Friday, 31 January 2014

Wild on the Ben, Even Plan G Didn't Fully Work

Despite the weather forecast, Matt and I were hopeful to get something done on the Ben.  We went with a number of plans and an open mind, so we would in theory not be too disappointed when things didn't come off.

The walk in was hard work straight into a strong wind, with even stronger gusts.  We were not too surprised to have the mountain to ourselves, but things were not that bad early on.  By the time we were walking under Carn Dearg the odd gust was moving you around, but aimed to find shelter on a number of route options.  Plan A looked a goer, so I started up the first pitch and all seemed well until 1/4 of the way up all the ice that is needed to climb the pitch was not there.  Gutted, I reversed and striped the pitch, it was discussion time.  There was a lot of snow around past Waterfall Gully, so plans B and C were out.  The amount of snow that had been and was still being moved, meant that Plans D to F seemed out, which only left our last option.  Even though neither of us has done any climbing this year (with the exception of a few work routes), we somehow came to the conclusion it was a good idea, despite not having a guide with the route in.
In to pitch 1

Matt following pitch 1
The weather had not kicked off fully yet and we where slightly sheltered.  So, as I started up the first pitch of Centurion VIII,8*** at nearly 10 am, it did still seem like a good idea.  Excellent, if steeper than expected climbing took me reasonably smoothly to the belay.  Matt then got stuck into the outstanding meaty 2nd pitch and dispatched it well.  During the time it took to do these 2 pitches the weather had started ming out.  Barely able to see Matt on the belay, getting battered by the wind, it was still somehow fun in a sick way.  undeterred by the increasingly poor weather I pressed on.  There is a short hard section at the start of pitch 3 when you go the  right way.  After spending a lot of time getting some runners, I finally committed through the steep technical moves and reached the easier ground.  Just in the process of sort my right foot out, and airborne! BOLLOCKS!!!!!  Committing to one axe to see my feet better and it rips out of a good placement, that I had ust pulled pretty hard on.

Matt involved on pitch 2
Looking down pitch 2

Steeo moves on pitch 3

After more discussion, we decided that someone was trying to tell us something and decided to bail.  After climbing back up and stripping the gear again, it is frustrating to have not finished the route. But the reality of the weather once we had come out of the corner to feel the full force of it, was very clear as we came back down.  On the bright side, we did some awesome climbing on a day you would think there was nothing to be done.  Maybe if we had started this when we first walked in, it would have been a different story.

Untitled from Adam Hughes on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Course Opening

Due to cancellation there is space open on a Advanced Guided Climbing course 8-10th Feb.  This will be valley based on the Saturday, with the following 2 days on Ben Nevis (Sunday night in the CIC Hut).  The aim of the 3 days is to be on grade V routes, with the possibility of something trickier if appropriate. 

Cost would be £300, which includes the fee for the hut.  Anyone interested, please get in touch.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Busy Back Down South

Since returning to Yorkshire after a quick hit of winter work to start January, its been all go.  I have been catching up on route setting, and busting a gut to get ahead before heading North again.

Over the weekend I ran a CWA Training based out of ROKT and The Leeds Wall which was well attended.  The 10 candidates brought a lot to the course and help make discussions varied and interesting.

I have also been delivering some staff training at Climb Rochdale, which has helped add to the diversity of my work over the last week.  With More route setting tomorrow and ROKT and then on Monday at Climb Rochdale, it is going to be tricky (but not impossible) to squeeze some personal climbing in.

Toward the end of the month I will be back up in Scotland for a busy stretch, before returning South to catch up on commitments here.  Although the season is pretty much booked up, there is still the odd spot to fill in March.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Scabbard Chimney

A wintry SCNL
Today we had a steady walk up into Stob Corie Nan Lochain, which has the most snow I've seen in there for a long time.  There was only one other team that joined us, and they were climbing (Swimming) up Dorsal Arete.  We opted for a run up Scabbard Chimney V,6***, to build on the mixed climbing from yesterday.  The first pitch is currently a grade II/III snow slope, so quick progress was made.  I then ran the next 2 pitches together, as they are climbing on the easy side, but with not much in the way of gear.  A nice abseil down a climbable Tempest and bum slide back the bags made for a shortish day.

Rhys approaching the first belay

Karen enjoying the ab off

Some of the steeper lines don't look overly icy.  Any cracks that where accessible today had ice that was easily removed.  However,  deep under the snow, the ground is not frozen.  this didn't affect our route today, but would others that rely on turf or blocks being frozen.  There is ice around I have not seen for a long time, so hopeful a good season is to be had.

I'm back down the road now for a couple of weeks working, I'll be back up toward the end of Jan.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

The Message

A happy ascent team

Today Karen, Rhys and I headed over to the gorms for a shorter walk, and hopefully some good mixed climbing.  Snow conditions have improved massively, as we could walk anywhere on firm snow.  The routes are still plastered in snow and ice, but it is much more useful than the weekend.  We were pretty quick into the corie, so got on the Message IV,6***.  This is climbing easily, but there is not much gear to be had unless you dig forever.  We climbed the route quickly, but they were not keen for another after getting sand blasted by the NW wind up the crag.  Instead, we cruised over 1141m and down for coffee.  There where a good few teams on many of the usual routes, so at least the belays are dug out.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Ledge Route

Karen & Rhys enjoying the narrow section
Rhys, Karen and I made the walk up to the Ben this morning with no one else in sight.  It was even not raining for a change, but still warm.  As we crossed the river and picked our way up toward Ledge Route II, the debris from what must have been a massive avalanche out of No.5 was impressive.  This at least made the walk up to the route easier as it was pretty firm.  Despite Donald having been up on Monday, there were few tracks after the first slab.  The snow was better than previous days, but it was still hard going in places.  We did make very good time.  Leaving the car at 8:20 and topping out at 11:00 meant we had a relaxed walk back down once we had escaped the white room.

Great Rock scenery
It did snow at around 800m early on, but the temperature must have risen by 11:00 as it was wet on top.  There was a surprising amount of ice about high up, with the rocks plastered in ice and rime.  The Minus face has so much snow on it, that there are no clear features or evidence gullies exist.  Even the Curtain has a complete line with ice on it, along with wet mush.  A good few days of colder temperatures could see things improve massively, but maybe not for the mixed routes where gear is concerned.

Summit team in the white room

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Curved Ridge

Karen and Rhys coming up the last tricky step
After listening to wind and rain last night batter the windows, I was a little less than optimistic this morning. However, after meeting Karen and Rhys and drinking a little tea for a hour or so, things didn't seem so bad.  We sucked it up and went for a look up Glencoe, thinking things may be better further inland.  They were a little, but still minging!  Even so, we made our walk around to Curved Ridge II/III and found shelter from the wind.  It can even be said it was pleasant, if a little damp.  As we picked our way to the start of the difficulties, there was evidence that Crowberry Gully had avalanched.  Despite the snow being ok where we were, we didn't hang around as it has a reputation for spitting out more than once.  As Donald made his way up a little behind, he saw it go again from high up.  The ridge itself is still well covered after the first steep rock section, and was pretty hard going putting in steps.  The cover meant it climbed quite easily, but you would need to dig a lot if you were pitching.  The wind on top was not too bad at all, with only the odd strong gust and we soon found shelter again as we descended via the ridge.  The top of the corie looks really loaded at the moment.

A great day despite the forecast and things are looking better through the rest of the week.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Wet in the West

With the awful weather forecast, and after much discussion, we opted for a technique day in the Ice Factor.  This is turned out to be a really good day.  Karen and Rhys are returning for their third year, and showed they had moved one consistently in that day.  A lot of the core ice climbing skills that they used to have to focus on looked natural, which meant they could put their efforts into improving their efficiency.  Last year 2 hours was a long time, and half way through they started to fade.  This year they were still climbing the steeper lines at the end of the session, recovering as they went.  It was a real pleasure to see this progression today.

In the afternoon, we took things on a bit, and turned our attention to some dry tooling in the bouldering wall.  The aim was to raise their awareness of what they can hook, as well as build their confidence for when we get on something mixed and interesting later in the week.  Once they got their heads around it, there was no stopping them.  Both did extremely well, pulling off some pretty tricky moves.  Despite the weather not being quite as bad as forecast.  The rain was heavy at times but the wind did not materialise, we had a great and productive day.

Matt ventured out and up the Zig zags with his clients and then up into SCNL.  He said the snow is heavy and wet, with travel hard going.  The buttresses are plastered but not frozen.  This was the same yesterday when Guy tried to climb Reaburn's.  He found loads of unconsolidated snow on top of unfrozen ground beneath.  In the end they bailed, which seemed the best option by far.

Donald was out for Abacus and climbed ledge route.  His comments matched Matt's, so it seems most things will be hard work and wet to the temperature drops again.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Wild Cairngorm

I have been up in the Cairngorm for the last 2 days starting off a short stint of winter work. Yesterday, despite the weather, Alan, Alex and I made the wild walk up into Sneachda. The plan was to take a look, as I was optimistic that once in, we could knock out the lower pitches of a couple of routes. We made good time into the corrie, despite a brutal wind. The guys were less positive than me, and opted to head back down and spend the afternoon in the wall looking at belays etc. This turned out to be a good use of time.
Today was a much nicer day, which was highlighted by the mass of cars in the carpark before 8am. Despite only meeting at 8:30am, we made it in to the corrie fairly swiftly. We mooched over to the Mess of Potage with the view of taking what was left, but soon realised there was nothing left. Instead, we followed a team up the start of the Message, then snuck of left to climb Hybred IV,5***. This is a great route in it’s own right, made more interesting today by the very icy cracks and that fact it was buried. The whole crack appears icy and buried, so all gear it hard won. Most lines here, on Aladdin’s and Fluted Buttress were climbed today, but will most likely be covered again in the new stormy weather on its way.