Sunday, 28 February 2010

Steall Falls, a social scene

The first day of a 5 day course with West Coast Mountain Guides, I headed to the icy Steall Falls. I was with Huibert and Bastion, visiting from the Netherlands.

A few others had the same idea, but it wasn't a problem and made for a relaxed and sociable outing - bit like being on Idwal Slabs back home.

There is a lot of climbable ice up the 100+m fall, with a few watery holes adding to the atmosphere. We opted to go again in the afternoon, picking out the steeper sections to add interest.

Steall FallsSteall FallsSteall Falls

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Too much snow.

It continued to snow on Thursday and Friday at all levels making it not just hard work walking but also treacherous for avalanches.

On Thursday we did some navigation, wading around the forest near Ballachulish.

Friday was an ice factor day, going through technique and rope trickery.

I had a day off today and took the opportunity to go skiing on what turned out to be a nice calm day. On the East Face of Aonach Mor the slopes looked loaded, with the crag itself partially buried.

I'm sure it doesn't need to be said, but please take care - there have been one too many tragic, unforeseeable, accidents this year for us all to deal with. My condolences go out to friends and family of those that have been taken from us.
Ballachulish ForestBallachulish Forest

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Beinn Udlaidh, White Caterpillar

With my sunglasses still in my bag and goggles at home, I hadn't quite adjusted to the normal Scottish conditions.

Today I was working for Jagged Globe, with John and Tina. We went to the easily accessed and relatively low venue of Beinn Udlaidh. Loads of good ice is present, and all enjoyed the White Caterpillar (III) which starts from West Gully. Other teames were on The Smirk, Organ Pipe Wall, West Gully, Central Gully and a few other climbs up in the mist.

By the afternoon there were patches of slab present, with a lot of snow blowing round. Sounds like in Glencoe and on the Ben there are many unstable slopes - even low down.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

SC Gully, Glen Coe

The second day with Hannah and Dave, while working for Abacus Mountaineering, we went looking for some steeper ice to play on. Upon our arrival to the sunny corrie we found SC was empty, and fitted the bill nicely. Good neve and ice was found on the initial steep pitches, providing great first time placements. Higher up Dave took the lead, topping out into the warm sun.

Unfortunately this weather can't last with wind and snow creeping in, it will be interesting to see what will happen if all the surface hoar becomes buried.

SC Gully, Glen Coe
SC Gully, Glen Coe
SC Gully, Glen Coe
SC Gully, Glen Coe

Monday, 22 February 2010

Curved Ridge, Glen Coe

Yesterday I returned to Scotland, finishing the long journey from Switzerland that started on Saturday evening.

It was nice to return to snow, ice and blue skies - all making for a pleasant day. I was working for Abacus Mountaineering with David and Hannah. We made an ascent of Curved Ridge, making good use of the ice pitches on the approach and in the gully start. On the ridge itself the fresh snow has been well stamped down with good neve below. There was also a helpful (and very wide) track on the descent into the corrie.

Sam, Dave and Max were all instructing other parties on the ridge, making for a sociable atmosphere.

Skiing in the Alps, 4 Valleys

The past week I have unfortunately missed the sunshine of Scotland, though skiing in Switzerland was a reasonable substitute.

We were based in Nendaz, which is near Verbier and part of the 4 valleys circuit. We skied a variety of itineraries during the week, with just a bit of uphill rewarding us with fresh snow and quiet slopes. We even found some skis down a steep ravine, after getting drawn in by some nice untracked slopes. It seems a previous skier hadn't coped too well with down climbing (swinging off tree branches) grade 2 ice and their skis were stuck on a small snowy ledge. It made the walk out all worth while.

11 Feb - Fiacaill Ridge, Cairngorms

A little bit of an old post, but I've had a lack of internet while I was away. The photos show a day before the blue skies settled over Scotland, with thick mist covering the Cairngorms. Still a good day up Fiacaill Ridge was had on some good snowy steps. This day I was working for Ryan Glass
More photos on Flickr
Fiacaill RidgeFiacaill Ridge

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Cuneiform Buttress, Buachaille

I walked into the Buachaille today with Dave. I wanted to have a closer look at Raven's Gully.

It looked promising at first as we approached on hard neve, passing various ice formations. Upon soloing up to the first main pitch though no ice could be seen running down from the first main chockstone. A quick change of plan and we went onto Cuneiform Buttress on the right climbing The Long Chimney via a bit of a variant (vague guide book description led to making our own line up). The chimney was a struggle and the other sections akward, with soft snow hiding blank rock slab. Still we got there in the end to see a beautiful sunset on our descent.

Two other climbers also followed us to Raven's Gully and appeared to climb the route. The first problem they overcame gymnastically, doing the splits between the walls. I don't know if conditions improved higher up.


Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Aonach Mor, Winter Skills

Today I was out with Lou and Emma practising a range of winter belays, roped movement and some step cutting for good measure. We found a bit of everything with some good neve below the Nid ridge, slabby patches of ice, windslab, and a cornice to try climbing through (only a small friendly one, though I suspect there are some big ones above a few of the climbs).

It felt colder today, with light winds and good views.

Aonach Mor, NidAonach Mor, Nid

Monday, 8 February 2010

Glen Coe, Intro to Winter Course

Today I was working for Jagged Globe on an Introduction to Winter Walking. We went to the Glen Coe ski area, to enable a quick ascent into the snow line. We went through a range of skills including kicking steps, sliding and using crampons. The snow was soft and dry at all levels, with hard neve never too far down. The views were also stunning with light winds and cold temperatures.
Glen Coe SkiGlen Coe SkiGlen Coe SkiGlen Coe Ski

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Neanderthal, Glen Coe

Good mixed conditions up on Lost Valley Buttress today, though if I was being picky a little less snow, hiding the cracks, would of been nice. I went up with Mark Walker to climb Neanderthal (VII, 7) which was a real 3 star route. The second pitch had some hard moves off the belay then a sensational pitch above.

Just shame that the cloud came in, limiting the views. It also seems a yellow jacket is useful to create good looking photos, I can hardly spot myself on the photo below!

Neanderthal, Glen CoeNeanderthal, Lost Valley ButtressNeanderthal, Lost Valley ButtressNeanderthal, Lost Valley ButtressNeanderthal, Lost Valley Buttress

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Buachaille Etive Mor, Lagangarbh Buttress

A short day today as Lou couldn't get out until 8am and we had to be down by 2.30. I decided to head towards the Buachaille, as it is a short walk-in. The snow level had risen more than I expected, it was certainly snowier on Thursday.

From below Lagangarbh Butress still appeared white so we headed for the chimney route, up steep and awkward heather, rock and ice steps. Short approach but not easy. Closer inspection showed that route wasn't very wintery, but the nearby Staircase Butress was. A pitch of ice led up to the buttress where we picked a line of around grade IV up on the left-hand side, with one very short and steep crux section (6). The turf was well frozen and the crag covered in a crusty snow.

To approach the guide book says to keep right of the watercourse, but it appears easier if you keep well left until high up or step over the watercourse above the obvious steepening (10m drop) to the left side and continue upwards.

Staircase Butress, Buachaille Etive MorStaircase Butress, Buachaille Etive MorStaircase Butress, Buachaille Etive Mor
More photos on Flickr

Friday, 5 February 2010

Smith's Gully, Creag Meagaidh

An early start today though we were down at 3pm after climbing Smith's Gully (V, 5) on Meagaidh. This is a classic gully, and proved to be worthy of its status. Good sustained climbing on ice and well formed neve provided delightful and fun climbing.

As we ascended Raeburn's the rocks were all freshly hoaring up. We were a little worried about the snow while approaching Raeburn's Gully. The bottom section had a damp and heavy snow that was reasonably bonded and possible to puncture through to stand on well frozen snow below. Part way up it changed to hard neve then just before the route a drier slab of snow. This same drier snow was encountered near the top and was poorly bonded to the neve below, in this case we could avoid it. On descent we took the safer option of descending down the ridge, navigating in thick mist.

Smith's Gully, Creag MeagaidhSmith's Gully, Creag Meagaidh
Smith's Gully, Creag MeagaidhSmith's Gully, Creag Meagaidh
More photos on Flickr

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Beinn Udlaidh Ice

A warmer day but dry with sunny spells. I had a pleasant day while working for Jagged Globe at Beinn Udlaidh. Short walk-in and plenty of good ice. We headed up and climbed 'South Gully of the Black Wall' (IV, 4). The main ice pitch is fat but the top was a little snowy. Fortunatly it was possible to dig and excavate the newer, heavy snow to find old neve below. The cornice wasn't too problematic in surmounting.

Other teams on Sunshine Gully (lots of snow), Ramshead Gully (unconsolidated snow around two big chockstones), start of Green Eyes and West Gully.

There was certainly a range of snow encountered during the day. Most of the new snow, when found and sometimes in quite deep accumulations, wasn't well bonded to the older neve. The colder weather due over the weekend should soon sort that out.

The west sector and views from the crag below. I now have a new camera so photos should markedly improve.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Ben Nevis Water Ice

Today I was working for Jagged Globe on the Winter Mountaineering course. The aim of today was to find some ice to climb, a relatively easy objective given the great conditions.

We headed up to Ben Nevis to play on the ice pitches below Carn Derag. Ther
e are a variety of 40 -50m lines of varying grades. After a bit of ice bouldering we headed up a 2 pitch grade III route. We then continued coaching on both ice and short rock steps as we headed back down the path.

If it wasn't for the drive up the (icy) track it would of been a relaxed day in the sun.

Although the higher routes look white the still need a fair few freeze thaw cycles with ice being scarce and the Orion face looking thin. Other teams out on Observatory Ridge and NE Buttress.

Photos of the North Face from the upper car park (above) and Carn Derag / Castle Gully Area.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Crest Route in the Lochan (again)

I joined Rod and James today who were keen to go up to the Lochan. I fair bit of snow fell overnight, just stopping early this morning. It went almost down to the road, with significant accumulations above 700m. Fortunately it was light and fluffy (must of been light winds overnight) so trailbreaking wasn't too arduous.

We climbed Crest route today (V,6) which is an amazing route. Great steep and positive climbing with loads of gear. It took a bit of sweeping to find the cracks, but the snow was easily removed.

To cap it off the clear skies gave stunning views when we topped out.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Inclination, Glen Coe

Today I went into the Lochan with Kenny and Guy. We took an early start to avoid the afternoon weather that was due to come in.

Upon arrival we found an inviting white and frozen crag, with clear views and no wind. We were all keen to climb Inclination which takes a counter line to Tilt.

The climbed proved to be fun and interesting, with positive placements and good gear. The neve is good on the ledges and turf well frozen. The cracks were even clear for easy placements.

By the afternoon it was snowing heavily, with a fair amount accumulating. I expect the approaches to be a little hard going tomorrow.

Other teams were on Twisting Grooves and Gully, SC and NC.

The photos are by Guy Steven