Wednesday 31 August 2011

MIA Assessment Day 3

A busy day as the candidates met the mock students for the third day of the Glenmore Lodge MIA Assessment. We had parties at Dunkeld and Cummingston.... where we weren't alone as the pictures show! As well as a busy crag we had spring tides so the area of crag with accessible routes shrank during the day. Off to Glencoe tomorrow.

Tuesday 30 August 2011

MIA Assessment Day 2

After problem solving and seeing people leading on VS4c yesterday it was guided climbing in Coire an t Sneachda for day 2 of the MIA Assessment at Glenmore Lodge today. The weather was pretty poor (gusting 50mph, rain showers and about 5 degrees is not ideal rock climbing conditions) but it didn't stop the candidates climbing on The Message, Fingers Ridge and Pygmy Ridge.

Monday 29 August 2011

MIA Assessment Day 1

Today I was observing the assessors on Day 1 of an MIA Assessment at Glenmore Lodge.

Sunday 28 August 2011

AMI Trainee Workshop

This weekend I have been working for AMI directing an open workshop for trainees working towards assessment. It's been a busy weekend with a full course of 6 students. I've really enjoyed working this course. Doing the job of a Mountaineering Instructor is an enjoyable fantastic challenge; structuring courses, choosing systems to work with and solving problems etc. But explaining to other people how to do that job; exactly what you do and, perhaps more importantly, why you do it that way is in many ways even more rewarding. It is certainly more challenging and at the end of the two days I feel fairly wrung out- like I've been drained of information .
On saturday we were blessed with fine weather and in response to requests from the team it was to be a day focussed on the 'dark art' of shortoping. We went to Lagangarbh Buttress on Buachaille Etive Mor. I chose this venue because whilst it gives good scrambling ground there are few obvious belays and the it presents a wide range of challenges when it comes to making judgements about how to protect people in ascent and descent. i can recommend this route and its neighbours (Broad and Great Gully Buttresses) as a change from the ever popular Curved Ridge and North Buttress if you are a confident rope-less Grade 2 Scrambler with good routefinding skills.

Its sunday night now and I'm at Glenmore Lodge where I'm observing an MIA Assessment for the next 5 days.

Friday 26 August 2011

Lochaber Mountaineering

Just spent 2 good days scrambling around Lochaber. Yesterday David, Craig and I made a quick ascent of Curved Ridge in fine weather. We crossed to Crowberry Tower and abseiled off of the top of it before heading over the summit (evicting and enormous raven en route). There was one other team out enjoying a slightly chilly looking Agags Groove and a father and son team who followed us up Curved Ridge (braver than me without helmets- plenty of loose rock on the ridge).
Today the weather seemed more mixed and as we set off for Ben Nevis it was hiding its head in the clouds. The hill fog rolled in and out all day as we climbed Tower Ridge with only the odd spot of rain. The summit had a small crowd and David looked quite overdressed in walking gear amongst the jeans and designer tops around the cairn. We crossed the plateau in poor visibility but things improved as we headed down Ledge Route and by the time we were back down near the CIC Hut the top was, of course, clear!

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Back to work

Spot the climbers on Pitch 1 of Flying Dutchman. The leader in Blue top right and the belayer in purgatory with a midge hood on bottom left.
Well done Craig!
Well its been a nice break since returning from Bolivia (A good long cycle, a check on Tower Ridge a few miles in the pool and a lot of small boy time). Today was the beginning of a concerted spell back at work though. Craig had an SPA Reassessment and I'm pleased to say that whatever scenario I set him he came up with an efficient appropriate solution (perhaps the presence of the midges and the threatening rain helped :-) and passed.
Tomorrow I begin 2 days Lochaber mountaineering work then at the weekend I have a full team of 6 for an AMI Trainee workshop before heading off to Glenmore Lodge to shadow an MIA Assessment next week. It's good to be back to it!
Alan Kimber highlighted this game on the Met Office website. By playing the game you are helping the Met Office determine what forecast formats are most easily understood by users.

Saturday 20 August 2011

Take care on Tower Ridge after recent rock fall at the Gap

As reported on UK Climbing and Alan Kimber's Blog there was a rock fall at Tower Gap on 30th of July. The pedestal block that people used to step down onto on the North/downhill side of the Gap dislodged and fell down Glover's Chimney (and best wishes to the lady who was injured when it dislodged).
I went up on Friday 19th August to take a few pictures and some video of the current situation. This is what I observed:

The step down directly into the Gap is now about 1 foot longer than it was.
The block that has dislodged has left behind 2 smaller blocks which move but are keyed in/attached by the remaining outer block and an amount of gravel and loose stones. These are exposed to weather and will become looser over time. It would be possible to remove the 2 small blocks but this might well weaken or dislodge the larger remaining block directly over Glover's Chimney.
The descent to the East / Tower Gully side is unaffected and avoids all of these blocks.
On the other side of the Gap (the South/Uphill side) one of the large obvious blocks regularly used as both a hand an foothold is also loose. This block seems well attached when pulled towards the Gap but moves a good deal when subject to a push/pull towards Tower Gully/Glover's Chimney.

None of these observations should be seen as definitive and like all locations in the mountains this situation is dynamic and will continue to change.
Those approaching the Gap may wish to use extra caution in the light of recent events and should, as ever, make a judgement for themselves as to whether to proceed and how best to do so.
Take care.

Thursday 18 August 2011

A Great Read!

If you want a good read for yourself or as a gift for a friend I can heartily recommend Pauline Sanderson's The World's Longest Climb. This is the tale of The Everstmax teams' amazing 8000km bike journey from the Dead Sea to Everest BC and then their ascent of the world's highest peak. Pauline's book has had great review's from the likes of Leo Houlding and Cameron McNeish and those of you who know her will expect a humorous and honest account of this major undertaking. It's not just for climbers although it will appeal to them. It's also a travel book and adventure tale and a love story! You can read an excerpt on UK Climbing as a sample and if you would like a copy get it from Pauline's site here.
Finally if you get a chance to see her speak on the trip- take it. She's a very funny lady!

Back in the saddle...

Climbing after Mamore Lodge
Lu is short but not short on power ;-)
River crossing at Luibeilt
Well back on the bike anyway. After a day with Sandy yesterday (high on the swings, fast enough on the roundabout to make him sick and wading in the burn despite shoes, socks and trousers getting wet) I was out on the bike today. Lu is coming up to do the Tour De Ben Nevis later this year and fancied a recce and Sal is fit enough she was using it as a rest day before up coming races! Me I was hoping my recent return from altitude would make this nice big ride feel easier than usual.
Its a great long route.... past the West Highland Wayers from the Fort to Kinloch via the Lairig Mor. Then the steady pull up to Lochs Eilde Mor and Beag, the river crossing at Mheanach. Then a carry up before the great ride down to Leacach Bothy and beyond. We finished by riding through Leanachan Forest and stopeed to dodge a heavy shower by having a brew at the new cafe at Nevis Range. I've done the ride a few times before but always alone- felt much easier with some pals and the odd stop for a picnic!
Back to the office today- emails galore to catch up on and pictures to sort from Bolivia. Here are a few to whet the appetite.
Streets of La Paz
A good days work
Summit Ridge of Huyana Potosi
In the shadow of Illimani

Saturday 13 August 2011

Final day in Bolivia

The trip is almost finished. The clients are all on planes on their way home as I should be in 10 hours. I successfully guided a rope of 3 of them up a windy but sunny Illimani before our final return to La Paz. Yesterday I joined 2 of them on a mountain bike trip down the ´road of death´. This is the old road down to the Yungas which begins at Le Cumbre at over 4700m. Here we donned elbow and knee pads, eyed our bikes nervously and then 20 of us swooped off down for the first hour which is is on the main road; tarmac, the odd very deep pothole, oncoming traffic in your lane and a descent of over 1000m in a really short distance. Survival of this first section (a veritable Tour De France of competitive international travellers) allows entry to the real deal. The old road is a rutted landrover track with a 500m drop on the left- I hitched my way up and down it when it was the only route almost 20 years ago! Now there is a new road and so less traffic. But there are still plenty of other bikers and riding on the left next to the drop is compulsory. For some reason things got less competitive here with only 4 of us making a real effort to disengage our self preservation instincts and to keep up with our guide- ´Speedy´ Gonzales. Of this 4 (we dubbed ourselves the international pelleton) a frenchman wiped out with a bald back tyre and a dutchman failed on a corner and ran straight into a cliff. At the rear end of the pack one girl retired with a suspected broken arm. So after 63 km and over 3000m of descent in 3 hours riding time the last 500m was uphill. It was at this point I discovered that the gears on my bike were limited to 1.... the one I´d been using downhill. So it was a hot and sweaty finish with lunch in a hotel near Coroico. The 2 chaps I was with had been told they would be back in La Paz early in time for their flight. This was clearly not going to happen as the bike guides were settled in for an afternoon of beer and bike maintenance near the pool so we hopped a taxi with instructions to get us back to the capital ´pronto´. He took us at our word and accelerated off up the new road. The 10 km per hour speed limit seemed to mean 50 to him and the no overtaking signs were utterly invisible to his eyes. This was a little more scarey than the biking! We were glad to reach La Paz safely and in time for the lads´flight.
Home in a day or so- photos and video to follow.

Sunday 7 August 2011

Uno mas

Or √≥ne more`. Just a last peak in Bolivia left to climb. We headed up to the high refugio on Huyana Potosi in unseasonaby heavy snow and with thunder shattering the soft calm around us. There was no refugio when I climbed this peak as one of my first experiences of a glacial mountain almost 20 years ago but now there is a very busy wee hut and a never ended stream of Guides and guides literally hauling people towards the summit. We camped outside in the snow and adopted a relaxed pace at 0230 the next morning (yes everyone overtook us barring Cecillio, my Bolivian colleague). It was 6 hours up and 3 down. The sunset was every bit as spectacular that which encouraged me to becoem a Mountaineering Instructor many years ago and the views from the summit also haven´t changed.
Tomorrow we head off to Illimani the mountain that dominates the La Paz sky line (and well it might at over 6400m)

Friday 5 August 2011

A rest evening

After a trip to Copacabana and the Isla Del Sol in Bolivia the 9 clients and I have climbed Pico Austria, Pyramida Blanca and the lovely Pequeno Alpamayo (via Pico Tarija). 2 of them also did Illusion whilst I went ice climbing on a cascade near the main glacier an hour from base camp.
Next time my 24 year old fit Bolivian fellow guide for the trip with his technical tools lobs off a steep piece of ice must remember that: I don´t want to lead, I definitely don´t want to lead with my leashless straight shafted mountaineering tools, I especially don´t want to lead with his blunt, dodgey Russian titanium screws and I certainly don´t want to lead without his high altitude Bolivian lungs rather than my sea level based Scottish ones!!
A night in town and we are off to join the crowds on the 6088m Huyana Potosi