Sunday 30 March 2014

Last day of winter work… Ben Nevis today

That's it- my last day of winter work booked was today.
What a winter. Yes there has been climbing to be had but we've had ridiculous amounts of snow high up (just witness the cornices all around Ben Nevis today) and incredible winds. We didn't the big freeze thaws needed higher up to consolidate a lot of that snow until late on and then we had further dumps. There's a bit of ice but not a lot and today it was back to mild on the hill again.
Pierre has been waiting (almost in vain) for a half decent weekend day to get a route suitable for a novice, some views and a day when the summit of Ben Nevis would be accessible- today was the day. We went in towards Coire na Ciste with a couple of plans but the soft wet snow and strong blustery winds sent us to Ledge Route. We saw Jamie and Scott on with the same idea as well as a couple of other teams. There was a party on Thompson's Route and 1 on Tower Ridge but the hill seemed quite quiet today overall.
Although it was windy and hazy at least the plateau was clear enough for some views. The snow is receding slowly and the peg belay above The Curtain has reappeared as has the very top of the summit trig pillar. However the No.4 Gully cairn is still buried.
We finished with a mighty bum slide the length of the Red Burn and a brief encounter with old client Mike and his two friends (the team from Thompson's).
Time for lighter rucksacks, lighter clothes and tighter shoes now please!!

Friday 28 March 2014

Cracking 3 days at the CIC Hut (well 2 out of 3 aint bad)

Finally some more good climbing! I was working a 3 day course for Glenmore Lodge based at the CIC Hut on Ben Nevis with Justin and Jamie. We were joined by Sam and Julia of the Lodge's Instructor Development Scheme.
On Wednesday we walked in arriving just after lunchtime and we quickly headed up to get a route in. The SW Ridge of the Douglas Boulder was a rock climb and busy but despite the very mild temperatures we managed to swim up Fawlty Towers ( remember the rearranged letters on the sign in the TV series- I think it would have been better named 'Watery Fowels' on Wednesday). Sam and Julia took a parallel line into 1934 Route and we descended the top of Tower Ridge into Observatory Gully.
Thursday: much colder temperatures had firmed up the snow nicely but it was very blustery with a few snow showers. we went for Tower Ridge anyway which still has some great snow aretes and was in super condition for climbing. Julia and Sam did the same and then abseiled into No.3 Gully to do Thompson's Route.
Today was still a little breezy but cold and sunny. With a mid afternoon departure time we went to Thompson's Route which was full of firm snow ice. We climbed the first couple of pitches and then having had our fun abseiled back into Coire na Ciste. Sam and Julia climbed Green Gully on great neve but with little ice for screws. There is a way out past the cornice at the top but other cornices threaten and have cracks behind them- watch out for a thaw!
Great to share some craig with Justin, Jamie, Sam and Julia as well as SMC members and Matt Stygall all up at the Hut.
Parties have also been on Hadrians Wall, Gremlins, Italian Climb and Italian Right Hand and Orion Direct. I spotted 2 teams coming of the top of Zero Gully on Wednesday (one of the spots with no cornice) but don't know if they'd climbed the Gully or something else and traversed in.
Lots of pictures of conditions and crags on my Facebook page:

Sunday 23 March 2014

Blue sky, soft shell, Golden Oldy

Last day out with Claire today and she had Golden Oldy on her hit list. So she, Lou and I got the early gondola on a fine looking day. Neither the day, nor the route, disappointed today. 4 of the students I work with had the same idea and followed in behind us as I began the arduous trail break through deep set snow- no evidence of the 2 parties who did the route yesterday at all other than 6 feet of vague tracks high on the ridge. After over an hour of sweaty work Ewan took over and Mark, Brodie and Kate helped him stamp out a trail until we were below the route and kitting up. Then I brought out the secret weapon- what Lou lacks in size she makes up for in energy and she powered through the pow to the base of the route. There were now at least another 3 parties flogging up the glen behind us so once Mark and Ewan (carrying his skis) soloed off ahead we began a rapid progress up the route. We had a wee blustery snow shower as we began and a hint of one higher up but other than that we were all getting a bit pink from sun exposure, I kept to soft shells all day and the views across a deeply buried glen to the CMD and Ben Nevis (still enormous cornices around) were immense. Claire cruised up the ridge although one powdery knife edge where it was impossible to tell whether what you were standing on was solid or not caused a moments 'self talk'- well done.
We topped out in the sun to find only the top couple of inches of the summit cairn visible and more views this time to a huge drooping cornice on Aonach Beag. We passed a few ski tourers as we waded in a bit of a breeze across the plateau and yet more cornices were building over the east face (clean recent crown wall from an avalanche in Easy Gully too) before continuing to the bar far a well earned refreshment!
Top day, top company and a super keen pleasant person to show around some routes in Claire (nice weekend to chose too!).
Thanks to Lou for the pics and the trail breaking.

Saturday 22 March 2014

Deep snow on the East Ridge of Beinn A Chaorainn

Today Claire and I were joined by MIC Trainee Lou and went to the East ridge of Beinn 'A Chaorainn. A quite remarkable amount of snow fell in Lochaber last night and it was a snowy walk in through the trees, then a wade through deepening snow on the moor and once on the ridge there was the odd patch of waist deep fluff to contend with! A good day nonetheless- winter not going anywhere yet!
Cheers to pics of me from Lou.

River x

Snowy walk in
 Not as steep as it looks 
 Direct belay
Happy there is a way around the cornice in the background
All that's showing of the summit cairn is under my bag
 Icey selfie
 Lou naving
Team selfie