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.