Monday 30 March 2015

Wind farms and Lowland Leaders

At the weekend I was running a MTS Lowland Leader Assessment course for 9 successful candidates in the Central Belt. Day 1 was spent at Whitelees Windfarm. This bleak area of moorland and forestry seems a good location for these impressive structures. I wouldn't want to see Scotland become a field of turbines but the size and sound of these enormous things is kind of impressive and given that each one is numbered and marked on a local map it does make the navigation a little… different! The site was certainly getting plenty of wind on saturday.
Yesterday we were north of Aberfoyle and thankfully the weather was better than forecast. Spotted my first primroses of spring too. Well done to the 9 new Lowlad Leaders. Winter isn't over for me yet though- plenty of fresh snow on the hills and more work up there later in the week.

Wednesday 25 March 2015

Oops-Cheers 137-Get well soon Tom

I'm fine, but my partner Tom has broken a leg in 3 places.
Stunning looking day and we walked in chatting to friends before pausing at the CIC to decide what to do. With big crowds going around the corner into Observatory Gully we decided to head into the Ciste and since neither of us had done Italian RH we though we'd warm up on that on the way to higher climbs. There was plenty of spindrift coming down The Chute and a fair few waves in the area of Italian but after a bite to eat things seemed to have eased off. There was plenty of fresh snow on the apron but no propagation anywhere until the very top of the slope as we cut a belay ledge. We planned to climb the steep pitch of Italian RH and abseil back down again avoiding the basin above. Tom led off, placed a couple of screws and then with a rumble the lights went out. The easier ground way above had released a large amount of snow. As I closed my eyes and hunkered down I heard a muffled 'Oh F@*K' from above and saw the ropes spiralling down slackly- Tom was off.
He'd felt the weight building on him for a second or two and realising he'd been about to be swept off he turned and jumped for it… about 20-25m with his top screw holding him.
'I'm ok, i'm ok… my ankle's broken.'
Thanks to Rob and Bob who were abseiling down Italian nearby at the time and who kept Tom company as I lowered him 120m down the apron and chopped a ledge for him. Cheers to Lochaber MRT for co-ordinating Rescue 137 for Tom's prompt uplift and thanks to the RAF of course. Thanks also to Iain who I hadn't seen in years who came soloing past randomly and helped carry all the gear down after they were gone.
Tom may have the dubious honour of being the last casualty winched off the Ben by 137. I hope so.
Post mortem: were there any signs to be read? There was wind, fresh snow on the move and we were on a lee slope. There was no propagation in the snow on the apron except in the very soft slab in the last metre to the belay and we weren't planning to be on the snow slopes higher up. The spindrift was at the level where we were laughing about what it was going to be like to climb through it and the slough that came down was a couple of orders of magnitude larger than anything else we'd seen that day and of course after that we didn't see anything else moving at all. Anything to learn? Always and it all goes in the experience banks. Thanks again to those who helped out today and get well soon Tom.
 Snow on the move??
 All going well and then...
 Getting ready to lower, belay jacket on, painkillers munched
 120m down, leg broken in 3 spots and you''re smiling???
 Winchie at work, double strop going on
Get well soon mate

Sunday 22 March 2015

Good work, bad timing

I've just finished 7 days straight working in climbing walls and all I've been seeing online are how good the ice conditions are on the Ben! Bad timing…
…But the work has been good: I've done 2 CWA Trainings 3 CWAA Trainings, a CWA Assessment, a day moderating a great NICAS wall and a CWLA Training. I've been at The Ice Factor, Transition Extreme, Bunkhouse Bouldering, Inverness Leisure, EICA and Glasgow Climbing Centre.
Tired now, next week off, don't think I'll go to the wall…
 M Belaying
 UHI Climbers
 Belay specs
 Going down
 Over the edge
 Abseil module
 Climbing golf
 Bunkhouse Bouldering
 Warm ups
 Chasing your tail
 Relay races
 Sit on a hold
 Various peer belaying options
 A final challenge 1...
 ABC and fun! 
Team UHI Perth

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Kids on Scimitar +NGBs at Transition Extreme

A  break for my legs and after a weekend at with the family and some scrambling in the sun I've been in Aberdeen running a CWA Assessment and a CWLA Training. Cheers to Duncan for the help with today's course.
 Sandy on the slab
 Kaye hits the rock
 Sunny family picnic
 Strange shapes at Transition
 Rope tow traverse
M belaying

Friday 13 March 2015

Wind, wet pants + wonderful days this week

Wednesday was too windy to go up into the Cairngorms and after a chat with Matt we went to Huntly's Cave to give him some tools for solving problems he might have to deal with as an already competent multi pitch climber.
On thursday with a carbon copy forecast of monday we got an early start and drove to Buachaille Etive  Mor with Nick and Rich's teams. We climbed Curved Ridge- up and down Coire na Tullaich in a little under 5 very wet hours (soggy underwear for 4 of those :-(. It belted with rain continuously but there was some good firm snow on the route and some icey patches between. We shared the route with some Doctors from the Mountain Medicine Diploma and their Guides. It took 3 hours for my fingers to de prune!

Today we were rewarded for the last 2 days and it was barely a soft shell day in the Cairngomrs- more like a thermal day! I wore a thin pair of fleece gloves and a base layer for much of the day and the buff under my helmet was to absorb the sweat rather than keep me warm or keep the spindrift off for a nice change.
We climbed Fiacaill Couloir and Goat Track Gully which were both in very friendly nick for climbing. Gear was a bit harder to come by owing to thick drools of verglas that had formed after yesterdays thaw conditions were followed by a sudden freeze. It was nice to wander and chat without huddling against a gale, think of shades rather than goggles and wear my thinnest gloves and a soft shell in the shade. A tough week but we ended with Matt leading us out of the top of Goat Track Gully to start his winter climbing career off on the sharp end.
Now I need a few days to recover after racing around with him- fit chap Matt!

That's the end of my winter for Glenmore Lodge back to the west now and working in walls all next week… but winter isn't over yet!