Saturday 3 June 2017

Summer so far... (Part 2)

Back from Skye I was back with Alan Halewood on a very busy SPA Assessment. Kingussie was our venue for personal climbing followed by a day in Glen Nevis looking at all the group set ups and rigging. Well done to the 6 new SPA holders- great to have a clean sweep!

A happy team!
 Andy had a busy week out on the Ben three times guiding John and Claire, Larry and Julie and Sharon. Well done to everyone for their successful days!
John and Claire on top of the UK!

 I had a thoroughly enjoyable week working with Mike Pescod (Abacus Mountain Guides) on a Summer Mountain Leader Training course. We had 11 candidates on the course which meant there was lots of experience to be shared and drawn upon. Our first day looked at the scope of the award followed by lots of navigation tips and practise.
Our second day was up on Meall an-t Suidhe looking at safe guarding groups on steeper and rocky terrain. The team got some realistic conditions as gusts of 50mph hit just as we topped out onto the summit!

Our third day took us to the ever-inspiring Glencoe and it's iconic mountain, Buachaille Etive Mor.
This day was all about using a rope to protect your group in an emergency situation as well as how to safeguard yourself as a leader using a rope whilst descending. This venue worked really well and we were treated to some fantastic views in the classroom!

 For our expedition we headed to the wild west and started off from near Lochailort up An Stac and camping below Rois-Bheinn. I've been wanting to head up to this area for some time and with good weather it really didn't disappoint.

 We had an amazing sunset before heading out for some night navigation for about 3 hours on a very pleasant night.
Night Nav!

What a great place!

 Our final day looked at emergency procedures, improvised carries and stream crossings before heading back for some debriefs and a chat about the period between training and assessment.
Well done to the candidates who all put in a great performance over the course. It was great fun working with Mike, an experienced course provider and I learned some really useful tips about delivering these courses during the week too- every day's a school day!

Last week I was up Curved Ridge with Caroline and Sorrell. We had hoped to do Tower Ridge but with strong winds and rain forecast, we chose Curved Ridge as our back up plan. This worked a treat and the ladies loved the classic scramble. Lets hope the weather will play ball for Tower Ridge next time!

 I was back on Ben Nevis with Carla who was over from Australia on a family holiday. She was keen to take an interesting way up the Ben so we chose Ledge Route, which fitted the bill perfectly. The North Face of the mountain was very quiet and we didn't see a soul until almost at the summit. A cloudy and atmospheric day but Carla loved this- it felt very Scottish!

 Last weekend I was working for Hebridean Pursuits with pupils and teachers from George Herriot's School in Edinburgh. With thundery showers forecast we had a speedy trip up the Zig Zags, over the summit of Gearr Aonach and down into Coire nan Lochan, arriving about 2 minutes after the rain started- perfect timing!

 Meanwhile Iain was out on Curved Ridge with Jonathan who had had to abandon the climb with me last year due to ill health. This time  there was nothing stopping him and they made good time to the top of the ridge, taking in Crowberry Tower on the way (and avoided most of the rain too!)

 Sunday was my turn on Curved Ridge as Andy, Matthew and I lead our groups up for their second day out for Heb. Pursuits. The young people were inspiring and took everything in their stride cruising up the scramble and also taking in Crowberry Tower and the summit of Stob Dearg. A fantastic couple of days work, thanks to Andy Spink for the work and the pupils and teachers for being great company.

 Eli was also over in Scotland on a family holiday but was keen to sample some of the rock climbing that Scotland has to offer. We swapped our days to get the best chance of dry weather and it all worked out well. Choosing a venue to showcase some classic rock climbing is always hard as there is so much to choose from. However, after recalling my first route on Rannoch Wall years ago, I thought this would provide us with a  quality day.

 We made great time ascending Curved Ridge and with no-one in front of us, we jumped on Agag's Groove (VD, ****). Eli is already a fairly experienced climber so loved the exposure, especially on pitch 3. With some time to spare, we abseiled back down to the second belay and we climbed the final 2 pitches of January Jigsaw (S, ***) before abseiling back to the ruck sacks. From there we scrambled up Curved Ridge, Crowberry Tower and Stob Dearg. An amazing day and I'm glad the weather allowed Eli to experience some Scottish climbing at it's best!

 On Thursday I took Wai and Inka for a walk up the Mountain Path on Ben Nevis. They too are on a grand tour of Scotland and were keen to ascend Ben Nevis whilst here. Despite a bit of rain and cloud later in the day, the weather was very kind to us and we had great day on a rather quiet mountain.
 The summer mountaineering work kicks off this coming week so I'm looking forward to guiding on some of the classic scrambles in the area.

Summer so far... (part one)

This year's summer work kicked off with a really fun and interesting Rock Climbing Rescues course with 3rd year Adventure Tourism students at West Highland College. Over the 4 days we looked at all sorts of problems that can occur when rock climbing including managing (and avoiding) tangles when climbing as a three, simple hoists and lowers past knots and damaged bits of rope. We then built up to some bigger scenarios that the students had to manage and then write an assignment on their decision making process.
Locking of belay plates and abseiling past a knot

An unassisted hoist in action
That face says it all! Escaping the system with out of reach anchors...

Rebecca cruising up Sheep Fank Wall

Problem solved!

Joe to the rescue! Rescuing an unconscious casualty on a multi-pitch climb

I had the pleasure of heading out with Gary and Ben for a half day's teaching climbing in Glen Nevis. We tackled Pinnacle Ridge and Right Wall on Styx Buttress looking at building belays and stance management on multi-pitch climbs.  Great effort guys!

 Prashant has been a regular client over the last few years and he was back this time to tackle some more mountaineering. I headed up Lagangarbh Buttress on Buachaille Etive Mor to let Prashant sample a less well travelled scramble in Glencoe.

Andy was out with the rest of Prashant's friends giving them an introduction to the Scottish hills on Buachaille Etive Beag. We then headed out as a bigger team on the SW Ridge of Meall Cumhann to give the team a feel for some scrambling (and excellent views).

 Hannah, Andy and I had a super fun day on the Ben Nevis Mountain Track with Adam and his 14 friends. A superb performance from group saw everyone battling onto the summit in 50mph winds before a hasty retreat back down the mountain!

 Having not had a lot of opportunities for personal climbing yet, with a  cracking spell of good weather, Andy and I headed to Creag Dubh to tick off a few of the classics. We climbed King Bee Direct (HVS 5a), Tip Off (VS 4c) and Brute (VS 5a). Warm rock, climbing in a t-shirt and no midges- perfect!
 Seizing a free morning, I took Robin for a quick trip up Scimitar Ridge in Glen Nevis. He made it all look very easy and we were back down for a picnic in no time at all! Scrambling definitely seems to be a fantastic way to get the kids into climbing and we'll need to step it up a bit for the next adventure!

Daddy and Robin selfie!
 Working on National Governing Body Awards (NGB's) has become something I really enjoy and I was working with SPA Provider Alan Halewood on an SPA training course for West Highland College. We visited Kingussie Crag on the first day to look at personal climbing followed by another dry day in Glen Nevis at Polldubh
Ross on Finale (VD), Kingussie

Some warm up games and bouldering at Polldubh

Rigging at SW Buttress
 Sometimes things just all fall into place and my trip to Skye at the start of May was one of those times. Malcolm had booked to do a Cuillin Ridge Traverse way back in October. Predicting dry weather even a few days before can be virtually impossible sometimes so booking some dates so far in advance is always a bit of a gamble. It paid off this time and we had 2 days of perfect weather for the UK's best mountaineering expedition. With the superb forecast we decided to add to the adventure by taking the boat from Elgol into Loch Coruisk and head up Gars-Bheinn from there. This adds an extra element of excitement to an already epic couple of days.

Abseiling into the TD gap which was bone dry!

About to tackle the TD gap

Looking towards the In Pinn
 We made excellent progress. Malcolm is an experienced scrambler and so we didn't need to use the rope very much at all. This allowed us to get a great pace and cover ground at a good speed. The dry weather also allowed us to tackle the hardest technical climb on the ridge, the TD gap. What it did mean was that water was hard to find... At the end of our first day, we'd made it as far as An Dorus and we dropped into the Coire to get our water refilled and decided to bivvy there on a flattish grassy area. This meant a short climb back up to the ridge the next day but after a decent sleep and plenty of food and rehydration, it felt like a very good call.

Malcolm enjoying the exposure on the W ridge of Sgurr nan Gillean

Job done- Sgurr nan Gillean!

 Day 2 went by very quickly and after the absorbing middle section of the ridge over the 4 tops of Sgurr a Mhadaidh and Bidien Druim nan Ramh we found ourselves standing on Sgurr nan Gillean by 1300hrs. Well done for a sterling effort Malcolm and I hope the traverse will be something to remember for a long time!