Wednesday, 16 December 2015

A mixed start to the Winter so far...

It's been the usual mixed start to the Winter season here in Lochaber. The dumps of snow followed by mild and wild weather seems to be the pattern at the moment. I started my Winter with an exceptional blue sky day on Castle Ridge with Andy Mac and Andy H. Great company, fun climbing and superb weather definitely set the bar high for this season's climbing!

 At the start of the month I headed put with Nikki for a couple of days. Nikki had done a fair bit of Winter training with her time in the Armed Forces including some Arctic Warfare training with the Marines! We had a quick hit on the Ben followed by a great day up Stob Coire nan Lochan in Glencoe.
Damp on the Ben after a big thaw

Stob Coire nan Lochan with some fresh snow 03/12/15

 I've also worked on a couple of Ben Nevis Winter Trips for Maximum Adventure over the past few weekends. First up was during storm Desmond so some wild and windy weather. Still, the chaps put in a sterling effort and we battled onto the summit without to much of a struggle. My water proof 'rubber' trousers that I used on the North Face Survey came in very handy and actually kept me amazingly dry. If only they came in bright colours... :)

 Last weekend's trip for Max Ad was with Hannah and Gavin also. We had a bit of a late start but still managed a good wander towards the CIC Hut with the team and we got to show them the Ben's best side in pristine conditions. What a difference a week makes!

 Today Al and I fancied a quick blast up something so we headed up Curved Ridge on the Buachaille. A shell and a base layer was all I needed to wear today as it was mild pretty much from car to summit. Soft slushy snow and greasy rock kept our interest up but it was surprising to see how much snow had stripped already and that's before Thursday's rain....

Looks like some more mild and wild conditions towards the end of the week and early weekend so it'll be interesting to see how things shape up over the festive period.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Moving forward

It's definitely been a case of 'better late than never' with the weather this Summer. Whilst the first part of the Summer was pretty grim September and October have been outstanding with lots of days of amazing weather.

I took the opportunity to get some more teaching climbing days logged towards my MIA reassessment day in Spring. One thing I wanted to work on was working with students at quite different stages in their climbing careers. This worked out really well as I had some very willing and enthusiastic students from West Highland College who were keen to get out. It was very rewarding to help some of them take their first steps on the journey to climbing outside as well as helping those who were ready to get properly on the sharp end for the first time. Another reminder to me of why the hard work will be worth it in the long run!Thanks to everyone who came along!

With a few extra days off this time of year, Andy and headed up North East Buttress on the Ben. I hadn't done this in Summer before so it was nice to do a different route on the Ben. There was a little bit of ice forming on some of the shadier places giving the first hints that Winter is on it's way...
Sunrise in a chilly Coire leis

 I had a cracking day on the CMD arete with Robert from the US. Robert had done a fair bit of hiking in States before and comes over to Scotland on business quite a lot so was keen to head up to the Highlands. The weather was pretty much as good as it gets!

Michael and his daughter Khamilla were over on holiday from Singapore and decided to do a bit of climbing and walking whilst in the area. Our first day saw us tackling a number of routes in Glen Nevis and doing an abseil. A fantastic effort from the father and daughter team!

Our next day gave the arms a rest and worked the legs a bit more as we walked to Steall Falls and then up Coire Giubhsachan and Meall Cumhann (698m). Some great Autumn colours at the moment in the Glen and nice to head off the beaten track for a bit.

Next up was a really enjoyable 2 day expedition with some of the first year students at West Highland College. Gill and I took our group to camp just behind Binnean Shaus. After pitching the tents in breezy conditions, we headed up the hill to bag Geal Carn, a new Munro for me. Our route choice turned out to be spot on as a fairly sheltered approach got us to the summit. Once there, stepping over to the other side of the hill exposed us to the 60-70mph winds that had been forecast so it was a return down the same way back to camp.
Enjoy a breather on Geal Carn

I've used traditional gas stoves for a while so I was keen to test out my new MSR Windboiler stove. I have to say, it performed very well especially with the breezy conditions we had. The only real downside is that there isn't a self igniter so it means I still had to carry a lighter. Still, getting a brew going in a couple of minutes was an definite upgrade for me!

Day 2 and we headed back out to the buses after packing up camp. We did this whilst taking in another Munro, Creag Pitridh. Another windy day on top and we had a bit of a battle with the wind as we descended  off the ridge. A great effort from the students and nice to have two dry days!

Breezy on Creag Pitridh!

Ellen from Australia has been doing a fair bit of travelling in Scotland recently and was keen to see the best side of Ben Nevis so we headed out to get a view of the North Face. The cloud was kind to us and moved away to reveal most of the mountain just as we arrived at the CIC hut. A good dusting of snow was visible too which was exciting...

With shorter days upon us now, it seems like the wait for Winter will not be too long...

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Summer Highs and Lows

It's been a while since my last blog post and as the Summer feels like it's drawing to a close, it's good to catch up with the last few months. Since then, there's been lots happening with some superb high points and some definite low points...

 I had a great week working on this years Ben Nevis North Face survey. Apart from one day, the weather was very kind to us this year which made the week great fun. Highlights included a superb day with geologist Roddy and Dave B on Observatory Ridge, Tower Ride with Gordon and Scott where we found some very rare Hare's Foot Sedge, and some 'classic'  climbing with Al after we abbed down between Tower Ridge and Tower Gully. Another highly successful year and I'm looking forward to next year already!

Abbing down Slingsby's Chimney ( a wee bit wet!)

Happy faces at 'work'!

Scott enjoying a wander around Tower Ridge

The site of our big find of the week

Hare's Foot sedge 

After the survey came my MIA assessment. This is something I've been putting a lot of work into over the past year and a bit and so I had given myself plenty pressure to want to do well. Below is a brief outline of what we covered/ where we went:

Day 1- Personal climbing/Parallel rope work at VS 4c- I climbed Whispers (VS 4c/5a) at Stac an Faraidh in the Loch A'an Basin
Day 2- Rescues at Polldubh( we climbed a V diff and 2 VS 4c's with problems of various difficulties to solve on each route)
Day 3- Teaching day at Cummingston
Day 4-Mountaineering day at Liathach, Torridon
Day 5- Navigation in the Cairngorms

The assessment process was very fair and I can't fault the instructors at Glenmore Lodge. They made the process as least stressful as possible and like all assessments, I think learning during them is a vital part, which I feel happened in abundance.
The result wasn't what I wanted, as I made a few poor decisions on my teaching day resulting in a deferral. Needless to say, it was disappointing... However,  having had a few weeks to process things, I feel pretty positive about this now for a few reasons. One, that I have completed 4 out of the 5 days of the assessment, and a one day reassessment feels very manageable compared to the five! The second reason being that I feel the assessment was great at highlighting any weak areas. Whilst I didn't really feel this at the time, the work I've done since the assessment has made me realise that there were some areas I needed to improve on with this part of the syllabus. I now feel focused regarding what I have to work on and know that whilst this has been a small stumbling block, it will make me a better Mountaineering Instructor in the future. I'm looking forward to Spring to hopefully put it to bed!

I've had some great days out with clients and friends during the last few weeks too and a big thanks to everyone I've been out with for you company on the hill. Below are a few pics from the last few weeks.
A wet but fun day on the CMD with Lorna and Jason

Birthday celebrations on the summit with Sarah and Chris

A great day on Ledge Route as part of the Carpe Diem project for Nevis Landscape Partnership
Some superb inversions this Summer
Starting work with West Highland College students is always a pleasure

Two superb days with Trev on a Hill Skills Course
 Finally, last week I had a great solo trip up Tower Ridge, making it car to car in 3 hours. Some amazing views and a reminder to me that despite some ups and downs, every bit of hard work is worth it to have the privilege to work in the mountains...