Thursday 28 February 2013

Aonach Mor mountaineering

Ronald, Rich, Alan and I were on Aonach Mor for some 1 axe rules climbing today. From the top of the gondola we refreshed a few walking skills: kicking steps, cramponing and self belay. The guys then took themselves up some rock, ice and snow in 4 pitches onto the Nid looking at ice screws, bucket seats, horizontal buried axes and a direct spike belay on the way. From there we headed up to Easy Gully which they stompered down in to climb back out again.
Ice step
 Richard on the lead
 A well organised bucket seat
A good runner
Breaking through the cornice
Topping out on the Nid
Testing the stomper
Hit it!
Milder, warmer and with softening snow on the surface of the pack. This may help the ice routes on Ben Nevis though which have seen so much travel that many are a bit hacked about. A little moisture and a refreeze would help. Some cloud coming and going at the level of the end of the Nid today.

Orion Direct video

Yesterday I was working a refresher for WHC students on SPA ropework and in the evening a CWA Abseil module.
Here is a quick video of the day before yesterday though and the excellent Orion Direct:

Orion Direct from Alan Halewood on Vimeo.

Tuesday 26 February 2013

Belting day on Orion

We knew we were getting up too late... but we didn't care. We knew there were 4 teams ahead of us but what the heck? Guy and I wanted to have our cake and eat it so we went to Orion Direct and had a stunning... if rather long day. The climbing was fine but I reckon we spent 3 and a half to 4 hours waiting at/for belays. We marvelled at some of the awful lack of communication above us (no he isn't 'safe' yet and he wasn't when you asked him last pitch.... or the one before that....) and chatting with some very pleasant fellow pilgrims on the stances.
The weather was stunning, the climbing largely good (although the ice on the traverse has now been chopped almost out of existence- your lead Guy...) and so what if we burnt some head torch batteries on the walk out? Video tomorrow- here are a couple of pics for now:
 Pitch the second
 The future of Mountaineering Instruction... bumming rollies on a belay :-)
 The crux traverse.... its thinner than it looks, especially after that big bit someone knocked off...
 Mad for it
 Are we nearly there yet?
We are now...

Monday 25 February 2013

More Ben awesomeness. Tower Scoop and Gully.

Frank was back for another winter day out today after his exploits on Ledge Route and Golden Oldy at the end of last year (and I see my pic of him on the latter makes a double page spread in Trail Mag this month after he sent it in).
he was looking to try something II/III so we wandered into Observatory Gully with me thinking of Gardyloo as a possibility. The sight of teams on Zero (well a soloist), Hadrians, Orion and Point 5 had him gaping so when I pointed to Tower Scoop and suggested he get on his first ice climb he was mad for it. The ice was good but unfortunately Frank had eaten something that disagreed with him violently and we must apologise for the 6 foot vomit stain down the first pitch (spectacular technicolor yawn). Despite being pretty wiped out by being sick Frank wanted to continue so we finished the second pitch (lovely and steep finish) and I ran the rope out 4 times in quick succession to take us up Tower Gully to bask in the sun. Well done Frank for toughing it out. I think the sunshine and views kept him going on the long walk down!
It was a sociable day chatting with Paul from Ascent, Dave R and his team from PYB, Andy from Jagged Globe (soloed Orion) and Tim N (also of PYB) who was on a mission. Tim soloed Zero, down Tower Gully, up Observatory Buttress- and across to finish up Indicator Wall, back down Tower Gully, up Orion Direct and down (you guessed it) Tower Gully and up Point 5. Machine.
The long walk up Obsevatory Gully
I want to climb that!
 Looking down pitch the first (vomit stain discretely out of shot)
 View down pitch 2 from the last moves
Frank topping out from Tower Scoop
 An unusual perspective on Tower Gap
 Still going
 Tower Gully belay
 Are we nearly there yet?
First time on top of the Ben! Its always like this.... honest....

Sunday 24 February 2013

Loving being back on Ben Nevis today

Green Gully in perfect nick from Alan Halewood on Vimeo.

Today I had 2 keen young climbers to take up a route on Ben Nevis. We wandered into Coire na Ciste in the sun. Had a sociable chat buy the lochain about what people were planning and followed a couple of teams up Green Gully at a leisurely pace (leisurely enough that they had finished sending debris down before we were a little over half way up :-). Ice was fat, snow was firm, sun was shining, climbers were smiling. What's not to like love about that?

Kaye helping me pack... think i'll leave the wellies though
 What shall we climb today...
 Green Gully!
 Fat ice!
 Always a great route
Sunny weather
 Lochaber Team and the RAF in action
 Nice helicopter shot above No. 3 Gully
Look at my chin(s)

Thursday 21 February 2013

Adapt, improvise, overcome and don't be an idiot next time!

So I suppose i'm supposed to be at the pinnacle of my career... assessing my peers for the highest UK mountaineering award and all that so how it that I'm following the MIC candidate and his 2 students up the apron of the Mess of Pottage all tooled, harnessed and helmeted up when it goes through my head that there is something wrong. Something's missing.... and then I look at my feet. Crampons. Crampons not on my boots in fact they are in the Lodge drying room. Oh dear... its going to be quite hard to solo Hidden Chimney today without them.
Thanks to my colleagues for the extra rope... and for making it possible for me to leg it up to windy col (steps cut, forearms of popeye), dig out an abseil anchor independent of the top anchor of the route (ice chipped- more forearm action), abseil down passing that awkward knot joining the 2 short ropes together and rejoin my candidate early on his route. Seamless it was but I was working quite hard, especially when reascending my 2 ropes past that awkwardly sighted knot.
No excuse but I know why it happened. I changed the order in which I packed my rucksack today (I knew I'd be wearing the belay jacket that normally lives in the bottom of my sack so I moved it up. This was sufficient to disrupt the usual system and leave me with my crampons on the shelf in the drying room! Less autopilot and more though required in the mornings obviously.
Or, i'm just a pillock.
This evening was spent with a little informative staff training from Roger from Lyon Equipment. We were looking at simple visual teaching strategies to get the forces in climbing across to students.

.Oh and as a final aside the big block people have been belaying off of on the left above the crux of Hidden Chimney (in the final funnel, obvious polished crack, about the size of a wide screen TV. Its loose as hell.

Wednesday 20 February 2013

Coughing my way up Spiral left hand

No I'm not dead. I've had a few emails asking if I'd passed on since it was so long since my last blog. I did however feel like death on a several occasions and spent a week in bed with the flu. Still have a hacking cough but this week I'm back at Glenmore Lodge working on an MIC Assessment. Today I was watching a candidate taking 2 students on one of their first winter routes. We had a good time on Spiral Gully taking its icey Grade III left hand finish. Windier and misty compared to the last 2 lovely days but plenty of icey snow around.
Unfortunately there has been plenty of tragedy about in the last week or so too. My sympathy to the family and friends of those who died. My thanks to those who have worked so hard in challenging circumstances involved in the rescues. My distaste for much of the ill informed media commentary but a few beacons of common sense continue to stand tall above it all (Heavy Whalley's informed comment is great and there is good advice (amongst the dross) from George Mc and Young Fox on the UKC post on whether we should all be carrying transceivers, probes and shovels as climbers in the UK).

Sunday 10 February 2013

Last day of climbing course and man flu :-(

After our big day on thursday Joe and Matt were keen for a 'wind down day' and given that I woke up feeling far from my best that sounded fine. We went to the Twin Ribs where we climbed a couple of the more direct sections in series so that they could place some more gear and build belays and then Joe stepped it up going onto the sharp end for a final easy pitch. 1 long abseil took us back to the base of the route and there was just time to tick Matt's request for a reminder of how to do an assisted hoist before the end of the day.

Since then I've spent 24 hours as a pathetic snotty, sweating, shivery heap. What a sod of an illness. A few days off required to shake this I fear. :-(