Thursday 28 April 2011


Reiff is so relaxing, short interesting routes, reasonable gear, great sandstone and often sunny. Susan and I had most of 2 days climbing there this week; her visit and chance for me to revisit some old favourites and find some new ones. We climbed a good number of routes at The Pinnacle Area, Minch Wall, Black Rocks and Pooh Cliff over 2 half days. In between we stayed at the new campsite below the Am Fuaran bar (great seafood and an ENORMOUS St. Bernard) in nearby Altandhu. 2 great sunny days and routes up to HVS 5b (first time I've climbed Judicial Hanging clean :-) if a little chilly. Working on the rock out on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula tomorrow :-)

Monday 25 April 2011

The Epic Tri and Greenland....

Huge congratulations to Ant and Bruce who crossed the line at Westminster last night after a superhuman effort in completing the Bob Graham run, the Lands End to John O'Groats cycle and the Devizes to Westminster paddle back to back in 6 days. If you can spare the price of a beer or a bottle of wine to congratulate them you can donate to Cancer Research for them here.

...and Greenland?
Well here is a video of our Greenland Trip. We arrived at Constablepynt in the sun but the last few flights had struggled to make it in and out because of the weather. Tangent expeditions were to deliver us across Scoresbysund with skiddoos but had a mammoth day delivering another party so we relaxed and had a ski tour locally for the first day in the sun (and I tried to remember how planks worked). Next day we were off. The skiddoos struggled with waist deep powder crossing the fjord and after a bitterly cold journey we spent the last few hours of the day wading ourselves and our kit to a camp near the base of a glacier that runs up onto the plateau we wanted to access.
We spent 3 days in mist and snow storms wandering around the base looking for a way up. Finally we spent a whole day in an attempt to get just 1 of our 4 pulks as far up the glacier as possible. After crossing the unstable tidal zone I dug a trail through deep snow on a steep slope. It was so deep it was over my head in places and I was stabbing 2 skis above me, laying my poles between them and pulling up whilst using my knees to scrape away/tamp down the powder. After that we built a ski belay to hoist up the pulk. This put us onto easier angled snow and it was trailbreaking or stiff pulling beside the glacier. Mid afternoon and a late lunch at 210m above sea level and we realised we could spend 2 weeks doing this and still not even make the top of the glacier.
Back in camp and a conversation with Paul from Tangent ended with the recommendation that we start pulking for home as with the continued snowfall since the drop off it was unlikely they would ever reach us! Scoresbysund is the biggest fjord system in the world, mostly frozen and littered with stunning and enormous icebergs. It was also buried under feet of powder and I was discovering the limitations of my borrowed short skis as I plunged through the trail the others were breaking with great effort. I was really despairing at the thought of days of pulking in this! After examining some fresh polar tracks we pressed on and towards the end of that day we found a shallow path across the surface of the snow. This was our skidoos 'trail- now mostly buried. It made for easier skiing for me but perversely harder going for the others! We camped on it to awake next day to whiteout conditions. After 20minutes tapping the buried trail with our poles like blind men we lost it- back to wading. It was all I could do to keep up as the others followed a compass bearing.
several days going and the wind firmed up the snow enough for me to take my turn at trailbreaking |(though without skis the snow was still waist deep). We camped near to some icebergs the size of a Glasgow tenement block and couldn't resist a little bouldering. Days of sun alternated with whiteout and storms of blown spindfrift as we made it to dry land and followed dogsled tracks on the north side of the fjord. This culminated in a day in a maze of canyons in a whiteout with only the occasional dog pee stain visible through the spindrift to let us know we were on the right track for an inuit hut.
After a day spent in the rather squalid hut in bad weather the skidoos were still struggling to travel so late in our second day we decided on another evening leg, leaving just as a pair of inuit dog teams with some french travellers arrived. The flight was due the next day and with 20km still to go in another morning snowstorm things weren't looking great. A last minute dash from Tangent's skidoos swooped us into the airport where they were waiting for our bags. We had a few minutes in a snowy hanger emptying pulks and packing bags and ended up on the plane still wearing all of our frozen skiing kit. Things got a little damp and smelly as we thawed out on the fight to Iceland but airplane food never tasted so good! A quick overnight in Iceland and we were passing through Heathrow and Glasgow airports (where our rifle was handed back to us by a baggage handler with 'PSYCHO' written on his jacket- welcome home!).
So our 'mountaineering' expedition attained a highpoint of a mere 210m and became a struggle just to get home! This was mostly due to the unseasonably large amounts of snow (March's weather arrived in April). But the trip was far from boring as we got to undertake a tough journey in an amazing place.
Thanks to Berghaus, The Gino Watkins Memorial Fund and the Alpine Ski Club for their support and Tangent Expeditions for their services.

Here are a few pictures:

Sunday 24 April 2011

The Epic Tri

Shameless begging post, but they deserve it.
Ant Emmet and Bruce Duncan have set themselves a truly epic challenge to raise money for Cancer Research.
Their Epic Tri consists of:
The Bob Graham round- the classic long distance mountain run in the Lakes- 65miles, 42 mountain tops and 27000ft of climb.
Then John o'Groats to Lands End -the pinnacle of UK long distance cycling- 874 miles of cycling or about 400000 turns of the pedals.
And finally the Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race- the biggest kayak race in the- UK 125 miles with 77 portages.
All completed back to back non stop!
The guys have given 200% on the challenge and deserve donations no matter how small (or how large). To visit their website click here. To give a wee donation please go here.

As for me I've been recovering from Greenland with some family time in Keswick and a bit of biking- dry weather on the 'Borrowdale Bash' and a slippery wet round of the Altura and Quietus Trails at Whinlatter.

Tuesday 19 April 2011

SPA Day 2

Spent most of last night drinking red wine and editing a video of Greenland. It's about 15mins long and will take a while to load onto Vimeo in the next day or 2.
Second day of our SPA Assessment was at Neilston pad- a well known Glasgow venue. Congratulations to Sophie, Neil and Grant who all put in creditable performances today and passed.

Monday 18 April 2011

Home and straight to work

Back from a Greenland well buried in snow (knee deep with skis on, waist to armpit deep without) after skiing for over a week to make a plane flight on time. More on that when I've finished the video.....
Today was day 1 of an SPA Assessment for 3 candidates and we went to a sunny Auchinstarry Quarry for some climbing. A pleasant change to be on warm rock rather than wading in deep snow towing a pulk in a whiteout with the hotaches looking over my shoulder for foraging polar bears!

Friday 1 April 2011

Looking ahead...

I'm away in Greenland now until 17th April and probably wont be online until then (but you never know- I managed a blog post from the mountains of Tajikistan so who knows?)
Looking ahead to the rest of spring I'm going to be busy with; CWA/SPA Trainings and Assessments, Cuillin traverses, Lead Climbing Courses in the Lakes, Rock climbing on Ben Nevis and Ardnamurchan and workshops for both AMI and MLTA all already booked. I'm putting a few videos of the sort of work I do permanently in the side bar to the right and just to make sure people see them they are here below too. Take a look if you are bored or need some inspiration to remind you of climbing and the mountains.

Rock Climbing Instruction and Guiding

Summer Mountaineering and Scrambling

Coaching, Sport Climbing at home and in Spain, Technical Advice, NGBs and Ropework and Rescue

Also, for the last few years the British Mountaineering Council has funded training opportunities for climbing clubs. This funding is available for a variety of purposes including technical training for club members. In the past I have offered a range of courses such as introductory climbing, lead climbing, climers self rescue skills,winter skills and winter navigation.
For this year over £11,000 of funding is available. If you feel that I can help with training for your club please get in touch so we can discuss your requirements. I'm are more than happy to offer advice, assist with your application or advise on the right type of training for your club members. There are details here.