Monday, 26 January 2009

Wales Winter Conditions - Cwm Idwal

I was working for Ogwen Cottage today, facilitating a GCSE mountain walking module. In the afternoon we ventured up into Cwm Idwal where there was a clear view of the snow from about 500m upwards. There also appeared to be a little avalanche debris at the back of Cwm Cneifion. No ice had formed but with the fluctuation in temperatures I guess the easier gullies will be forming.

Scotland Winter Conditions - Avalanches & Ben Lawers

Back on Friday I went out with Blair as he prepared the forecast for the SAIS (Scottish Avalanche Info Service). We dug a pit up on Aonach Mor and assessed the snow as we descended down to the base of the Nid. It was interesting to see the forecasting process and learn more about the complexities of snow.
On Saturday I went out to do some skills with my (slightly sick) partner Sarah along with Dave and Joe. We ventured onto the slopes of Ben Lawers where we found snow from around 400m, though much of it soft.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Scotland Winter Conditions - Cairngorms

Back into Sneachda today to avoid the rain/snow/wind in the West. I went up to climb with Lee (now driving a fiesta courtesy car) deciding to give Salvation (V, 7) a try. After Lee did a great job of pulling through steep overlap, on pitch 2, he discovered thin climbing and no protection and understandably decided to give it a miss. I decided I didn't want to face the same predicament either and so we went up Patey's Route instead. This route is given IV, 5 with icy conditions, but with no ice the steeper sections were a little more entertaining. We abseiled off after the hard climbing to avoid the still unstable snow slopes that are about.
The turf is now well frozen but the crags are hidden under soft snow and significant windslab is forming (it didn't quite rain at all levels last night).

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Scotland Winter Conditions - Cairngorms

After playing van skating (and bumper cars with a wall) on the drive over, from Fort William to Aviemore, I eventually arrived at the Cairngorm ski car park. With Lee looking after his broken van I teamed up with Rocio and Dave and climbed Belhaven (V, 6) - which has a good 50m top pitch of sustained interest.
There wasn't as much snow as the west, and what we discovered was much more compact making for an easy approach. All the turf was well frozen, though most cracks were hidden beneath soft snow. It is due to warm a little overnight with freezing levels drop by mid-morning, which will only help to consolidate the snowpack.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Scotland Winter Conditions - Glen Coe

Today I battled up to the Lochan with Kenny and Lee, wading through knee deep snow at times. We eventually made it to the foot of Central Buttress to climb Central Grooves. This is a classic VII, 7 route but hard especially with the snowy, icy conditions (difficult to find gear and axe placements). Lee lead the first pitch, Kenny the second and then we decided that was enough for one day, otherwise we wouldn't finish until after dark. Both pitches were steep and pumpy.
On the way down the snow was a lot wetter and it felt that the freezing level had risen to 800/900m. Tomorrow it is set to drop to 600m with a frost overnight - hopefully helping to consolidate the existing soft snow.

Scotland Winter Conditions - Ben Nevis

Yesterday I went up the North West Face Route on the Douglas Boulder, Ben Nevis with Ian. We chose this route due to ease of access, avoiding any avalanche prone slopes as it was category 4. By the time we reached the top of 'the boulder' it was close to 300m of climbing, we some hard moves on the main 50m chimney pitch - mainly due to little ice, soft snow and unhelpful rock.
On the descent we decided to abseil down the grade 1 gully as it was loaded with a lot of snow.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Scotland Winter Conditions - Snow!

Unfortunately I couldn't get out today as I had a meeting, though it would of been hard going as a lot of snow fell last night - almost down to Fort William. The Nevis ski range was open today and Tom and Julie reported lots of powder drifts in between older frozen snow. A healthy wind blew all day creating windslab and a category 4 has been issued, so careful route choice is vital.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Scotland Winter Conditions - Glencoe

Today I went up into the Lochan with Lee, just up from Wales. The overnight precipitation (falling as snow high up) fortunately stopped as we arrived in the car park, producing a mainly calm day.
We jumped on Tilt (VI, 7), which has a lot of good climbing on. Snow had plastered the whole crag and the turf on the top half of the route was frozen. Unfortunately I discovered it wasn't quite so well frozen lower down as my axes unexpectedly ripped and I found myself 15ft lower.
We were just finishing the last pitch when the storm arrived firing snow pellets into our faces and blowing us around at will. By the time we made it back to the car park we were drenched through and struggling against the wind even in the car park.
With all the snow falling, loading the slopes, all the gullies were releasing lots of slough avalanches. I also heard of avalanches releasing on Aonach Mor and the Ben, so keep clear of them gullies.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Scotland Winter Conditions - Ben Nevis

I went up to Ben Nevis today to shadow Mike from Abacus Mountaineering. We climbed up on No. 3 Gully Buttress, finding good neve in places and climable ice. In the afternoon the wind and spindrift increased making for an unpleasant but exhilarating exit onto the plateau.
A frozen crust had formed over the the wet snow from yesterday, stabilising the pack. However with the fresh snow being blown onto Northerly aspects, and more being forecast, the SAIS have forecast considerable avalanche risk at category 3.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Scotland River Levels - Roy Gorge

With a turn in the weather, to wet and wild, I took the opportunity to go paddling. We kayaked the Roy Gorge, a classic grade 3/4 section, at medium to high levels. It was the first time I had been on the river since the grade 5, headbanger, had disappeared. There used to be a large section of cliff overhanging above the water, requiring the paddler to duck to avoid hitting their head.
Sorry about the quality of pictures they all turned out to be a little hazy today.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Scotland Winter Conditions - Caving in the Mountains

Today Paul and I made the steep 2 hour walk into Church Door Buttress, Glencoe. We climbed the interesting Crypt route. It takes a few excursions into the cliff itself over the first 3 pitches, requiring the ability to crawl through tight squeezes and wriggle up chimneys. The last two pitches, above an impressive arch, follow Raeburns Chimney - originally climbed in socks to loud cheers when completed back in the day.
The ground was much more frozen today after a slight frost, with the turf providing much better placements than yesterday. On the descent windslab had formed on Northerly aspects but with good neve below.
Unfortunately with the wet and warm weather tomorrow much of the fresh snow, which had dropped to 500m by the evening, may dissappear. Winter Mountaineering Courses

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Scotland Winter Conditions - Winter Reforms

Yesterday I went with Alan Kimber and clients up No. 3 gully and down No. 4 on the Ben. The crags were wet but the freezing level was slowly dropping throughout the day. A steady wet snow fell through most of the day.
Today Kath and I went up to the Lochan in Glencoe to climb Scabbard Chimney (V, 6). We discovered that the wet snow had frozen but so had the wet crags, choking the cracks with ice and hampering the placement of protection. As we left it started to snow down to 600m.
Paul, Tom and Julie (with whom I'm living with outside Fort William for the season) climbed Green Gully on the Ben. Apparently it was a bit like slush puppy until the last 50 to 100m. A good freeze tonight and cold temperatures will sort that out.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Welsh Winter - Idwal Ice

I took my Dad and partner Sarah up into Cwm Idwal today to sample the ice and swing some tools. We ventured over to variety of frozen rivers between Devils Kitchen and Y Garn, which provided a mixture of pitches from grade II to a couple of short pitches at III/IV. Fun was had by all!
Unfortunatly rivers had started to form down the ice falls by the afternoon, and with warmer temperatures tomorrow I fear everything is going to be a little slushy. Not all is bad though as Scotland looks like it will get a good dump of snow tomorrow and falling temperatures on Monday, so if your interested in winter mountaineering up North email me -
Winter Mountaineering Courses

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Welsh Winter - New Route on Clogwyn Ddu

Mark on the crux pitch of The Rutt VI-7, new route on Clogwyn Ddu

Another cold day meant another day walking up to Cwm Cneifion to make the most of the conditions. I was climbing with Mark again, sharing pitches up the (now classic) El Mancho VII 7 - which proved to be worth the hype.
In the afternoon we added two pitches above Clogwyn Central, keeping to the arete instead of returning to the gully. My pitch went at about grade 5 and another of 7. The final hard pitch was thin for both feet and axes but Mark pulled it off, somehow.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Welsh Winter - 2nd FA of Blenderhead. VII 8

Mark on the second free ascent of Blenderhead VII 8
Mark and I went up to Clogwyn Ddu today to sample its mixed delights. There are a mixture of routes over the buttress all of which can be viewed here:
Mark cranked hard to make a 2nd free ascent of Blenderhead. The crux involved torquing and laybacking up a steep groove, which was strenuous even as a second.
The turf is still well frozen, even though it felt a little warmer today. Hopefully more action tomorrow.
Winter Mountaineering Courses

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Welsh Winter - New Routes on Glyder Fach

Today I went up to the North Face of Glyder Fach with Baggy. Back in November Baggy had spotted some new route potential (along with many other lines he has earmarked) and with the ground well frozen at all levels the turfy/mixed routes proved to be in good condition.
We climbed 2 new routes at about IV, 5 and a winter ascent of Square Chimney Buttress at V, 5 adding a new start. All were good climbs, well worth repeating.
On the walk-in we noticed that the ice was fattening up at the back of Idwal with more than a couple of parties enjoying the numerous routes that are in condition.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

New Year in Scotland

I have just returned from a fun New Year in the far North, staying in the hamlet of Oldshoremore near Cape Wrath. The stable weather provided 7 days of blue skies and light winds, though the temperature rarely rose above 2 celcius.

There was little in the way of winter this far North, except for heavy frosts in the Glens. There was however plenty of rock climbing with a variety of single pitch crags on gneiss and sandstone, including the sea cliffs of Sheigra. These were 30m in length, steep but with jugs galore (also the name of a 3 star HVS route). The stack of Am Bauchile was close by, just an 1hr 15 min walk-in. Climbing the 50m VS was the easy bit of the day.

For water-lovers North Scotland recieves exceptional surf. We spent 3 days on the North coast at a variety of breaks on clean 4-6ft surf. My newly repaired surf kayak was happy to show off its speed, I'm sure the others were jealous in their slower plastic boats!