Friday, December 30, 2011

Gareth Hobson

Earlier in December it was with great sadness that I heard that Gareth Hobson had died in the United States following a climbing accident in Utah.

I first met Gareth as a student at the University of Sheffield, where he was a member of both climbing clubs if my memory is correct (one was clearly not enough for his level of enthusiasm).  We climbed a little over the intervening years but it was on a handful of productive trips to Hoy, Pembroke and the Scottish Highlands that I recognised his natural talent for climbing.

One of my overriding memories is summed up by the image above.  Gareth is pictured on the main pitch of the Old Man of Hoy, climbed in a weekend from Sheffield for Simon King's stag do - Gareth definitely being one of the driving forces behind the trip.

A few years ago I was myself recovering from a badly fractured Tibia and Gareth kindly suggested that we went climbing in Scotland as part of my rehabilitation.  An excellent idea.  After braving a length journey to Fort William we started walking from the North Face car park early in the morning.  Planning to do a route in Coire na Ciste was an ordeal as my leg resembled a match stick as I limped up the path.  Gareth on the other hand actually made astonishing speed, despite walking effectively on tip toes in his stiff mountain boots - one of his ankles being practically fused.  I eventually made made it up to the bottom of the route and pulled the rope out.  Asking Gareth where the rack was, he casually announced that I was carrying it.  I didn't have it, and between us we had an inadequate selection of hardware.  This didn't phase Gareth at all as he carefully set off first, rigging the pitches nicely so I got the crux...!

My thoughts go out to Gareth's wife Julia and his family.  Gareth's infectious enthusiasm will be sadly missed.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Plan de l'Aiguille and Courmayeur Off Piste...

I have spent the last couple of days with Bruce Goodlad doing some off piste runs in Chamonix and Courmayeur.

Yesterday, we did a couple of runs from the Plan de l'Aiguille: The Combe des Glaciers and the Pre du Rocher which gave some great snow high up followed by some tree combat.

Today, the weather was a little overcast with fresh snow in Chamonix so we headed through the tunnel, in search of sun, to Courmayeur.  Here we did a couple of good runs, the first being from the Arp Bubble down to the Col d'Arp followed by a descent into the Val Veni from the Youla Telepherique.  More fresh snow is forecast for Chamonix tomorrow...

Pictured is the North Face of the Grands Charmoz and the Aiguille de la Republique taken from the Mer de Glace.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Pas de Chevre...

Neil Johnson and I decided to ski the Pas de Chevre today accessed from the Grands Montets.

This excellent itinerary has been skied a lot in the last couple of days, and gives a fairly burly descent of 2200m down to Chamonix. (Neil is pictured close to the top with about 2100m to go).

Despite having been regularly skied we enjoyed some fresh tracks near the bottom before descending the steeper couloirs onto the Mer de Glace Glacier.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

CPD Workshops: Association of Mountaineering Instructors...

Following the success of some Peak District based workshops for members of the Association of Mountaineering Instructors, there are some more opportunities in 2012...

MIC Workshop: Personal Climbing - "Maximising Product" An opportunity to build on the foundation of all our MIC winter skills - personal climbing at III+.  A single days personal climbing on the west coast with a view to maximising climbing product in winter.  23 Jan 2012

Critical Incident Analysis Peak District single pitch climbing accidents, what happens and what should we teach? 12 May 2012

Problem Solving..  A day of problem solving and improvised rescue training in the Peak District 13 May 2012.
For full details visit:

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chamonix Ski Video...

Brief video edit from Dan Goodwin following our ski descent from Le Prarion - Les Houches yesterday.  Featuring Rob Jarvis, Jonny Baird, Alison Culshaw, Tim and Michael Blakemore...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

East Face of Le Prarion...

With more fresh snow falling in the Chamonix Valley we were pretty keen to get some fresh tracks in...!

With conditions good down at lower levels Les Houches was an easy choice and I joined Rob Jarvis, Jonny Baird, Alison Culshaw, Tim and Michael Blakemore for a run on the East Face of Le Prarion.

After a false start due to the Prarion bubble experiencing problems we skinned to the col just south of Le Prarion before descending through the trees back to Les Houches.  This is perhaps some of the deepest untracked powder I have ever skied...

Monday, December 19, 2011

Chamonix Powder...

I have been in Chamonix for the last few days in preparation for a weeks ski course with Alison Culshaw of Off Piste Performance and BASS Chamonix.

Arriving a couple of days ago the valley was in the midst of a heavy snowfall, most of the lifts and ski areas being closed due to a Catagory 5/5 avalanche risk.

Yesterday, we managed to ski down as Les Houches followed by a long route down to St Gervais.  Today, we met at the Grands Montets where only a few of the runs were open.   Despite the limited uplift there was plenty of powder to ski in the trees.  It looks like there will be further snowfalls through the week which is great news for the longevity of the season.

Pictured: Aiguille du Chardonnet from the Grands Montets.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Edale MRT Mountain Skills III...

It's been another chilly day in Snowdonia today with a fairly low freezing level.  The forecast snow sadly failed to arrive resulting in another visit to the "white room" of Cwm Lloer.

Trev Lawton, Paul Bartram and myself decided to make an ascent of the Cwm Headwall (I) before climbing a couple of pitches up steeper ground to the summit ridge of Pen Yr Ole Wen.

This was the culmination of a few days winter skills and mountaineering training for Edale Mountain Rescue Team.  Over on the other side of the valley it looked like Idwal Stream was forming ice although it's probably not climbable just yet!  Fingers crossed some proper winter climbing conditions will emerge shortly, the turf is well frozen and all that will be required is a brief snowfall...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Edale MRT Mountain Skills...

The weather was fairly burly in Snowdonia today with some high windy and snow showers.

With slightly colder temperatures today we went in search of snow for a brief winter skills refresher for the second day with Edale Mountain Rescue Team.

Cwm Lloer in the Carneddau proved to be a good choice with frozen turf, and neve above 800m+ (pictured).

We decided to make an ascent of the 'Headwall' - grade I of Cwm Lloer which gave some good steep cramponing on firm neve.  Despite being graded as relatively easy this terrain is very serious as the firm neve runs out into boulders!  This Cwm seems to hold winter conditions being protected from mild south westerlies and being north facing.  Hopefully, good climbing conditions will emerge shortly when there is a dump of snow.

We also managed to take in the summit of Carnedd Dafydd where the conditions were widely frozen and verglassed.  From here we descended the south facing slopes back to the A5, taking the time to do some ice axe arrest on some isolated snow patches.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Edale MRT Mountain Skills...

I have been out today with folk from Edale Mountain Rescue Team on their annual mountain skills training.

Traditionally this is an opportunity to practice some winter skills in preparation for the winter season and operate in some more technical mountain terrain - hence the location of North Wales.

With the freezing level fairly high and rain forecast we decided to operate on scrambling terrain, ascending 'North West Face Route' (2) in Cwm Idwal before heading into Cwm Cneifion.  Despite the mild temperatures it was wintry at higher levels and there was clearly ice forming on Clogwyn Ddu - although it's not climbable!  The outlook is for colder conditions with heavy snowfall... 

British Mountain Guides AGM...

Over the weekend I attended the British Mountain Guides AGM.  Various areas host the meeting, this year it falling to the 'Other Areas' (and organiser Dave Hollinger in particular).

Despite the snow and some tricky driving conditions Guides from around the UK, and abroad met at the Norfolk Arms in Ringinglow, the activities culminating in the annual dinner on Saturday evening.  Great to see so many familiar faces in the Peak District...

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Nom de Plume and Guillotine, Carn Etchachan...

Keith Ball, Matt Stygall and myself decided to head 'over the back' today to climb on Carn Etchachan.

An early start form the Coire Cas car park saw us at the top of the crag and descending/traversing into the bottom of 'Nom de Plume' VI,7 - I thought this route hadn't seen many ascents but there was plenty of fixed gear on the first pitch suggesting otherwise!

A quick abseil took us into the base of the route 'Guillotine' V,6 which gave some good helpful mixed climbing.  The second pitch up the large rift (Keith pictured) was atmospheric to say the least.

Mark Chadwick and Dunc Hodgson were on the classic line of 'Scorpion' V,5 and described it as "definitely having a sting in the tail".  Finally there was also a team settling in for a long day on 'Deep Cut Chimney' IV,5 on Hells Lum - it looked like a total trench fest with loads of fresh snow over there!....

Monday, December 05, 2011

Droidless, Coire an t-Sneachda...

I was back down in Derbyshire on Saturday talking at Outside's Winterfest - an great opportunity to talk to some keen Scottish winter climbers present and future.

On Sunday, I made the drive north in tricky conditions with the intention of climbing on Monday and Tuesday.  Kris Hill and I opted to head into Coire an t-Sneachda visiting the Mess of Pottage for a bit of a change.  I have done many of the more amenable routes in this area so we settled on 'Droidless' VI,6 (pictured).

Two varied pitches gave some fantastic climbing with some "hero hooks" over a steep bulge.  Well worth seeking out if you are in that area.

Carl, Jon Jones and Mark Chadwick climbed 'Pot of Gold' V,6, while James Turnbull, Adam and Aiden climbed 'The Message' IV,6 and 'Hidden Chimney Direct' IV,5.  Over the other side of the corrie Di Gilbert and Rich Bentley did a 'Stirling Bomber/Houdini' combo at around V/VI,7.  Finally, Keith Ball and Matt Stygall pulled 'Sticil Face' V,6 out of the bag on The Shelterstone...

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Hoarmaster, Coire an Lochain...

Kris Hill and I decided to head into Coire an Lochain today.  Further overnight snow and strong winds had resulted in plenty of verglass and another dusting of snow.

We opted for 'Hoarmaster' V,6 which gave some tricky sustained climbing combined with the need to clear the heavily verglassed cracks.  Keith Ball and Matt Stygall made light work of 'Hookers Corner' VI,6 before climbing the 'Overseer Direct' V,6.

Mark Chadwick and Dunc Hodgson were on Central Crack Route IV,5.  Ian Stewart and Nathan White were also at large in the corrie climbing 'The Third Man' IV/V,6.

Conditions in the corrie were predominately very good, with plenty of white 'snot' covering much of the crag - the big corners of Savage Slit and Fall Out Corner looking particularly white.

Meanwhile Mark Walker and Tim Neill made the approach to Carn Etchachan this morning climbing the line of Equinox VI,6 on the Upper Tier...