Thursday 30 September 2010

10 Top days

Its normally only during winter that I find myself working 10 days straight but the last week and a half has been manic and great fun. 3 wet days walking and camping with Students from Lochaber College (spirits not dampened by the rain and keen to walk far and camp high), then 4 days in Assynt with pupils from The Glasgow Academy (cold on Lurgainn Edge, super day out paddling to and scrambling over Suilven, sunshine and blue skies climbing at Reiff and a quick route on Stac Pollaidh before dashing back to Glasgow to begin...), an evening and 2 days of SPA Training with a super keen team from Forth Valley College (most of this group have been climbing for only a short while and already everyone has led VS-E1, I was well impressed with this and their attitude to climbing as a whole) and finally today back with the second years from Lochaber College for another day's rock climbing. Today Mike and Sally followed me up a route at Kingussie Crag before launching their career as 'proper climbers' - each leading 3 routes. The crag was busy as Glenmore Lodge turned up part way through the day with a large MIA Training course but this just made the day more of a realistic learning experience as we negotiated and worked around each other. A bit of common sense, politeness and chat with other folks on the crag goes a long way at time like this and a flexible approach from all meant that everyone was always able to climb. I love watching people stepping forwards on the road to becoming independent climbers and both Sally and Mike were taking the climbing and the ropework easily in their stride today.
What a top spell of work.... what's next?!

Rock Climbing at Kingussie Crag from Alan Halewood on Vimeo.

Wednesday 29 September 2010

SPA Training day 2

Not the best start as some numpty in Glasgow ran a red light and ploughed into the passenger side of our minibus. Eventually we made it to Neilston Quarry where initial rain faded to sunshine as we looked at aspects of working with groups at crags. Pics from yesterday and today.
Here also is a wee video of rock climbing at Reiff on Sunday- great day!

Rock Climbing at Reiff from Alan Halewood on Vimeo.

Tuesday 28 September 2010

SPA Training

Today was the first full day of the SPA Training I have been directing for Forth Valley College. Today Ian and I took them to Auchinstarry Quarry where the weather stayed gray but dry all day. The team all have a good deal of trad lead climbing experience and were keen to demonstrate what they could do today.
Posted a couple of videos of assynt below once they had uploaded to Vimeo. More tomorrow.

Amazing time in the Northwest

Suilven from Alan Halewood on Vimeo.

Lurgainn Edge from Alan Halewood on Vimeo.

Today I rushed down to Glasgow to start an SPA training this evening at Glasgow Climbing Centre. But this morning I took 3 pupils from The Glasgow Academy up West Buttress on Stac Pollaidh. Rock climbing on rough sandstone with a superlative view. The last 4 days working with Neal and his 6 pupils have been great. We started with a scramble up Lurgainn Edge on Cul Beag. Although it was absolutely freezing the route got better and better as we got higher up and finishes only a 100m from the summit with a grand outlook onto our objective for day 2. Those of you who know me will attest that I'm not a paddler. However the approach to Suilven cries out for open canoes with long lochs running parallel to the walking path. So we took the boats and paddles to the foot of this stunning mountain. A steep pull to the bealach and we passed through the curious but well crafted drystone dyke on the way to the top of Caisteal Liath. Suilven comes from the Norse for 'The Tower' which is how it would have been perceived by viking raiders passing off of the coast seeing it end on. We retraced our steps before scrambling up to the east summit and I kept going to pass over the lower peak at the eastern end and on down the ridge (startling a buzzard perched amongst the boulders on the way). Back to the boats and it was a weary team that returned to the hut in Elphin that evening. More SPA action with Forth Valley College tomorrow and here are a couple of videos of the Cul Beag and Suilven.

Thursday 23 September 2010

Mamores walking trip

Walking in the Mamores from Alan Halewood on Vimeo.

Just spent 3 days in the wilds on a hillwalking expedition with 1st year students from UHI's Adventure Tourism Management Degree course. As well as the 'hard' skills of hillwalking and camping we spoke looked at leadership styles and access and conservation issues during our trip. I had a very game team and despite heavy rain and high winds on the first day we walked from Leanachan to the Lochan under under Sgurr Eilde Beag. On day 2 we traversed the Mamores to the Lochan just east of Stob Ban. Finally today a soggy wind burnt team walked back to Lochaber College over Stob Ban and Mullach nan Coirean.

Monday 20 September 2010

Indoors today

Today I was doing another days training at The Ice Factor. In the morning Rachael, Isi, Chris and I spent some time looking structuring practise for students acquiring new skills. The training I had arranged was based on some of the great workshops around at the moment that I have done in the past including: Coaching Skills for Climbers at Plas Y Brenin, Coaching Processes for Climbing Instructors at Glenmore Lodge and the BMC's FUNdamentals course.
This afternoon I was working with Ali, Rachael and Andy on some pre-SPA training work to help them 'tidy up' their ropework.
Off out on a walking expedition looking at access, environmental and leadership issues with the students from the Lochaber College's Adventure Tourism Management Degree course for 3 days from tomorrow.

Sunday 19 September 2010

Today I took Jim and Kieran to Buachaille Etive Mor. They have been trying progressively harder scrambling routes and have reached a point where they want to pick up some ropework skills to ensure their ability to protect themselves both in ascent and retreat on steeper ground. It was drizzly all day, although it never rained that hard, as we made our way both up and down Curved Ridge in poor visibility. Today I was working for Scotch on the Rocks Guides .

Here is a video of yesterday's biking too:

Saturday 18 September 2010

Unexpected day off

Owing to a cancellation I had the day off today. I decided on a morning trip out on the bike and cycled from home to Fassfern then north to Glen Suilieag bothy and over the watershed (a bit of hike n bike) to Glen Loy. Its a good fast desecnt down to the road where I turned left and joined the Caledonian Canal at Gairlochy for a long sprint home.

Friday 17 September 2010

CWA Day 2

Day 2 of our CWA today and we visited Bunkhouse Bouldering as our second wall. Alan had been hard at work with his Benky Grip Wash cleaning his holds (they looked brand new). We had a look at just how much you can get out of a small bouldering wall. A big highlight was 'Climbing Golf' (see Paul Smith's Climbing Games if you haven't already got a copy). Then we returned to The Ice Factor to look at simple problem solving and avoidance, some more bouldering and peer belaying issues and more games.
I got home in time to pick some brambles with wee Sandy and then knock some apples off of our tree.... I feel a crumble coming on- it is definitely autumn now with snow on Ben Nevis, the Aonachs and the Cairngorm Plateau.

Thursday 16 September 2010

UHI at Polldubh

Today Tristan, Rich and I went to Glen Nevis with the students of UHI West Highland College . With 12 first year students and assisted by 2 third years and a second year we managed to ensure that each student completed a 2 pitch climb and an abseil to retreat. We also looked in more detail at gear placement, abseiling with a prussik loop and belay construction. Despite early showers the climbing wasn't too bad- rock drying in the afternoon and no midges.

Wednesday 15 September 2010

Afghan Video Part 2 (1 more part to come)

Here is the second instalment of my Videos of the Afghan trip. It covers from our arrival at Kasch Goz (the 'capital' of the Little Pamir) through our time climbing in the Pamir i Wakhan and our return to Kasch Goz to arrange animals for our trek out.

Scottish Afghanistan Expedition 2010- Part 2 Climbing in the Pamirs from Alan Halewood on Vimeo.

I also got a really nice email from Vern and Helen who I was out with the last week for 3 days:
It's always satisfying to get good feedback and know you've made folk happy- even when the weather was challenging.
"We would both like to thank you for our course last week as we feel that apart from being a great experience, your positive approach and style of coaching was just what we wanted. I now feel ready to begin outdoors and Helen has benefited hughly from the short 3 days we spent with you. I wouldn`t hesitate to reccomend you as it was a great experience"

Monday 13 September 2010

CWA and thinking of winter

Yesterday I was running the first day of a Climbing Wall Award Training course based at The Ice Factor. It was raining heavily in Lochaber and the climbing centre was busy providing a good environment to look at what working and climbing in a noisy wall with many users is all about.

At the same time with a dusting of snow forecast on the highest tops tomorrow my thoughts are turning to winter. I've got almost 3 full weeks of courses booked already and some people are predicting another good cold one. Last year will take some beating- here is my video of 97 days of axes and crampons last year (there was a 98th day but i'd already made the video by then!). Hope it whets some appetites.

Winter 2009/2010 from Alan Halewood on Vimeo.

Sunday 12 September 2010

Glen Nevis Climbing

Today I went to Polldubh with Colin and Richard to help them progress to leading. After I led them up a greasey 3 Pines (MS 2 pitches) they proceeded to lead The Gutter (Diff in 2 pitches), Styx Buttress Right Wall (VDiff in 2 pitches) and Tear (HS, single pitch). They coped well with the midgey spells and the odd shower (the weather was unfortunately not quite as forecast- bright and breezey) and slightly damp rock.

Thursday 9 September 2010

Afghan Video part 1 and Sal's Blog

The first part of the video of our Afghan trip that I'm editing. First time I've uploaded to Vimeo... do people prefer it to Youtube?

Scottish Wakhan Expedition 2001- Part 1 Approach to the Pamirs from Alan Halewood on Vimeo.

Also take a read of this: With just a few days to go my mate Sal got roped into a team competing in the Adidas Terrex Adventure Race. 4 days and 400km of biking, running, paddling and other challenges through the Lake District in a team with 3 internationally experienced racers who had been preparing for months. Take a look at how well they got on (they came 3rd!). Inspiring stuff.

Wednesday 8 September 2010

Tower Ridge bike and run

Bah.... think my body is still recovering for a month of bad food and exercise and a week and a half of post expedition illness. Cycled from Torlundy up to the dam car-park... fine. Headed up to the CIC at the same pace as usual.... fine. Got onto Tower Ridge (damn cold and windy) and legs powered out half way up. It took me a good deal longer than it usually does and the jog back down to the bike was no better. OK it still took me less than 4 hours back to the house but didn't feel at all strong.
Right, winge over, as a mate of mine would tell me 'best tuck my skirt in and get on with it'. A few more jaunts up Tower Ridge and I'll be feeling better.

Took a few pictures of the remaining snow patches round Observatory Gully for the Annual Snow Patch Survey- we'll see if the patches on the Ben last this year or not....

Tuesday 7 September 2010

Wetter today

The forecast showed a day of heavy showers but an early start meant that Vern, Helen and I were gearing up at the base of Styx Buttress Right Wall (VDiff) just as the rain was arriving. Not to be denied Vern headed off for his first lead climbing the route in 2 pitches. He got the driest of the weather and Helen coped really well smearing on wet mica schist! Good job guys.
Discretion being the better part of valour- after abseiling off and in heavier rain- we headed to the Ice Factor. Here we reviewed the ropework of the last 2 days and looked at climbing movement technique on slabs, vertical walls and overhangs. I gave the guys a few drills to help improve their footwork and to help encourage them to move their centre of gravity more effectively and we were all pleased with the result. Routes that baffled them 3 days ago became relatively easy by comparison... I love it when a plan comes together!

Thanks also to Derek for these 2 pics from the other day on the Buachaille.

Monday 6 September 2010

BBC Articles on the Wakhan

Here are the 3 links to BBC Articles on our trip as requested by a few people:
And one more:

Dry with gales in Glen Nevis

Second day with Vern and Helen and we went to Polldubh for some more climbing. The rock was bone dry and any midges would have needed to be jet propelled to cope with the wind! Today was about belay building, placing and removing gear and some movement coaching. We climbed Pinnacle Ridge (Severe), Three Pines (Mild Severe), Flying Dutchman (VS4c with the Direct Finish) and a pitch of Reptons Right Wall (VDiff) before abseiling off to look at retreating from a climb.

Sunday 5 September 2010

Buachaille Etive Mor

Today I went to the Buachaille with Vern and Helen. We climbed D Gully Butress (including Hells Wall the short pitch of severe with limited gear) before switching to looking at mountaineering ropework to carry on up Curved Ridge and over the summit to descend by Coire na Tullaich. Despite the very cool and blustery weather there were plenty of climbers out on Agags, North Face Route, Crowberry Direct and Engineers Crack.

Friday 3 September 2010

SPA Ass Day 2

A cool and misty start at Neilston Quarry today. All 3 candidates successfully demonstrated the skills and judgement required of an SPA holder so well done to Karen, Chris and Tristan who all passed and enjoyed a little further training as the sun burnt off the mist!

(Creative use of footwear as rope protectors from Chris!)

Thursday 2 September 2010

SPA Assessment in the sun

After an eary start at Glasgow Climbing Centre another hot day saw me at Auchinstarry Quarry again today with 3 candidates for SPA Assessment. The team made various ascents of Slinky Lizard and Scream (both HS), Tar and Spirogyra (VS4c) also solving the sort of small problems that might crop up when you are climbing at a single pitch venue like this. I've had a spate of emails from old friends who contacted me after seeing the article this morning in The Metro.

Wednesday 1 September 2010

Working in Glasgow and more media attention.

Yesterday and today I have been directing an SPA Training course for The Glasgow Climbing Centre.
This meant I wasn't available to join Neal for an interview on the Afghanistan Exped. on STV's 'The Hour'. The MCofS who sponsored us with an expedition grant have also put a piece on the expedition on their newspage.
I've also had an interview with 'The Metro' who will have an article on us tomorrow.