Sunday, 21 December 2014

Nevis Mountain Track, School House Ridge and the Ice factor

Yesterday I was out with Sam and Charlotte on the mountain track on Ben Nevis. We had some nice views whilst the cloud lifted briefly and some fairly calm conditions on top. Meanwhile, Jamie B was guiding Joe and Nicola on School House Ridge on the Ballachulish Horseshoe. 

With heavy rain, mild temperatures and strong winds forecast, Sam, Charlotte and I headed to the Ice Factor for the day where we spent the morning looking at some rock climbing (during which some of the Foundation Coach training came in very useful) followed by a session in the ice wall.

 That rounds up the pre- Christmas Winter work so I'd like to wish everyone a great Festive period and here's hoping for superb Winter conditions to come in the New Year!

Friday, 19 December 2014

Wild and Windy Winter Skills...

With a pretty wild forecast for today Joe, Nicola and I headed to Glencoe with a view to going over some Winter skills and hopefully going for a bit of a wander too.
With winds due to be gusting 80mph, things were going to be pretty challenging but Joe and Nicola were up for a bit of a battle with the weather!
During the drive to Buachaille Etive Beag, I could already see the snowline had dropped to below 700m which was promising. Massive waves of spindrift being blown off the slopes certainly kept us on our toes.

Lucky for us, the plan came together and we managed to find some good neve on the Eastern hollow below the 902m spot height. We managed to cover some step kicking, ice axe arrest and a good bit of crampon work. After surviving a good few cold hours in the spindrift, we made a tactical retreat via the Glencoe cafe for coffee and cake and a civilised end to a wild day! A great effort from Joe and Nicola who put up with the weather really well. 

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Solitude on a soggy Ben!

Today I was guiding Erik and his son Chip from Chicago on Ben Nevis. A nice early start and we were well under way before it got light.
Last night's thaw was a bit more extensive than the forecast suggested and we were wading through slush and soft snow pretty much up to Maclean's Steep. From there things got a bit more icy and we put crampons on for the descent of this icy section. There wasn't really any fresh snow today either, but we were treated to some freezing rain covering everything in a rather unhelpful layer of ice!
Still, the guys were full of enthusiasm and really embraced the 'Scottish' weather and conditions!

We only saw another team of two on the zig zags whilst on our way down so it felt like we had the mountain pretty much to ourselves! 

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

CMD in stunning conditions

Today I was out guiding Pete on Ben Nevis. Pete is quite a seasoned fell runner and had done a bit of climbing in the Alps so we decided to head up the Ben via the CMD Arete. There was still a fair bit of snow on the upper forestry track so we left the car and walked the final 500m.

There was a fair mix of snow conditions ranging from some icy scoured slopes near the summit of Carn Mor Dearg to knee and thigh deep drifts in places.

The arete itself was in good condition and was icy for most of it until about tow thirds round at which point there was some deep soft snow. The final slope up to Ben Nevis today was hard work in the deep snow but Pete, who is quite used to slogging in his running, took it all in his stride!

The Ben looks to be shaping up nicely!

Friday, 5 December 2014

Winter Arrives!

Today was my first day out in what I would say felt like proper Winter conditions for this season. I was working for Maximum Adventure and took Rich, Craig and John on the Ben to celebrate Rich's 40th birthday. A few heavy snow showers but generally a fine day and not really too windy on top at all. The snow level was down to about 400m this morning and there was plenty rime forming higher up, as well as some deeper drifts of snow. The snow was all very soft still so we didn't need to use axes or crampons at all today, though the guys were glad of their winter boots. After tomorrow's rain, there seems to be plenty more snow in the forecast. It seems Winter 2014/15 has arrived!

Back in the Winter office :)

Monday, 1 December 2014

November Sun

Overall it's been a pretty mild and dry November. Snow has come and gone on the mountains but we're still feeling like Winter has yet to take hold.
Still, it's been a great few weeks. At the start of the month I was out with Eilid and the the Skills for Work group at West Highland College. This was most of the groups' first ever hillwalk and so with a smashing forecast, we headed to Glencoe and onto Buachaille Etive Beag to bag the groups first Munro as well as giving them a taste of the spectacular landscapes we have on our door step.

With a few days off I went for a leg stretch up the Grey Corries. I headed up the Lairig to the bothy and then went up Stob Ban followed by Stob Choire Claurigh and Stob Coire an Laoigh Unfortunately the predicted sunny skies didn't materialise but it was still a great day and nice to get into some snow too!
This is a great time of year to get some CPD done and Cotswold Outdoor in Fort William were running a GPS course. This was a really useful day and taught me that my GPS (which lives at the bottom of my rucksack) can do quite a lot of nifty things! It's also great to network with other professionals in the industry at these events so a big thanks to Craig and Adam from Cotswolds, Lochaber MRT for the use of the base and to the other folks on the course.

It's very difficult to predict what condition the mountains will be in in November, so I'd prepared my client Sanjay who'd booked for a day on CMD Arete, for pretty much anything from a Summer trip to full on Winter! We were faced with pretty much a Summer's day on the Arete, albeit a little bit more chilly than usual. Still we had stunning views, saw multiple Brocken Spectres and had a superb day!

This month also saw us taking a long overdue family holiday and Glenda, Robin and I headed to Mull for a few days. We were really lucky with 5 days of lovely sunny weather and I managed to head for a run up Ben More to add another Munro in the bag. I'm by no means a seasoned hill runner but this track was really nice to run, a bit of bog in the lower slopes but nice and direct so as to get some great views quickly and a speedy descent too!

 Back on the mainland and I was working with Max for WHC with the ATM1(Adventure Tourism Management First Year) students. It was the last day in their Mountain Skills Unit and they were yet to look at steep ground and scrambling so we headed down Glen Nevis to ascend the South Ridge of Meall Cumhann. The students did really well and we had a some really interesting discussions about route choice, dynamic risk assessment and look after yourself on steeper ground. Thanks to Mairead, Cormac, Sam, Isobel and Max for a really enjoyable day in the office!

On Friday I saw things were shaping up to be good weather day so I had an early start and went for a bit of a workout up Ledge Route and back down by the Lochan in just under 3 hours ( from the top car park though!). I spent a  wee while on the summit of Carn Dearg enjoying the peace and solitude of the sunrise.

With freezing levels dropping this week and some snow on the way, Winter maybe a bit slow in arriving but it's definitely on it's way!