climbing Wall Award Training course I am running at The Ice Factor for 4 students from UHI Lochaber College's Adventure Tourism Management Degree course.

Friday 16 April 2010

Great granite

Neil and I got a relaxed start for Etive Slabs today and we weren't alone. There were 3 pairs there when we arrives, we overtook 2 pairs on the walk in and a couple more pairs arrived after us. This gave us a good excuse to go and look at a route neither of us had done before. We started on Vein Rouge (HVS 5a,4c,4c). The rock was bone dry and mostly quite grippy (except the polished quartz at the top of the third pitch.... 29m above the runner) and the route was great fun with excellent varied climbing and adequate gear on the first pitch.
After we had had lunch in the sun we decided to hop onto the classic Spartan Slab (VS 4a,4a,4c/5a- argue amonst yourselves, 4c, 4b,-) as there were still teams low on Hammer and Pause. We made short work of the first 2 pitches but things were moving at a very relaxed pace at the front of the queue and the sun disappeared as we waited for the third pitch- so after that one we abseiled off.
Great routes, great climbs, great granite!

Thursday 15 April 2010

Is the winter over?

Is the winter over? Who knows- looks like snow this weekend on the tops. However my winter work is finished and a spring of rock climbing and mountaineering in Scotland and the Lakes, Skye Cuillin work and SPAs and CWAs around Scotland (if any of these interest you then drop me a line) beckons- along with the big Expedition to Afghanistan in August. A big thanks to everyone I've worked and climbed with this winter. My body certainly knows its done 97 days with axe(s) and crampons and is enjoying the change of being on the bike and t-shirt clad rock climbing!
Here is a last winter video offering from my excellent season!

Wednesday 14 April 2010

End of winter.... not today!

Ian and I walked into Ben Nevis this morning and finally we've had a good frost. Ice on the path meant we could expect firmer snow higher up but we were after a fairly relaxed day so we opted for Tower Ridge. Sunshine, good snow and ice more sunshine, no crowds, thermals and soft shell gillets and sunshine summarised our route. We spoke to a team coming down the ridge who had enjoyed North East Buttress (rock only on the man trap, a little ice on the 40ft corner) and watched a pair carefully working their way up Psychedilic Wall (plenty of ice coming down). Rich was also out on Green Gully and will probably post something on his blog later.

I've finally taken the plunge and put a work Facebook page up so if you are a big FB user and want to keep up to date with conditions and what I'm up to then you can be my friend on ClimbWhenYoureReady Mountaineering's Facebook Page.

Monday 12 April 2010


Time for a few pitches in Glen Nevis in between some paperwork today. I joined Rich, Jamie B and Kat down at Polldubh in baking hot conditions. We started on Promises (HS) as a big team and then I took Kat up Dundee Weaver (HVS) and the 3 pitch Vampire with its Direct second pitch (VS) and only slightly damp first pitch. Then I hopped on the bike and cycled home for an ice cream!
The body is slowly beginning to remember how to climb rock and use holds smaller than axe shafts!

Scottish Sport Climbing

A complete contrast to Saturday (other than the sunshine) as I was Working for Glasgow Climbing Centre doing some site specific training for their staff for the Introduction to Sport Climbing Courses they are running. We were working at Benny Beg the excellent low grade sport climbing venue near Crieff which is a real sun trap and was very popular yesterday. Feels like winter is on the way out after a looooooong season. I've got one more day possibly on Ben Nevis on Wednesday but we'll see what conditions bring.

Saturday 10 April 2010

Gorgeous on Green

Stunning weather in Lochaber today and I was working for Alan Kimber taking Matthew and Andy climbing on Ben Nevis. We headed in to Coire na Ciste in warm spring like weather and watched a huge cornice collapse just left of Two Step Corner sweeping the easy start to No. 3 Gully Buttress (the pair of climbers tucked in under the buttress kept well right on steeper ground and didn't hang about!).
There was no one on Green Gully so that became our route for the day. The snow on the surface was a little rotten and the ice trickling with water but still plenty to climb. Kenny who did Tower Ridge (in fine conditions) said that from the looks of people backing off things around Indicator Wall that climbs there don't seem to be in good condition however. With the thaw after a cold winter there was also lots of loose rock around, especially near the belays at the top of pitches 2 and 3 on Green Gully- even polished nut cracks may be behind blocks that have only been being held in place by ice so take care.
We topped out into sunshine and enjoyed a slide down the Red Burn. Unfortunately Andy lost his Blackberry around here. Should anyone happen across it in the next day or two we'd be very grateful to hear from you.
Another sunny day tomorrow but all change for me as I'll be clipping bolts!

Friday 9 April 2010

A couple of rock routes in Glen Nevis

Gill, Jane and Sandy and I went for a quick climb at Polldubh this afternoon. I started up Severe Crack (VS) to take Gill and I onto Pinnacle Ridge (S) which she finished up. Then I ran 3 Pines (S) into one long pitch before we dropped into the top pitch of Flying Dutchman Direct (VS) which Gill romped up. Then I took over baby sitting duties whilst Jane and Gill shared leads on Styx Buttress Right Wall (VD).
some routes had wet seeps, some totally dry and it was warm and windless. Great fun trying to persuade the body to move like a rock climber after a very looong winter season. Its not over yet though. I'll be on Ben Nevis tomorrow.