Sunday, 27 February 2011


After a damp, but snowy day up high yesterday and snow overnight the hills were looking pretty good this morning. John and I headed up Aonach Mor hoping for a little mixed action to save the last of my days off. I had my eye on Piranha VII,8, a pescod route from 2000. This climbs a technical wall and corner until a thin traverse across the left wall leads to slightly easier ground. The overnight weather had been kind and the route was lightly rimed with a good covering of snow on the ledges, game on. Considering this route had no stars in my guide and has been neglected, it is a superb route with outstanding climbing on it, well worthy of 2 stars at least. The steep, technical and thin nature of the climbing starts from the word go and continues all the way to the belay. I would highly recommend it.

Above: Me picking my way up the crux pitch

Below: John working his way through the crux traverse

Above: John happy to hit easier ground

We had planned to do Sterling bridge as well, but I have to be East this evening so opted for an easy second route. Gondola with the Wind fit the bill. Pleasent climbing led to an extreme cornice traverse to get out, John did well. The sun had come out as we were finishing our second route and stripped some of the steeper mixed lines.

There are plenty of routes in excellent condition, but the cornices are monsters. If you are there early and know where your route is, it might be worth kicking the top through (be 100% sure there are no folks down already).

Friday, 25 February 2011

Ming on the West

It has been truely grim in the fort today, high winds and heavy rain most of the day. When we have been able to see the Nevis range, it looks devistated. Hopefully thing up high can hold on. Most major gully lines should stand up quite well if the temp comes back down overnight and tomorrow.

Keep your fingers crossed.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Coire Laogh Mor

With the wind and temperature very high again, we walked around to Coire Laogh Mor to look at bucket seats and buried axes, as well as cover a little Nav. There has been a lot of snow disappear, but the coire had survived well. We took the opportunity to look at more sliding before we started digging holes. As the session progressed we built up to leader falls and how to hold them with a dynamic style. To finish the day we walked out of the coire and over into the Ciste, battling the wind as we went. We also managed to spot a couple of folks shamelessly dry tooling on the Ciste crag.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Birnam Quarry

Today we went to Birnam Quarry to have a look at some climbing techniques and avoid the ming in the mountains. This worked brilliantly. We were joined by a couple of other folks who shared our ropes. It was good to give my guys the chance to compare what we did yesterday with things they could see today. They fully appreciated what an achievement it was yesterday for their first mixed route.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Rease Heath Collge

Above: David approaching the belay after battling with the Direct start

I am working for the industry leader in educational course provision Dan Mckinlay this week with Rease Heath College. After battling the elements yesterday to walk into Sneachda and cover a range of skills as a refresher, we back again today. With a good forecast all the groups were psyched for big Tuesday. I have been working with David and Lindsey who wanted to try a bit of climbing. So, as today was the best day of the week they were thrown in at the deep end. We climbed Hidden Chinmey by the direct start, which they climbed very well. It is amazing how well folks can do when they have rock climbing skills already and a breif intro on how to use the tools.

Below: Lindsey approaching the belay

Below: A happy team at the top

Dan made a ascent of the might Fiacaill Ridge, whilst Paul made a dramatic seige on Cairngorm.

Sunday, 20 February 2011


Out again today with the Watson's crew. The aim was to head into the twin ribs and look at some climbing skills, but unfortunately the weather was worse than expected. We did manage to survive the walk into the corie, even though people were turning back. They had a wild experience, and were assisted by the wild as we walked back out.

Pics to come.

Meall a Buachaille

Today I was out with a bunch from George Watsons College. The ski road was closed some we went up Meall a Buachaille to find some snow to play on. After splitting the groups we cover a range of footwork and some self arrest skills, then walked over the summit and back to the youth hostel.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Aonach Mor West Face

Today Greame and I walked around to the west face to grab a bit of climbing before the wind got too bad. it was already windier than forecast, so we stopped short of the guidebook routes and climbed one of the preliminary ribs which goes at II/III depending on which lines you take. We managed to climb some nice iced slabs and grooves, before switch to a mountaineering style of ascent to get to the top. It was a good day and ticked the boxes to give a good second days intro to climbing.

Thursday, 17 February 2011


Above: Graeme getting established on the ridge after the fin.

A week would not be complete it would appear without an ascent of Dorsal Arete. It has been the first day that it has been clearly safe to walk into SCNL and feel you will definatley get something done. Some teams were so keen that they pretty much dry tooled Unicorn and Central Grooves today. Even Crest Route looked on the darker side of in. We joined the masses and managed to get to the fin in good time to not have to wait. Graeme had a great day, and said he was the right level of gripped to be challenged and still enjoy it.

Below: Graeme happy to have topped out.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Broken Kit Stops Play

Due to broken phone and broken car I have been forced into taking 2 days off. I am feeling pretty fresh today after a total chill out yesterday, so fingers crossed I can get something done tomorrow, but don't quite know how I am going to get to work yet on Thursday. At least my new phone should be here today.

With even more snow overnight here in Fort William it is making getting to climbs very challenging. Many teams have chosen to head to the Gorms today.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Agag's Groove

Above: Me leading up the first pitch
Below: John soaking up the full scottish conditions

With the stormy weather it was perfect conditions to go and have a look at Agag's Groove on Rannoch Wall. With the grade of VII,6 it is billed as a serious outing. I think the general concensus from the 4 ascents this year is a pleasent VI,7. This is a hard route to get in condition as it needs this type of weather. John and I had a leisurely start, only leaving the car after 9am, but it was snowing heavily. The walk in was ok until we hit the start of Curved Ridge which was buried. This slowed us a little and so did the amount of snow in easy gully gave us something to think about. The route had a lot of snow on it and the cracks were very icey and verglassed today, a very different story to how Matt and Dave had it yesterday. This made some of the climbing pretty bold in places, but not really at the hard point. I led the first pitch which offers some excellent steepish climbing that has a great thin section for your feet at half height. John dispatched the second easy pitch swiftly. This meant I was ready to take on the third pitch which is probably the crux, although all but the second pitch has some tech 7 climbing. John the did a sterling job leading us to the top, where we had to dig for a bit to find the ab tat. Getting down and out was the hardest, and most thought provking part of the day. As it had snowed all day, the gully needed a lot of care to get out safely. Even Curved Ridge was buried and had snow sliding off at times. We were pretty happy when we got to the path and could relax. An awesome day.

Below: John heading up the second pitch
Below: Me picking my way up the third pitch

Above & Below: John getting involved wit the tricky climbing on the third pitch

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Weekly Ascent of Dorsal

After a good night of snowfall and wanting a relatively easy day Myself and Serena walked up into SCNL. We walked up to Dorsal Arete and managed to get ahead of the groups before the Fin. Just as Serena was about to start climbing 2 soloist appeared and past. I was caught off guard as 1 avoided the fin, but the other saw fit to continue to climb over the fin and over my rope as Serena was starting to second the pitch. On having explained my unappriciation for his poor skills and my reasons, he at least could see my point (if only a little). What really shocked me was the fact the female member of the pair refused to accept that 1, it was poor form, and 2 it was dangerous. I would be interested in hearing what others think about soloing over people and the effect it might have on a beginner. I know my thoughts, but would like to know yours.

Very snowy up there, but suprisingly less slab about.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Skills on the Ben

Today was the final day of Izzi and Michelle's climbing course. We had an easy day up the Ben by the Douglas Boulder refreshing Snow belays/anchors, Movement skills and Ice threads. There were teams out on Vanishing Gully, Italian Climb and Comb Gully that I saw, but loads of the hi ice lines look in top condition.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

NC Gully

After an easy walk in yesterday, the walk to Lochain was so much nicer today. Once in the corie I was suprised at how quiet it was. This gave us the pick of the routes. As things had firmed up quite well, we chose NC Gully. It was not as firm as I had thought it might be, but offered a nice climb through some cool rock scenery. Izzi did all the leading today, and coped very well with the bold nature of the climbing today. We topped out into glorious sunshine and stunning views over Lochaber. Think we will head to the Ben tomorrow to revisit some snow belays and Ice screws.

The buttresses had mostly been stripped in their lower sections. Scabbard and Raeburn's were ok though.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Hidden Chimney

Today we headed to the Gorms as the forecast was a bit better over there. This paid off as we had a dry day and conditions were great. There is a lot of good ice about, especially on Hidden Chimney. Izzi and Michelle did a steller job leading the route between them with minor interference from me as I soloed and coached from above. Folks out all over the coire today, but it was warm and the buttreses had started to drip. Should be even better when the temp comes back down.

No pics sorry, I forgot my camera.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Meall an t-Suidhe

Today we went for a different option to slogging into a coire and climbed one of the ribs that leads to the top of Meall an t-Suidhe (the small hill on the other side of the halfway lochain). This offers a massive mix of terrain to really work your movement on mixed ground. Izzi and Michelle did all the leading between them to take us up. There was just enough snow cover, the temperature was higher than expected today. The girls certainly earnt the tea today after the 8 or more pitches. The forecast is a bit ming tomorrow, so we will be heading East to try our luck.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Boomerang Gully

Above: Michelle approach the belay whilst the weather was nice.

Today was the first day of Michelle and Izzi's learn to lead course. We headed up into Stob Coire nan Lochain. There had been quite a lot of snow over night and still the odd bit falling as we walked in. There were quite a few teams going towards Dorsal Arete, so we made are way toward Summit Buttress. The snow under foot was powery and too thick. We decided to have a look in Boomerang as the wind was not really blowing either. All was good and we made excellent progress as Izzi and Michelle swung leads. The wind had then began to pick up and we had a bit of spindrift as well. The snow however was still all good and not throwing out any alarm bells. As the gully narrow, only a rope and half length from the end the snow changed. After putting in some protection to look after ourselves, I moved up a little to check it out and managed to trigger a small pocket to release. It was time to reverse thrusters and head down. The increase in the wind had caused a quick build up in the narrows, so we took the safe option. this gave us a great opportunity to look a bailing off a route. The bottom section of the gully was still fine, so we lowered back down the steep step and worked back down this.

Above & Below: Izzi and Michelle dealling with the spindrift as the wind picked up just before retreat.

Despite not getting the route down, we managed to cover loads of teaching. Hopefully we can get to the top of something tomorrow.Blockquote

We saw an impressive avalanche come out of Twisting Gully caused by a soft cornice collapse as we ran away, as well as what looked like a small slide below the gully. There was also an avalanche out of NC Gully.

There were teams on Twisting Grooves, Original Route, Dorsal and 1 team retreating out of NC Gully.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Compression Crack

Above: Finishing the steep section

Today James, Eliot and I headed up to the Ben. the aim today was to climb something a bit steeper, Look at the use of a guide plate/Reverso, Abseil/retreat and what ever else I could throw in there without overloading them. As the bottom sections of Compression crack are blue and fat at the moment, it made sense to head there rather than walk to the top of the mountain. This route was perfect to teach on. Big belay stances and awesome ice which meant we could look at V threads/Abolokov's as well. As we climbed we took the time at the stances to talk about stance management and how using a guide plate in these situations can be useful. The climbing itself was the right level of challenge for both of them, not too hard that they struggled too much, but hard enough that they would not want to have led it. We retreated after the second pitch off the in-situ V threads. A quick bite and we walked around to the Gulch. Here we looked at assessing the ice and placing screws, building belays ans managing stances. this time they got the chance to do all the things we had covered whilst climbing the route.
Below: James setting off on the Ab back down

Above: Eliot making the Ab down the first crux pitch of Compression Crack

Above: Nicely equalised Abolokov

A great weekend and good weather. It was snowing lightly were we where today, but raining at the hut on the way out. Some impressive avalanche debris around, espesially at the bottom of No.5 Gully.

Hopefully Eliot will email me some pics. The belays were in the wrong place today.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Busy Day on Dorsal

Above: James on the Direct Start

After the mass snow dump and rapid thaw yesterday conditions have calmed down a bit. I went into Stob Corie Nan Lochain with Eliot and James today with the aim of covering how to move together safely. This skill is often done badly, so I was keen to make sure they left with good practise firmly in mind. We were the first team in the corie so kitted up and walked up to the route. James also wanted to try something a little harder than he would normally lead, so we went up the direct start. He led this well as I climbed close by and offered so coaching. Once on the route proper, the whole world was heading for us. Teams and ropes everywhere, if we got this right we could be away. We arranged the rope so we were ready to move together and off we went. As Eliot got into the swing of it, and I cleaned the gear slots out ahead, we steamed past everyone to the fin. A quick change and re-rack and James led across the fin. A good day.

Above: Eliot approaching the Dorsal

Above: James on the Dorsal

Matt and dave climbed Compression Crack, with good ice on the bottom pitch but not the best on the crux corner. There are loads of ice routes in good condition.

Friday, 4 February 2011

A Quick Steal

Today was all about getting in and out quick before the weather hit. We went up to the Zigzags on Gear Aonach to put Dave on the sharp end. This had approx 4-6 inches of fresh wet snow on it when we started up. It was the perfect intro to Dave's mixed climbing leading and a great way to end the course. It was raining as we left, but we were back down and away before it all kicked off again. A good week despite the weather.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

West Coast Armageddon

Today stated out ok, but by midday Mordor descended upon Lochaber. It has been extremely wild sinse then, but we are hoping for a lull in the morning to steal a bit of time on the zigzags.

To make the most of our day, we went to the ice factor to work on technique and movement. This proved very useful as both Dvae and Huy were climbing well at the end of the session. We also revisited some other skills that they had covered on previous courses, such as building belays etc. All in, a good day.

Fingers crossed for tomorrow.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

The Runnel

With the West coast taking a beating at the moment by the weather, we descided to head East to the Gorms. I had forgotten how easy the walk into Sneachda was, and Dave and Huy were loving it to. In under and hour we were kitting up in a suprisingly pleasent corie with the Runnel in mind. Despite the rain, it was a warm, but the snow still firm with some excellent ice around. We finished up the steeper left hand exit, which is in the best condition I have climbed it in. All the buttresses are black, so no mixed routes to be had. This could all change though over the next couple of days.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Skills Day

After yesterday's review, the guys were keen to have a day looking at ropework and the systems we used on Dorsal Arete. Not wanting to spend the day wet and cold, it was agreed we would have a indoor session this morning, then head out to Glen Nevis in the afternoon. This worked really well for Huy and Dave. By the time we got to the Glen, they knew what they needed to do and why. this made our ascent of the Gutter go really smoothly. Know we just need the weather to be nice so we can get stuck into something wintery.