Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Winter Clings On

Last week felt very much like Spring had arrived so Davie and I headed down to Polldubh to get our first bit of rock climbing started for the season. I had a look at Maintenance (HVS 5a) on Pine Wall but the crux holds on the right were wet and slimy so decided to leave it until it dries out. We did the old classics of Iche (VS 5a), Damnation (VS 4c) and Resurrection (VS 4c). I hadn't climbed some of these routes for a couple of years so it was nice to get back on them and find them easier than I remember.

Yesterday I was working for Abacus Mountain Guides taking Hannah, Pat and Sarah up Ben Nevis as part of their 3 peaks in 3 days Challenge. Pat was also kicking her retirement off in style by reaching the top of the UK's highest mountain. The forecast wasn't great but turned out to be not too bad. However, by about corner 6 the soft snow had a firm crust on it and we were glad to have had ice axes and crampons with us. A proper white out on the summit, we carefully made our way along the plateau to reach the summit. Well done to the team for a sterling performance and good luck with the other 2 peaks!

Some aspirant mountaineers!

At the summit. A large group of marines were also out on the hill

The trig point just about visible!

Today after a quick morning training session at the Ice factor with Davie, Glenda and I took Robin for a walk up a forestry track near Banavie. We got some great views over to the Ben and Aonach Mor, which showed some fresh snow above about 1110m. The North Face of the Ben still has it's winter coat for sure.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

End of the season round up

 It's been a nice gentle end to the winter season for me with a few bits of work to wind down.Glenda and I took Robin for a wee trip to Glencoe and went for a quick walk up the track behind the King's House for some great views down the Glen.

Last week I took Aakesh, Razia and Anuja up Meal an t-Suidhe. Aakesh, who was just about to turn 8 was keen to climb the Ben but due to the full winter conditions, we decided on this. The team did really well and we rewarded with some great views over to the Ben, west to Glenfinnan and beyond. We even managed to build a very impressive snow man! Good effort guys!

Last weekend I was working for Max Ad and took Andy for a day of winter skills on Aonach Mor. We covered ice axe arrest, cramponing, step cutting, step kicking and self belay. The next day we headed up the Ben. As usual, the path pretty much disappears at corner 6 on the Zig-Zags. Some people who were not well kitted out in trainers, no map etc managed to scrape their way to the summit and back. It's still winter up there folks and needs to be treated as such!
Well done to Andy who pushed hard to make it to the summit and down safely.

Our Winter Classroom for the day!

Andy well wrapped up on top of the Ben!

Tower Ridge still in good winter nick

I reckon I've finished the winter climbing for the season so time to hang up the tools. No doubt there will still be some climbing to be done but I'm getting the head ready for rock climbing now and really looking forward to it! A big thank you to all the climbing partners that made this winter season truly memorable, in particular Kev and Davie. Cheers guys!

A short video of a collection of pics from this season can be found here

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Orion Direct (V,5)

It's been a great winter climbing season so far and with cold weather and good conditions continuing to last, it wasn't quite time to hang up the tools just yet. I'd been super keen to get on Orion Direct (V,5) to complete the classic Nevis trilogy of Zero, Point Five and Orion and yesterday Davie and I finally got a chance to get on it. As a friend told me, some routes are hyped up and fall short of the hype. Despite all the hype and being a classic, Orion exceeds it all! The climbing was enjoyable and interesting, though never super strenuous or technical. Runners were few and belays required a bit of thought but overall just an amazing route.It has a truly Alpine feel and it really makes me realise what an outstanding achievement it was for Smith and Marshall to climb it in 1960, cutting steps! I know I'll be back on it again next season for sure!

A great pic from Al Halewood of us on the final couple of pitches- really shows the scale of the route

Pitch 1

Pitch 2

seconding Pitch 2

Belay on pitch 3

Pitch 4

Traverse on Pitch 5

Pitch 6

Davie seconding Pitch 7

Exit Chimney, Pitch 8- a great pitch!

Topping out on Pitch 9!

What a day!

Monday, 1 April 2013

Winter continues...

I've had few busy weekends with work recently. I was working for Maximum Adventure first with Chris and Gavin. We headed up to Coire na Ciste on day 1 to cover winter skills. We went over the usual ice axe arrest, self belay and walking on snow using boots as a tool, kicking and cutting steps and finished with some cramponing. I find the North Face of the Ben a really inspiring place to work on some skills as we are constantly reminded by the imposing cliffs of why its so important to get our basic skills just right.

The guys getting ready to show some skills!
Day 2 we headed up the Ben from Achintee. Fairly soon we heard the sound of the Coastguard helicopter hovering around the Red Burn area and later found out that there were 3 chaps who had spent a cold night on Tower Ridge who were getting rescued. We carried on in fairly nice conditions until about the 5th zig zag where the path disappeared, the cloud came down and we were in full on whiteout. Most of the cairns were covered in snow too so I had to be sharp with the navigation. We bumped into some guys who were lost at the top of Gardyloo Gully(!). They thankfully followed us to the summit and back down though did take a few wrong turns on the descent. Well done to Chris and Gavin who put in a sterling performance!

Cloud beginning to lift

At the Red Burn on the way down

The next day I took John and Raymond for a walk up to the CIC hut. Fairly windy conditions and a lot of slab building up but the cloud was clear and we got some great views of the stunning North face. On the way down were met by a group of large stags just off of the path, a nice end to the mornings walk.

Last weekend I took Anne-Sophie and Alexis for some skills. Our plan had been to head up to Coire Na Ciste for some skills but the weather just wasn't playing fair! We tried driving up the Forestry track at Torlundy but several fallen trees put a quick stop to that. After walking up to the top car park we just got beyond the 10 minute tree before calling it a day. Waves of spindrift and severe wind chill meant getting to the hut would have been challenging enough let alone having a productive learning day. We opted for plan B and covered some basic skills in the Ice factor was well as bit of climbing in the ice wall. 
Me having a brief play on the wall!

After the skills day the guys headed up to the Ben on their own and sensibly turned around when things started to feel a bit hairy. Good to see people making good decisions in the hills.

Anne-Sophie and Alexis above the Half Way Lochan
On Tuesday Davie, Andy and myself headed up the Ben to do Vanishing gully. Despite having to walk up from the bottom car park we were treated to a bit of luxury when Andy treated us to tea and cake in the CIC hut! 
Tea, pastry and climbing. Can life get any better?
 The climbing was great too, with a nice first pitch that I lead up to an in situ peg belay. Davie lead the steep icy crux which was added too by a lot of spindrift blowing up and down the gully! Good lead Davie! We abbed down 1934 route and headed back to the hut for round two of tea and Eccles cakes! Thanks Andy!

This weekend I was working for Maximum Adventure again, whilst Davie was working for me. I took Russell and Lance to Steall Falls on Friday for a quick tour of Glen Nevis. A bit of fun on the wire bridge and we headed back to let the chaps get ready for a longer day. Some nice ice forming in the Glen in the cold conditions.

On Saturday we headed up to the CIC hut to let the guys get a proper view of Ben Nevis. It's a shame that the thousands of people who ascend the Tourist Track every year never get to see the true character of the Ben. We headed back round to the Lochan, headed up the zig zags for a short while and then cut off to look at No.4 gully for more views of the North Face. A final slog up to the summit saw us on top of the UK to stunning views! Not a bad day in the office at all. A quick descent down the Red Burn and we headed across the moor back to the car. Good effort chaps for doing the deluxe Tourist Track!
Well worth the detour!

Davie took Tony and Mia up the Ben on Saturday for a similar day.

Top of the Ben!

Yesterday the team headed up the North Ridge of Stob Ban in Glen Nevis. Another smashing day on a smashing route.

The North ridge

Tony and Mia on top of Stob Ban (999m)