Thursday, July 19, 2007

Apologies and Estivation

First of all, sorry for seeming to abandon the posts. I thought that i had put this message up in late April, but although it appeared on my computer it never made it to the blog. Thanks for the email Dave.

Posts will start up again in October with a report on a Himalayan trip and preporation for the winter. In the meantime enjoy the summer; this blog will estivate till it gets cold again.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Modica Noury and the Valley Blanche

Toby and i got an 8.30 tele freak up the Aig du Midi and skied over to the start of Modica Noury on Mont Blanc du tacul. This is a 500m III/5+ or hard Scottish V route. We had about 45 mins of good visibility which was just enough to make us sweat out our breakfast on the approach slopes and turn the snow in the sun to porridge.

A Norwegian team (the owners of Climb Inn at Rjukan) were having a nightmare getting over the bergshrund. Toby levitated up the vertical mush 10m to their left and so we squeezed in front. The ice was in excellent easy condition with many hooks in place that the axes can just be slotted into, however two sections are thinning out to what the French might call 'mixte' but what Brits still call bomber ice climbing. We moved together and strung several of the pitches together and pitched a couple. The quick abseil descent down the line allowed us to ski the Valley Blanche to the terminus of the Mer de Glass from where we walked down in the rain to Chamonix.

I couldn't get any pictures of the other routes as we were in a white out with snow fall for most of the day. Albinoni Gabarrou, Pinochio, and the Super Couloi were climbed yesterday but i think that folk are starting the super Coulior up the Gervassuti pillar now. A report of an ascent of the Eugster Direct on the north face of the Midi from last week reported it to be in hard mixed condition. A team is staying up at the midi to try another few routes and another team is up the Argentiere glacier seeking out those elusive 1000m+ Td or above routes!

Its currently lashing it down in Cham now so it's back to the planks this afternoon and probably for the rest of the week

Monday, April 02, 2007

Failed on a new line.

As i said i gave the skiing muscles a rest and i convinced Es and Toby Keep to try this new line on the North Face of the Aig du midi. Actually it didn't take any convincing at all and phrases such as "Bring it on!" and "Lets 'av it" were heard.

However, logistics for a winter condition route in the mountains means that if we chose to walk it would have been a situation of camp 1,2,3... etc just to get to the climb. Esmond and I decided to put our plastics into out Fritshci bindings and hope for the best, Toby wisely decided to climb in his ski mountaineering boots.

Anyhow we got on a morning telefreak with out to much trouble other than the odd look from folk doing the valley blanche who wondered where we were going with such big packs. We left from the half way station and put a skiing track over to the north face. If anyone wants to go and have a go at Fil a Plomb they will find a nice track prepared for them. This route looked thin at the bottom of the crux, but i dont think that you can make it out in the pictures I'm uploading. This may fill back up with the warmer temperatures we will be having this week but it is hard to know for sure.

We got a couple of hundred metres up our route before my ice axe broke (my fault for not checking that the bolts were tight enough before we left the house). I was leading at the time but was able to down climb to my last runner and build a belay. A subsequent search couldn't find all the bits needed so i Heath-Robinson'ed it with a rock 5. We carried on and Esmond started his block of leading whilst Toby and i took the second's packs. We made pretty slow progress as the whole route was buried under up to a metre of powder in some places and the leader had to spend a lot of time clearing loose snow and rock to get up the pitches. The other bolts on my axe began to work loose and not having an allen key or any spare bolts (some thing I'll not do again) combined with the poor conditions and slow progress we abbed back to the skis and spent a night in the hut just below the freak station. We were all totally soaking and the prospect of a bivi and the likely hood of another 2 to 3 days on the face in the current conditions did not appeal. Did i mention that it started snowing as well? It wasn't a tricky decision in the end!

We were just getting cosy in the hut when Simon and Neil from Liverpool turned up after having snow-shoed into the Carrington-Rouse and very nearly got to the top when a huge spindrift avalanche came down the route and knocked Simon, who was leading, off sending him on a 10m fall at the end of which he bust his ankle up quite badly. They got them selves down the route and over to the hut where we gave them our stove and some of our copious amount of food we had left. They said the the conditions on the route were OK, more mixed than Ice and probably pretty Scottish.

I think that the Eugster direct will be in slow, laborious mixed condition also. Have a look at the photos i took of the faces and make your decisions with care.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Grand day at Grands Montets

The first day of the French Easter holidays was resplendent with powder snow from last night. We went with the hoards to Grands Montets, but actually it wasn't as busy as we were expecting. Es and i got three runs off the top bin in the company of Ross, Toby, Andy, Leanne, and several others. On the first run down to the Argentiere glacier Nigel twanged an old injury to his knee but bravely made it back round to the lifts where he spent the rest of the day sitting in the sun drinking himself better!

Our skiing legs are pretty trashed so we're going to have a couple of rest days and go climbing, the theory being that it will be different muscles.

Oh and Erik, if you are reading this, you left your gloves on the couch. Can i take them on an adventure for a couple of days?!

Friday, March 30, 2007

When in Rome

Having skied ever day and not having had room in my overstuffed bags for a spare pair of legs i took the day off and went with Neil and Ben to sample the delights of the Chamonix training crags for dry tooling. Several local activists have developed wee little steep crags in the valley specifically for training with tools. The one we went to was down the valley near Salanches behind the health spar in the gully by the side of the river. Neil led up all the routes and Ben and i tried our best to second him on them. Ben did far better than me as i got pumped and couldn't finish any of the routes without falling off several times.

It's currently mincing it down with snow in the valley so it's back to the planks tomorrow for some steep and deep.

Anyone for skiing...

Getting to the alps presented all the usual highs and lows. Highs such as 25,000 ft on the airplane and lows as when the airline lost my ski bag for 2 days. Serves me right according to Esmond who came out on the train and the bus. However, Chamonix is a wonderful place and i ran into several old friends one of whom had a spare set of skis. We all headed up to the hills looking for 'fresh tracks'. However, even Tonto would have had trouble as Chamonix hasn't has a dump of snow since before i arrived on Saturday. Climbing conditions on the Tacul gullies continue to be good and all the usual routes such as the Super Couloir, Gabarrou-Albinoni and the Modica-Noury continue to be in good condition, but the mixed routes such as Pinocchio are getting thinner and perhaps more like their 'normal' condition.

Monday, March 19, 2007

N.W. Snow...

The cold front arrived Sunday morning and the snow began to fall imediatly after giveing very little time for the turf to firm up. We had 3 inches of new snow at sea level here in Conon Bridge and there will have been lots more up high. The snow at sea level thawed today but it stayed cold up high and tonight its forecast to be very cold indeed. The exposed turf should be in good condition if you pick your route and venue carefully. I took this photo of Ben Wyvis on the drive back home from Alan Mullins' funneral and the sun made a brief appearence before the snow showers came back.

A strong party is heading into Beinn Eighe on Tuesday with their eye on a new line. Another party mentioned Foinhaven on Wednesday if conditions stay cold. Winter isn't over just yet...

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Wet and Windy

The weather has been unseasonably warm this last week or so. Turf up to the tops of the hills have been soggy and the snow has been decreasing each day. Heavy rain in the last couple of days has greatly affected the snow. Just now the new weather event is coming down from the north with extreme winds and driving rain as it's outriders. I'm not out this w/e, as i'm endeavouring to get the house a bit more weather proof before i go off to the Alps for a few weeks on Saturday. There will be a strong freeze coming starting Sunday afternoon with heavy snow to accompany it. Timings of these two events is all important, i.e. how much cold air comes before the snow falls. I don't think that there will be enough to freeze all the turf that will get buried by the snow. Choose routes with exposed turf (steep, rocky aretes preferred) or none at all. Mid week ice on the Ben will be where it's at if you can get to the bottom of the routes!

Right, back to playing with the power tools...

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The end of the winter meet

Roger and i took Dougald from Colerado and Michael from Denmark on a trip to the NW. We went into Beinn Dearg with an eye to a new line and a taste of real Scottish Winter adventure climbing. Our first objective, whilst wintery in appearance did not have very well frozen turf. We continued to assess objectives as we gained height and the turf got better but we ran out of cliff before it became really good! Dougal and i tried a new line but retreated (after spending an age finding a belay we would be happy putting body weight on) and followed Roger and Michael up Tower of Babel at IV,6 and found this to be a good choice as the difficulties are in hooking and torquing on rock. Emerald gully and the other gullies have no ice at all in them.
Photos Show Dougald on Tower of Babel

Word from the Ben was of great mixed conditions with lots of good routes getting done and some folk on new lines. Dave MacLeod, Hiroyoshi Manome and Katsutaka Yokoyama (Japan) did a new line on the Comb above the Good Groove graded VIII 8. Viv Scott and Domagoj Bojko (Dom from Croatia) did a new route VIII 8 that takes the obvious hanging chimney just left of South Sea Bubble.
Ian Parnell and Sean Isaac (Canada) also did a new line based around the VS of Last Stand on the Sioux Wall at VIII 8. This wall has seen a plethera of hard winter lines recently with winter ascents of Arther, Sioux Wall and very recently Knuckleduster by Steve Ashworth and Blair Fyffe. I was suprised to hear that Parnell beat Steve to Last Stand, but Steve likes to stay up late and rise late and we all know what the early bird gets... new lines on the Ben!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Four Seasons in One Day

Winter made an appearance on Tuesday and we had snow for a brief period down to sea level in the North West. I drove back to Glenmore Lodge and hooked up with two Latvian climbers, Jenis and Normunds. The wind was storm force in the morning so we had a late start and walked in through the now fine drizzle into Sneachda. The cloud was in but we thought the whitest bit of cliff was Fluted buttress area. We climbed an excellent 5 pitch V,5 which is not in the guide book but did show signs of passage on a couple of the pitches. Every pitch had interest and the drizzle turned to hail snow as we started climbing and the day was spent with the hood up and all the clothing on. Miraculously as i climbed the last pitch to the plateau the clouds parted, the wind died and for a brief moment the sun (almost) came out.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Beautiful Ben

The International meet went over to the Ben en mass on Monday. Teams were on Point 5, Indicator right (and maybe left), Albatross, Psychedelic Wall, Smiths, Tower Scoop, N.E Buttress, Tower Ridge, Glovers Chimney, Comb Gully, Green Gully, Slab Route on South Trident Buttress and Many others. The Mixed routes have improved massively in the last 24 hours and Steve Ashworth and partner took advantage oth this to add a new VII, as yet unnamed near Lost the Place at the top of Corrie Na Cieste. Simon Richardson and partner were also active on Breariach adding a new V,6 mixed line (unnamed at present)

I had a late start and followed the crowds up Psychedelic wall guiding Fidde, from Sweden and Jo from Belgium up it. They were full of enthusiasm for the line, thin Ben Nevis face climbing at its best and were suitable gripped even seconding, Ben Nevis ice doesn't take too many 22cm ice screws! Photo's show Indicator wall, Dougal (Colorado) and his host Des Rubens from Edinburgh who were on the line in front of us, and Fidde and Jo on the route.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Day two, could it get wetter?

Well, yes it was wetter than yesterday. Dom and i walked into Sneachda this morning and chose to head over to the Mess o Pottage. We climbed the direct start to Hidden Chimney as it streamed with water before moving up wet snow to the the top. The turf was not well frozen today in Sneachda but we avoided all greenery and used the rock. We had a lazy day but didn't feel too bad about being back at the car early as the rain came over from the west at about 2pm and just managed to get us even wetter as we walked out. Several parties were on the easy gullies which were climable but totally sodden with set snow. Other teams chose wet rock lines sans turf. It was slightly better in Lochain today and teams were on Ewan Buttress and Central Crack route. Several folk went over to the Ben today but ive not heard 'owt from them as it's still early and they are not yet back. I suspect it will have been busy though. My plan is to go over to the Ben on Monday hoping that the freeze will work its magic and have a lung buster day as i'm not climbing Tuesday.

Pictures show Dom on the direct start to Hidden chimney and at the belay above the difficulties and back at the car park suggesting the esential equipment to take winter climbing in Scotland. He's not far wrong.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Opening Day on the International Winter Meet

The conditions in the Northern Corries today where best described as character building! All the members of the winter meet went into the Corries and played about on the easy gullies and got the snorkles out for some routes. Domfrom Croatia and i did Ewan Buttress and amaxingly found well frozen turf under the slussy snow. Thinking about it this makes sense as the snow is still below freezing. We also did Central crack route which was good but went a route to far as we started up the Overseeer Direct and binned it after the first pitch as i had a waterfall running down each arm and DOm was getting hypo. Pictures show Dougal from Colerado on central crack route and another lad on Ewan buttress.
More tommorow but hopefully more of a freeze.

Friday, February 16, 2007

NW update

We've had a lot of snow loss in the past couple of days. The temp was hovering around 2 to 4 deg at my house in Conon Bridge but it's now 7 to 9 deg. The freezing level is right on the highest summits. It might be a good w/e to bag that Munro that you still have outstanding rather than ice fall climbing in the NW!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Cairngorms on Saturday

We got up early (again!) and Tanya, Olly myself and another James who is up from London, went to the Northern Cairngorms. However, we found the snow gates at Glenmore to be closed and the skiers taking their fun to the snoe slope by the gates. Olly and London James braved the driving snow and high winds and walked up the ski road before bailing out at the car part due to the terrible weather and the fact that the cliff would have been really avalanchy.

Tanya and I opted instead for a walk up Gleann Einich as it has decent tree cover for most of the way and thus kept us out of the majority of the strong winds. However, we turned around at the end off the trees then walked back around the castle in the loch.

NW conditions, new lines and repeats (Friday)

On Thursday evening Olly and i hatched a plan with Roger Webb to go to Beinn Dearg Mor, which is to the South of An Teallach. In the morning we drove passed two climbers preparing to leave their car and go into the Fannachs. As it turned out this was Gareth Hughes and Nick Carter on their way into Sgurr Na Clach Geala to climb Skyscrapper Buttress. Gareth and partner also climbed a new line on An Teallach on Wednesday.

It took us 5 hours from the car to the base of the cliff. The corrie is shown above Rogers head in one of the photos. The path was mostly well frozen except for the bit i fell in (see pic). We waded 2 rivers on the way there and another two on the way back and these were passable (in rain or thaw you can be cut off). We found a way up the cliff at about V,6 and was quite long at about 400m.

Stu MacDonald and Martin Moran went into Beinn Bhan and climbed Die Resenwand and thought it a fantastic adventure. They noted footsteps coming out off the top of The Godfather and this spiked great interest. However they belonged to Blair Fyffe and partner who abbed into the last pitch to collect Pete Benson's runners after he fell of and bust his ankle. Blair and partner also managed a new IV on Beinn Bhan that day.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

NW is best

Olly Metherell and were swithering about what to do where and with who. We played it safe and went into Beinn Dearg from Inverlael. The path is fast at the moment though watch out for ice under the snow! We chose a nice 7 pitch line which turned out to be about V,7 and gave some very good sport on a few sections. I think we'll call it Finlay's Buttress, but may change this name to Natasha's Buttress!

Pictures on the route and a shot on the way to West Buttress. It was hard to tell if the Ice Hose was connected or not. I think that Penguin was thin.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Northern Cairngorms report

First off all, apologies for the break in posts. I have been in the alps doing British Mountain Guides training courses and have had technology problems with the computer. I did have loads of conditions reports for many climbing areas in the alps but since the new snow has fallen it's probably all out of date now. Instead I'll focus on Scotland.

Yesterday i was swithering whether to risk it and go to the Fannachs after talking to Nick Carter about his day on Sgurr Nan Clach Geala. Sky Scraper Buttress was the plan but the forecast spoke of a front coming in bringing some rain. So Paul Warnock and i opted for a surer bet and went into the Loch Avon Basin in the Northern Cairngorms. We found the decent from the goat track into the Loch Avon basin caused us some concern as it was loaded with wind slab. The same is the case with the slopes above and below Hells Lum.

We found a safe way down on the true left by staying away from open slopes and going mainly on the exposed rocks. We went over to the Shelter stone and after failing on our first attempt at a new line due to Paul having a disagreement with blocks of flying granite (!) we abbed off and did a different line. The ascent was marred a little by me using a point off aid above Paul's belay on the second pitch to avoid pulling on a block that i thought might have been loose (it might have killed Paul who was directly below it). However Paul freed the move seconding and found the block was totally bomber. However, no prizes for being dead i thought at the time! if anyone wants to do the free ascent take a pair of mono points for the tiny footholds and a pair of very strong arms! We called the line Lectern after a feature at Paul's belay where he gave a sermon concerning the next pitch which went "Dearly belovered for what we are about to recieve..." . We thought about V,8 would be a good grade for it.