Friday, 29 January 2010

No. 4 Gully, Ben Nevis

Yesterday, between myself and Dave, we took a Jagged Globe team of 6 clients up No. 4 Gully on the Ben.

A dryish day, there had been a little bit of damp snow overnight, but the forecasted blizzards didn't arrive until the evening. The old snow had frozen up making walking easy, with just a little fresh snow enabling steps to be kicked. Teams were out on Point Five, Green, Ledge Route and North Gully, though there was a bit of spindrift about making climbing difficult in places.

No views from the plateau today, but a nice slide down Red Burn.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Lochan, Glen Coe

The last two days I have been up to the Lochan in Glen Coe with Jagged Globe. Both times I was looking at snow anchors, though with different clients.

Yesterday we made an ascent of Broad Gully, but the same snow was very soft this morning with a little bit of overnight debris evident. So today we used the East-facing walls on the West side of the corrie, which provided us with much harder snow. Upon completion of our our bucket digging roped ascent we summited then descended the NE ridge - a grand excursion!

Now need to go to bed a little earlier now to cope with the 0745 meetings.

Monday, 25 January 2010

White Corries

Today I was working for Jagged Globe on the first day of an Introduction to Winter Mountaineering. We went to the Glen Coe ski area which provides quick access to snow and ice.

On the mountain a range of neve, windslab and ice was found providing good conditions to go through a range of axe, crampon and boot skills. The munro was also bagged on a generally pleasant and dry day.

We found the snow to be very stable over most of the mountain, with only the occasional small pocket of windslab.

Other teams reported good neve on the cliffs in the Lochan. With a sudden rise in temperature followed by some cold temperatures things can only improve further.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Ben Nevis, Compression Crack

A mainly sunny and calm day on the Ben today. Frosty this morning creating the main danger of the day - black ice on the drive over. The snow has started to harden with many slopes now turning into neve.

We picked a line up one of the cascades below Carn Derag this morning. There are a variety of possibilities from grade 3 to 5, all in good shape.

Next we wandered over to the obvious ice on Compression Crack which was fat. The higher icy chimney also provided some great moves, though not so easy when an isolated spin drift avalanche is pouring onto your head!

We stayed hoped for the upper easy slopes as they were a bit loaded in isolated sections with various layers within the pack.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Shelf Route, Buachaille Etive Mor

A high avalanche warning last night made think hard about possible venues for today. It was forecast to snow most of the evening with strong Southerly winds creating windslab. On waking up though I noticed the temperatures had been warm with freezing levels above the summits, so most of precipitation had been rain or wet snow higher up.

We opted for Shelf route which proved to be a fun mixed route with some nice positions, especially topping out on Crowberry Tower. There was also a 35m ice pitch on the way up to Crowberry basin to start things off, at around grade III.

The snow felt stable, and beginning to re-freeze on the upper slopes. We were also able to descend into the corrie providing a quick descent.

The turf is still frozen and with the lower temperatures over the next couple of days the snow will readily freeze. There is a good cover above 700/800m with the gullys well filled.

Scotland Conditions Shaping Up Nicely

Since making the drive North last Friday I have been on the hill every day. Last weekend I was working for Nick at Alpha with Glen and Rob. This was an intro winter course, but as they had been out trying there crampons out we decided to do Dorsal Arete on the second day - a fine grade II climb in Glen Coe.

I then met up with friends Kath, Paul and Mat on Monday. We initially headed to do Cairngorms to find much snowier conditions. Up on Fiacaill Buttress we soon discovered its white appearance wasn't soft snow but well frozen snow ice. This allowed us to climb anywhere, but a lot of time is needed to dig out the cracks for protection. An ascent of the Couloir was chosen then a top rope session of Belhaven, The Seam and Short Circuit (all very different to last time I climbed them).

We were all keen to climb in NW on Tuesday and Wednesday, somewhere I have been climbing only a handful of times. The first day we made the long but steady walk into Beinn Eighe and the imposing Triple Buttress. Last time I was there I made an ascent of the Central Buttress seconding the memorable crux. This time it looked a little blacker than hoped. Mat and I climbed East buttress that had good snow and neve on the ledges, though the steeper bits were dry and so we used just 1 axe to ascend. A great route though.

On Wednesday, after much debate, we decided to stay in the NW and drive to Glen Carron to look at Sgorr Ruadh. After a little confusion navigating around a deer fence and a 2 hour walk we looked up, to find, nothing that resembled winter! To save the day we went up a grade I gully on hard neve, finding a snowy branch higher up (possibly grade III) before descending another gully on the far side of the top plateau. Not quite as hoped but not a completely wasted day.

So Thursday I returned to the West and was working with Adele and Jagged Globe. The clients, Paul and Bob, had already done a few routes and were keen for ice so the West Face of Aonach Dubh was chosen. We went up the long and varied number 3 gully - which was new to myself, Adele and Al Halewood who was also there working. Some good initial grade III ice pitches lead to a snowy gully and bits of easier ice higher up. Just when you I though it was all over though the climbing continued over rock steps and snowy flanks before eventualy topping out by the Lochan descent. Fun journey.

That is the last 6 days in a nutshell. Need to now get a new camera to replace my broken one so I can display some more pictures.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Black Cleft and Central Ice Fall Direct

It may now be all change, but it certainly has been a great month for winter climbing. This week I ascended Central Ice Fall Direct (VI) with Baggy which is a 3 pitch pure ice climb that probably hasn't been in since the mid 90's. Yesterday I was on Cloggy with Dave climbing Black Cleft (VII, 7) again a route that hasn't been formed for years. Both classics and great fun to climb.

I'm now heading up to start work in Scotland, though after climbing so much recently it feels more like the end of the season rather than the start!

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Kayaking and Ice

On Saturday I ran a 3 star training course on the Menai Straits. It was surprisingly pleasant in the sun, even though the temperatures were low. I was out with Leo and Gary, going through a range of strokes and playing in the various currents created in the Swellies.

The plan was to go to Llangollen today, but over the weekend the river has started to freeze over -removing eddies! We decided conditions therefore weren't ideal and postponed the assessment until a latter date.

Instead I went out to Cromlech Ice Falls in the afternoon, which are climbable in places, with some friends. No one was about, so it was nice to enjoy some roadside ice in the peace and quiet.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Blue Skies over the Carneddau

Busy week with 6 new routes this week. All in the Carneddau and around grade V on mixed ground. Today I was with Si Lake and Dave whilst the other day I skied in with Baggy.

There were certainly some fun pitches amongst them, I just need to name a few and write them up now. There are a few photos below from today.


Thursday, 7 January 2010

Cwm Idwal Ice

Today I took my Dad and Norman up to play on the ice at the back of Cwm Idwal. There are a variety of routes providing good ice from II to VII with a short walk-in. Unfortunatly everyone else loves the ice too, and even mid-week it was packed.

We did some skills, sliding and talking about snow on the way in before duckin and diving to find a variety of ice pitches to play on. This included taking some harder lines up in Devils Kitchen itself, exploring the dark recesses of the cleft.

A beautiful day with no wind and pleasant winter temperatures.

Cwm IdwalCwm Idwal

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

New Routes and Enough Snow to Ski

My legs are feeling the burn after a couple of exciting days in the winter wonderland that is North Wales (along with the rest of the UK).

On Monday I did two new routes with Dave up in the Carneddau, both offering mixed climbing around grade V making good use of the frozen turf. With blue skies and distant views you couldn't ask for much more.

Yesterday I went for a ski tour from my house, after Baggy was engaged looking after his kids due to the local school closures. It was definitely a first being able to ski back to my door.

Today I got out climbing again, with a further 2 new routes. Both were in the Carneddau again providing 3 -4 pitches of mixed fun. The second was unexpectedly steep, possibly around VI-7, providing just enough gear. A ski back down capped the day off nicely.

Snow around Bethesda, North WalesSnow around Bethesda, North Wales

Sunday, 3 January 2010

The Cold Weather Still Prevails

I think my girlfriend is tired of me telling her how lucky she has been with the weather. Ice is forming nicely at all levels with the low temperatures looking set to continue.

Yestetday I took Tom up Deep Cut Chimney on Stob Coire Nam Beith. There was some good ice in the initial chimney and the recent wind had scoured the slopes to reveal old neve higher up.

I also went up to Ceitilin Slabs down Glen Etive on Thursday, for somewhere different. Unfortunately the 'copious amounts of ice' as described in the guide book wasn't present but we did climb a gully not described. This provided small interesting steps of grade III / IV.