Monday, 31 January 2011

Dorsal Arete

Today I went into Stob Corie nan Lochain with Dave and Hew on the first day of their Intro to Snow and Ice course. The aim of the day was to get a route in and get out, and then see what we need to work on over the week. With the weather to be on the wrong side of good this week, it will be challenging, but fingers crossed we can still have a good one.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Aonach Mor

After our day on the Ben yesterday, we opted for the easier approach that Aonach Mor offers. Again we all had 1 client each, so the opportunity for bagging a few routes was high. To beat the ques at the top of easy gully Kenny and I abseiled down Left Twin with our clients. This paid off, as the first teams reached the bottom of the route as James was seconding the second pitch. Kenny climbed Siamese Twin with Jamie. James and I went back down easy gully and then climbed Typhoon IV,4. This is a bit mixed at the moment and pushing tech 5ish. Kenny had climbed Tunnel Vision. We met up again at the bottom of easy gully. James and I climbed the Web II/III, and Kenny and Jamie climbed Spider Rib II.

Campbell and Richard climbed Left Twin then went down to the Nid to revisit some snow anchors. Rodger and Callum climbed Left Twin as well, and also Tunnel Vision.

Ice was great to climb, but like the Ben, not the best for screws. There was snow being blown in all day on a Westerly, but not to strong a wind.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Point 5

Above: Jamie in the Narrows
Bleow: James exiting the Narrows

We had 4 teams out today on the Ben. Myself and Kenny headed to Point 5 with our clients. This was in the best condition I have climbed it, but the protection is a bit throw away. It is pretty much a solo at the moment. Campbell went to Green Gully with Richard and reported the same with regard ice condition and the bold nature of the climbing. Roger climbed Number 2 Gully Buttress with Calum, saying that gear and belays were hard won, but the odd screws were found if you dug down a bit in places.
Below: Jamie and James on the Rogue pitch

Friday, 28 January 2011

Hobgblin/Babylon Link Up

Above & Below: Me entering the crux of Hobgoblin

After having the week off to spending time with the wife who was up visiting, It was time to get a route in for myself before a long stretch of climbing work. I met up with Matt and the Brenin massive and headed up the Ben. You have to head quite high at the moment to get mixed routes in. We had planned to look at Souix Wall, but felt it was a little black at the bottom, so went around the corner where it was all different. We chose to do Babylon, but wanted to make more of a route, so linked it with the independent crux pitches of Hobgoblin VI,7. This made for a excellent, sustained and quite bold route. The cracks are extremely icy, making gear hard won and untrustworthy. This links into the crux of Gargoyle Wall which is steady away. Matt then led the top pitch, which is Babylon. Sustained and technical climbing with the crux short lived, it gives an excellent hard VII,7 pitch.

Below: me on Hobgolin and the Evan on Darth Vader

Above: Matt involved in the crux of Babylon

Dave Evans and Dave Rudkin made short work of Darth Vader VII,7 and Keith Ball and Tim Neill made the second ascent of Storm Trooper, which is grade hard. A fine day out for everyone.

Above: Dave Evans on Darth Vader

The ice that we encountered today was excellent. There are loads of routes to go at, at all grades at the moment.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Pumpkin and Thompson's Route

Campbell and Chris climbed Pumpkin in Creag Meagaidh today saying that the ice was good, but it was very wet.

John and Guy walked into the Ben with mixed climbing in mind, only to find that everything had been stripped by the warm NW winds. They climbed a soggy Thompson's Route before running away.

Finger's crossed it will improve quickly again as the temp drops tomorrow.

Monday, 24 January 2011

The Wand

Matt has been climbing on Creag Meagaidh today. Despite being a little damp, he said that the ice was pretty good except for the odd patch. He climbed the Wand, but reported that the Pumpkin looked in great condition as well.

I have a few days off to spend with the visiting better half, but will be back out on Friday and try and keep you posted on what I hear on the grapevine.

Ben Nevis Walk

Yesterday we made a smooth ascent of Ben Nevis. It was quite a warm day and the snow has softened a little.

John and Guy climbed Slab Route and Wendigo on the North side of the mountain. John said that things were still pretty good high up.

They drove up to the Ben track carpark this morning to drive straight back down. Things should improve tomorrow as the warm front moves through and the cooler temps return.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Aonach Mor Skills Day

Descending the Nid Ridge

I was back up on Aonach Mor today to do a skills day as Preperation for a walk up Ben Nevis tomorrow. We covered a wide range of skills before heading up the Nid Ridge. The snow has softened a little with rise in temp, but there is still loads of firm snow around.
Below: MLTA group working hard at the top of the back corries

Someone was spotted having an epic on Orion Direct yesterday, so I can only assume the ice/snow up there has not consolidated enough yet.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Day 5

Today we headed into Glen Nevis for a spot of rock climbing to give Conrad's blistered feet a break. This gave us the opportunitiy to refresh some of his belay methods and tweak them a little. Despite the damp and occasional icy hold we managed 8 pitches of climbing, as well as some static sessions. Over all Conrad has had a mass of info to take away with him.
Above: Conrad following a wet Clapham Junction

Campbell was out with friends on the Ben today and reported much the same as Matt yesterday. Good ice for climbing, but no good for screws. They climbed Wendigo and Central Right Hand. Guy climbed Point 5 in the same condition.

Matt and John went into Lochain, but found that the temperature was up and had striped the base of most of the routes. Crest route was white, so they bashed up that, but said things had thawed more when they had come back down.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Winter Mountaineering Day 4

Above: Walking from Gearr Aonach to Lochain

Today was forecast to be the best of the week, so we had a journey in mind. We went back into Glencoe and headed to the Zigzags. These don't really have any snow on them at the moment, but still offer a challenge as there is a bit of ice and verglass on them. Conrad led us up to the summit, which gave him the chance to put into practise some of the ropework we had covered this week without the extra stress of dealing with snow as well. Once up, we cruised along the ridge and into Lochain made for Dorsal Arete. I took over here and we made a rapid ascent, then walked down Broad Gully. A stunning Day.

Above & Below: Dorsal Arete

Below: Descending Broad Gully

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Winter Mountaineering Day 3

Above & Below: Conrad working hard digging his first bucket seat and then enjoying it.

The aim today was to cover more skills, specifically snow anchors and have an easier day. We headed around to the Nid Ridge, covering loads of step kicking and cutting in the firm/hard snow. This was a perfect progression from the softer snow on Monday and helped cerment the skills a bit more. We then decided to start digging. First up bucket seats. After working off some of our cooked breakfast with these, we moved on to axe. Once Conrad had got these sorted, we looked at pitching using these techniques. He soon worked out why I was saying that you want to avoid entering into this process. At the top of the ridge we cut a bollard and abseiled over the edge to see how it all works, then picked our way down. Again the hard snow gave Conrad the chance to really work his footwork in crampons. Another good day, with much learned.

Above: picking his way up the ridge

Above: Committing to the bollard and about to go over the edge.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Winter Mountaineering Day 2

Above & Below: Conrad enjoy the delights of Curved Ridge

As Conrad is on his own this week, we descided to go and do what would be a top end mountaineering route, rather than listening to me all day again about footwork etc. He has a rock climbing background, so it was also a good way to really work his movement in crampons over this mixed ground. The objective was Curved Ridge. This grade II ridge ticks all the boxes in terms of what makes a top end mountaineering route as it borders very closely to climbing, but is still a 1 axe route. We approached the route as you would a grade 3 scramble moving short distances between natural direct belays and changing tactics when appropriate. As Conrad had used this approach in the summer, it gave us a chance to discuss the differences when faced with winter conditions. There was a lot of snow on the ridge today and snow being moved in no particular direction. Pockets of soft windslab were evident on decent, but could be avoided on the brocken ground around the gully. It has been snowing all day again above 700m and a bit lower.
Above: Conrad coming up the last tricky step

Above: Almost there, with Crowberry Tower behind.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Mountaineering Day 1

Above: Central Buttress of Corie nan Lochain

This week I am working with Conrad who is doing a mountaineering course. I headed back into Lochain today as I knew from being there so much last week I could tick all the boxes for today's skills day. The snow had firmed up nicely in places, which made sliding good fun today as well as good to teach. We then went for a journey around the corie to look at using crampons on a mix of terrain. It was eventually time to head down, but we covered loads and had a great day.

It snowed most of the day on and off, heavy at times on a moderate wind. The buttresses looked in great condition to climb, but there may be the odd loose bit about as there was on some of the rocky bits in the corie floor.
Above & below: Conrad showing good trunk rotation to aid his spin before applying his self arrest.

Above: Conrad enjoying full winter conditions as we moved through some mixed ground.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Another Wet Day in the Coe

With another less than perfect forecast, we walked back up into Lochain today. We would have prefered to have gone somewhere different, but we could garuntee being able to tick the boxes we need to today. All soaked to the skin by the time we reach the NE ridge of Lochain, the wind chill was a killer. The heavy conditions under foot this week had taken its toll on a couple, so we split the group. One continued up the ridge leading themselves and working through the processes we have descussed this week. The other group made their way into the corrie and refreshed some of the snow anchors we have covered this we, and compared them to the ones we had done on Wednesday.

Despite the weather and challenging snow conditions it has been a good week.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Ice Factor Skills Day

With the forecast still warm and poor, the avalanche forecast high it was not the best day to be on the hill with what we wanted to achieve. After discussion, we headed to the ice factor which allowed us to cover a massive amount of ropework, work on crampon use by doing a spot of climbing and do an intro to using climbing wall, which was an aim for many at some point. Armed with loads of new skills, ideas and increased confidence. We are hoping for an ok day to finish tomorrow where they can try out all these new skills. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011


Today the weather forecast was pretty horrible. We opted to do a bit of a ropework session in doors before heading into Glencoe. This turned out to be a good decision, as the weather was reasonable in the afternoon. As we picked our way up the path toeards Lochain, we cut down to the burn and scrambled up this to work on crampon use and movement skill. this helped gain height and we soon found some deep sonw to dig in. Although soft, we managed to look at snow anchors and test them in this wet, heavy snow. Time ran away as usual and we walked back out to the bus.

Rich Bentley had climbed Original Route, but commented that the areas around Broad Gully were not looking ideal.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Zigzags and Alpine Weather

Today was the best on paper for the week and the amount of snow around was limiting our options, so we descided to look at the upper end of Scottish winter mountaineering. To do this we headed up to the Zigzags. This gave us lots to talk about. The dangerous icy footpath on the way in, the blurry line between mountaineering and climbing, as well as the route itself and all the skills requires to make your way up it, and descend the mountain safely. It was great to see them all put the skills we covered yesterday into proper use and a bit further. Not to mention the truely stunning day, only mard by the deep wading in places. After walking out down the Lochain path which was very icy low down. A great day and lots to take into the rest of the week.

There is a massive amount of unconsolidated snow around 700m and above which will become a problem over the next few days as the temp goes up and the wet weather that's forecasted moves in. Take care.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Skills Day on Aonach Mor

I eventually made it to Aonach Mor to meet up with my winter mountaineering group after being towed out of the lodges be Mr Kimber (big thanks Alan). We walked (swam) over to by the Nid and were pleasantly surprised by what we could cover with a bit of digging. After a bit of sliding, step kicking and cramponing we had a little journey back to the station finding bits of ice as we went.

There is a lot of snow about. it was deep, but fine where we were today, but I can imagine it is exciting higher up. Take care out there.

Campbell was out with Alan Kimber and Adam today and climbed a route on Gearr Aonach and came back down the zigzags.

Fingers crossed it will be easier to get to work tomorrow.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Ordinary Route with a Twist

Today I was out with Matt and Freda with aim of trying something mixed and a little tricky. We descided to do Ordinary Route which offers a good first pitch, then easier climbing to the top. The Route was buried, so there was a massive amount of cleaning to do, especially on the slab of the first pitch which was a foot deep. Freda and Matt handled this nice IV,5 pitch really well, but due to the amount of snow and my blinkers I climbed to far left before meeting the main buttress again. This worked out great. I followed a series of steep corners for 55m at V,6 that gave some of the best climbing I have done for a while (despite the extreme cleaning required even on this steeper ground). Matt and Freda got fully involved and enjoyed every minute of it. A short step then masses of mountaineering ground to us to the top, before the extreme bum slide down Broad Gully.
Below: Entering the Bonus pitch

Above & Below: Getting stuck in

Below; Matt coming up the first part of the steep corners

Greg and Steve climbed the Duel today, see Greg's blog for a fully report and pics. Also Ken and Scott climbed Scabbard Chimney, Lee and partner climbed Inclination and others Dorsal and Boomerang Gully.

Thursday, 6 January 2011


Above: start of Crux pitch
Today we picked an easy option to let me get into the swing of things. We climbed Cutless VI, 7 on the Douglas Boulder, which follows an obvious corner and chimney up the face. I led the majority of the 2 hard pitches in a oner, before Greg finishes off the end off the chimney. A batch of buried mixed ground to us onto the SW Ridge and to the top. The route was a little buried and verglassed which made gear hard work to get today, so the route was quite bold. However, we both thought VI, 6 was a fairer grade (depends on how you do in chimnies I guess).

Above: Getting involved.

Above: Greg following
Below: Greg leading the finish to the Chimney

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

The Secret

Above: My false start
Below: Greg making good progress up Pitch 1

Today was the first of 2 I was spening on the Ben with Greg. The aim was to go and have a look at the Secret, a hard crackline that was first climbed by Andy Turner. I started up the first pitch, but soon realised my lack of climbing this season meant I was going to take way to long and time is an issue this early in the year. Greg took over and made good progress and was soon at the belay. I followed quickly and we changed over so Greg was ready for the main pitch. He was solid and steady the whole way up, but took around 3 hours due to the rime and verglass that had to be cleared to get good gear. By the time I was ready to follow I was pretty cold and the light was going quick. The rucksack, the clod and the use of a headtorch meant I did not climb it with any style. A descent and bumslide down number 4 took us to the comfort of the hut.
Above & below: Greg on the crux pitch.