Tuesday 29 December 2015

Climbing water- soft, wet and even frozen!

I was lazy today so instead of getting up at 6am to go out with friends I was chaining my bike up at the top car park on Ben Nevis at 0940.
I chatted to various folk on the walk in and it was nice to see Andy and Rocio and Owen who were all walking out because of conditions. It wasn't mild it was hot. And wet. And there was even less snow around than 2 days ago. But hey, what are you going to do?
I skipped the CIC Hut and made my way up into Coire na Ciste watching demoralised climbers talking themselves out of going any further down below me in the shelter of the building.
I'd been thinking of No. 2 Gully but was a bit discouraged by the amount of debris that had come down in an avalanche probably yesterday. The snow was also very soft and hard work. I had spotted a pair starting up Raeburns Easy Route though and finally made my way into their tracks which made life a lot easier.
I always seem to do this route in a thaw. Often because the mild weather reveals ice on the bulges heading up to the traverse making it look inviting. By now I have realised that it can also be hollow and cruddy when there is a waterfall behind the ice (and there was water flowing everywhere today) so I took a delicate approach zig zagging across the trail of the couple in front finding what water was still climbabley solid.
The traverse was a wade with water trickling off the icicles above and as I came around the last corner I found my trail breakers in the form of a friend, Johannes and his partner for the day Penny. Eschewing the easy snowy finish J was keen on one of the several ice lines that climb more steeply to the plateau on the left. As they had no camera I took pictures as he led and was very happy to accept an invitation to tie on with Penny to follow him up a nice pitch of, only slightly cruddy' Grade III ice (he had placed a screw and everything, and it might even have held a fall!).
Breezier on the top but with flashes of sun I said my farewells and headed to No. 4. I could see where the cornice had collapsed at the top of No.2 and where there were some big glide cracks at the top of No. 3 which saw ascents today. Coming down he top of No.4 it was soft and at the bend it was broken and bouldery- it too has avalanched recently and there was plenty of debris below amongst the boulder fields. North Gully had had a cornice triggered avalanche too and was a waterfall today, completely broken.
Other than our route and No.s 3 and 4 I saw people on Tower Ridge and a very green Ledge Route.
The weather is being trumpeted as something awful tomorrow and it will be windy and rainy but what's new? The worst of it will pass us by out to sea and latterly tomorrow we'll have snow. Then colder temperatures forecast and more snow for a while.
Winter settling in at last? We'll see.
More pics at: https://www.facebook.com/climbwhenyoureready.mountaineering/media_set?set=a.1001224936587290.1073741988.100000993792059&type=3
The green, green grass of the Ben
Snowier up there though
Comb Gully complete on the right, Raeburns Easy on the left
Looking up the line
Johannes keeping it interesting
Ice is ALWAYS harder to climb than it looks ;-)
 Gusty top out
 Penny on the steep bit
'That was fun!'
A bare plateau
 Breezey on top
 Home time

Sunday 27 December 2015

Plenty to climb on Ben Nevis

Today Rich, Iain and I went out to Ben Nevis. Funnily enough it felt rather mild- bit of a theme this year. We didn't hit the freezing level until high in Coire na Ciste. The snowpack was moist with a thin rain crust but on steeper surfaces some ice was forming and the harder mixed routes looked good.
We climbed No.3 Gully Buttress to give Iain a chance to work on his parallel rope work and this gave Rich and I a grandstand seat as Murdo and Andy(?) climbed Arthur and Ian and Uisdean climbed The Secret. Strong folk around as I did my best just to work of my turkey!!
Our route had plenty of cruddy sonic on it but it was firming up nicely in places and as I say Ice was forming. Hopefully the wee thaws due tomorrow and wednesday wont be too vicious and the freezes before, during and after will just consolidate things nicely for the first week of January.
Also saw folk on Ledge Route, Tower Ridge and the CMD Arete and spoke to a team who had been on the SW Ridge of the Douglas Boulder which they reported as unfrozen and loose.
 Looking at Ledge Route
 The Douglas Boulder
 Starting No.3 GB and team on Arthur
 Strenuous climbing on Arthur
 Ice forming on faces
 Looking across Coire na Ciste BLUE SKY!
 Core floor still a boulder field
 Ian bringing Uisdean up The Secret
 Iain mid crux step
 The final pitch of No.3 Gully Buttress
 Shapes on the Secret
 Rich on the last ramp
Down time

Wednesday 23 December 2015

Winter back for a few days on Ben Nevis

Today the snowline was back on the down side of its repeated yo-yo cycle of this winter. Gill and Rich and I decided on a pre Christmas leg stretch and not feeling like we wanted anything to strenuous we only took a set of nuts 3 extenders and a 35m rope.
We bumped into Mike and a team of keen Trainees heading for Tower Ridge, Louisa has had a rough week of work but was out with a final day were her 3 clients in Coire na Ciste and then on Ledge Route. We saw a team digging in the soft ice at the base of No.3 Gully Buttress and a pair did Comb Gully.
We'd been hoping that if the snow fall had been light we could wander up a gully but the walk in weather soon disabused us of this notion. We ploughed on (literally, the little polystyrene like balls of graupel were deep and sitting in several distinct layers as we headed in) and I suggested we go to the top of the Garadh and look at Broad Gully which I soloed years ago but which looked to be white.
This turned out to work just fine with some old snow taking us up soloing past the first pitch. We used the rope for the wee step but once we joined subsidiary Tower Ridge we followed the easy ramp line down to the basin above Italian Climb (less graupel more slabby snow here) before putting in a short pitch onto the crest of Tower Ridge at the base of the Little Tower (just as Mike and team were heading up).
From here we descended Tower Ridge and dropped into Observatory Gully (team Abacus looked to have traversed into the Gully above Tower Scoop? and were also coming down).
Lots of snow being blown around today and a wee thaw is due overnight before more fresh snow on a wind again tomorrow.
Take care where you wander folks, snow conditions are getting a little more complex and there were definitely spots I didn't want to go today. As ever start with the SAIS and the Be Avalanche Aware process.
More pics on: https://www.facebook.com/climbwhenyoureready.mountaineering/media_set?set=a.997429490300168.1073741987.100000993792059&type=3&uploaded=19
 Coire na Ciste
 Start of Broad Gully
 The wee step
 A bit squally
 Traversing across to Tower Ridge
 Snow flowing
 Gill gets a thread
 Mike on Tower Ridge
Last pitch onto the Ridge

Monday 21 December 2015

WHC COLs go big at EICA

Today Scott and I went to EICA Ratho with some of the WHC COLs to give them some experience of another climbing wall. The guys I did CWA Training for last week warmed everyone up and then they took full advantage of the great facilities. 6 hours in a van for 3 hours climbing may seem a poor return but the walls are biiiiig and a change of venue is always good.
 Scott bouldering
 Lydia getting high
 Coming down
 Ross on the big slab
 John on the sharp end
 Attentive belaying
 More from John
Boulder session

Thursday 17 December 2015

CWA day 2

Day of Directing a CWA Training for the School of Adventure Studies at West Highland College and for a contrast the last wall we went to Glenmore Lodge to use the great wee teaching wall there designed by Dream Climbing Walls. We had a good day working through the remaining parts of the syllabus we needed to cover playing plenty of games, looking at risk assessing the environment, basic climbing movement, designing sessions for different group types and avoiding problems.
 Lets talk about ropes
 Silent deadly beanbag ninja assassins
 Team working a session plan for a group
Scottish winter at the moment. Nuff said!