Sunday, February 27, 2011

What a difference a day makes..

On Friday the major climbing areas were still being plagued by the uber-thaw.

Thankfully, the situation changed on Saturday with a reduced freezing level and a fresh dusting of snow.  There will be plenty of ice still up on the higher crags with talk of folk climbing on Ben Nevis and Creag Meagaidh.  I haven't been on the hill but would anticipate that the icy classics such as Zero Gully, Point Five, Comb Gully and Green Gully will remain unbroken and build some ice as they get a bit of spindrift.

The image above is of the Grey Corries taken from near Spean Bridge (click for a bigger image). The crag of Stob Coire an Laoigh is visible in the centre of the picture.

All being well I should be out on the hill tomorrow...

Friday, February 25, 2011

Uber Thaw...

Tommy and I have been battling against a fairly drastic thaw in recent days and have been stoic in our attempt not to visit the indoor ice wall at the Ice Factor.

Wednesday saw a visit to Ed Chard's secret drytooling venue to experiment with the techniques of hooking and torquing.  Thursday, resulted in us indulging in the most traditional of Scottish winter pastimes: taking the rack for a walk!  We decided to head up to Church Door Buttress high on Bidean nam Bian to check out the routes for future reference.  The result was a good mountain day traversing over to Stob Coire nan Lochan and descending down back to the valley via the west ridge.

Finally, with the freezing level forecast to drop we headed up onto Ben Nevis again.  Although the crags have been stripped by the prolonged thaw and heavy rain, much ice still remains in Coire na Ciste.  We were able to attempt the icy slot of Thompson's Route before deciding to bail due to the jets of ice cold water running down the route (and my arms!).  Reaching the plateau by No.3 Gully and descending via No.4 allowed us to see that many of the cornices had reduced back which will be great come the refreeze.  Tommy is pictured enjoying a quick brew in the CIC hut before enjoying the full west coast experience.

I am working for Abacus Mountaineering this week, so you might find some of these updates on the Abacus Conditions Blog also..

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Orion Direct, Ben Nevis..

Tommy and I decided to head up to Ben Nevis today with an open mind, given the weather and avalanche conditions.  With a fairly leisurely start at 0800 we found parties already established on The Curtain, Vanishing Gully, and routes on the Douglas Boulder.

We carried on up the hill to the base of the Orion Face to have a look at the well known classic 'Orion Direct' V,5.  Having pitched over some interesting snow at the base of Zero Gully, it was a relief to find some good ice on the initial sections into the basin.

Although conditions were generally satisfactory it wasn't "neve romping" today and we had to work a bit to find good ice, protection and belays.  Bruce Poll and Chris Coppellotti were up ahead making for a fairy social ascent.

Tommy is pictured just coming up to the belay after the snaking groove line used to reach the bottom of the basin.  I am working for Abacus Mountaineering this week, so you might find some of these updates on the Abacus Conditions Blog also..

Monday, February 21, 2011

Pumpkin, Creag Meagaidh..

Tommy and I hedged our bets a little today and decided to visit Creag Meagaidh.  As we walked into Coire Ardair the clag was down and visibility was very poor, making the selection of a suitable route all the more tricky.

After gearing up we opted for the best chunk of ice that we could see, climbing the excellent 'Pumpkin' V,4.  Descending by the window allowed us to spot other parties on The Wand, Diadem and Fairy Godmother as the cloud cleared.

Finally with a bit of time to spare we climbed the first pitch of 'South Post Direct' V,4 before abseiling from an abalokov anchor.  This pitch was quite steep, with good snow ice but didn't really hold screws well at all.  Tommy is pictured abseiling off....

I am working for Abacus Mountaineering this week, so you might find some of these updates on the Abacus Conditions Blog also..

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cutlass, Douglas Boulder..

Dave Evans and I decided to head to the Douglas Boulder today on Ben Nevis.

This "boulder" would be a major crag on any other mountain, but not on the Ben!  An ideal venue for a short or stormy day, we opted for the high quality line of 'Cutlass' VI,7.

Dave is pictured digging his way up the first pitch.

The mountain was fairly quiet with some folk climbing in the area around Moonlight Gully Buttress, Vanishing Gully and the South West Ridge of the Douglas Boulder.  John Orr, Guy Steven and friend climbed 'Route One' VI,6.

Matt Stygall and Dave Rudkin were noted by their absence from the mountain today following an ascent of 'Blood, Sweat and Frozen Tears' VII,8 on Beinn Eighe...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Direct Route Crowberry Tower.......

Graham and I decided to head to Buachaille Etive Mor today. Keen for some climbing we hoped to do something low down on the mountain after the hard frost last night.

We soloed up Curved Ridge to a point where we could check out Agag's Groove and the Rannoch Wall.  Despite an early start we found that it wasn't quite cold enough and the morning mist wasn't preventing the sun hitting the face.  Going for the back up plan we opted for The Direct Route on Crowberry Tower VII,6/7.

This gave some good quality climbing up to Abraham's Ledge before we got shut down by a totally blank, slabby gnarl-fest.  This route was climbed by MacInnes/Bonnington in 1953 and fair play to them, it's not easy....

A great day to be out in the mountains regardless!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Invernookie and The Seam..

Tony and I decided to head over to the Cairngorms today in an attempt to escape the rapid accumulations of deep snow.

With a bit of care we made our way into the Fiacaill Buttress along with Andy Townsend and Ken.

As we started climbing the top section of the crag was suddenly taken over by folk abseiling in from the top.  Not a bad idea given the Cat 4 avalanche forecast.

Luckily everybody managed to climb different lines without too many problems. Tony and I did Invernookie III,4 followed by The Seam IV,5 before descending the Fiacaill Ridge....

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Ordinary Route, Stob Coire nan Lochan..

With heavy snow and a variable freezing level Stob Coire nan Lochan was the choice for today. 

Darren, Matt and I opted for 'Ordinary Route' IV,5 given the vast amounts of deep snow.  This proved to be anything but ordinary with some considerable digging involved.

Other climbing teams climbed Dorsal Arete, popular as usual.  Visibility was poor so I have popped up a picture of the Orion Face prior to the recent snowfall.

A brief comment (on the previous post) from Jim Higgins confirmed that it was Jim, Simon Yearsley and Malcolm Bass doing the FWA of 'Chicken Run' or a variation.  Sounds good, and another line gone that I had got my eye on!  I guess more deatils will appear on Simon Richardson's Blog

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ben Nevis, Central Gully Right Hand....

Matt, Darren and I made the decision to head up onto Ben Nevis and Creag Coire na Ciste again today.

The mountain was busy today with folk on Tower Ridge, Vanishing Gully, Italian Right Hand, Glovers Chimney, Pinnacle Buttress/Stringfellow, Green Gully, Thompsons Route, Slab Climb to name a few!

There was also a team on what looked like the summer line of 'Chicken Run', so there may also be a first winter ascent (FWA) in the offing.

We opted for Central Gully Right Hand IV,4, climbing some good quality ice in the main chimney section.  Darren is pictured just short of the belay following a bit of a "spindrift" experience...

Friday, February 11, 2011

Invernookie, Northern Cairngorms...

Matt, Darren and I wanted a different experience today so we decided to head over to the Cairngorms for some classic mixed action.

Coire an t-Sneachda was fairly busy with folk on The Seam, Patey's Route, The Message, Hidden Chimney and most of the major gully lines.

We quickly decided to jump on 'Invernookie' III,4 which gave some great neve romping combined with some hooking up the final grooves on the last pitch.

Following this Matt navigated us off over the plateau to Pt 1141, which was quite amusing as he pulled out his compass graduated in 'Mills' rather than degrees.  Luckily, we didn't need to call in any heavy ordnance or an airstrike and made it off ok....

Thursday, February 10, 2011

No.3 Gully Buttress, Ben Nevis..

Darren, Matt and I made the easy decision to go up onto Ben Nevis today after yesterday's thaw and overnight refreeze.

The colder temperatures of last night had consolidated the snowpack but had left a hard crust in many places and left a cruddy covering to some ice.  Despite this the mountain was busy, with climbers in Point Five, Zero Gullies, Vade Mecum as well on the Orion Face.

We climbed No.3 Gully Buttress (III) in Creag Coire na Ciste before heading over to the summit and descending into Coire Leis.  Darren is pictured abseiling from a snow bollard, putting into practice some of the skills we experimented with yesterday..

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Wet and mild in Stob Coire nan Lochan..

Darran, Matt and I set off early today with the aim of beating the rapidly rising freezing level in Glen Coe.

We decided to visit Stob Coire nan Lochan (SCnL) with the aim of getting a good way up one of the mixed routes before the temperature rose significantly.

Sadly as we left the car park at just after 0600 this morning the rain had started to fall and it was 6 degrees.

Changing our plan a little we decided to spend the time revising avalanche assessment, snow belays and peg placement.

'Ordinary Route' IV,5 was climbed today and is a good choice in tricky avalanche conditions - if you don't mind water running down your arms!

Fingers crossed for colder conditions tomorrow...

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Monday, February 07, 2011

SW Ridge of the Douglas-Gibson Boulder..

Geoff, Chris and I decided to head into Coire na Ciste today on Ben Nevis.

With fresh snow over night and more falling during the morning on fresh winds, our first point of call was the CIC Hut. After testing our French with Remy and friends we decided to brave the elements and climb the SW Ridge of the Douglas-Gibson Boulder (III,4).

Kenny was on Vanishing Gully, and other teams were on Ledge Route, and possibly Militant Chimney(?)

Nobody was climbing high on the mountain which was perhaps sensible today. Ice appears to be building well with the lines of Hadrians and Vade Mecum clearly visible...

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Sunday, February 06, 2011

Curved Ridge, Buchaille Etive Mor..

I was out with Jo again today working for Westcoast Mountain Guides.

We decided to head for a longer mountaineering objective and Curved Ridge fitted the bill perfectly given that Jo needed to catch an evening flight from Glasgow.

Low down we had to negotiate plenty of rock and avalanche debris from the major thaw a few days ago.  There is still an impressive amount of debris in the bottom of Great Gully, scene of some significant avalanches recently recorded by Mike PescodVideo here.
Currently, the snow level is at the base of the route proper making for slightly delicate progress on the first rock buttress.  Above the conditions are much better but care is required in Crowberry Basin where the crown wall of an avalanche is visible, along with plenty of remaining windslab...

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Stob Coire nan Lochan

The weather today was much better than forecast in Glencoe, with light winds and good visibility.

Jo and I decided to head to Stob Coire nan Lochan and join the masses on 'Dorsal Arete' - climbing the obvious direct start from the foot of the buttress. A great start on well frozen turf at approx III.

Looks like lighter winds tomorrow, so all in all much more positive conditions than originally forecast.....

Sadly left my camera in the car so no photos today!  I was working for Westcoast Mountain Guides today.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Stormy weather..

Yesterday Graham Stein and I decided to try our luck visiting the Cairngorms in high winds and a less favorable freezing level.

There was still plenty of snow about in the northern corries in the easier lines and plenty of people walking into the corrie.  We decided to visit the newly developed crag of Creagan Coire Cha-no on the eastern side on Cairngorm.  Sadly, it wasn't in superb condition and we were forced to solo an easy line before getting blown back to the car park.

Today (Thursday) the stormy weather seems to be cranking up a notch or two and the only hope of getting anything done was being well placed for an early start this morning.  For Graham and myself if was a brief workout on his own wall here in Edinburgh (pictured)...