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!