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.