Monday, 13 January 2014

Promising starts

Once all the Christmas and New Year festivities quietened down, it was time to get the ice tools out and see what was worth a look. With so much fresh snow recently and the avalanche forecast looking interesting, Andy and I headed to Lurcher's Crag in the Cairngorms.

looking into the Northern Corries
Being West facing, the slopes were scoured rather than loaded but there was some ice to climb. We had a quick look and saw one of the ice falls on the Northern part of the crag looked fun. The ice was a bit thin and cruddy in placed to start with but soon improved with height. The hardest section was a nice grade III so it felt good to get back into the swing of winter climbing.

With the Ben still looking loaded and reports of massive avalanches down No. 5 and Observatory Gullies, Andy and I headed back East on Thursday into Coire an-t Sneachda. Without any objectives in mind, and not having done much climbing here, we were drawn to the inviting line of Patey's Route (IV,5). Andy took the first pitch which had a nice icy step. The second pitch has a large chockstone which was iced up quite well although just as things got interesting the snow turned to powder it was like trying to climb in sand. Thankfully there was some good ice hiding under the powder and before long we were on the plateau. A bit of nav practice and we were back at the ski centre for about 1330hrs, a civilised early finish!

Patey's route 090114 from Lochaber Guides on Vimeo.

This weekend, I was working for Maximum Adventure. I met with Andy, Connor and Rob for a briefing and kit check on Friday and on Saturday we were straight up the hill at Aonach Mor for some Winter Skills. The snow conditions were perfect and we covered step kicking, step cutting, cramponing, ice axe arrest. We even had enough snow to have a play at emergency shelters. The goggles came out for the short walk back though as some squally weather blew through!

 Yesterday was putting everything into practice on Ben Nevis. A nice early start saw us at the Red Burn for 0900hrs. The snow soon built up and we donned crampons and axes from there. The spindrift blowing down the zig zags was horrendous but a fighting approach saw us reach the plateau. From there, the winds died slightly and we even had some sunshine! Lots of snow on the plateau and most of the cairns were buried. Well done to the team for a very strong performance and earning a place on the summit!

This week is looking busy with some more guiding, a day out with BBC Radio Scotland and perhaps some more climbing!