Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Bumbly Two

Well, my time in Applecrossis rapidly coming to an end and i'm back off down to Fort William for hopefully bigger and brighter things (which hopefully involve a lot more work, a lot more climbing and a lot less sitting around waiting!).

So today Chris and myself decided to make the most of the nice weather (not seen that for a while!) and headed out for an afternoon climb. We aimed for a route called Bumbly Two,  VS4b** which according to the guidebook has excellent, delicate, sustained but poorly protected climbing. Unfortunately this wasn't really what we found. While the route was certainly not terrible it was extremely broken, with far more heather bashing and gardening that actual climbing. There were a few very nice sections of clean, sound rock which gave lovely climbing but these were few and far between. It also seemed a little over graded. HS4b is perhaps nearer the mark?
Saying this we did unfortunately have to miss the final pitch and escape off to the side for a quick getaway as Chris had to be back for work. This looked like it would give some nice climbing for 20m or so but again was considerably more vegetated than we would have liked.
Chris on one of the nicer sections!

The Heather in full bloom!

Me at the 3rd Belay

Still, despite the slightly disappointing route it was nice to be back on the rock after a rather long break!

Friday, 17 June 2011

Sword of Gideon.

Yesterday myself and Chris still didn't have any work so after a late night the night before we decided on an alpine start and to have a crack at a route we've both had our eyes on for a while now. Sword of Gideon is a 4 pitch, 3 star, VS 4c and was supposed to have some of the most immaculate rock in the area! So with this in mind we left at the crack of noon... ok well probably closer to 1pm but still! Unfortunately rather than take the normal approach from the road directly below the climb we decided to make a longer day of it and park at the top of the pass, follow the ridge down then descend to the climb. This was all going fairly well until we go to an awkward down climb in one of the descent gullies. We'd only taken one pack between us to save the leader carrying anything on the climb and it was my turn to carry it. Feeling slightly uneasy with the downclimb with the big pack i had a brain-storm! 'I know, i'll just drop it a meter or so onto that grassy flattening... Perhaps not by best idea... About 200m later it finally stopped bouncing and cartwheeling down the gully when it careered into a boulder filed and came to an abrupt stop. Thankfully we'd taken my rucsac (a POD Black Ice) which was lovingly made in Sheffield and can take anything you could throw at it! From its ordeal all it shows was a muddy smear on the front and a tiny pinprick hole on one side. (lets see your Berghaus Arete do that! lol ) Unfortunately my Sigg didn't come off so well and despite still being watertight is probably about half the volume it was at the beginning of the day! And as for Chris' tangerine... well lets just say it wasn't pretty!

So perhaps not the best start to the day, made worse by the onset of increasingly persistent showers but we pressed onto the bottom of the climb, kitted up and the heaviest shower yet started just as Chris began the 1st pitch! Pitch one involves a short vertical wall (only about 4-5 meters) and then scrambling along easy ground to the base of the climb proper. Seconding him up this i began to have serious doubts about leading this in the rain as the sloping ledges of this pitch were sodden. Arriving at the belay however i was pleasantly surprised to find that the headwall was steep enough to have dodged the showers completely! And even better the sun was coming out! Result!

Looking up Pitch 2

Feeling a lot happier geared up for my lead (the crux of the route, a 15m 4c crack) and set off up the beautiful, rough sandstone cliff. The gear was good, the holds even better! Lovely! A brief moment spent convincing myself to commit to a few thinner mover to better holds and a delicate traverse and the belay! Not quite the luxury belay ledges we had on the Cioch, more a small foot square of flat rock to perch on but all good! Chris follows me up, cursing the rucsac that seems determined to drag him backwards off the crag but still manages to second it in good style.

Just past the crux

Swapping lead and gear He makes quick work of the 3rd pitch and then its my turn to swear at the rucsac whilst seconding.
Chris finding good gear on P3

 From here we unroped and soloed the final easy pitch over broken ground before heading to the crest of the ridge and back to the car in beautiful sunshine!

Another great day and another classic route!
End of the day!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Cioch Nose at last!

Today myself and Chris had a day off from our hectic work schedule... Oh if only! Actually its been rather quiet on the Applecross peninsula this last week or so which has meant very little work and a lot of waiting around! So today me and Chris took advantage of the fine weather (which made a nice change!) and headed for the Cioch Nose, a classic four star Severe.

The weather was clear and warm, with a slight breeze to keep the midgies away. We parked at the top of the pass and headed to the radio mast before dropping into the corrie and along to the foot of the climb itself. Chris took the 1st pitch up a large flake with some interesting moves, to the belay from where i took over for pitch 2.
Chris on P1

Here i lead up a shallow and somewhat awkward chimney to a 'magnificent ledge' where we belayed. Chris took the next pitch which makes beautifully exposed moves over a huge drop to the corrie floor. The holds and gear are both good and we were soon at the last belay.
Whatever you do don't look down! (view down P3)

Here i lead up the final pitch of broken ground to the top of the Cioch itself.
What do you mean stop mucking around?!

Its possible to escape from here back to the corrie floor via a south facing gully which looks decidedly unappealing. We opted to continue along the ridge, which involved  a rather intimidating looking scramble up a steep broken headwall to a final pitch of Vdiff followed some fine scrambling and awkward downward steps before returning back to the mast at the top of the pass and a short walk down to the car. This last section was surprisingly good and reminded me of a mini Aonach Eagach and made for an excellent day out!

Monday, 6 June 2011

Back to work!

After several weeks of relative inactivity I've finally packed up and left Fort William for the time being! I'm now based up on the remote peninsula of Applecross working for Mountain and Sea Guides. The weather so far has been pretty variable but generally better than its been over the last month or so. I've been keeping myself busy running sea kayaking sessions in and around Applecross Bay and down the surrounding coast lines and working behind the bar on the local campsite in the evenings. I'll try to get some photos over the next few days as last year i failed completely to get even a single one, but most probably will only update the blog once a week or so to save too much repetition.
Today i was running the morning session for a full day course (2 of the participants are with us for a full 5 days) and look to have the afternoon off for now.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Secretaries Super Direct & Precious Cargo

On Thursday myself and G headed up Glen Nevis after work. I had my eye on a route called Secretaries Super Direct HVS 4c,5a*** This was my first HVS lead of the year, and only my second HVS lead at all. G jumped on the 1st pitch (4c) and cruised up it without even thinking. This psyched me up nicely for getting on the lead on the crux pitch. This is a beautiful slab with some very delicate climbing and some rather spaced out gear. The difficulties start as soon as you leave the belay, with a high step over a ledge to get off the ground. From here it was delicate footwork and small hand holds for some way to reach the next ledge. From here it eased off, with the holds getting bigger and the gear more closely spaced. A lovely route which deserves over one of its 3 stars.
Me on the Crux (photo by G)

After this we headed down to Scimitar Buttress where G has been working a route called Precious Cargo (E5 6a*). We slung a toprope down it and G jumped on to see how it was feeling. After a few practices, working the harder moves and scoping out the gear (1 size 0 cam 9m up!) he decided he'd better get on the lead before it got too dark. He made smooth work out of the route, making it look easy! There was 1 heart in the mouth moment when a foot popped just before he clipped the gear at 9m but he quickly composed himself, clipped the gear and got it done! Good work fella!
I had a wee play on the route and got most of the moves sussed before by fingers finally gave out halfway through the final crux. Nice route but don't think i'll be leading it for a while yet!

Monday, 18 April 2011

Sunshine on Phantom

Today myself, Kev and Hue headed back up the Glen for a quick few hours climbing as the weather was so nice.
Kev was wanting to get on the lead on something a little trickier and i was hoping to get another VS tick in so the best option seemed to be combining Pandora (Severe) and Phantom Slab (VS).
These were both new routes to us all which was nice for a change! Kev lead up the 1st two pitches of Pandora which involved an easy slab climb on the 1st pitch and a slightly trickier, very exposed 2nd pitch to gain a good belay ledge.
Kev leaving the 1st belay

From here i took the lead, heading up Phantom Slab. This gave beautiful, delicate slab climbing in a nicely exposed setting, with enough gear on it to stop it being overly worrying.
Phantom Slab

To finish the day off Hue lead us up Pinnacle Ridge (Severe)
Hue on Pinnacle Ridge

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Back to basics

On Saturday myself and Nick headed up the Glen after work to have a play about. Nick is a pretty experienced climber but hasn't done much outdoors so the evening was largely spent going over the basics of placing anchors, rigging different belay setups and such like. To get things going i lead up Pinnacle Ridge (Severe), explaining the principles behind the different belay setups used as we climbed before heading back down to ground level to let Nick have a go at setting things up himself.

He picked it all up surprisingly quickly and was soon looking pretty slick with a lot of the setups. Hopefully most of it sticks!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

All Things Equal? Musings on Equalising Anchor Systems...

Last night i managed to get myself into a discussion about the usefulness of a piece of climbing equipment know as an Alpine Equalizer which is made by the American company Trango (demo video from Trango here). Simply put the Alpine Equalizer (AE) allows a climber to quickly equalise a 3 point anchor system at a belay stance. Its potential advantage over conventional belay set ups is that it allows for dynamic equalisation between anchors, meaning that if a climber should fall in a direction the belay is not rigged for then the AE automatically readjusts the lengths of each leg to equalise the belay and distribute the forces between each anchor as evenly as possible.

 All very nice but the major flaw i see in this design is that the only way to make each anchor point independent, and thus remove the possibility of shock loading the whole system should 1 anchor fail is to clove hitch the sling to each anchor, which means it can no longer readjust the equalisation and acts in the same way as the set up would if rigged with a standard sling.

At first I dismissed the AE as a useful piece of equipment for these reasons but some of the points brought up in the discussion made me begin to question this, so i did a little research of my own. From the day i started climbing i was taught, as i'm sure most people were that anchors for a belay should be Independent, Equalised and at the right angle (i.e under 90degrees) but some of the reading i've done is making me question this.

Its particularly the Equalised part which i'm questioning. Not so much the need for all your anchors to be equalised but the best way to do this. For equalising 3 anchors using a sling my first reaction would be to link all three anchors with a long sling, bring all the arms together and tie an overhand (Fig. 1). This gives independent anchors and i always assumed fairly evenly equalised ones.
Fig. 1
A lot of the reading i've done however suggests that this system doesn't distribute the load to the 3 anchors nearly as evenly as you might think. Indeed a report entitled 'Multi-Point Pre-Equalised Anchor Systems' (available here) shows that the forces on the center arm of this set up will be almost double that of either of the side anchors. Unfortunately the copy of this article i have is read only so i cannot copy their results into here but they're easy enough to find in the article.

Their findings also suggest that the length of each arm of the sling is inversely proportional to the forces exerted on it. E.g. if the middle leg in Fig. 1 was shortened to half its length, the forces exerted on it compared to the side anchors would double. I've attempted to demonstrate this in Fig. 2 but i'm not sure how clear i've made it. Imagen the side anchors are in solid rock set back from the belay and the yellow sling represents another piece of rock protruding between them, thus the middle leg is considerably shorted... Make sense?

Fig. 2

So if the usual systems used by climbers don't actually equalise the anchors nearly as well as we though then is it time to consider a new approach? Perhaps.

A report titled 'A Look at Load-Distributing and Load-Sharing Anchor Systems' published in 2007 looked at this (available here), studying the load distribution between different Load Distributing (Alpine Equaliser style setups) and Load Sharing (normal setups as shown above) setups and the forces experienced when one leg of the system should fail. Their results are interesting to say the least. They experimented with 7 different load distributing setups, using different materials and rigs and one standard load sharing setup.

Their results show that the different materials used to rig the load distributing anchors have a great impact on how evenly the forces are distributed between the anchors.For load testing onto all three anchors, seemingly the less friction there is in the system the more evenly a load distributing anchor will spread the forces. The systems which used higher friction materials such as 1" nylon tubular webbing result in significantly higher forces being exerted on the center anchor than either of the side anchors. Slicker materials seem to be able to very nearly evenly distribute the force, although a slightly higher force is always exerted on the center anchor.
The Load Sharing anchor on the other hand, experiences higher forces on the center anchor than all but the highest friction Load Distributing systems. Fig.3 is, as far as i can tell, the Load Distributing setup used in this report, although the diagrams a a little hard to decipher so it may not be an exact replica. Mine in made using 5mm dynamic chord.

The conclusions which can be drawn form this are that if rigging a belay with 3 or more questionable anchors then, while it seems impossible to truly equalise them in the real world, a Load Distributing setup as shown above could almost certainly distribute the load most evenly, thus reducing the chances of any one anchor failing.

Fig.4 & 5 show another 2 options for Load Distributing belay setups.
Fig. 4


Fig.4 is my attempt at creating a Load Distributing setup which would minimise the shock load on the other anchors should one fail. In practice if the center anchor fails then a very small shock load results but if either of the side anchors fail you are still left with a large shock load as the system readjusts.
Fig.5 is essentially a home made Alpine Equaliser. 2 crabs could also be used (one for either strand of the sling in the center) which might reduce friction in the system. Using a DMM Revolver style crab would also help.

Coming back to the original point however, none of these systems manage to create a belay which is both equalised and independent, meaning while they reduce the chances of any of the anchors failing if one does, the rest of the system is shock loaded.
'A Look at Load-Distributing and Load-Sharing Anchor Systems' explores what exactly happens should this situation arise.

Obviously the Load Sharing system comes out of this study best as no shock load occurs when one anchor fail and the force is shared fairly evenly between the other 2 anchors. The results for the Load Distributing systems is more interesting however.

When one of the side anchors failed all of the Load Distributing anchors experienced high Maximum Arrest Forces and poor equalisation, i.e larger forces are transfered onto one of the two remaining anchors. Interestingly it seems to be the higher friction systems which equalise worst under normal circumstances which equalise best when a side anchor rips.
When the center anchors rips the forces are shared far more evenly between the remaining 2 anchors but the Load Distributing anchors still experience much higher forces than the Load Sharing system.

My Conclusions?
It seems to me that you have three options.
1) use a Load Sharing anchor system, knowing that it will most probably exert disproportionate loads through some of your anchors but also that should one anchor fail it will exert the least force on the remaining anchors. It is however, worth remembering that when setting up a Load Sharing system that keeping the length of each leg of the system equal will help to minimise the differences in force being exerted on the anchors.

2) use a low friction Load Distributing system to truly distribute the forces as evenly as possible and thus minimise the possibility of any one anchor failing but accept that if one does your other anchors will be subjected to greater forces than if any other system were used.

3) use a high friction Load Distributing system. This will share the loads between anchors better than a  Load Sharing system but not as well as a low friction Load Distributing system. Its will also exert more even forces on the remaining anchors should one anchor fail than a low friction Load Distributing system but still subject them to a much greater force than if a Load Sharing system was used.

So which system should be used where? As with so many things in climbing i think there are too many variables to really come up with a defiant answer for this. It each system has its pros and cons and argument could be made for and against each on a number of situation.

Thoughts on setting up low and high friction Load Distributing systems:

DISLAIMER: This part is largely based on my own experiences and a healthy chunk of guess work.

It seems to me that the most important factors influencing the total friction of a Load Distributing systems will be the material used to join the anchors and the crabs used. This of course excludes the idea of adding additional equipment such as fig8s for simplicity of setup.
From the results it appears that thiner, slicker materials create less friction. As such i would imagen that narrow dyneema slings or webbing would be best for reducing friction and wider, stiffer sling (nylon tubing for example) would create a higher friction system.
As for the crabs i would assume that large diamiter, round topped crabs would cause less friction, or even better a DMM Revolver with integrated pully. While conversly smaller crabs which would result in sharper angles being crated in the webbing should produce a higher friction system.

For some more reading Will Gadd has a few thoughts on it as well which are worth reading. These can be found herehere and here.

These are my personal opinions on the matter based on what i have found through a little research. If anyone has any comments on anything i have said please feel free to say. Also if anyone has come across anything along related lines please let me know! Every days a school day after all!

Monday, 11 April 2011

'Sunshine on a rainy day!'

The forecast for yesterday was for the weather to start off ok but quickly turning to low cloud and showers. Despite this Nick, Lou and myself optimistically headed up Glen Nevis to see what we could get done before the rain hit. Luckily for us the forecast turned out to be a little pessimistic and we had perfect blue skies, sunshine and a light breeze all day!

For a nice start to the day Lou lead up Three Pines (severe), a lovely route with some rather interesting moves under a roof to gain a ledge. Fun climbing on good gear!
Lou on the awkward start of Three Pines

 Myself and Nick then followed her up before moving up to South West Crag. Here i lead up Tear (HS) which is a lovely line but somewhat spoilt by being extremely polished by the number of Outward Bound groups which use it

Nick Loving it on Tear!

After this Lou lead up Resurrection (VS), one of the finest routes in the glen, before i lead up Damnation (VS)

Just before the delicate, balancey crux of Resurrection 

Another great day out with lovely weather, rounded off by a nice walk round Cow Hill before the rain finally hit about 9pm!

Friday, 8 April 2011

'All by myself...'

This evening i was expecting to be working in the Lime Tree but got a text just before i was due to start saying it was dead so not to bother coming in. This suddenly left me with an entire evening free and nothing to do! Seeing as i'd been stuck in work all day already, staring green eyed at everyone strolling along the High Street, enjoying the sunshine i decided i was going out to do something. I fancied heading up the glen for a climb but a few quick calls and texts confirmed that everyone else was either busy or too tired after a long day on the sun baked rock already! No matter, i headed up the glen anyway, hoping to spot someone i knew's car and join them, sadly the only people who's car i recognised was Isi who was just packing up as i pulled up, having been out since about half 10.
Well i hadn't come this far to just go home again so i dumped the rope and rack in the car and headed up with the intention of soloing something easy then heading home. 6 or 7 routes later i decided that the daylight was running out so i'd better call it a day!
I managed to climb:
Three Pines Variation (VDiff)
Tykes Climb (VDiff)
The Gutter (Diff)
Quartz Wall (Diff)
Styx Right Wall (VDiff)
Pinnacle Ridge (Severe) &
Upper Pinnacle (Diff/VDiff)

Just before the roof on Three Pines

2 climbers packing up after Pine Wall. Taken from P1 of the Gutter

Scimitar Ridge, from the top of Styx Right Wall

I've climbed all of these before but only done a few as solos so it was an interesting experience. Now its time to relax with a glass of wine and let my arms recover! Hopefully i'll be back out climbing on Sunday if the weather holds.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Busy in the Glen!

Today we were all meant to be in class all day giving presentations but unfortunately out tutor couldn't make it. So rather than heading back to the library we headed up Glen Nevis to make the most of the good weather. I headed up with Kev  with vague plans to meet Jamie, Lee, Graham and Craig.

Me and Kev headed up to Pinnacle Crag and climbed Staircase, then moved onto the last pitch of Pinnacle Ridge (severe) as a nice warm up route, then moved upto Styx Buttress. Hear i lead up one of the finest routes in the glen, Resurrection VS***

Near the top of Resurrection  

After this the weather looked to be closing in a little so we decided to head back to the car but en route ran into Lee helping out with an Outdoor Active group, chatted for a while then decided to have a play on Repton Buttress. I soloed Tykes climb (VDiff) while Kev tried out some bouldering problems.

The weather was still holding but we decided to head down anyway but this time we ran into Connor and Jamie on Pinnacle Buttress. We slung a bottom rope down Chalky wall E4 6a and had a bash at it. To my great surprise i managed to finish the route (as far as our rope would allow anyway) although with quite a few rests. Definitely one to work on and try to link up next time.
Kev busting a move on the awkward start of Chalky Wall

While the others all had a go i soloed up the 1st pitch of Pinnacle Ridge (severe), then we all packed up and finally managed to run away!

There were also a good number of larger groups out today with Outdoor Active running an intensive SPA training course on Upper Pinnacle and a few Outward groups on Pine Wall Crag and South West Buttress, showing off their shiny new jackets!

Lets play spot the instructor!

A much better day than giving presentations!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Rock On!

Yesterday was probably the 1st proper day of summer here in Lochaber! Blue skies, sunshine and t-shirts! Unfortunately i was stuck inside studying but when Graham asked if i fancied an evening on rock i jumped at the chance. G had is eyes on Plague of Blazes E2 5b*** but unfortunately the route was still damp from the rain the night before so we headed back down the glen to Dundee Buttress. Here i lead Promises HS 4b**. A nice line i've done before, which made a nice intro back into this rock climbing business after the winter break. Once done G lead Dundee Weaver HVS 5a*, another route i did last year (to date my only HVS lead actually) but another very enjoyable one with a good crux. Finally G soloed The Old Wall VS 4b*** while i played photographer.

Great to get back on the rock but i'm still hoping to get a few more winter routes in before it all disappears!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Back on the water.

Yesterday was another college day out with Matt to look at bio-mechanics in adventure sports. This weeks activity was kayaking. The morning was spent in the Mallaig swimming pool recording footage of different styles and techniques of rolls and braces before moving to Loch Eil Outward Bound to enjoy the glorious sun and get some footage of forward paddling and turning strokes in a variety of crafts. Next week will be spent analysing the footage from yesterday.

On a different note there is still plenty of snow around Lochaber and the conditions up at Nevis Range are said to be brilliant!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Another Overdue update!

CIC Hut!

Last Sunday and Monday Isi, Graham and myself managed to book ourselves into the CIC hut at the last minute. This is the first time any of us have stayed in the hut. Isi and i walked into the hut on Sunday morning, grumbling about the weight of our packs the whole way! We dumped our overnight kit at the hut, stopped for a quick breather and then headed into Corie na Ciste. We were planning to do Green Gully but with heavy cloud cover and perhaps a little less attention being paid to where we were that was wise we ended up climbing North Gully after finding the base of Green then foolishly paying attention to others around us telling us we were in the wrong place! It still turned out to be a nice route however and we took an alternative finish to it which went at about grade III.
Graham walked in and joined us for Sunday night and on Morning we headed back up in to the Corie 1st thing. Once again we headed for Green Gully but were beaten to it by another team who were also staying in the hut and a rather rude chap who rushed past us about 100m from the base of the route, muttering about having a train to catch, and began rigging a belay while his partner (a good few hundred meters behind us) caught up with him. Feeling a little put out by this we decided that rather than wait below him we would climb No. 3 Gully Buttress and come back to Green Gully if we had time. This is a route that i had done earlier in the season but we did an alternate finish to it so i was yet to experience the true final pitch! This involves an exposed traverse, which in the thin conditions we found involved some rather technical dry tooling which we all agreed felt far harder than grade III! Good effort to Graham on the lead!
Tuesday turned out to be a write off with a heavy dump of frash snow overnight and extremely strong winds so we packed our bags and walked out in the morning.

Cairngorm Snow Holing
Yesterday and today i have been over in the Cairngorms shadowing Mike Arkley running a snow holing expedition. It was meant to be a 3 day trip but due to a massive dump of snow (1 foot in 24hrs in the Fort and even more in Aviemore!) day 1 was scrapped with the group having a days cross country skiing instead. I joined them for day 2 and 3. We walked up to the Plateau via the Fiacailli Ridge and headed for Corie Domhain. While the wind wasn't too strong the cloud was thick and we were in white-out condition the entire time we were on the Plateau. This gave an excellent opportunity for teaching and practicing some micro navigation to find the bivi site. Here we excavated an existing snow hole and settled in for the night. The next morning the conditions were very similar to the day before although the visibility was a little better. We looked at some basic movement skills on snow covered ground, axe arrests and basic rope work skills for steeper ground before making to long slog out of the Corie, breaking trail in knee deep powder. Some more nav practice on the way out and we were soon heading down through the ski slopes.
Another excellent 2 days which i learned a lot from.

Tomorrow i'm out paddling with the college.

Sunday, 27 February 2011


Yesterday we were paddling around Glen Uig. The weather was quite a contrast to the day before, with blue skies, sunshine, a light breeze and only the occasional shower passing over. We looked at some basic skill in the bay before setting off for a trip round the coast. On the way we stopped off pretty frequently to play in amongst the rock, finding some very fun little passages and practicing timing the swells to get though them. Great fun although at one point Callum did misjudge it slightly and ended up suspended on 2 rocks, about a foot above the water! (sorry Matt but there may be a few new scratches on some of the college boats!)
After this we headed back to the bay to demonstrate our rescue skill before calling it quits for the day.

Today was our final day of our 3 star and we were out Loch Eil Outward Bound. The only thing left for us to cover was map/ chart reading and navigation. After a quick session in the classroom discussing the differences between OS maps and marine charts we set off for a short journey to show off our skills. We headed down the narrows to Corpach, picking out features and points on the way before a quick lunch stop to enjoy the sun then back to the boat shed.
At this point Claire told Callum and myself we had both passed so we headed off and left Keith and Joseph practicing their rolls (the only part of the assessment they still needed to complete). Hopefully they've both managed to nail it!

Friday, 25 February 2011

In at the deep end!

Today i've bee out with Claire Knifton on the first day of my 3star sea kayak training and assessment. This is the first time i've been out in a sea boat since the summer (6 months ago!) so needless to say i was a little rusty to get going! We headed out to Lochilort hoping to get a decent length sea trip in for the 1st day as a nice introduction back into it all! Instead we got a rather challenging day in some interesting conditions!

We had a nice trip up the shoreline to the Peanmeanach bothy heading straight into the wind, eddy hopping to stay out of the wind as best we can. The conditions were challenging for a 3 star. Force 5 winds and some big swell breaking round the headlands. This made for some great surf on the return trip!

Before finishing for the day we had a quick look at hanging draws and Callum and myself got out rolls out of the way early!

Back out again tomorrow.

Back to School.

Ok, so once again i've been a little tardy with updating this thing but we're back now! Last Friday i was out with the college. Matt and Matt took us all to the Ben to look at the bio mechanics of moving on steep ice. We headed to an area known as the Gulch. There was some steep single pitch ice which was perfect for practicing and analsying different movement styles. We also had a look at some 'ice bouldering' games and coaching tips for improving footwork.

This made for a nice short day out. Hopefully i'll get the chance to get back out climbing soon the recent freeze thaw should leave some excellent conditions high up.

Monday, 14 February 2011

New Toys!

Today me and Gwilym headed up to Nevis Range. The original plan had been to do some ski mountaineering, climb something on the West face then ski back down from the summit but with all the fresh powder and rather worrying avalanche reports we decided to just have a day up the slopes. The conditions on the higher runs were excellent with good powder over a solid base, although lower down was a little bare.
The highlight of the day for me was that i finally got to test out my new ski setup which i've been gradually putting together for the last few months, and i can happily report that they performed excellently!

Unfortunately there was a bit of a downer to the day when i watched Harry, who i did my BCU level 1 with had a bit of a disagreement with a rock. Me and Gwilym helped out as best we could until he was stretchered off the hill with a suspected broken leg. Hopefully he makes a quick recovery and is back on the hill by the end of the season!

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Busy Busy!

Time for another long overdue update!

Nevis Range
Its been a busy week! Kev and myself headed up to Nevis Range on Monday for some rock dodging and grass skiing! While the snow was a little thin there was some nice powder on a few of the runs and dodging the big icy patches is what skiing in Scotland is all about isn't it? The weather was rather wild as well with some pretty fierce winds and whiteout conditions most of the day! Apparently skiing blind is just as hard as you'd imagen it to be! A good day non the less!

Aonach Mor West Face
Tuesday saw me and Kev back on Aonach Mor, this time for some climbing! Conditions weren't too bad, although they weren't exactly great. There was a fair bit of fresh snow and not all the turf was fully frozen. Plan A was to do Western Rib II/III which i had tried last season and backed off of after the 1st pitch as Paddy who i was climbing with was feeling a little rough around the edges! Sadly the second attempt didn't go much better! From the bottom of the buttress i lead up a short but pretty steep icy corned which felt at least III4 of not harder! Topping out of this i found very thinly iced slabs with no worthwhile gear to be seen! After a while faffing around trying to decide the best route i decided i probably wasn't where i was supposed to be and lower (very gently!) off a slightly suspect looking ice thread!
Deciding to leave Western Rib for another time (again!) we headed for Gendarme Ridge II with the intention of soloing it to the top. Unfortunately this didn't go to plan either! About 3/4 of the way up we opted for the steep, direct route up the buttress rather than the easy ramp to its right. Near the top of this, after some rather stiff climbing for a II on semi frozen turf i hit a bit of a stopper! A steep powder covered corner. I really didn't like the look of soloing this and just as i thought this a few meters below me Kev asked if this would be an awkward moment to ask for a rope. As it turns out it was! In my infinite wisdom i had stripped off my harness etc at the bottom of Western Rib so ended up dancing on a very small, insecure feeling, sloping ledge trying to put a harness back on and flake the rope out. After a few cheek clenching minutes we were back on the ball and decided that today clearly just wasn't our day and rather than carry on we abbed of an insitu nut and descended the gully at the side of the ridge.
Sadly this wasn't the end of our day! We now had 45 minutes to make it back along the valley and up to the gondola station from the bottom of Gendarme, before the last gondola! After legging it back we both collapsed into the gondola feeling very tired and with seconds to spare!
Not our finest day!

Thursday however proved to be a much more successful day! Craig, G, Jamie and myself headed over to the Cairngorms in the hope of finding good conditions and we weren't disappointed! We left the car park at the ski center and made the short walk in to Corie an t'Sneachda. This is the 1st time i've climbed in the Gorms and the novelty of a short, almost flat walk in didn't go unappreciated! In the Corie we split up and me and Craig headed over to the bottom of Invernookie, a three star grade III4. The route its self turned out to be brilliant. We soloed the 1st pitch, set up a belay and Craig lead up the 2nd pitch to a big corner. From here i lead a steep wee corner, then up a short chimney on good hooks to a cave belay. Here Craig led the final pitch. A short traverse then a shallow snow chimney to top out into the glorious sunshine!
A lazy walk around the top of the corie, enjoying the views and stopping to chat with other teams then down through the ski center brought us back to the car park in good time! Brilliant day out!

The 1st corner
Catching some rays!
Craig just after topping out

Monday, 31 January 2011

Run Away!

After Thursday's near perfect weather today was a bit of a contrast! I headed for the Ben again with Nick with the intention of doing a nice easy route to introduce Nick to the world of roped winter climbing, sadly the weather had other plans! The walk in was damp, windy and cold, and thing didn't get any better higher up!
Once in the corie its self we headed for No. 2 gully, unfortunately there had been a considerable amount more fresh snow than expected and the snow pack didn't feel too stable. A quick excavation near the base of the gully revealed about an inch of fresh windslab sitting on about 6 inches of firmer crust which didn't appear to be attached to anything at all! In fact the entire slab (about 7 inches thick) fell away before i had even finished digging! Not very confidence inspiring at all!

We had a quick look for Raeburns Easy Route but with very poor visibility, an unstable snowpack, worsening weather conditions and numerous powder avalanches pouring down from above we decided to cut out losses and made a quick retreat!

On the way back we ran into numerous other teams who were all doing exactly the same as ourselves.

So as to not completely waste the day i took Nick back to the same small ice pitch i had played around on on Thursday and we looked at the basics of climbing technique, axe/ foot placements etc. The weather lower down was much more settled and it turned into a pleasant, sociable afternoon when we were joined by Ross and Emma (fresh back from the MCOS Norway ice trip!) who we had discussed conditions with around No.2.

Garadh Gully:

On Thursday we took full advantage of the perfect conditions and i headed for the Ben with Craig and Jamie. The original plan had been to run up Garadh Gully and then do Glovers Chimney but after a false start due to dropped head torch, long approach involving soloing grade II ground with 1 axe and no crampons, and thin conditions on the approach route and another team beating us to it we decided to leave Glovers for another day!

The 'approach'

Garadh Gully its self turned out to be a very enjoyable route in its own right. We moved together for the 1st pitch (avoiding the dodgey looking detached ice step at the very start) then set up a belay for pitch 2. This is supposed to have a simple grade II ice step but unfortunately there was very little ice on it so it turned out to be more of a grade III mixed step on very thinly ices rock, good fun though!

The belay above pitch 2

Craig took the lead for pitch 3 and Jamie finished it all off for us by running it out on pitch 4. Not bad going considering the guidebook has it marked as a 95m route ( we managed to run out near enough 200m of rope on it!)

Team ahead on P2 of Glovers

From here we descended back down the corrie, stopping to play on a few short ice pitches on route before walking out. Another lovely day out!
Jamie having a play!

Sorry about the photo quality! Had the camera on the wrong setting!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

SC Gully and Dorsal Arete:

On Sunday I headed down to Stob Corie nan Lochan in Glen Coe with Graham, Craig and Lee. We had an early start but were still beaten to the carpark by a surprising number of cars. With a good pace up the track however we made it to the crags before they got too busy.
Graham had been hoping to do Ordinary Route but unfortunetly we were beaten to it and as it didn't look in great nick we all headed for SC Gully.
This proved to be rather thin and felt sporting for the grade (especially when accidentaly trying to do the grade IV variation). The bottom Ice pitch was think, cruddy and poorly protected. The steep, right trending ice step that starts pitch 2 was not fully formed and very think so instead we made a short steep mixed step just above the ice to gain the ramp.  From here the snow was good and we quickly finished the route.

While waiting for Craig and Lee to finish Graham and myself descended Broad Gully then soloed Dorsal Arete before dropping drown Broad again to meet the others. I'll definitely have to go back and try SC again in better conditions.

Another long day out but a very enjoyable one.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Swimming Lessons:

Yesterday Craig, Graham and myself went to have a look whats been going on on the Ben. The initial idea was to try Glovers Chimney but with the recent heavy snow fall and high avalanche risk we walked into Corie na Ciste with a very open mind, hoping to find something that would be safe to climb.
A quick look at Glovers showed worryingly large amounts of avalanche debris at the base of it so instead we headed for No. 3 Gully Buttress (III).  The approach was somewhat dubious, crossing large areas of windslab and eventually after literally swimming up the final part of the approach in waist deep powder we reached to bottom of the first pitch.

We climbed the route in 4 long pitches with myself taking the 1st icefall pitch, Craig taking the 2nd traverse pitch, G taking the 3rd traverse pitch with the steep rocky step and myself finishing up the final pitch. I think we may have gone slightly off route on the final pitch. Rather than making an exposed step and finishing up snow ramp we took a steep line directly above this, up a short but steep corned.

On the decent we stopped to have a quick chat with Paddy Cave who had just completed Andy Tunrer's route The Secret IX9. Congratulations to him! Great work

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Wet and Wild on CMD

Last night i got a text from Nick asking if i fancied doing something today. Having already seen the forecast my first thought was 'not a chance mate!' but after a quick bit of thought i decided that i've been far too lucky with my days out this season so i'd better go punish myself a little to appease the weather gods! After the heavy snowfall of the last day or two we decided not to go for a climb today so instead headed for the CMD arete which neither of us had done under winter conditions yet. As predicted the day turned out to be a real belter! Almost constant rain upto the summit of Carn Beag Derag, 50mph winds, snow, hail, spindrift and whiteout for the rest! Add to that the foot or so of fresh, soggy, sticky snow covering everything and it made for a real adventure of a day! GREAT FUN!

New Routing on Aonach Mor West Face?

On Sunday Geoff, Phil and myself went for a look at the West Face of Aonach Mor. We were joined by another Phil and Ann, members of the Polldubh club. Geoff and Phil who had been up a few days previous wanted to go try Gully 3, a III/IV on the left end of the face before the main ridges are reached. Unfortunately the lower ice pitches of Gully 3 hadn't faired very well with the recent thaw so instead we went for the gully directly left of gully 3. This doesn't appear be in the guidebook and may or may not be a new route. Either way it have two lovely grade III 4 ice pitches before turning into a pleasant, if rather long snow gully. The weather was warm but still and fairly clear and we all enjoyed a lovely sociable days climbing.
Me at the top of P1
Phil hot on Phil's heels on P2

Photos courtesy of Geoff Hewit.