Friday 28 October 2011

Problems outdoors

Day 2 of our Problem Solving course and we were at Kingussie Crag. We looked at solutions to problems such as: partners unable to complete a move, climbing past a runner, retreat from a crag when a climber is unable to abseil owing to injury, lowering them past a damaged section or joined ropes and abseiling past the same point.
A bitterly cold wind today and as we drove back to Fort William we could see a fine line of cornicing along the rim of the East face of Aonach Mor.

Thursday 27 October 2011

Problems....and solutions

Another day for UHI today and we were at The Ice Factor for the first of a number of days looking at climbing problem solving as a practical application of a module the students are doing on risk and incident management.
Day 1 of 4 and we looked reviewed basic climbing ropework skills such as belay construction and added some new building blocks such as tying off plates and italian hitches, several different types of prussik which we used for ascending a rope and self protecting an abseil.
We spent quite a bit of time examining popular misconceptions. Many of the students had been taught in the past with a 'rules based' approach: so they had often been told to do something but not why or been given a facile answer such as 'that's how I was taught' or 'it's safer'. We adopted a more 'process based' approach today examining the pros and cons of systems and tools. This was so that they would actually understand them and therefore be better able to adapt and select the correct tools for situations.
We ended the day by looking at a simple, common climbing problem- a second being unable to complete a move when close to their partner and a solution- an assisted hoist from within the system.
More tomorrow out on the crag!

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Training with BCA

Last night I went to some staff training at Glenmore Lodge provided by BCA. Click on the link to see a short video of a Float airbag rucksack being deployed:

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Good news... bad news...

Good news! Got invited to tea with Liz at Buckingham Palace as part of a reception for those involved in Exploration and Adventure :-)
Bad news! Have to stand her up... I'll be in California :-( Bang goes the Knighthood.

Sunday 23 October 2011

Huntly's Cave

Day 2 with the group from The Glasgow Academy and after a night at the friendly Ardenbeg Bunkhouse we went to climb at Huntly's Cave. I spent most of the morning with Klemy and Tim who both led their first climbs today. Well done guys and thanks for a great weekend.

Dry rock

The summer in the West Highlands has been pretty poor and much of the rock climbing work I've done this year has been in the damp and rain. So it was a nice change to be on the 'costa del Moray' at Cummingston today with pupils from The Glasgow Academy to do some rock climbing. We had a civilised lunch together on top of the stack and In the evening I cooked for the team whilst Rosie took them to the rolling pool at Glenmore Lodge.

Friday 21 October 2011

The new wall in Glasgow

When it comes to bouldering I'm a casual punter. But having most of a day free in Glasgow today I had to go and check out the new TCA Glasgow. Sitting in the spacious cafe 3 hours after it opened my arms are fit to burst. Its a great space with problems even for the weak such as me and the free wifi lets me blog a few pics for you from the cafe.
A good addition to the Glasgow climbing scene and best of luck for the future guys.

Thursday 20 October 2011

CWA Day 2

Climbzone Braehead and a Peer Belaying option

The new bouldering basement at GCC
Day 2 of the CWA at GCC saw us start by visiting Climbzone Braehead to have a look at a totally different type of wall and the autobelays there. We finished off a discussion on peer belaying and looked at different types of Risk Assessments before heading back to Ibrox. The day carried on with us using the great new bouldering basement there and then moving on to the Abseil and Top Roping module. A good course enlivened by a great mixture of climbers and backgrounds!

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Working in Glasgow

Nathan White on Hoarmaster (Pic Joris Volmer)
Directing a CWA Training at Glasgow climbing Centre today (with an E7 leader and the Male Senior British speed Climbing champ both on the course... a bit of a change but at least I've no shortage of people to do demos for me). Which is warmer than yesterday. Nathan and Joris climbed Hoarmaster and Jan and Dave did Savage Slit over in the Cairngorms. Hoarmaster pics look great guys!

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Wintery on Tower Ridge

The rain was beating on the roof at 6.30am again this morning but glimpses of the tops yesterday confirmed that it was snow higher up so eventually I prised myself out of bed and threw a winter sack together.
It was a shock to the system carrying 30m of rope, a light rack, axes and crampons up from Torlundy but at least the weather held off this morning.... relatively speaking of course- just the odd shower. I bumped into a staff team from the Clachaig heading for Ledge Route and it took a bit of teeth gritting to head on for Tower Ridge when they turned off.
The snowline was just above the CIC hut and from the word go I was hitting drifts of wet snow mid calf deep. With worse weather forecast as the day went on I sweated a little up Observatory Gully to avoid the first chimney by the 'back door' that bring you more easily onto the Ridge just above it. The moment I got on the crest I started slipping and sliding. Compressed wet snow and even a cladding of 1cm thick ice adhering to the steeper windward rock made the going a bit sketchy from the word go. Crampons on then.
The Little Tower passed in a slippery thrutchy blur, the snow useless and the ice thawing and often detaching from the rock when given a quick scrape. But a surprising amount around nonetheless. I didn't see bare wet rock very often.
The Eastern Traverse wasn't the first deep drift but was well banked out and required a little wading. Then climbing up the side of the Great Tower on icey rimed up rock felt like proper winter... sketchy, slippery and nervey with a spindrift of hail pattering on my helmet!
Tower Gap beckoned but as I pulled onto the Tower the wind picked up, the vis dropped and the hail made it hard to look up. I put a rope on to ab into the Gap. It obeyed Murphy's law of climbing tangling on the axe hanging from my harness as I left it on to protect my slither out the far side. Picture me bridged above Glover's Chimney holding on with one hand trying to flip the rope off of my tool with the other in a strong wind... F*@kity, fu*%!ty, f!*k!
Out the other side it was more deep snow hiding the footholds to the plateau where the wind picked up and I regretted leaving the goggles out as the hail began to give me a cheap exfoliation treatment.
I caught up with the James and the Clachaig team back on the final descent to Torlundy having seen a surprising amount of people on the pony track (mostly quite well equipped fortunately). Then it was onto the bike for a quick cycle home.
It will come and go in the next month but proper winter made an early appearance today. There was dripping going on on the Eastern Traverse but above that was properly cold- the snow changed consistency, the ice clad rocks accepted a frontpoint or two and the hot aches paid a brief visit to my fingertips. I doubt that No.3 Gully Buttress is thoroughly frozen where there is turf but rock exposed to the NW at 1150m was properly wintery today. All change again with a mild weekend forecast though.

Saturday 15 October 2011

SPA training .... rain again!!

Rainy day in Glen Nevis
They are 'just good friends'....
A wet one for our second full day of SPA training and we were at Polldubh. despite the rain we had a good look at group management issues, different rigging systems, problem solving and avoidance.

Friday 14 October 2011

Chocolate Brownies and SPA Training

Yesterday Sandy and I had a cook off. We made chocolate brownies.... only he ate his mixture before cooking it! Last night I was at the wall beginning an SPA Training and today for the first full day of it Ben and I took the team to Kingussie Crag. It was gloomy but dry and the group dispatched a variety of routes from Diff to HVS in grade. More SPAing tomorrow but I fear it may be a bit damper!!

Wednesday 12 October 2011

Training for routesetting, teaching indoor leading and Navigation...... and I've got a cold :-(

In the last few days I've done 2 day's training as part of my role as Technical Advisor for The Ice Factor. The first was some site specific training towards staff being able to teach indoor lead climbing. Interestingly but like many staff at large commercial walls they chose this route rather than the CWLA. I think this is because these staff often work at only one wall and therefore don't feel it is worthwhile paying the extra money to register for an NGB.
Day 2 involved some Routesetting training and procedure checking. This is quite different from much of the work I do and the systems involved need to meet the needs of the Work at Height Regulations in a different way. But besides the technical side there is a lot of training to be done on the creative side of setting routes too.
Finally today I was working with 3 students from UHI's Adventure Studies Department on their navigation. We tried a new venue that several of the staff have been curious about near Glen Loy. Ruddy 'dendrons' paths marked purely for historical value and large new roads were a them of the day. I wont hurry back but at least it stayed dry.

Saturday 8 October 2011

Damp on Buachaille Etive Mor

Alistair and 4 of his pupils from Williamwood High went with Tristan and I to Curved Ridge today. Any snow from the last 2 days had melted in the mild drizzle which was never heavy but ever present today. Nonetheless we had an atmospheric time ascending up past Rannoch Wall (tat on the block on January Jigsaw a mute splash of colour... testament to some climbers' mini epic this damp summer) and the guys made good enough time that we skirted north around Crowberry Tower to climb to it's small summit platform. From there it was a short step to the top of the mountain where we felt a light but chilly breeze for the first time all day. Well done to the team for many of whom it was a first munro.

Friday 7 October 2011

More climbing movement

Not like that............................more like that!

Another workshop for students from UHI's School of Adventure Studies on climbing movement. We were at the Ice Factor where Tristan and I took 12 students through some drills to ensure their understanding of the importance of moving their centre of gravity both across and in and out from the wall.
Good luck to all of those attending the STS round at the Ice Factor tomorrow. I'll be on Curved Ridge with some young mountaineers.