Sunday 31 January 2016

Yesterday...a 2 minute video

Winter seems to come and go with a vengeance this season. Storms, thaws, wind and snow you can't predict what's happening more than a few days in advance.
David and I had a great day out yesterday but unfortunately for him the climb aggravated a recently broken bone and rather than risk further injury we called today off happy with what we achieved.
So I use the morning to put a quick video together of yesterday's climb:

Saturday 30 January 2016

Love it when a plan comes together Stob Ban

I've been hiding. 4 days booked off in my diary before the bedlam of February (and March, and April from the looks of my diary) for a rest and maybe a climb. Well the climb didn't happen but i was glad not to be on the hill tues to fri last week.
So today came around with a marginally better forecast. I need a climb for Dave... III preferably, platy of pitches, safe approach, sheltered from the wind. East Buttress of the North Ridge of Stob Ban. We waded up the glen in snow blustery weather watching plumes blowing off of the the ridges and snow devils whirling on the westerlies. There was a surprising amount of ice around, icicles under banks and peat hags, ice on the path and even wet ice in a drainage line I've climbed before. We were getting gusts but nothing too bad and when we hit the bottom of the Buttress the snowmen was low enough down for us to take the chimney up the bottom tier directly. I've never done that before and it was GREAT FUN. Positive hooks and gear, chockstones frozen in and a couple of nice steep wee continuation walls again on brilliant hooks. From the flat platform I went up a steep turfy wee groove to give more III and then as the buttress broadened we increased the pace towards the top. The shattered tower that forms the crux of the easiest line was as much fun as I remembered and then there were just the 2 knife edges and the last wee long step right around the slab to go.
We knew we'd catch it a bit when we topped out and the hour and half descent wasn't especially pleasant- a couple of times we just stopped in a gust and hunkered down waiting until we could see and the beard gathered about a pound of wet snow ice. But Dave was heard to utter "That was fu@$*n' brilliant!" so all was well! 7 pitches of fun climbing and only a moderate kicking by the weather in descent.
 East Buttress of the North Ridge of Stob Ban
 Ice trying hard to form @ about 600m
 Off we go
 Easy ground to start
 The long first fun pitch of III
 A bit squally
 Great hooks and surprisingly good turf in places
 Whoops, this was steeper than expected ;-)
 The shattered tower, the crux of the II/III route
 Getting a thread on one of the final knife edges
 The last move
 Climb when you're ready!
Serious beard action!

Monday 25 January 2016

Warm, wet and windy

Second day working with Hans and Nick at the Glenmore Lodge Winter Climbing Festival and there was a distinct lack of winter. We chatted with the team and rather than risk cornice collapse and rockfall for damp easy climbing we decided to use the facilities at the Lodge. Hans took the lead coaching dry tooling on the towers in the morning, Roger from Lyon did an informative session on materials looking at ropes, abseil tat and helmets I went through the Be Avalanche Aware process and we finished with a little rope work and some more tooling on the towers.
Best of luck to the BMC International meet which has just begun, winter is going to be a little scarce for a while.
 Tool traverse
 Sarah planning ahead
 Hans tweaking
 Fit the foot to the rock
 Traverse with crampons
 Sarah in the corner
 Tim's turn
 Neil in the zone
 Satah and her Monsters
 Smile Neil
 Roger drops a ball
 The Pulley Effect
Talking about tat

Saturday 23 January 2016


Today I was working on Glenmore Lodge's Winter Climbing Festival. As wells as the Instructed teams there were 2 guided parties out in our group today, one pair got to climb with sponsored North Face Athlete Hansjoerg Auer. The other pair were stuck with me! At least both parties had access to lots of great kit from The North Face and Lyon Equipment.
We beat in against the warm wind and as hoped when we looked around the corner we could see that Fiacaill Buttress was still white looking. Hans took his team up the Seam while I did Invernookie behind a team from Leeds Uni. A party climbed Seamstress and another team roped up and moved together with little or no gear up Fiacaill Couloir- rather them than me :-(
The cracks were pretty iced up today and the old rime had turned to detached ice on the faces, snow was soft and thawing but at least we were out of the wind until we topped out. It hit 2 degrees and 90mph at one point on top of Cairngorm today.
 Big cornices
 Still snowy but getting blacker
 Neil and Tim patient on the first stance
 Hans bringing up Tomasz and Sarah
 3 people, 1 rope, nae gear- not a happy sight
 Neil and Tim following on
 Neil enjoying some of the steeper pulls
 Tim on the last pitch
Hans's team and Ed and Nick the photography team
 Hans and Ed (on the receiving end of a photo for a change)
 Addressing the haggis and the many facial expressions of Phil Sanderson
Haggis, wine, whisky and the pipes
"Here's tae us,
Wha's like us?
Damned few,
And they're a deid!"

Wednesday 20 January 2016

Nevis Range skills

Today I was out working with students from West Highland College introducing them the the world of winter walking. With the course running to the college day and the need to get them kitted out first we opted to head for Nevis Range to get to the snow quickly. I had a team of 3 out and in the gondola we looked at the avalanche forecast and chatted through the plan for the day. We walked round to the Nid Ridge chatting about what we could see, what hazards might trip us up on the day etc. and then I expanded a pit dug yesterday to chat about layers in the snow and explain common avalanche conditions in Scotland. From here the snow was still soft so we chose a steep line explaining the use of the axe, the boot and, after we'd put them on, crampons. Then we followed the Nid Ridge all the way up to the Ski Patrol Hut for lunch. The plateau was clear at this point so rather than my plan A of doing some navigation we dropped down to a spot above the Quad Chair and I fished out the rope so the guys could experience a little fun on some steeper mountaineering ground on the west face.
The snow was wetter today and there was a lot of evidence of wet snow slides including lots of debris under he climbing areas on the East Face. A party were on Stirling Bridge, another on Morwind and a soloist had a wade up Forgotten Twin.
 Kitting up below the Nid
 Jamie's team gaining height
 Nearing the top of the east face
 On the crest of the Nid
 Following Jamie's team along the edge of the east face
 We wont be doing that!
 Loch Eil
 Can you spot the belayer?
 A little fun on the west face
Topping out again