Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Strathconon Ice

Sam, Myles and i went up Strathconon today to try some more of the low level ice. We didn't get up the intended new line as there wasn't as much ice as i was hoping for (the hills were quite dry before the freeze came) and at an altitude of 400m or so was significantly warmer. I was a few metres shy of easier ground when i bottled it and reversed the climb as the ice wasn't good enough to lower off.

Instead in the late afternoon we went to climb "the Strathconon experience" which is a rarely formed ice line in a big stream coming off the hillside It faces NW and at an altitude of about 150m it was a perfect choice for the temp inversion (NH 274 510 and page 383 in the Northern Highlands Central guide. This still has a lot of water running on each of the steep sections but was very good to climb. It had 4 steep sections with sections of walking inbetween on top of the frozen stream bed hoping not to fall into the deep pools! Picture above is of the first pitch, video below is of the last pitch.

It was only -4c last night in Conon Bridge as the cloud rolled in and prevented the temp dipping. It should be another cold one tonight though. I'm planning on a nice we walk tomorrow until the bad man who will be banging on the inside of my skull goes away.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

NW update

Ive been poking about looking at some low level places these past few days, with overnight temps of -7c this past two nights and -4c on Saturday night the more unusual low level venues are worth a look.

I went for a walk up Ben Wyvis today with family and friends. The temp inversion is present but it isn't super strong as it is totally frozen up top. However there is no snow and only patchy old cover on ridges and shaded slopes in the NW. Have a look at the video and photo which shows the hills from the Fannachs to An Teallach.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas and NY conditions

Season greetings to you all!

I hope Santa brought you some nice shinny axes to play in the snow with. The temperature inversion began last night, although i suspect it is not yet very strong. There is snow in the easy gullies is the Cairngorms and conditions in them are great. The buttress climbs are still quite dry though and that situation is matched in the NW.

I'm working hard on the new website at the moment and hope to get it launched within 2 weeks. I am quite challenged with the technology, but Geoff is doing amazing job at talking me through it. If you need to get in touch to discuss some dates for guiding or instruction before it goes live, give me an email on

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Northern Corries report

Had a day out with Martin today in Lochain. Sneachda was totally black of the bits we saw. Lochain was a bit better but there is nothing on No1, No2 was better with a party on one of the IV's there and only bits of No3 and 4 were ok. We climbed bulgy which was very verglassed and choaked in the off width with unhelpful snow and ice which needed to be cleared to get round the roofs. All the cracks were verglassed but there was no rime to speak off. It doesn't look like this will change for the next few days.
A Kinlochleven party climbed y gully right hand and the snow in the gullies was a joy to climb. We walked down the coliour which has filled in nicely and didn't find any slab in the corrie that could cause concern.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Loch Avon conditions and a New Route

Phil Ashby and I went in to the Loch Avon basin yesterday hoping to climb ice. I thought that Cascade right and left would be fat but they proved not to be. It looks like they were fatter a couple of days ago but have been eaten by the sun. There was water running behind the falls. They may improve over the next few days though with cold temperatures and cloudy days.

Instead we climbed a probable new line on Stag Rocks, an as yet unnamed IV,6 120m line. It had 3 steep sections, two of which were vertical for short sections (see pictures above).

There wasn't much ice in Sneachda, but Alladin's Mirror direct is forming up and could probably be climbed by the brave. It should continue to grow in the next few days. We didn't see any ice on Sticil face unfortunately and after a pleasant lunch climbed the best but of ice on Hell's Lum based on Brimstone grooves but it was a bit more V than IV at the moment as it wasn't very thick in a few places but should get thicker in the next few days also. The Chancer isn't there yet.

Another party of 3 climbed the grade III Hells Lum and did very well to swim the cornice by the looks of things.

Have a look at the videos below.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Still lots to do in the NW

I went with Roger today to a crag on the side of Slioch just over loch Marie. It was 1 degree at the car park and a gentle thaw occured today but it then began to freeze hard again as the sun went down. We climbed a new route, grade unsure could be a contender for a III,6.
The good conditions look to be lasting well into the weekend.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Strathconon Conditions

Went for a walk yesterday up one of my local glens to check out the conditions. Picture is of the hills above Strathconon. There is snow down to valley level, exposed turf is great but buried isn't. No surprise there really. More snow fell today. The low level ice falls weren't there yet, it is predicted to be -8 here tonight so they could be good on Wednesday.

8 inches of snow at Achnasheen today made getting about a bit of an issue. Friends are heading into the NW hills tomorrow, I'm heading out on Thursday hopefully into a trail that they have waded for me!

Monday, December 01, 2008

NW is best (as usual)

James Gordon, Gareth Hughes and I braved the 4 hr walk into Atlantic wall on Slioch. It was -6 when we left the car park at 6am and +1 when we got back (much later).

We swithered around the crag for quite a while deciding what to climb and in the end plumped for Skyline Highway. This is based on a summer HVS and was spicy in places for VI,7. We found that the difficulties depended upon what brand of ice axe you had; I longed for my old Simond Piranhas that could have torqued with the hammer and the adze through the crux no bother!

It snowed heavily for several hours so we missed out on seeing the fantastic views. The turf was pretty good. We opted to abb into the gully on the right side of the crag from the top of Skyline Highway but had to leave the ropes behind when they unaccountably wouldn't pull. If anyone finds them before we go back we'd appreciate them back!
It looks like the conditions will stay good for several days with frozen ground and snow down to 200m lots of things will get done.

Friday, November 28, 2008

NW weather

The cold front arrived late last night and snow fell down to a couple of hundred metres. It was -2 this morning and is +2 just now at sea level.
Friends are climbing on the Eastern Ramparts of Beinn Eighe today (they rang at 9.30 as they got to the corrie and realised that they had forgotten to pack the guidebook!) so i should get a fair idea of what's what from them this evening.
I'm free from Sunday onwards at the moment and it is looking like the cold spell will last till at least Thursday. Get in touch for some last minute guiding, it's looking like the best start to the winter in several years.

***Stop Press***
Further to the Beinn Eighe two story! It seems they are on a new route and are one pitch from the top but not sure where to go! They rang my friend Roger as they were probably too embarassed to ring me back, but Roger rang me anyway. I feel a micky taking text building...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tuesday in the Cairngorms

Went out today hoping to get into the Loch Avon Basin but Pete's sore knee meant that we opted for an easier day In Sneachda. The corrie had a few parties in it looking into the gloom for routes such ad Fingers Ridge and Pygmy Ridge but the cloud was down all day adding to the rime on the cliffs.

We started up a route on Fiachaell Buttress but found really really thick riming which meant the line we wanted might have been too dangerous as the gear cracks were very verglassed and buried under a foot of rime.

We backed off and did the route Fiachaell Buttress and then the Escapologist (and discovered that the final corner really does need ice if it is to be climbed at the guidebook grade)
The thaw that was heading over from the west came at about 2pm and a fine drizzle fell as we walked home.

If the thaw is not accompanied by rain then there should be lots of ice on the crags when it freezes again. This will make some lines really scary and some really easy. The crux is to find out which line is in which category!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Saturday on the Shelter Stone

We went over to the Loch Avon and found snow down to the loch. The descent down Corie Dohain was fine, the North wind had transported a lot of snow over to it but it was easy to pick out a line down it to avoid the wind slab.
Carn Etchecan was well rimed up and in great condition, Shelter stone less so. The Needle etc wasn't there yet on Saturday. The turf was excellent, it had been very saturated before the big freeze came. Nick, Sam and i opted for a short day and combined Postern with the finish of Clach Dian Chimney so we could get back in time for a dinner party. On Sunday we all recovered with a walk in the snow which fell down to sea level here in Conon Bridge. Reports today from the Cairngorms spoke of a wild minging day! I enjoyed my lie in bed this morning.
It's looking good for the next few days, i hope to get out in the N.W at some stage (if i finish the underfloor heating!)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Northern Corries report

Well, the Cairngorm summit temp data wasn't that promising yesterday with the temp hovering around zero. Unfortunately it stopped transmititng for some unknown reason last night (it still seems to be off line) so as i'm generally an optimist Roger and i went for a look. He wasn't as optimistic as i was (more realist!) and we weren't really in a rush. It was 6 deg when we left the ski car park at 11.15 this morning and it was either as warm or warmer in the corrie which was shrouded in damp mist, thus preventing any real temp gradient with height.

There is snow in many of the gullies and when it re-freezes they should provide good sport on neve. There is some ice growing and if the thaw is short and not accompanied by heavy rain several routes should have ice in the corners which the old school will love and the new school hate!

We didn't do any climbing and went for a coffee. Note that when we looked back to the corries on the walk out they looked significantly blacker an hour later (we had lunch behind a boulder) as a fine drizzle was falling.
Sunday may be OK for the easy gullies and selected mixed climbs but i'm not sure how much riming on the steep routes will occur on Saturday.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

3rd ascent of 'The Secret' Ben Nevis

Just heard from one of the first ascensionists that 'The Secret' high up in Corie Na Cieste on Ben Nevis has received its 3rd ascent from Blair Fyffe and Tony Stone, with Tony cruising the big pitch.
What an awesome start to the winter!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Northern Corries Report

Well, i couldn't pesuade Martin Hind (Harpic) to get out of bed early and so left the ski car park at 10am and walked into Sneachda. Heavy deep snow on the walk in but ok in the well established trail.

We thought about doing a few things but the crags were very buried and so just chose to do Belhaven on Fiechale Buttress. Many other routes were done such as the Seam, Invernookie, lots of parties on Fingers ridge and Pygmy ridge, the haston line and the Message. Basically you can see the dots in the images and the Movie bellow. Savage slit had an ascent and was freshly 'hoovered' as was Deep Throat. No sign of an ascent of Fall out Corner though. One brave party was making a mixed ascent of the ice line Patey's route.

Special mention must go to Dave Kerr and partner who left the crowds behind and headed over to an excellent looking Carn Etchechan to make a fast ascent of Guillotine.

The temp went up and then down today. The deep turf on ledges is poor but exposed turf is great. Sunday should be good, then it will be a case of watch the forecast (summit data from the Cairngorm weather station is worth watching). I'm off to North Wales for a few days unfortunately

Friday, October 31, 2008

First report of the winter

Time for this blog to come out of Estivation.

Ok, winter is here in Scotland. This is the best early spell for many years with many areas in good condition, although good route and venue choice are still key.

Lots of reports from the Usual Suspects in the Northern Cairngorms, so I'll gloss over these and talk about the N.W.

Roger Webb and i went into the Flowerdale Forest area south of Loch Maree to an un-named crag about 3.5hrs from the road.

We climbed two new routes, a 130m IV,5 and a more spicy 140m V,6, both as yet un-named.
As Roger said from the top we were able to 'see some of the more remote crags' (!!?) and assess the conditions. Slioch looked good, the Triple Buttress area and Far East Wall on Beinn Eighe didn't look as good. This was confirmed by Viv Scott and Steve Ashworth who climbed a new and as yet un-named VII,8 on the pillar right of Pension Plan on the Fuselage Wall of Beinn Eighe which was the best wintry bit of the crag and was well hored up.

The good conditions may last in some places till the weekend and i may get out on Saturday if i can convince someone to get up at 4am!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Although this blog is dormant at the moment till i finish the web site later this year, i'll make use of it just now to show the pictures of the rock fall from Thursday evening the 5th June. The rock fall was in the vicinity of Terms of enderment and other routes to the right of Paty's Route in Corie an Sneachda in the norther corries.

On the whole i'd say that the area is probably a tad safer now. We both shivered at the thought of some eary season young winter guns jumping on when it wasn't properly frozen as it went last night with barely a touch.