Thursday 30 August 2012

Gneiss climbing in Glen Gour

 Fun in the sun on Pitch 1
 Blue sky climbing
 205m of great rock
 and great views
 Chilly on top
 The crag
Better with a bike... or a submarine?
Gill and I went to Glen Gour in Ardgour today to enjoy the sun. The route in was partially submerged after the rain of the last couple of days but the bikes still helped and soon we were at the base of a 200+m sheet of excellent gneiss. Our Route was The Time Machine** 205m 4c, 4a, 4b, 4a, 4a. Adequate gear and never hard for the grade oh and the rock..... lovely sticky gneiss with holds just where you wanted them. The rock was also bone dry (even though ht few heather ledges were soggy) and a delight to climb. Wet feet on the walk out/pedal (paddle?) out but who cares?
Check the twitter feed to the right for various interesting retweets too!

Gneiss climbing in Glen Gour from Alan Halewood on Vimeo.

Sunday 26 August 2012

Mountain rock: a Hiccup on Buachaille Etive Mor

 Starting up North Face Route
 Climbers on the traverse of North Face Route. Hiccup climbs the arete just to the left
 Alex enjoying the traverse on N Face Route
 Hiccup Crux Pitch
 The 'third hand'
 Phil about to go off route
 Nearing the end of Hiccup
 The attentive belayer
Atop Hiccup, good rock, good gear and lots of air below you
Second day of a weekend of workshops for The Association of Mountaineering Instructors. Today Neil, Phil and I went to Glencoe and Buachaille Etive Mor. The object today was to look at parallel rope work for multi-pitch climbing: tangle free changeovers and how to place gear to keep the ropes running and the seconds climbing in the right place. I was keen to get quite a few pitches done and although the car parks were busy I didn't really expect to see 2 parties already on North Face Route. It was pretty chilly but we were only planning to keep to this classic Severe as far as the start of Hiccup, a 3 star VS5a. We did 3 pitches to the top of the Heather Terrace and Neil led the first and crux pitch of Hiccup as his 4th. Then Phil took over finding a necky variation to the normal 4c pitch (he got to the belay and then exclaimed as he looked down the other side of the arete at much gentler looking terrain! He then put in a further 2 pitches of climbing and one of scrambling to top us out. as another team began to follow us up the route.
We passed above D Gully Buttress watching 2 parties topping out on Agags Groove and crossed Curved Ridge and dropped into Easy Gully heading towards the foot of Crowberry Ridge (there was a team on Engineers Crack too). From here we headed west around to the foot of North Buttress to descend.
This summer a lot of rock has come down out of Easy Gully and swept the basin and the approach to Curved Ridge. Its the first time I've seen this much bedrock exposed in Easy Gully and there is still a lot of loose rock on the screes above and left of the waterside. Its settling slowly with traffic but needs a little care (and although it was great to see so many people on mountain routes and Curved Ridge today a few more helmets might have been a good idea).

Saturday 25 August 2012

Be inspired

I must admit I was cynical going into the Olympics (perhaps it was the McDonaldisation of the whole thing) but by the end of the opening ceremony (as expensive as it was) I'd begun to change my mind and as the events unfolded I was happy to join the rest of the nation (nations?) in celebration. the British Athletes are pretty impressive.
Now I'm happy to let myself be moved by another series of images . The 'Meet the super humans' campaign shows another group of athletes in 'do or die training mode'. It's a powerful piece of film set to a powerful piece of music, designed to appeal to us and give us goosebumps by showing the dedication and determination of incredible performers and the adversity they have to overcome. And it works for me every time.
Want to be inspired? Think of this lot the next time you're looking for motivation.
Oh.... and by the way, they're Paralympians.

AMI Teaching Climbing Workshop

 Sorting a rack
 Phil on Flying Dutchman
 Posing on the direct finish
Parallel ropes
Back out on the rock today working for the Association of Mountaineering Instructors as the Trainer on a Workshop on Teaching Climbing. We were in Glen Nevis which was a little midgey (god bless Smidge) where we looked at creating a good day out for a pair of climbers both in terms of structuring a day and the rope work and technical skills involved.

Last week busy working an MIA Assessment

 Nathan working next door to us
 Stepover, Huntly' Cave
 Dead Tree Wall, Huntly's Cave
 Kaeryn on the lead
 Bein Eighe behind
 Torridonian giants
 Steeper ground
Lat week I was working for Glenmore Lodge on an MIA Assessment. On monday I was left to the paperwork whilst the team headed in to Coire an t Sneachda to climb on 4c ground. After that we were at Huntly's Cave for problem solving and again for teaching climbing (showery days but Huntly's gave us dry rock and a breeze to keep the midges off, it was also perfect for our mock students' needs) then Liathach in Torridon for the mountain day before a last half day looking at tracking Navigation in the Cairngorms.
Its a high pressure week for the guys. Their logbooks reflected how much effort they had put in preparing for this assessment. The 5 day's of activity are designed to examine all the major roles and MIA could fill- which is quite a lot to look at in a short time!
Well done to the guys and congratulations for the major effort last week. They looked tired at the end of it all.... and so was I!

Wednesday 15 August 2012

End of the MIA Training, Problem Solving for 2 more Trainees and Birthday climbing with Jamie B

 Derek demonstrating a self lining technique
 MIA Navigation, get it right and teach something too
 Neil nipping up another route for me to generate a problem on (Styx Buttress Right Wall)
 Paul on Cross 3, a well protected Diff traverse...just before his second "dislocated his shoulder.... over the sea"
 Birthday boy on Damnation VS 4b/4c depending on which guidebook you believe
 Mr. B following me on Resurrection 
And celebrating his 44th at the crux of Iche
The 2nd from final day of the Glenmore Lodge MIA Training we spent a day looking at strategies for teaching Lead Climbing. We gave the guys a run down on different rope work options before heading to Kingussie Crag for them to practise on some awkward clients (Derek, Jon and myself.... drawing on our experience of past clients :-)
On the final day we looked at the standard of navigation required for MIAs and some navigation teaching techniques before saying farewell to the guys. A great team from a really wide variety of backgrounds- hope to see you all practising on the hills and back for successful assessments.
Monday I was back in Glen Nevis with Paul and Neil. The guys are both coming up on MIA assessment imminently and wanted a day to run through some problem solving scenarios. So it was assisted and unassisted hoists, lowering and abseiling past knots, ascending to retrieve stuck abseilers, escaping the system to assist students and dealing with casualties fallen off of a traverse. Plenty done and plenty to think about.
Tuesday was spent with the family (Sandy's first day at Nursery) and today I was out with big Jamie, It was his birthday today and we climbed a string of VS4c/5as (with a cheeky wee solo of a VDiff) in Glen Nevis. It was blowing gale, warm, dry and the midges were all blown out over the Atlantic! Grand day.

Friday 10 August 2012

MIA Problem Solving and an evening hit on Magic Crack

 Busy bees dodging the midges
 'Now get out of that'
 Cave Route
 Peering out of the last pitch
 JJ with a tear in his eye for the abuse the route has taken? Or is it the midges?
 Top pitch of Magic Crack
Heading down
Another busy day for the MIA Trainees. Today it was problem solving at Huntly's Cave and my pair: lowered past knots, abseiled past them too, rescued people with dislocated shoulders from traverses on sea cliffs and fainting partners high on a mountain route, restored safety to seconds who had climbed past runners and hoisted partners incapable of handling the crux of routes. The midges were out but not in the sun above the crag and Smidge rules!
With the sun still beating down JJ and I had planned a quick hit on a Sneachda Classic. A fast sweaty walk in saw us at the base of Magic Crack at 6. Jon led the first pitch and I took the second (small holds  for a move at the top but stinking gear). Jon led up the third and I'd already seen pegs galore (in all states), prussic loops, a hex, a cam, slings all adorning bits of the crag. The last pitch has some of the nicest 5a climbing I've done in the UK but heck its been trashed. I've never seen a rock route so altered by winter abuse. Every foot hold is scarred by frontpoints, every inch of the thin crack I could only fit the smallest 2 fingers of my left hand in for a couple of moves is pale from picks.
This is no rarely climbed mountain route that makes a better winter line in my humble opinion. The moves over the overlap are examples of what British mountain rock is all about. But its looking truly abused and I'm told that many of the holds are rounding off from the metal grinding on them. Rock climbers alter (damage?) routes but at a far slower pace than winter climbing will. I'd been to try it in winter once (we ended up on something else) but now I'll never go and look at this in winter. Leave it for the summer and scrape away at the corners and grooves with turf, gravel and frozen moisture. 

Thursday 9 August 2012

MIA Training Coaching day

Today Derek, Mark and I ran a day for our MIA trainees based around coaching.
I kicked off with an introduction based around making the group think about what a coach is and how and if that differs from an instructor. we followed up with an exercise to make them think about the relevance to the MIA of coaching.
Then we used navigation, climbing movement and some technical rope work to illustrate some elements of the coaching process.
A good sunny day with just a few midges in the forest. lots of brain strain today compared to the physical efforts of the last few days. 

Wednesday 8 August 2012

MIA Trg Aonach Dubh

The west coast didn't let us down again today- we had sunshine almost all day for our climbing on the East Face of Aonach Dubh. Lots of ascents of classics like Curving Crack, The Long Crack, Archer Ridge and Quiver Rib. Some good efficient rope work developing- well done team.