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.