Sunday, 22 December 2013

End of year round up.

A quick round of the last week few weeks. I spent some more days working for the West Highland College with the 1st year degree students and the ACOL (advanced certificate in outdoor leadership). We had some great days looking at navigation and basic mountain skills in Glen Roy and near Kinlochleven.



Shortly after this, Andy and I took a we trip up into Coire Na Ciste with a view to checking out the conditions. The thaw had been pretty sustained at the point so only the easy gullies were complete and there were signs of avalanche and rock debris all over the corrie. 

Last weekend I was working for Maximum Adventure. Unfortunately, the weather forecast was not too helpful on the Saturday, with winds gusting 90mph. To get to the existing snow at 900m on the Ben would have been extremely difficult at best so we had a day in the Ice Factor covering various aspects of winter walking including trip and route planning, personal organisation, equipment use and selection as well as quick wander in crampons in the Ice wall.
The Sunday forecast showed some very strong winds- gusting 120mph- to arrive around midday. Despite an early start and some stunning views, we made it as far as corner one on the zig zags (750m) before losing the ability to stand upright in the wind! A character building walk down saw us drying off over a hot drink in the Ben Nevis Inn. A great performance by the team, just unlucky with the weather this time!

Since last week, the freezing level has lowered and we've been battered with lots of winter storms. Reports suggest ice is building well on the Ben so things are looking really promising for a great start to 2014! 
This has been a truly outstanding year for me, not only becoming a dad but also achieving lot of long term climbing goals (and a few injuries added in!).Thanks to my climbing partners for helping me to reach them. 
This will be the last blog post of 2013 so all the best for the New Year and here's hoping for a good season of winter climbing.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Some mileage

This time of year can be a bit hit or miss with winter climbing so to increase my base of fitness for winter I've had a couple of trips out hill walking.

On Saturday I headed up to Glenfinnan to do the Corryhully horseshoe. A pleasant cycle into the bothy saved a bit if time before tackling the steady climb to start the route. Pretty claggy for most of the day and a nice bit of navigation practice to sharpen the skills for when really needed! This was a smashing route, the ridge felt very grand indeed. A lot of soft snow that required wading in places, so crampons and axe stayed in the bag.

 Today I was back in Glenfinnan with John. We decided to head up to the Corbett, Sgurr an Utha as neither of us had been here before. Another great little hill, it felt very remote despite being so close to the road. Rough walking with some ice and soft snow in places and another cracking day out.

It look like we're set for a thaw over the next few days before cooling down at the end of the week.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Stunning day on Beinn Bhan

Today was Glenda's first day out in the hills since giving birth to Robin almost 10 months ago!

She headed up Beinn Bhan in Glen Loy, a great wee hill off the beaten track.

She chose a stunning day to head back to the hills with great views, icy snow underfoot and a
cold wind.

The North Face of the Ben getting it's Winter coat

Friday, 15 November 2013

Back in the office

Yesterday and today Max and I were working for West Highland College with the First Year ATM Degree students. The purpose of the day was to go over some navigation and basic hill skills.
Yesterday we headed out amongst the hills just above Kinlochleven. Due to the high winds forecast we stayed fairly low and managed to avoid get blown around too much. The students did really well, demonstrating some good skills- the outdoor instructors of the future!

Back in the office :)

Hard at work!

 Today we headed up to Glen Roy for a similar day. I hadn't been to the East side of the Glen before but it was fantastic for getting off the track and finding some really good features to test the navigation. Well done again to the students today, some more good performances!

Enjoying a well deserved food stop!

Almost back at the bus!
A bit of fresh snow on the Mamores visible but a fair bit of rain and warmer temperatures today.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Snowy on Ledge Route

After having a good day out in Glencoe on Wednesday and seeing the great forecast, I couldn't resist having a blast up the Ben this morning. Fantastic weather made it an absolute pleasure to be out. LOTS of snow on the Ben today, but thankfully some nice helpful footprints on Ledge Route ( thanks Jamie and Mark!).

Ledge Route from Lochaber Guides on Vimeo.
The ridge was absolutely plastered in snow so it was more akin to wading than climbing but still great fun.

There were a couple of tracks going down the Red Burn but on a shear test I found a weak layer underneath the superficial powder and more consolidated snow so decided to head down the Zig Zags. There was no path at all on the Zig Zags until just after corner 3 on descent so anybody heading up this week should bear that in mind. Had the GoPro out for a play again today!

All in all, a great day to back on the Ben, so far so good with the recovering back injury. Here's hoping for a productive winter!

Friday, 8 November 2013

Good to get out!

So its been 6 weeks since my climbing injury, physio has been going well and on Wednesday Kev and I decided to head out to test our recovering bodies with a day in the mountains. We chose the very modest objective of Buachaille Etive Beag which fitted the bill as a wee bit of a challenge but nothing too strenuous.
The forecast didn't really look like shifting from the November monsoon season here in Lochaber but we were pleasantly surprised by a few glimpses of blue sky.
A short bit of early winter faffing and we were away up the hill. It felt great to be back out, feeling that cold wind on the face and fresh snow underfoot. We headed up Stob Dubh trying (unsuccessfully) to avoid some of the thigh deep drifts on the way up. Within a fairly short time we were both on our first post-injury/surgery Munro top.

On the descent there were a few twinges of pain in my back and Kev's ankle was grumbling too. Despite that, we headed down to the Ice factor for a quick blast on the ice wall.  Climbing again on ice felt surprisingly strange so a good bit of mileage is needed before pushing the winter climbing.

Still a bit to go to get back to normal but definitely feeling it's much closer now. An absolutely great feeling of freedom to be back out in the hills, 6 weeks has seemed long enough!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Recovery update- 4 weeks on

Just over 4 weeks ago I was lying in Belford Hospital with a profound sense of deja vu. Almost 2 years ago to the day, I was in the exact same position with almost the exact same injury after a car accident. This time it was after a climbing fall. Compression fracture to T12 was the diagnosis ( it had been L4 previously). As I contemplated the long road to recovery that lay ahead, I briefly thought about the fall. It was nothing spectacular really, just a few metres up the route before reaching the sparse protection about halfway up it, I mucked up the moves, tried to lower down but landed awkwardly. I immediately felt a searing pain in my spine and the numbness from my mid chest downwards certainly suggested I'd done something serious. Thankfully the loss of sensation only lasted a few seconds. I felt my back muscles go into spasm and I was pretty sure I'd been here before with this type of injury.
Photo by D. Scott

Photo by D. Scott
After survivng Kev and Davie's exruciating banter for about 40 minutes, my extraction off the hill got underway!
I'd like to offer a big thank you to Mike, the rest of Lochaber MRT and the crew of Rescue 177 for getting me off the hill in a quick and painless fashion! Also, to my climbing partners on the day for sorting things out in a timely manner, cheers!

Back in the Belford Hospital, after a CT scan, it transpired that the fracture was much less severe than last time. There was no need for bed rest for 2 weeks and no rigid back brace for 3 months. I was on my feet after 2 days and home by the third. It definitely felt like a shorter road lay ahead this time. Again, thanks go out to friends and family for the visits and support whilst in and out of hospital.

Keeping Robin entertained in the Belford!
So, 4 weeks down the line things are going pretty well. The physiotherapy to strengthen the core muscles is going well and my general mobility and movement feels almost back to normal. Today was my first day climbing at the Ice factor with Kev, which was a bit of a test of things. As with any injury, I think it's normal to try and protect the area so whilst I felt my arms and feet were doing ok, the general body movement felt a bit stiff and awkward. Still, the small victories have to be enjoyed at this stage. It's too easy to feel good, push things too far and push the recovery back.

Next week I'm hoping to head back into the mountains and once the magic 6 weeks are up in terms of bones healing, I'll be keen to push on a bit further with the training for Winter. Until then though, slowly and genlty does it...

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Season drawing to a close...

Another busy few weeks have gone by as the Summer seasons carries on. I had a day on the Ben in the worst conditions I've had on a Summer trip for Maximum Adventure. We unfortunately had to call it a day at corner 3 as some of the lighter members of the group were almost getting lifted off their feet by the ferocious winds!
Out again the next day for Seren ventures and we managed to reach the summit this time although the weather was still pretty grim on top!
Joe and Clive warming up again on the way down!
I had a great couple of days on my First Aid Course run by the British association of Ski Patrollers (BASP). Duncan ran a really interesting course with a lot of realistic and useful scenarios in the area around Nevis Range to get us thinking about our management of casualties in the outdoors.

Later that week I headed over to Skye for a days work for Wilderness Scotland. Bruce from the USA only had one day on Skye so we did a mega tour of the island including the Old Man of Storr, the Cuillin at Glen Brittle and Sligachan, Dunvegan Castle and Trumpan. 
Back to Fort William and I had a superb day guiding David along the Carn Mor Dearg Arete and onto Ben Nevis. I cannot recommend this route enough, it really showcases the awe-inspiring North Face of Ben Nevis and as well as taking in the exciting Arete between CMD and the Ben. Days like that really dont feel like working! Well done to David for a fantastic effort and for being great company!

Next I was off on another 3 peaks in 3 days for Maximum Adventure. The team were raising money for Diabetes UK. We got a real soaking on the Ben but everyone soldiered on and reached the summit. Some nice weather with the odd shower on Scafell Pike and pretty dry and pleasant on Snowdon. A very enjoyable trip, a shame to be working for the last time with Dave and Carly of PJ Travel as they move on to bigger and better things! All the best guys!

Nice view over Rannoch Moor

Looking up to Scafell Pike
Rescue on Crib Goch

At the weekend there I was working for Wilderness Scotland with Laura on the 'Big Small Isles Challenge'. A team from Downs Syndrome Scotland were taking part. The plan was to get a high speed Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) to Eigg, stay the night there and then try and climb to the highest points on Rum, Eigg, Canna and Muck over the following 2 days. Unfortunately a worsening forecast meant not only a pretty choppy journey over to Eigg on Friday but left us on Eigg on Saturday morning too. Still, with everyone in good spirits we headed up to An Sgurr on Eigg, a striking volcanic feature. Smashing views over to the mainland and the other Small Isles. On descent, a small fall but awkward landing saw me having to assist one of our group off the island to get checked out in Fort William.
Top of An Sgurr

 A short stay at home and then it was on to Rum for day 2. Our objective for the day was Askival, the highest point on Rum and the rest of the Small Isles (812m). This fantastic peak may not be incredibly high but it provided an airy and tricky ascent and a fiiting climax to a great couple of days. Well done to everyone.

Morning Commute!

Top of Askival (812m)

With the first signs of snow on the Ben it seems that Summer is slowly drawing to a close. The next few weeks for me will be some climbing and training in preparation for my MIA training down at Plas y Brenin in Wales. After that, who knows when the ice axes and crampons might be getting looked out....