Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ben Nevis Mixed!

A very social day on the "Ben" today in the number three gully buttress area.

Hosts and international guests from the BMC International Meet were fully engaged on many of the hard routes: Dave Hollinger and partner on Babylon VII,8, Iain Small on Hobgoblin VI,7, and other parties on Gremlins VI,6, Thompsons Route IV,4, and No.3 Gully Buttress.

Andy Turner and the Petzl uber team were on Darth Vader VII,8 - not bad for their first route in Scotland. Dave Evans and I climbed the first two pitches of Babylon before finishing up Gargoyle wall, a good sustained combo at about VI,6..

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Spindrift on the Ben..

Chris Walker, Carrick Wharmby and I visited Ben Nevis today climbing the classic 'Green Gully' IV,3.

The freezing level was much lower today, halting the slow thaw of recent days. Some snow showers early on in the day also added to the experience creating vast amounts of spindrift.

I must admit, that this did bring a wry smile to my face as I remembered the first time I climbed 'Green Gully' as a youth, about 15 years ago! (The continuous spindrift avalanches hammering down the route made breathing difficult and we were rewarded with climbing the last two pitches in the dark, following our sluggish start).

Today, we made slightly faster time and descended by No.3 Gully back into the corrie. Conditions appeared to be improving for mixed climbing, with most of the buttresses starting to rime up. I suspect that there might well be a good covering of verglass as one party was moving very slowly on the first major pitch of 'Gargoyle Wall' VI,6. The mountain was busy with folk out on the BMC International Winter Meet, Iain Small making light work on 'Thompson's Route' IV,4.

Yesterday Zoe Hart and Simon Richardson also added a new line at IV,4 somewhere up near Pinnacle Buttress/Raeburn's Wall.

For a brief feel of the Ben today check out Carrick in action:

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Wet ice...

Dave and I headed up Ben Nevis today to check out conditions. There were quite a few folk on the mountain including Al and Jamie from the Ice Factor.

Despite the heavy rain the ice is in good shape and there is still plenty of snow, although route choice is slightly limited. White Line, No.2 Gully Buttress, Comb Gully, Green Gully, Indicator Wall, Point Five, Observatory Buttress, South Gully, Central Gully and Central Gully RH have all been climbed recently.

With the freezing level lowering tomorrow some improved conditions should resume. Unfortunately, the mountain has been shroaded in cloud for some days but other routes will certainly be in good condition. I will look forward to posting some pictures when we can see something!.....

Friday, February 20, 2009

Colder conditions in the Cairngorms

Dave Evans and I visited Coire an Lochain today in colder conditions. We climbed 'Appetite for Destruction' V,6 which was well verglassed and hoared with some well frozen turf. Another party were on Andromeda IV,4 which looked very good, as did The Vent II/III.
Over on Ben Nevis Ian and Matt climbed White Line III, and other parties did Indicator Wall V,4 and Point 5.....

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Return to colder conditions?..

It looks like there could be a return to colder conditions on the west coast of Scotland tomorrow.

The Mountain Weather Information Service (MWIS) is predicting that the freezing level will drop to 800m which will bring a dramatic improvement to high level ice conditions.

On another note Dave Barker left his axes (dmm flys) and walking poles (red kohla) on the grass verge by the lay-by at Buachaille Etive Mor last Friday (13th Feb 2009). If you find them he can be contacted on 07929 634979. e-mail

Monday, February 16, 2009

Waterfall climbing in the Northern Corries..

Dave, Andy and I visited Coire an t-sneachda today in mild conditions. Despite some challenging conditions very similar to climbing under a high pressure water hose, we climbed Aladdin's Mirror Direct. Conditions should improve dramatically with a refreeze..

For the full experience, have a look at the brief video clip below. Although quite wet the ice was excellent giving good first time placements. There is also plenty of ice about here on the west coast but ice screws are likely to be largely cosmetic in the currently slushy conditions..

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Northern Cairngorms

Dave. Andy and I visited the northern cairngorms today in search of cooler conditions. The northern corries were ideal with plenty of snow and ice evident. We opted to climb Invernookie III,4. Most routes were seeing ascents and the goat track was descended on ski by a number of teams..

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Aonach Eagach

Dave, Andy and I had a good day out on the Aonach Eagach traverse today. Despite the poor visibility we could see that Elliot's Downfall was still hanging in there despite the warm temperatures. Roll on the refreeze...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Mini thaw on the west coast..

Today couldn't be more different here on the west coast. The day started with snow showers and some tough trail breaking into Coire nan Lochan.

Graham Stein and I started up 'Tilt' VI,7 before torrential rain and a rapidly rising freezing level forced retreat. Other climbing teams retreated from the West Face of Anoach Dubh as the thaw started.

On a more positive note the rarely formed ice pillar of 'Elliot's Downfall' is about a metre or so from touching down. Hopefully this will survive the brief thaw, and following a refreeze conditions will improve dramatically. Best to keep an eye on the MWIS weather forecasts...

On a seperate note, Haglofs have recently updated their website with details of their UK 'friends'.

Stob Coire nan Lochan

Yesterday was another fine day in the Highlands, with clear skies and cold temperatures in Glencoe.

I was again out with Gemma, Emily, Simon, Rob, Pete and Steve on a traverse of Stob Coire nan Lochan. This allowed us to put all the essential skills together while negociating some classic mountain terrain.

Conditions looked good in the corrie, with parties on Raeburns Original Route, Dorsal Arete and Boomerang Gully. Two French climbers had also soloed many of the easier classics. Further away Lost Valley Buttress and Church Door Buttress appeared to be in good condition and looked well worth a visit.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Aonach Mor Winter Skills..

Gemma, Emily, Simon, Rob, Pete and Steve have been out with me on Anoach Mor today doing some winter skills training.

Over the course of the day we looked at avalanche assessment, crampon and axe use, axe arrest and also managed to take in the summit before descending via the ski area.

Tomorrow will hopefully involve a mountain journey putting the above skills into practice.

There is plenty of snow about on the hill at the moment, making travel time consuming in some places. Coire an Laiogh in the Grey Corries looked very white from a distance suggesting good conditions, although the long approach would best be achieved on ski..

Monday, February 09, 2009

Curved Ridge

I was again out with Jason, Chris and Rob Johnson, today's objective being curved ridge on Buchaille Etive Mor. Conditions were good with great neve making ideal conditions for Jason and Chris first winter leads.
Conditions in Glen Coe are good, Matt Stygall, Adam Hughes and Kenny Grant making a rare ascent of 'Blue Riband' 600m V,5 to prove it!..

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Stunning day in Coire nan Lochan

It has been a stunning day in Glen Coe today with clear skies and fresh snow. Rob Johnson, Jason, Chris and I were in Coire nan Lochan to do some introductory climbing. We opted for 'Boomerang Arete' which gave varied climbing.

Pete Rowlands, Andy Nelson and Andy Townsend also made light work of 'Tilt' VI,7... Sent by Nokia E51

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Carn Dearg..

Andy and I had an interesting day on Ben Nevis today, generally failing upwards.

We had originally hoped to do 'Route 2' V,6, but found the crucial traverse on pitch two difficult to distinguish under fresh snow. In the end we climbed much of 'Route 1' VI,6 along with a section of 'Sod's Law' V,6 before abseiling down the line.

Conditions on Ben Nevis are generally good although there is a lot of fresh windslab. This is generally avoidable given good route choice and adequate visibility.

Below is a brief video clip of Ben Nevis giving an indication of the conditions..

Friday, February 06, 2009

North Face Route, Buchaille Etive Mor..

Keith Ball and I decided to visit Buchaille Etive Mor in Glen Coe today following steady snow flurries last night and this morning.

We chose 'North Face Route' V,6 on Central Buttress as a suitable objective after much deliberation. The route didn't disappoint with varied climbing, steep rock and well frozen turf making the line very accomodating.

Three sixty metre abseils took us to the base of the crag by a slightly different line. For the ethically pure you can continue to the meet D Gully Buttress and Curved Ridge higher on the mountain.

Fingers crossed for some more good weather tomorrow..

Blue Sky and Cold Conditions..

Yesterday was a great day on the west coast with clear blue skies and cold conditions.

Thursday was the last day of a Plas Y Brenin Winter Mountaineering Course. We opted to take in Stob Coire nan Lochan via the East and West ridges making a neat traverse of the mountain.

Mixed climbing conditions in the corrie appeared to be good with the buttresses well hoared and the turf well frozen. A good place to be heading if you can safely negociate the snow slopes at the base of the routes..

Monday, February 02, 2009

Excellent neve and fat ice..

The west coast of Scotland seemed to avoid the major snowfall affecting the rest of the UK today.

With just a few light snow flurries we decided to visit the Mamores to take in Stob Coire a'Chairn, undertaking a classic ridge journey. (Part of a Plas Y Brenin Winter Mountaineering Course).

Following the recent thaw and refreeze there was plenty of neve giving perfect cramponing conditions along the ridge crest.

Climbing conditions are currently very good with many of the middle grade classics being icey on Ben Nevis and Aonach Mor, as these crags have been scoured and cooled by the easterly winds. Everything is "bullet proof"..

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Performance Winter Climbing..

Despite the moderate to high winds forecast, Wain, Sally and I visited Stob Coire nan Lochan in Glen Coe today.

It was the first day of a week long 'Performance Winter Climbing' course for Plas Y Brenin. The corrie was busy but we managed to find a gap between the crowds climbing 'Twisting Grooves' IV.

Most of the gullies were seeing ascents along with Raeburns Buttress and tricky lines such as 'Innuendo' etc. The turf is well frozen and the ice building..
The Orion Face of Ben Nevis is pictured above from a very windy outing on Saturday. Despite the recent thaw there appears to be good ice on 'Point 5', 'Smiths Route' and 'Tower Scoop'. 'Zero Gully' looks quite thin and probably needs some more build up. Conditions high up on the mountain are likely to improve quickly this week given the cold temperatures..