Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Zig Zags, Gearr Aonach...

John, Tony and I decided to head to the Zig Zags on Gearr Aonach today in mild temperatures and steady rain showers.

The aim was to bring together many of the mountaineering skills that we have practiced in recent days: soloing, moving together and pitching.  The Zig Zag's gave us plenty of opportunity for this, as well as practicing retrievable abseils (Tony pictured).

Thanks to John and Tony for putting up with some sub-optimal weather over the last couple of days.

For me, sadly the Scottish Winter season has come to an early end as I head out to the Alps for some ski touring for the next few weeks.  I will try and continue to update the blog when between tours.  Thanks to everybody who has joined me over the course of the season...

Monday, February 20, 2012

Northern Cairngorms...

Dave Hollinger has been at large in the Cairngorms for the last couple days with Marylebone Mountaineering Club.  Part of a wider club meet, Dave has joined Nancy, Beatriz, Valerie and Robert for some winter skills training.

Luckily they managed to escape most of the bad weather that we have been experiencing on the west coast today.

So far the team has managed forays into Coire an t-Sneachda and today over into Ciste Mherad and Cnap Coire na Spreidhe....

Wet on Ben Nevis...

It was pretty grim on the hill today with heavy rain, high winds and warm temperatures.

John, Tony and I were keen to cover some essential mountaineering skills such as snow belays, bollards etc, and today we went 'skills heavy' and did exactly that.

We had previously just used the odd technique in context during our ascents of Dorsal Arete and Curved Ridge on previous days, the aim being to make use of the better weather.

With the high winds forecast we decided to head into the base of Coire na Ciste and the 'gulches' on Ben Nevis.  Here there was still plenty of remaining snow to practice both movement and snow belays etc.  Eventually however the prolonged rain took it's toll on our multiple pairs of gloves and it was time to bail. (Tony is pictured trying to make his last pair survive)...

Greg Boswell, Will Sim, Di Gilbert and Rich Bentley are currently in the CIC Hut with a large team from Outdoor Research- ideal conditions for testing waterproofs!...

Finally, after yesterdays tragic events on Ben Nevis I am just going to add a quick plug for the folk at Lochaber MRT - check out the LMRT Blog http://lochabermrt.co.uk/blog/ and their Facebook Page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lochaber-Mountain-Rescue-Team/126730547376157

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Curved Ridge, Buachaille Etive Mor...

John, Tony and I decided to head to Curved Ridge on Buachaille Etive Mor today with the intention of doing a longer mountaineering route.

There is much more snow than pictured - I left my camera at home today!

The fresh snowfall to sea level this morning had left the rocks covered in a thin veneer of powder making progress delicate.  Despite this we made good time, doing some pitching and moving together using the numerous rock spikes for protection.

Matt Spenceley was just ahead of us and there were other parties on North Buttress IV,4.

Up on Ben Nevis the classic ice routes were busy with teams on Indicator Wall, Psychedelic Wall, Smiths Route and Good Friday Climb according to Nats and Ali.  Sadly, there was a serious accident on Zero Gully today.  Details here at the Northern Constabulary site.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Dorsal Arete - Stob Coire nan Lochan...

John and Tony have joined me for a few days here on the west coast of Scotland to develop some skills for more technical 'mountaineering style' routes.

With a return to winter conditions today we decided to get straight into it and make an ascent of Dorsal Arete II in Stob Coire nan Lochan.  Using the approach to revise crampon and axe use we decided to adopt a 'one tool rule' policy for the route itself.  (John and Tony are pictured on the top).

There were some strong gusts today, but nothing like those forecast and snow falling for the duration.  This combined with the fact that Stob Coire nan Lochan is often more sheltered than expected resulted in a good day.

Conditions in the corrie appear good with a team on 'Scabbard Chimney' V,6 and Bruce Poll on 'Crest Route' V,6.  The area around 'Chimney Route', 'Tilt', 'Inclination' and 'Unicorn' looked particularly white.  For a more amenable grade it would be worth checking out 'Moonshadow' IV,5 at the moment.  This is one of the finest grade IV pitches in the corrie but rarely gets climbed (even when there are loads of folk on Twisting Gully!)...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

MIC Personal Mentoring in Coire an t-Sneachda...

I was out with John today in preparation for his MIC Assessment day tomorrow.  We spent the day practicing a variety of scenarios to move clients around on mountaineering terrain (grade I/II with one axe).

John is pictured abseiling from a snow bollard.

The corrie didn't look quite as bad as yesterday, with cooler temperatures firming up the snow pack.  Most of the major gully lines are still complete, although many are leaner (read harder) than usual with small ice pitches.

There is also a lot of low level ice in both Coire an t-Sneachda and Coire an Lochain which will be ideal for introductory skills training, or those refreshing their technique.  With snow forecast over the weekend I would be a bit more upbeat if you have got a weeks visit planned or are booked on a course...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Coire an t-Sneachda...

Honest blogging is a tricky balance, all to often you will read really positive, often flowery descriptions of the conditions punctuated by superlatives.

Well today, it was horrendous in Coire an t-Sneachda and quite frankly we need winter to return pretty quick (I couldn't even muster up the energy to take a decent photo).

Despite the high winds John Allen, Keiran and myself spent a productive day practicing the techniques and judgment required for the Mountain Instructors Certificate (MIC) Mountaineering Day.  This was part of two days of personal skills development prior to John's assessment.  For more details check out http://www.peakmountaintraining.co.uk/cpd/personal-mentoring/

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ice Factor...

With mild temperatures again today Meilee and I decided to make the most of the time by visiting the Ice Factor.

The big fridge gave us plenty of opportunity to develop ice climbing technique for future forays into the mountains as well as developing a good "pump".

Meilee is pictured just prior to an attempt on the famous (or infamous) swinging logs...!

Raeburns Route - Stob Coire nan Lochan...

Meilee arrived in Scotland a couple of days ago for here first experience of Scottish Winter climbing.

Yesterday, with mild temperatures we were forced to walk up to the more reliable north facing corries and Stob Coire nan Lochan gave us a few options.  Despite the punishing walk in it was popular as ever and there were plenty of teams in NC Gully, Twisting Gully and on Dorsal Arete.

Spotting a bit of a gap we decided to head up onto Raeburns Route (aka Central Buttress Ordinary) III/IV,4 accessed for NC Gully.  Despite looking quite bare from below this gave some good neve on the ledges and some great frozen turf (which seems to be refreezing overnight).

It's been a while since I have done this route, but it always demonstrates the brilliance of Harold Raeburn - who first climbed the route in 1907.  A quick scan through any guidebook will yield multiple other gully's and buttresses across Scotland, and many of them are no push over!

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Hidden Chimney, Coire an t-Sneachda...

It was a very mild day today in Coire an t-Sneachda with a fine drizzle for the majority of the day (as evident on the camera lens in the picture).

Dave, Jaimella and I travelled over from the west coast again hoping for better conditions.  It was certainly a bit drier and we climbed a 'Hidden Chimney' II/III which was still holding a surprising amount of snow.  Where exposed the turf was still frozen solid which bodes well for a return to full on winter conditions...

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Northern Cairngorms...

Dave, Jaimella and I decided to head over to the Cairngorms this morning to try and escape the bad weather arriving on the west coast.  We arrived to find conditions widely frozen and the approach to Coire an t-Sneachda icy underfoot.

We made our way into the corrie but found it hard going in the strong winds, and eventually turned around.  On a positive note we had plenty of time to practice all terrain crampon technique...!

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Twisting Gully...

Dave, Jaimella and I decided to head up to Stob Coire nan Lochan today.

With cold temperatures over night it was hard going on the approach with Verglass and frozen water courses crossing the path making progress time consuming. 

Using crampons from unusually low down we made progress into the corrie and set off to climb 'Twisting Gully' III,4. This classic route, famously featured in the coffee table book 'Cold Climbs' was a suitable challenge for Dave (pictured) and Jaimella's first winter route!  With fantastic weather we lingered on the top briefly before descending carefully back to the car.  The corrie is in good condition generally with plenty of ice, neve and well frozen turf where exposed.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Aonach Mor...

I have joined Dave and Jaimella for a week of Scottish Winter climbing.  Having worked with them before Rock Climbing in the Peak District they are keen to get stuck into some winter action.

Having never tried crampons before we decided to visit Aonach Mor to develop the essential skills of axe and crampon use before taking on graded routes.  As such we spent the day on Aonach an Nid traveling over some varied ground.  Fingers crossed this will front load things nicely tomorrow for our first routes of the week...

Some Rime Ice is pictured on the snow fences of Aonach Mor's ski area - a good indicator of the previous day(s) wind direction.  Any takers for the direction?...

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Stob Coire nan Lochan and Stob Ban...

I have just arrived back in Scotland for a week of Winter Mountaineering/Climbing with Dave and Jaimella.

With temperatures of minus 23 degrees in Chamonix early this morning it was nice to arrive back to experience a practically tropical 6 degrees in Edinburgh.  Sadly, the weather has been a little damp over the weekend.

Despite the challenges of the west coast Matt Stygall (pictured!), had two full days with Brian and Adam climbing in Stob Coire nan Lochan and on Stob Ban....

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Plan de l'Aiguille...

It's been another cold day here in Chamonix today.  Managed a quick run on Le Pre du Rocher on the Plan de L'Aiguille (Chris Plant pictured).

Some fresh tracks followed by a technical and enjoyable bump-fest through the trees into Chamonix Sud.

I have an early transfer tomorrow in order to fly back to Scotland, in preparation for another week of Scottish Winter climbing.  Fingers crossed that these cold Siberian conditions will hang around to bring some low level ice classics into condition....

Off Piste in Le Tour...

I joined Jonny Baird yesterday for the first day of a Dream Guides Chamonix Backcountry Weekend.

Meeting up at Le Tour we skied a few runs in the back bowls as well as doing some essential transceiver search practice.  From here a descent towards Le Chatelard resulted in a brief skin to the 'Esserts Chair' lift, and an opportunity to coach skinning and kick turn technique.

To finish the day we skinned up to the Col de Balme and skied some fantastic powder into the Swiss village of Trient via Le Nant Noir...

 

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Brevent...

Decided to head up to Brevent with Alison Culshaw today following some beta of good skiing conditions in the Brevent Bowl and the ENSA Couloir - Thanks to Yan Raulet, Neil Johnson and Jonny Baird.

Enjoyed a good run down from the Brevent top station taking the face/ridge immediately skiers right of the ENSA Couloir before traversing to the main bowl.  The snow was a little heavier than yesterday at a guess but still gave some great skiing...

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Pas de Chevre and the Vallee Blanche...

Tim Blakemore, Tamsin and I headed up to the Grands Montets aiming to get the first lift this morning.

With more fresh snow it was predictably busy, but with most skiers heading over to ski the 'Front Face' we had the classic 'Pas de Cherve' to ourselves.

Brilliant soft snow and fresh tracks took us down all to quickly onto the Mer de Glace.  From here we skied down to Montenvers and nipped up to the Aiguille du Midi for a lap of the Vallee Blanche.

Higher up the snow was a little wind effected with soft slab rather than soft snow or powder.  However, this soon gave way to some great pitches to finish the day.