Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Bad Life Choices 2nd Ascent

Looking out the window this morning, it was dry with high cloud and not cold again.  Not ideal conditions for winter climbing, but prime for the gritstone like slab at Upper Scimitar.  I had done all the routes on this buttress until Johan put up Bad Life Choices E7 6b** in April last year.  I had toproped the route 2nd go in March, but knew Johan had put in quite a bit of time and effort, so chose to wait until this year when I was back up for the winter.  With no chalk on the holds, it took a little working out to get the sequence right again.  The rock is outstanding on this buttress, and the friction was amazing.  The occasional drizzle blowing over the crag did not affect the route, so it was game on.  Once I had the crux move wired, and after a rest I soloed the route.  It is short, but committing over a less than perfect landing.  I feels like a solid V6 boulder problem, but is high enough that it is definitely a route.  A good effort by Johan.

I had noticed that the best wall on Scimitar crag was dry as I walked in, and went to look at a couple of the routes I wanted to do on there.  With work and other pending commitments, I am in self preservation mode, so opted to toprope Precious Cargo E5 6a* first.  This is pretty much a solo anyway, but not knowing much about it, it seemed the sensible option.  One quick send on the rope and a rapid solo to tick the route.  Awesome climbing on big holds all the way.  I the flashed Fingertip Finale E4 5c*.  This has the same start, but an easier finish.  Last up was a headpoint solo of Evil Eye E5 6a*.  This was the trickiest of the 3, with a hard lower section to join Fingertip Finale.

An great few hours on superb rock.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Snow Craft in the Rain

Yesterday I walked up in to SCNL with Matt and George to find some snow.  Although the corrie has been devastated in terms of climbing, there is still a good amount of snow for skills etc.  We spent a few hours in the wind and rain digging bucket seats, buried axes and bollards.  Once soaked, we came back down to cover some rope work and rigging of belays.  This proved to be a very useful refresher for the guys.

As the weather is very poor for the next couple of days, it is likely that the Ben will be the only place to hold out.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

No.3 Gully Buttress

I have been back on the Ben today with Matt and George for the first day of their course.  Today is the best forecast of their 2 days, so the aim was to get a route in.  No. 3 Gully Buttress was the perfect choice.  Good ice pitches at the bottom and exposed mixed steps at the top.  Things were thawing quickly again from midday, but the rain had not set in.  There were a few teams in Comb Gully and on a couple of the other easy lines.  No pics as I thought it would be too wet for my camera.

Matt approaching the route

Heading into the mist

Matt climbing the surprisingly good ice

John and Simon took a trip up to Aonach Mor, but walked away climbing nothing.  Big holes in left twin and a big reduction in snow from yesterday.  Fingers crossed it holds out till Friday.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Nid Arete

Izzi and I headed up to Aonach Mor today to grab a route before things warmed up.  There was a lot of snow on the East face which was heavy and damp.  A few weak pockets where present as we reached the base of Easy Gully, so we jumped on Nid Arete IV,5*.  The guide suggests that going direct up the arete is V,5, so that's the way we went.  The climbing was straight forward, but pretty bold and Izzi enjoyed the change from ice today.  We were surprised that the turf was frozen and the crag was riming very fast.  But this started to change quickly at midday when we were finishing.  The snow turned to rain and the rime began to drop off.

The Ben was super busy with teams on everything that was climbable.  Lets hope that things can hold in through the next warm spell.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Ben Nevis Ice, Can You Believe It?

I have been on the Ben today for Big Friday!  Izzi and Micheal joined me as we walked up high to assess the damage by the weeks weather.  The news is, there is a lot left to go out.  We climbed a fantastic Comb Gully IV,4*** and Winter Cascade IV,5**, which was very thin at the start.

Starting up Comb Gully

Through the crux
There were teams on Cascade, Central Gullys, Number 3 Gully Buttress, Thompsons, Green Gully and many more.  The buttresses had start to rime at the tops, but nothing steep was in.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Newtyle Coaching

As the weather has wiped out all the mixed climbing and any steep ice would be dangerous, Newtyle Quarry was the best option.  Rob was on his own yesterday, so we continued our focus on improving his confidence on trickier mixed routes.  The easy routes in the quarry roughly work out to be Scottish tech 5,6 and 7, so loads to work on.

Once the rope was up, we focused on precise footwork and placements as Rob had a go on all of the routes.  It is all a bit foreign when you first start dry tooling, but Rob quickly improved with every route he climbed.  Rob then climbed the 2 easier lines using only 1 axe.  This was a great way to focus the feet, find the balance point and trust the small hooks.  The progression in Rob's movement was excellent, so it was time to see if he could keep this going whilst on the sharp end.  On his first lead, he had a blip in composure and took a small fall.  Rather than shake his confidence, this seemed to focus him, and he led both routes in very good style.

The 2 day we have had have been very good considering the weather.  We opted to cancel today as there was no way we could achieve Rob's aims and the weather is truly awful in the Fort.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Cairngorm Turbo Thaw

I was back into Sneachda today with Rob and Will.  the aim of the day was to climb a tricky mixed climb to push their skills on.  We had an early start to try and get a route done before the thaw hit.  The chosen route Droidless VI,6** looked outstanding as we walked in, so we were quickly on it.  We managed to get most of the way up before the Turbo Thaw stripped the route around us.  This meant that the final pitch was super soggy, but still had icy cracks and frozen turf.  Back down and in the cafe by midday, with little chance of any mixed climbing for the rest of the week.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Watson's Winter Weekend

This weekend I have been working with a small group from George Watson's College on their annual winter trip.  Despite the wild weather yesterday, we managed a skills refresher, before conquering the summit of the mighty Cairngorm.  The 60mph wind and whiteout conditions was no match for this driven bunch.  Even the 80mph gusts didn't stop them as they powered to glory.  Surprisingly, there was no one else up there!

Cairngorm in the wild weather

Oh! Ice Cream Eyes
Starting up Central Gully
Victoria finishing the last Ice step
Team Extreme at the top!!!

Today we climbed Central Gully I/II which is in excellent condition.  A good range of ice steps making very entertaining at the grade.  We walked back over 1141m to do a bit more sliding and take the chance to bury Andrew, who was far too willing.

A great weekend, and big well done to Andrew, Alan, Adam and Victoria for the hard work.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Aonach Mor

I have been up on the East Face of Aonach Mor today observing John as he worked with Richard.  John has his MIC Assessment this year and I am acting as his mentor, so it was a great opportunity for us both.  Despite the wind forecast, we opted for the easy walk down, rather than a big day on the Ben which the guys had done yesterday.  We were the first to leave the summit, so abseiled down Left Twin III,4*** and climbed back out. No one else turned up, so we dropped back in and climbed the Split IV,4**, which was in the best condition I have climbed it in.

Jonny, Mike and Mark climbed Central Gully Left Hand III,4*** on the Ben and said the route was in great condition, but the walk out was wet.  With the temps coming down, things should be in great nick for the weekend, if not a little wild on Saturday.

Monday, 13 February 2012

A Week Away

I will be away from the hills for a weekish catching up with Em and attending a wedding in Arbroath.  Before I left, the warm weather had stripped a fair bit of snow, but had not stopped folks from getting things done.  I know that there were a few route climbed on meggie, Pumpkin and South Post Direct the better of the bunch.  The Ben saw the usual ice lines being climbed, but an ascent of Psychedelic Wall on Saturday showing that things have improved.  There should be a lot to go at up there, we just need the buttresses back for the mixed routes as well.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Carn Etchachan, Red Guard

After a big day yesterday, checking the weather and the usual conversation about where to go and what to do, we settled on an easy day in the Northern Coires on a couple of the short, but tricky routes on the Fiacaill.  A leisurely start saw us leaving the car park at 8:45am for the short walk to Sneachda.  Our hearts sunk as we saw that the crags were a bit on the black side.  A quick chat and we were off up the Goat track to see how things looked over the back.

The Shelterstone looked white, so down we went.  We can't believe our luck as we realise that we only have one headtorch between us, and the top of the crag is not white enough.  Solution, walk further.  Carn Etchachan, is a little higher and the last hope of the day.  Red Guard VI,6*** 250m is in so all good.  "One headtorch?  We'll just climb quick! OK".

Spindrift heaven on pitch 2

Matt coming onto easy ground after on pitch 3

This is an outstanding route.  We were a little tired from yesterday, but it still would feel sharp for the grade.  An awkward  chimney on pitch 2 leads to a steep groove on pitch 3.  It eases a bit from there, but not that much.  There is a sting in the tail of the final pitch, but well worth the walk over.  The spindrift was extreme, filling hoods, sleaves, mouths and eyes giving the full winter experience.  A quick walk back meant we returned in daylight and looking forward to a day off tomorrow.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Lochnagar, Link Direct

Approaching  the crag

Matt and I had never climbed in Lochnagar before, so the drive across last night was filled with anticipation.  A stunning clear night showing off all the hills and the hares dicing with death as they ran across the road in front of the van.  One was unfortunate to fall to natural selection, despite being the size of a small dog.  I'm sure it will feed a few members of the local wildlife though.  Having already packed packed the bags, we got our heads down ready for an early start. Whilst the Bullock van was still empty in the carpark ( see nick's blog for another quality installment).

The alarm went off at 4:15am and Matt got the tea and coffee on the go.  A cold night meant it was hard to break out of the sleeping bag, but as the van warmed a little with the stove and the smell of coffee perked us up, things started to move.  After a bit of faff looking for the toilets, we were finally on our way.  The moon lit the sky brilliantly, meaning the headtorch could stay off.  As we approach the col the sun was coming up and the sky was a mix of orange and red.  The crag came into view for the first time and it was stunning.  Much more impressive than we had hoped for.  After 2 hours walking we were kitting up at the box, and moving on to our chosen objective, Link Direct VIII,7****.

Matt approach the belay of pitch 5

Matt led us swiftly up the first pitch which was no give away.  The theme of the day was set, as every pitch seemed to be around the same grade with not much between them.  I led the second, before Matt linked the third and a bit of the fourth.  I then linked the bulk of the fourth with the fifth pitch to make a great pitch.  Matt quickly sent the final hard pitch before I finish off to the top.  things had gone very smoothly, and we were pleased to see it was only 1pm.  We abseiled into Black Spout and cruised back to the van for 15:15 to enjoy a well earned cup of coffee and a bit of food.  The plan had been to stay for another day, but the forecast is not the best, so we bailed back home to make plans for tomorrow,

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Water Ice Workshop on the Ben

After the ming fest yesterday in Glencoe, it was a pleasant day on the Ben today.  There had been quite a bit of snow put down into the ciste, so any easy routes would have been a wade if you could have gotten to them.  We opted to head to the Gulch to have a workshop approach on the quality ice that was there at the moment.  This turned out to be perfect, with good length pitches of grade II-V ice to work through.  Everyone showed a real improvement through the day.

We finished off with some snow and ice belay before cruising back to the van.  A great contrast to yesterday, and great way to show the different side to winter climbing in Scotland.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Ming in Glencoe

The weather forecast was not prime for the first day of the intro to snow and ice course I am working on, but we got stuck into something anyway.  As the avalanche risk was High, I was not too keen to go all the way into Stob Coire nan Lochain today, so we climbed Jim's Gully II on the West Face of Gearr Aonach.  This gave us 3 good pitches of climbing, with the third pitch being the crux.  A few teams carried on into the coire, one triggering an avalanche and retreating and 1 other being avalanched out of Boomerang Gully and needed the services of the mountain rescue team.  A wild day out there!

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Sioux Wall

Yesterday John and Ronnie climbed Sioux Wall VIII,8***, which resulted in a massive bout of FOMO for me.  I have wanted to climb Sioux Wall for ages, so managed to talk Jonny into heading up the Ben today.  This was a little above his leading limit, so it meant I had to lead the whole route.  I was secretly happy about this, as it is such a classic.

Jonny enjoying the first tricky pitch
Jonny through the tricky moves on pitch 3
It is fair to say that the it is an outstanding route.  Sustained climbing on mostly bomber hooks with thin but positive feet and excellent gear, makes this a true classic.  A must do route for the grade.

There has been a lot of ice forming, even at lower levels.  The Curtain looks to be very close and Cascade is now super fat.  Although Two Step Corner is there, none of the others seemed complete.  Hadrian's looks fat from a distance, so my guess would be that the Point etc. is in fine fettle.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

NC Gully

I was working in a very quiet Stob Corie Nan Lochain today with Serena.  The aim was to climb a classic gully, and NC was a great choice.  The route is in good condition at the moment,m with some nice big stances in place, Result.  Despite the glorious weather, it was still very cold up there.  There has been a fair bit of ice building, but the buttress routes are black.

Head down and getting stuck in

great rock scenery 
The Ben still has a lot to go at, either ice or mixed.