Monday, July 11, 2011

Washed out from the Cullins, but happy.

Colin came back for a couple of days for a re-match on the Cullin ridge traverse. However the weather gods have a habit of laughing at the plans we make so we retreated to the mainland where we managed on the whole to dodge the showers (and flash flooding!) and find some dry multy pitch adventure climbing.
Colin was suffering from damage to his toes from running an ultra marathon the previous weekend (he takes his Cullin training seriously it seems!) and couldn't wear rock boots but heroically managed to second many HVS pitches in his trail running shoes. And this from someone who's previous rock climbing experience was just the day with me on the Cullin ridge traverse! What he will be capable of if his feet recover enough to wear tight rock boots we will see (he's coming back in a couple of weeks hoping for thirs time lucky...)

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Cullin Ridge Traverse

I have been on the Cullin Ridge on Skye attempting a traverse. The weather last week was pretty poor but it came good for us at the weekend. However it has deteriorated somewhat in the last few days with high winds and heavy rain. Fingers crossed that the summer actually makes an appearance before the winter comes; perhaps i should re activate the winter section of the site!

Friday, July 01, 2011

Time to go back to Skye

For those who keep half an eye on this blog you will wonder what has been happening lately. The short version is that i took on a short term teaching contract this spring and so haven't been up to much guiding lately.
It's now the last day of term here in the Highlands and this evening i'm heading over to Skye for a traverse and then plan on another next week, but we will see what the weather brings; Scotland is our oyster for the week and we will go where ever the weather dictates.
I'll blog early next week to report back on the conditions on the ridge.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Skye and the Cullin ridge

Well what can i say about the weather! It has been quite spectacular indeed with several inches of snow and at times near hurricane force winds. Not surprisingly the Cullins were quite over the weekend even though this is the Edinburgh bank holiday weekend and usually spare tent space in Glen Brittle is hard to come by. This weekend there was loads of space; some spaces were recently vacated by dint of tents being blown away!
Coin was on standby for a rematch of his previous 1 day traverse attempt on Sunday but we wisely postponed until a time when crampons and two sets of water proofs are not mandatory. However it must be said that Andrew and Moira managed to remain smiling on their recent ascent of the Inaccessible Pinnacle which would better be described as grade III. I'm told that the snow has mostly gone as of today (Tuesday) but there is just accumulations of pockets of hail in the hollows. What joy!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sea cliff climbing and Creag Ghlas

The weather has been decidedly moist in the hills and particularly so in the West and NW. Sea cliff climbing and low level craging in the East has been good though, even whilst the dark rain clouds have been looming close. In some ways abbing into a new sea cliff and having a poke around can be just as 'exciting' as pushing it out on a high mountain crag, but with more sunshine and often an ice cream at the end of the day. What's not to like?!
Also of note is that Creag Ghlas (home of excellent mid mountain easyish access quality multy pitch routes) is ok to climb on. I thought the Golden Eagles were nesting there this year, but it seems i was wrong and the RSPB have agreed that the nest is not in use this year so we can all go and play (when it dries out).
I'm on Skye at the end of this week and may stay for the weekend if any more work comes in. Fingers crossed for the weather.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

NW Climbing and Skye

The fine weather continues. However every silver lining has a cloud and many places are suffering from large heather and vegetation fires. Glen Torridon is quite bad at the moment and it seems that some folk on Liathach had to get choppered off as they were trapped by the fire. I don't think that it is under control yet. It has also been a busy weekend on Skye with 3 calls to the mountain rescue on Sunday. I don't have any specific details of these but it is very important at this time of year to not be too trusting of the rock as it may be loosened after the freeze thaw of the winter.
I have been dodging the heather fires and have been investigating new sea cliff venues and going back to old haunts such as Ardmair near Ullapool. Ardmair is a venue that takes no prisoners and does not suffer fools. I like to go there at the start of the rock season for a real working over. I have been climbing today at my local sport crag, Moy Rock trying the new lines that Andy Nesbit and Ian Taylor have bolted. I found two of them (both quite easy, 4+ to 5 terrain) and was pleased that one of them was a line that i had done before on a top rope and thought it would make a good bolted line. There is still a lot of scope for development at this crag and other easier lines are still waiting for ascents. It has the potential to be one of the best sport crags in the Highlands. Well done to Ian and Andy for their hard work.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Blog catch up; Ski touring and Skye

Winter ended all too suddenly for most people; it seemed like one day is was touring the Cairngorm 4000ers with clients car to car on skis to having to walk for 45mins to the snow line to baking hot temperatures calling for the rock boots to be dusted off and the skiing had became more a chore to link patches of shrinking snow.
However the silver linning is that the early spring has mean that the hills are clear of snow and climbing and scrambling at all altitudes has been a viable activity for nearly a month now.
I have got back from my first spell of the season on Skye, this time preparing for and attempting a one day traverse of the Cuillin Ridge. My client, Colin, was an Ultra Marathon runner and i don't mind saying that he was fitter than me! However he had very little scrambling experience and no rock climbing experience at all. Importantly had never been to the Cuillins before so my job really was to lead all the rock climbs and show the way on all the scrambling sections and route find (and try and keep up with him when the terrain occasionally kicked back to walking territory!)
We made excellent progress on the day of our traverse up to the point where a twisted ankle descending easy ground on the way to Bidean Dhruim nam Ramh forced us to hobble back to Glen Brittle.
The fine settled weather looks like it will be continuing for quite some time yet and the hills will probably remain very quite for some time yet; a great time to get out just now.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Nw conditions update

Just a quick update via the phone as I'm in the middle of cooking dinner for my guests. Poachers fall received several ascents today in good conditions. Showers I'd heavy warm rain on the walkin tested the faith of man y people today. The freezing level was at or just above the tops and the temp went up hits quickly during the day. My party was on An Teallch today and pretty much had the same experience as my guests except for the great ice conditions! We found pretty soggy snow and blackening buttresses in the showers.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ski touring in the Cairngorms

Today the weather was glorious: but i was working indoors.
Yesterday i took Jim and Ann on a day of introductory ski touring. We went up to the summit of Cairngorm and over to Ben Macdui and then back to the car park via Lurchers Gully. The visibility was absolutely zero all day and snow fell on a moderate to gentle wind all day (today was wall to wall sunshine and snow in contrast). We covered kick turning, avalanche awareness (we actually met the SAIS on the top of Cairngorm and had a brief chat with them also). We also looked at safe, cautious 'survival' skiing techniques for zero vis and zero contrast. Fortunately Ann and Jim are quite strong skiers and coped fine with me out in front to break up the surface of the snow and give the ground some definition.
The ski touring will now be good for several weeks and the time for the big 4000ers tour is now as the snow settles down, visibility is good and there is deep snow on all parts of the Cairngorms. Sadly i'm working indoors till the weekend.
Here are some pictures of the zero vis for what they are worth and some shots from earlier in the week in Glen Torridon area.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Nw conditions update

First off apogies for the break in blogging; the conditions as I'm sure many of you knew were quite poor in the nw and whilst the easy gullies in the cairngorms and the ice routes (and crowds) on Ben Nevis have been ok I re-arranged much of my remaining winter work for this season I to the future as no one really likes going for a soggy hillwalk.
However the nw conditions have come good again. Conditions on Beinn Eighe are really good with the stormy snowfalls riming much of the steep ground up. Ice is growing again on liathach and a team was on a thin poachers fall today. I don't know how they faired on the last corner pitch which can be challenging in thin conditions.
In fact pretty much all the steep nw mixed climbing venues are back into condition. He exposed turf up high is ok, but the buried stuff isn't great; if your route requires lots of well frozen turf it may be worth either waiting a while of having a back up plan.
What we haven't had much of is good visability in the last few days. I will try and show a picture of the snow level in torridon from today if I can find my camera later.
I'm ski touring in the Northern Cairngorms tomorrow and I'm hoping to chase down that very elusive thing known as "blue sky" but may have to settle for some blue sky thinking instead.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Northern Corries Climbing

With the rising freezing level for the west and NW predicted for Tuesday we decided to opt for the safe bet (and crowds) of the Northern Corries. We weren't disappointed and went over to a busy Fiachall buttress in Sneachda. It was somewhat of a novelty for my team to experience queues on routes but we moved into pole position on Fiacaill Coulior and pulled away making a very fast ascent in the excellent conditions.
The weather has changed today, akin to switching on the hair dryer. The easy gullies will easily survive but if there is heavy warm rain it will do great damage to buttress routes.
My client this weekend has cancelled at short notice, so on the off chance anyone needs a guide this weekend get in touch.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sgorr Ruadh

Another good day in the NW; the cloud hovered at the summits in the morning and lifted in the afternoon to reveal great views north and south. There was very little wind on the tops today and the turf was excellent on the crag making for excellent mixed climbing conditions at all grades.
The line i climbed on Beinn Dearg near Ullapool on Saturday wasn't new as i thought at the time but was a second ascent. No Falls Road, IV,5 was climbed in 2008 by John MacKenzie and Neil Wilson, both of whom i know. One test of a quality line is is it the natural way to go and i pretty much followed their line all the way, just doing it in fewer pitches as i was on 60m ropes.
I've done several mixed buttress climbs on Beinn Dearg now and they have all been of very high quality and been very adventurous making it a very good mixed venue.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

An Teallach

Today I was on An Teallach and on occasion sported my sunglasses, something I havent done for quite a while this season. The walk in and out was very speedy as the snow line was near the base of the cliff. However the cliffs themselves were blooted with snow. We went up lords gully and took the harder left branch which was steep ice and tricky for iii. We then turned left and traversed the ridge. A loverly day all in all.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Beinn Dearg Cold Climbs and New Lines

Today i went into Beinn Dearg with the mandate to tick some cold climbs. I started up Emerald gully but didn't find the snow very well frozen so we abbed down from the crux pitch. We salvaged the day by climbing a new line that i had hoped would be a IV and it came in at about IV,5 and 300m which kept on giving till a very abrupt top out. The Calluna based turf was excellent (botanism is a key winter skill!)
A party went up to try Penguin Gully i think but came down from the base after about half an hour from what i could see. It was climbed midweek though apparently.
The weather was great today and the inital high winds and fresh snow fall on the walk in turned into calm sunny blue skies, which i'm told will continue tomorrow.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Cairngorms and NW. Learning to lead.

The weather was pretty wild earlier in the week in the Cairngorms (see video). We were on ridges and stayed away from gullies and open lee slopes, other than to dig snow packs and look at the snow profiles. Visability was pretty poor in the Gorms at the beginning of the week and then on Wednesday in the nw. I have been on Liathach also this week and thought it icy, but visibility was only 10 to 20m so i didn't see any of the major lines so can't say for sure. Beinn Eighe is in good wintry nick. There were some suspect slopes on north facing slopes which i studiously avoided with my team. The guys did really well; Ben had never worn crampons before and Andy had only ever top roped in a climbing wall and by the end of their time with me they were leading independently on Grade 1 gullies.
The weather was still and sunny on Thursday after a very cloudy start and today was reasonable but i have been based in Inverness today.
I'm most probably NW based for the next few days and will be going to several different venues. I'll try and report what i see.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Northern corries ski touring and climbing

I was supposed to be out on a day ski tour today but it was cancelled late last night (food poisoning!). As i was already packed i had bit of a busman's holiday and went out on my own anyway. I headed into Sneachda and noted only one party making their way up towards Pygmy Ridge after having ascended something on the lower buttress. One party braved the approach slopes up to Fiachalle Buttress, others abbed into things like the Seam, Belhaven and Short Circuit and climbed back out. Reasonable climbing but not much gear seemed to be the concessus from the parties i spoke to that topped out. I skied over to the top of Hells Lum but times this with the afternoon strong wind and heavy snow fall so didn't see any thing of the Loch Avon basin i'm afraid. People o spoke to in the car park at the end of the day reported two parties ice climbing around the Kiwi Gully area on Hells Lum and the Chancer possibly being in. Sticil face was they said very good looking.
I had my first day on my new Black Crow Navis 186 super fat powder skis today. I must admit that when i pointed them down hill for the first time i was sure i heard a bugle in the distance and only just resisted the urge to shout 'Charge!'. They handled the snow very well (choppy snow with zero vis and a total white out making for challenging conditions) and ploughed right through it.
Very nasty snow noted in all gully exits on Sneachda routes today. It needs a bit of a thaw then a freeze to stabilize them.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

NW conditions update

It has been a stormy time on occassion since i last posted; we have gone from next to no snow in many places back to a healthy cover level in pretty much all the high winter climbing venues (although i can't comment on Applecross as i haven't been there). There is more snow the more inland you go from the Ullapool coast; the Fannaichs have much more than Assynt for instance. There will be dangerous accumulations in many locations due to the strong winds and people should look out for this in places such as the approach to Sgurr nan Clach Geala where i have backed of a couple of times over the years due to doubts about the snow. It has been quite cloudy of late but today saw an afternoon of brilliant sunshine after low cloud had hung about the hills.
I'm going to be pretty busy for the next while but will try and keep on top of the blog and perhaps even get round to updating the main site and the Ski touring section.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Performance winter climbing

Last week the conditions in the NW were quite disapointing. There was some snow left in the easy gullies and on the ridges but a lot had been washed away with the warm rain.
This weekend just gone i was with Ruth in the Northern Cairngorms with the mandate to 'explore the techniques required for technical 6 and 7 climbing'. On Saturday we climbed a very icy Savage slit; the ice in the cracks made for good climbing but poor gear and hid a lot of the placements. Ruth cruised it on the second no bother!
On Sunday i thought better of attempting Fall Out Corner as i was concerned about the possible lack of gear so instead we made a plan to have a big day on a technical route in the Loch Avon Basin.
However, all thoughts of this were literally blown away as we were nearly blown over walking into Sneachda and saw a lot of evidence of windslab being deposited on the North facing lee aspects of which the Goat Track is a prime candidate. Indeed it was gratifying to find out later that several other strong parties came to the same conclusion. Instead we made out way over to Stirling Bomber in deteriorating weather that made looking upwards or even having your eyes open when climbing quite a challenge. Then as if by magic the wind dropped and blue skies appeared and with amazing timing this coincided with Ruth Starting to second the crux pitches, which again she found no difficulty with. I'm wondering now what technical 8's to suggest she does!
Also of note from saturday was a quick ascent of the technical War and Peace by Andy A and Helen R and a busy Loch Avon Basin with an Ascent of the Citadel by an unknown party and very speedy ascent of the Needle (not sure which way) by Nick Bullock and Andy Houseman, who probably could have done laps on it by the sound of things.
We are about to have a prolonged period of 'bad' weather with snow/rain/hail fluctuating temperatures and strong winds. whilst this is going on it won't be too much fun in the hills, but it will be good, particularly for the NW where i saw this morning the new snow level was a shade below 600m in places. I'm going to be away from the hills till at least the middle of next week, so applogies in advance for the pause in reports.

Friday, January 28, 2011

General conditions update

Thankfully the freezing level came down below the summits on Tuesday evening (Tuesday was a double water proof day on the hill and my boots took two days to dry!). It was hovering around Munro height when I was out last weekend in the northern cairngorms and the snow in the easy gullies was good and the snow under ski for touring was also but the visibility was terrible on Sunday and I had my fill of White out skiing.
The snow was firm on An Teallach on thursday but there had been significant snow loss since last Wednesday.
Last night it froze down to sea level and we had fresh snowfall in the Fannaichs and Strathconon bringing the mixed routes back in I would guess.
I'm in the cairngorms this weekend and possibly the nw next week so I will try and be more blog friendly as it is easy to slack off when busy.
Right, better go firewod doesn't chop itself to quote she who must be obeyed.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

An Teallach and New Routes

The freezing level has been hovering about above and near to munro level till Tuesday where it finally lowered in the NW. Monday and Tuesday gave new snowfall to the hills and they now look wintery again. The snow is thicker and a bit lower over the Fannachs and Ben Wyvis than the west coast side of the NW.
The turf was frozen on the summits but had thawed out below that, however things are better now with the night time valley temperatures going below freezing. There is talk of a temperature inversion but i haven't seen it yet.
An Teallach has been quiet. A part was in before me at the weekend in Hayfork gully where the snow low down was soft and laborious but firm and good at the upper half of the gully. Conditions were better in Glas Tholl than Tholl and Lochain. The pictures show Martin Hind and Owen Samuals on a very nice looking new VI on Hayfork gully wall. Martin did tell me the name but i must apologise and say i have forgotten what he said (something to do with the feeding of horses?). I was on grade 1 ridges and gullies for most of the time but managed a short new III,5.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Ice Climbing on Beinn Bhan

Yesterday i was quite surprised when driving in the early morning to Beinn Bhan on the Aplecross peninsular to find 4 inches of fresh snow on the road. Quite a lot of new snow fell on Saturday night but walking in to the corries wasn't to bad at all. Plan A was to be Silver Tear, but it was not there yet, Plan B was to go into the Giants wall corrie but we had concerns about the upper slopes that were to the lee of the wind so we went for the fall back option of March Hare's Gully which topped straight out on the ridge. There was some windslab in the upper section of the gully and we exited rightwards up broken rocky ground just to be sure.
I hope to be out this week again before the big thaw comes at the end of the week. Fingers crossed for the re-freeze.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Northern Cairngorms Climbing

Today was a lovely, sunny if bitterly cold (-10c on top) day. The wind has moved round to the West / NW and continued to move lots of snow about, some more of which fell last night. One of the photos shows a slab being wind eroded from a North aspect but as there is still a lot of dodgy snow on the North aspects then this bad slab will be a problem for a while. It failed when i lightly touched it (the foot imprint at the side was gently pressed in for scale). The other picture shows the top of a due East facing slope that was loaded and ready to go. You should be able to make out the amount of snow blowing around in the picture. We did climb (a new line) on an East aspect but abbed down one side of a ridge and climbed back up the other. The snow on the crag apron was not as bad as the upper gullies and exits which were very nasty looking.
I saw dodgy snow on all aspects that i went on North, East and West (didn't go on anything south facing, but had a text from a very experienced pair who told me they backed off descending down a south facing slope into the Loch Avon basin). So in summary, careful route choice and travel are called for.
The climbing conditions were excellent though once on the crag, fantastic turf helpful ice in the corners and cracks (enough to climb on) and well rimed rocks. No pictures of the climbing though as i took my 'good' camera which isnt at all waterproof.
The weather people talk of a bit of a thaw coming which will be very good to help stabilise the pack i think.
I'm going to go on a low angled, lazy family ski tour on Saturday and it will involve lots of hot chocolate and cake i'm hoping.