Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everybody..

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, in between the usual Christmas excesses I have been catcing up with a few reports from a couple of days ago.

It looks like the conditions are good in the Scottish Highlands with plenty of ice, variable (but often freezing) temperatures and some limited snow fall. This should all provide a good base for further development and 'building' conditions.

Chris Plant and Sandy Patterson made the short walk over the back to Hells Lum in the northern Cairngorms a few days ago. They climbed the classic early season route 'Escalator' which often builds water ice prior to the first major snows. They also noted teams out on 'Crotched Gully' and 'Red Gully' where the gullies have a good fill of consolidated neve.

There are still places on the Winter Skills and Expedition week on 28 January - 1 February, please get in touch if you would like further details or visit the JTM Website.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Excellent snow on the Grand Montets..

I have been away this week skiing in Chamonix. A couple of significant early season snowfalls have left excellent skiing conditions both on and off piste.

Most of the ski areas in the valley will be opening during the Christmas week. Sadly, we have been limited to the Grand Montets (well it could be worse), which allegedly one of the best ski areas in Europe.

On Wednesday we decided to head over to the Italian side on Mont Blanc on the advice of local Mountain Guide Johnny Baird. As usual he was right, and we enjoyed an excellent descent from Pointe Helbronner to La Palud, with some good powder in places.

It looks like conditions back in the UK remain cold. Although there hasn't been anymore significant snowfall in the Scottish Highlands, I would anticipate that some of the more unusual ice venues may well be building ice...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Major new route on Ben Nevis :: "The Secret"..

Yesterday, Andy Turner, Steve Ashworth and Viv Scott added a major new mixed route to Ben Nevis with their ascent of 'The Secret'.

This often eyed line was well known to many local activists, and an ascent was perhaps inevitable. Having spoken to Andy today he described it as "probably technically harder than any of the moves on 'Cornucopia' (VII,9) and sustained from the bottom to the top". The boys are still speculating about a grade, but no doubt it is going to be fairly hefty! [After some discussion Andy has committed himself to a grade of X,10, which may well make 'The Secret' the hardest onsight ascent in Scotland].

The video below (filmed by Steve Ashworth) gives an indication of the slow but technical nature of Scottish mixed..

Steve and Andy have been up on Ben Nevis climbing again today, along with quite a few other folk. Blair Fyffe and partner climbed the modern classic 'Slab Climb' (VI,7) along with Graham Ettle and his partner who were close behind.

Over in the Cairngorms David Monteith and Chris Plant were out in Corrie Lochain and reported that the snow pack was unconsolidated and heavy going to get up to the base of the routes. Parties were on 'Y gully' right branch and 'Sidewinder' (III).

All inspirational stuff this early in the season. Further south it has been a cold a crisp day out on the gritstone edges in derbyshire, with many folk out enjoying the climbing and bouldering. It looks like the weather is set to be fairly stable for the week in the Peak District..

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Unsettled weather..

It has been a varied week for me back in the UK, with some quite unsettled weather in recent days.

This week I have largely been involved with providing climbing wall training in my role as Technical Advisor for Derbyshire County Council and Rockcity Climbing Centre.

While I have been inside it appears that many folk have been quick of the mark, making use of the recent snowfall in the Scottish Highlands. Ian Parnell and John Winter climbed a new direct start to 'Prore' (VII,7) in the northern cairngorms while Tim Blakemore and Steve Ashworth repeated the modern classic 'Sioux Wall' (VIII,8). More recently Rob Jarvis and Nick Carter have been out in the Cairngorms again today.

This suggests that the winter could well be shaping up for a colder than average start. Reports from the Scottish Avalanche Information Service (SAIS) are due to start on Friday the 14th December (check out the links on the right)..