Saturday, 26 July 2014

Mercury Rising...

Summer has definitely arrived in Lochaber this week! With temperatures in excess of 28C, and wall to wall sunshine, those of us used to mist, wind, rain and snow were treated to some stunning conditions!

Last weekend, when the weather and conditions were more average, I was working for Rabbies Tours with Mr. Matsuki from Japan. Having climbed all over the world for years he was no stranger to the mountain environment and at 70 years old, was still in excellent shape.
Our aim of the day was to add another mountain to his tally and we set off for Ben Nevis in warm and sticky conditions. By the time we reached the summit however, it was very cold with some rain, and the hats and gloves came out! A total time of just over 7 hours on the mountain, which was a fantastic performance.








For our second day, Mr. Matsuki gave me the decision as to where to go. Deciding on a slightly easier day, and with the cloud due to be lifting above the tops of the smaller hills as the day went on, we headed up to Stob Dubh (958m) on Buachaille Etive Beag. The mist deprived us of views for most of the journey to Glencoe but sure enough, it gradually lifted during the day revealing some of Glencoe's stunning peaks.
Summit of Stob Dubh (958m)








An absolutely brilliant couple of days in which our mutual love of mountains overcame any language barriers giving me some really memorable moments on the hills.

On Monday, with a great forecast up North, Andy and I headed up to Easter Ross to climb on Creag Ghlas. After a pleasant cycle in for me (and a lot of hard work for Andy on a malfunctioning bike!) we started the steep slog up to the crag.
First on the list of routes was Salamander, a 3* route of which we'd heard some great things. Andy was on lead first and linked P1 and P2 together. I jumped on lead for the HVS pitch which gets 5b in one guide book but was definitely no harder than 5a.
Pitch 1 of Salamandar HVS 5a ***




 A few more pitches to the top and 3 abseils down and it was time to head up Glass Slipper, a 2* VS 5a. Some nice climbing, another abseil and it was time to head home. Outstanding routes on a superb crag in a great location, what's not to like?!

Great views to Torridon



For a bit of an easier day, we headed up Tower Ridge on Tuesday. Andy, despite living here for 4 years, had never been on Tower Ridge and so it was time to finally get him on it! In sunshine, and on dry rock we made fast progress and with a good few hours to spare, descended Ledge route for a bit more short roping practice for myself. A route that never disappoints Andy was pleased it had exceeded his expectations!

















Some family time for me on Wednesday and on Thursday with the mountains being dry for days, we had a big day planned over the water in Ardgour...
Getting the 0630hrs ferry over meant we started the climb to Garbh Bheinn in the shade, allowing us to make good time up there. The first views of South Wall were breathtaking and we were both pysched for a great day's climbing...


South Wall of Garbh Bheinn


I jumped on Scimitar (VS 4c) to start with and got into the style of climbing on the Gneiss rock which involved pretty steep climbing on good holds and with decent protection.
We headed onto Excalibur (HVS 5a) next, a stunning route with two really different initial pitches, the first being very steep, the second an exposed traverse. Thoroughly enjoyable climbing with the routes being great value at their particular grades.




Second pitch of Excalibur HVS 5a **


The sun was well up by now and the heat was beginning to take it's toll on us! Still, we were keen to get on the 4* classic Butterknife which gets HS4b in some books VS 4b in others. We opted to do the VS 4c finish which bumps up the grade a bit. Andy got to lead the main 4b corner pitch was outrageously steep for HS climbing and great fun!
the main 4b pitch of Butterknife HS4b ****


 Still the holds were good and the larger crack swallowed up the larger hexes and cams we'd specifically taken. The last 4c pitch didn't disappoint either, with steep bouldery moves to get off the deck before joining on to the Great Ridge.
One of my all time favourite mountain crags and a day to remember for a long time!




What a view!





Yesterday I took Declan on his first multi-pitch climb in Glen Nevis. With temperatures soaring we still managed to climb the first two pitches of the Gutter (Diff) followed by an abseil back to the glen. A great effort from the young man!
Declan enjoying the warm rock

With the rain now pelting off the pavement, it seems we're back to the usual Scottish Summer weather! A bit of a relief from the heat is more than welcome but here's hoping for some more good conditions before the end of the Summer.