Friday, 3 December 2010

Ice is Nice!

Yesterday Geoff an i headed up the Ben again. An early morning start had us up the the CIC hut in good time and having heard reports of good ice we headed up to Garadh Gully (II), a nice grade II snow gully late season but early season it holds 2 lovely grade III ice pitches.
On the way up for some added interest we decided to solo the burn which runs down from Corie na Ciste. This is mostly a very easy angled ice slope but has a nice steepening just before the top to keep you on your toes (or points!) The ice here was very hard and brittle. A few axe swings caused fractures a good meter or so long and there was lots of dinner plating!
Me at the top of the Corie Burn

After this we headed over to the gully where another team was already making their way up the first pitch. The ice here was much softer with some water running down it which made for some more secure feeling climbing. I lead up the 1st pitch which Geoff quickly followed and the we decided to escape via a nice exposed traverse as neither of us were feeling on top form
The team ahead on the 1st pitch
My quickdraw froze solid!

Another short but excellent day out climbing in some of the best weather i've seen in a long time!

Photos courtesy of Geoff as i forgot my camera!

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Mixed Conditions...

Today Kev and myself headed up the Ben to have a go at No. 2 gully which neither of us had done before. I think it would be fair to say that neither of us were feeling psyched on the long walk in from Torlundy but the higher we got the less we muttered and grumbled to ourselves and by the time we reached the CIC hut we were both rearing to go!
Corie Na Ciste

Conditions today were a little strange. The ground is frozen down well below the level of the CIC hut and the prolonged cold spell seems to be having somewhat of an effect on the snow pack. Over the course of the day we must have encountered every snow type known to man, from knee deep powder to bullet hard neve and everything in between!

Once on the route its self we found conditions to be just as variable with the snow pack changing in feel more times than i care to count! None the less we worked our way up the progressively steepening snow slope, passing some rather impressive ice formation. The ice pitch at the narrows looks to be slowly forming but at present was just a thin layer of water ice covering powder. The cornice proved to be small and easily avoidable.
Looking down the route just before topping out

All in all a very enjoyable day in reasonable snow and weather conditions! Sadly back to work tomorrow though!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Tower Ridge.

Today Isi, Rich and myself headed out for a days climbing on the Ben. Things have been a little milder lately so we weren't sure what we'd find but we set off anyway with a vague plan to have a look at Castle Ridge. On the walk in it quickly became clear that Castle wasn't really in condition at the moment so we set our sights on Tower Ridge instead. Rich has done Tower many times now but for Isi and myself it was a first.

The snow on approach was pretty firm and things looked promising. I lead up the 1st chimney pitch to gain the ridge its self and from there we soloed upto the end of the eastern traverse. Here Rich lead the steep section that gains the top of the great tower and we moved across to tower gap.
I lead across the gap and out the other side before we quickly soloed the remaining section of the ridge and topped out into the sun!

Condition are excellent for this early in the season! The lower snows are consolidating nicely and while things higher up are still rather soft the rock is well rimed and ice can be seen forming. Looks like we could be in for another bumper winter!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Deep in it!

We were told that today was going to be a 'self study' day at college, so naturally we all headed outdoors! Myself, Kev, Craig and Callum headed up to Corrie Nan Lochan (2nd time in less than a week for myself and Kev!) with the plan to do Dorsal Arete. The walk in was surprisingly warm but things soon cooled down once in the Corrie itself.

Once above the snowline we found one thing. Powder, and lots of it! Which made the rest of the walk in a rather grueling experience, wading through knee (occasional waist)  deep powder. Once at the base of the route we quickly geared up and made quick work of the easier lower sections, only roping up to traverse the 'Fin' which proved to be a touch more exciting than expected (it really means it when the guidebook mentions a 'steep step!')

A quick decent of Broad Gully soon had us back to the corrie floor and heading for home!
Conditions were soft but seemed fairly stable for the moment. Hopefully the next week will bring some consolidation and we'll be looking at some brilliant early season climbing!

Saturday, 13 November 2010

A day indoors!

After yesterdays foray up to Corie Nan Lochan i was feeling a little stiff (clearly not been out enough lately!) so myself and Isi decided that rather than enduring a days hill walking in some truly foul weather we'd get some training in at the Ice Factor.
We spent the afternoon practicing our dry tooling skills in the bouldering room on the routes set as training for the Scottish tooling comp this weekend. After a little practice i managed the complete circuit, minus fig4/8/13ing up the chain for the final moves!
We also took the opportunity to log some air time and practice taking lead falls to boost confidence for when on the sharp end of things. This turned out to be more fun than expected, with both climbers and belayers managing to achieve lift off!


Wednesday, 10 November 2010

First of Many!

Today Kev, Isi and myself took full advantage of the prefect weather and headed down to Glen Coe for the day to try and get in our first early season winter route before the bad weather returns.

A sweaty walk in soon had us in the midst of Corrie nan Lochan and having heard reports that it was in good nick we headed straight for Forked Gully (I/II). The turf was mostly nicely frozen with a good covering of powder and the odd icy step. The gully felt fairly steep for I/II and was probably solid II in the thin conditions. For some added interest i finished the last section up a shallow mixed groove on the left edge of the gully which proved to be an excellent mixed section of the route.

The corrie was busy today with several other parties out on various routes. Conditions are thin but theres still plenty to be done!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

A long time coming!

Well its been a while since I've updated this so i felt i'd better fill you all in!

Since my last entry there has been a LOT of rain here in the Fort! Perfect weather for ducks... and paddlers! Sadly on doctors orders im still not allowed near any white water so instead i've been making up for my complete lack of climbing over the summer with numerous trips to the Ice Factor.

I also had a days work with Ptarmigan Events guiding a group of charity walkers up the Pony track on the Ben and amazingly enough it stayed dry all day! The walk was in aid of Kidney Research UK and all the guys did fantastically. We even had some entertainment on the summit in the form of the Essex 6 piece rock  band Kings Cross who had lugged a full PA system, generator and instruments to the summit to play the 'highest gig in Britain' to raise money for charity. A short video of their performance can be found here.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Hello old friend...

The plan for today was to spend most of the day curled up recovering from my birthday celebrations last night but feeling surprisingly fresh (all things considered) i arranged to meet Graham for what would be my first time climbing on real rock since June! We headed up to Gorge Crag and G set off up a route called Conscription E1 5b. This wasn't exactly the nice easy start back to cragging i'd been hoping for and my summer of paddling and injuries really seems to have taken its toll on my climbing. After an awful lot of sweating, swearing and resting on the rope i did however make it to the top (after a fashion anyway)

I'd like to thank Graham for his patience and encouragement. Now, lets get back out there and get some more routes in before the snow arrives!


Tuesday, 5 October 2010

A day of two half's...

Last firday my self and Graham decided to take full advantage of the truly foul forecast (90mph gusts, rain and could!) and took a trip out to Creag Meagaidh as neither of us had been before.
We made our way up Creag na Cailliche ridge onto the summit, took full advantage of the conditions by practicing some Nav on the plateau before making a quick, soggy exit back to the car.

Unfortunately the trip home wasn't quite as smooth as our time on the hill and after a slightly over enthusiastic bit of cornering in the wet conditions we found ourselves well and truly in the ditch. Thankfully neither of us were hurt, although the poor car will never be the same again.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Lets Go Exploring!

For the past three days i've been shadowing Alan Halewood running a three day expedition for the 1st year students from West Highland College.

Our route took us down the Lairig Leacach near Spean Bridge, down into Glen Nevis which presented us with a river crossing of the Water of Nevis before a rough and boggy climb up to our camp for the night in Coire an Lochain, just below Sgurr Eilde Mor.

Passing the Lairig Leacach Bothy

Wet boots anyone?

An early start the next morning saw us making a soggy and sweaty accent onto the main ridge of the Mamores. The group all did excellently and quickly guided myself and Al up Na Gruagaichean, Stob Corie a' Chairn, Am Bodach and Sgurr an Lubhair before we dropped out of the cloud to make camp just above the lochan in the corrie between Sgurr an Lubhair and Stob Ban.

Nice View

No View!

A cloudy camp 2

The final day of our expedition started with a frantic dash to pack tents away before they blew away. Although much clearer and drier than the previous two days a strong northerly wind made for a chilly and very blustery climb up Stob Ban, followed by a quick run along the rest of the ridge before dropping off from Mullach Nan Coirean down to the old vitrified fort. From here a final push along the last section of the West Highland Way brought us back into town by half 2.

Which ways home again?

The guys all did brilliantly and we managed to get three great mountain days, although there may be a few stiff legs and sore feet in the pub tonight (my own included!)

Thanks Everyone!

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Two days off, two great days on the hill!

Due to a canceled hospital appointment i found myself with two days off this weekend so decided i'd better make the most of them!

On Friday myself and Sally went for a wee stroll up Aonach Mor and along to Anoach Beag before making a quick decent and catching the gondola back to the car.
Despite having been in Fort William for over two years i was yet to make it to the summit of either of these hill so it made for a lovely day out and we got to see the first snow of the year!

Today was spent with Graham Boistelle ( As we're both planing on going for our ML assessment soon we decided to take the opportunity to get a good, foul weather QMD, so we headed down to Bridge of Orchy and made short work of both Stob a' Choire Odhair and Stob Ghabhar  As it turned out the weather wasn't quite as bad as expected (we were devastated, honestly!) and it made for another throughly enjoyable day out!