Thursday, January 31, 2008

Winter Skills Course - Day 4 - Glen Coe

It has been a pretty wild day today in the Highlands. It has been snowing above about 350m since yesterday, the winds have been gusting 90 mph on a Westerly and their has been a category 4 avalanche warning in place. We headed into Glen Coe today to do a journey putting into place the skills that we have covered this week. It was a great day to talk about safe route travel and to understand the importance of wind in avalanche avoidance.

I decided to go to the Col below Stob an Fhuarain which sits at 875m. This gave us a sheltered valley walk on slopes that were below the majority of the snow. Once we stuck our heads above the parapet at the col it felt like the living end! The guys experienced a proper Scottish white out with snow blasted faces and wind chill around -20 c. The wind was strong enough to pick up one of our rucksacks and chuck it about 30m. We navigated off and dropped back down to the peace and quiet of the valley.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Day 3 - Snow Shelters

One of my group had a slightly strained knee today so we made good use of the Gondola at Aonach Mor again and spent the day looking at planned snow shelters. It was snowing heavily all day and reasonably windy - there we reports of a small avalanche below Coire an Lochain triggered by a couple of climbers as we left the hill - no injuries but an indication of the amount of snow that is falling.
We built a shovel up and the photos show it before, during and after. Good warm work!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Winter Skills Course Day 2 - Stob Coire nan Lochan

We headed into Glen Coe today and enjoyed some good crampon practice, snow analysis and the summit. It was not as cold as forecast today but there was no wind and some fresh snow so it was very pleasant. Getting windy again over the next couple of days.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Winter Skills 5 day course - day 1 - Aonach Nid

I was out with Jason, Will and Paul today on the first day of a five day winter skills course. The weather was wild with temperatures above freezing and winds high enough to close the Gondola - luckily we got the only ride of the day up and only had to walk down. We covered movement on snow, use of the axe, ice axe arrest and snow pack analysis and had a good day out.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Sron na Lairig - Play

I headed out with two friends Alan and Todd today to Glen Coe. We climbed Sron na Lairig which is an Alpine style ridge, grade II. I chose it because it is reasonably low and sheltered from strong Westerly winds with a forecast of 100mph gusts. The plan worked and we had a good day despite the weather. It was warm again but the ground was frozen as soon as we got onto the ridge and the rain even changed to snow. We were in the Clachaig by 3:00pm so all was well!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Castle Ridge, Ben Nevis - Play

It was a pretty wild and windy day in the Highlands today but it was cold so Bryn and I headed up onto the Ben and had a great day out on Castle Ridge. This is the easiest of the three big ridges on the Ben and is a grade 3 route. We moved together for much of it on a plastering of spindrift snow. Unfortunately the turf was not frozen lower down but as we gained height the conditions improved although it was still pretty windy!

A good day out!


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

East Ridge of Beinn a Chaorainn

Tuesday 22nd January

We headed up the Esat Ridge of Beinn a Chaorainn. The lads were keen to do some Alpine style movement on a ridge and this proved the perfect venue. There was plenty of snow on the ridge and it was a proper Scottish day with spindrift, gusts of wind and feeling fairly cold to start with although the temperature rose quite noticably during the day. There were a couple of other parties out which added to the Alpine feel!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Snow & Ice Learn to lead

I was working alongside Tim Blakemore ( today in Coire Choille-Rais which is a little known destination near to Creag Meagaidh. Tim had 4 clients who were al climbers who had done some winter skills and wanted to progress to snow and ice climbing. We started off with a refresher of basic skills and then got the boys leading a two pitch snow & ice route that is not in the guide book but goes about grade 2/3. They did really well and we all had a great day out. It was a lot colder than yesterday with a well consolidated snow pack and clear skies for most of the day.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Stob Coire nan Lochan - Play

Yesterday I drove up to Scotland for the start of my winter season proper. I am up here now until the end of March with one or two forays home to see Kate and the boys.
A lot of snow has fallen since I was up here over Christmas and it is all looking a lot whiter than this time last year - or the year before! That said the temperature was a little higher today than would have been ideal but a bit of melt freeze will help the conditions build nicely.

Today my friend Bryn and I headed up into Stob Coire nan Lochan with a friend of Bryns, Alan to see what was in condition. We fancied doing SC Gully or Twisting Gully but both were looking rather thin so we plumped for Forked Gully. This is a grade 2/3 gully route that was complete and was great fun for a first day out. The photos show Alan at the foot of the route and the crag as a whole.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Scottish Winter Climbing

I have had a great couple of days up in Scotland with Alec, a good friend of mine. We drove up on Thursday of last week and camped in heavy rain just outside Aviemore in the Cairngorms.

Fridays forecast was not good so we did not rush getting up and strolled into Sneachda for about 9:00am. Only the easier gullies were in condition and all had plenty of folk in them so we chose Aladdins Mirror, a grade 1 route that is about 180m long and was a lot of fun. The weather did us proud and stayed dry although the ice was melting all around us in warm temperatures. The route was good fun and we posed for photos on Aladdins seat.

Saturday was forecast to be an improving day and so we headed into Lochain and climbed Y Gully Right Hand Route. This was a great grade II with some ice and hard neve and even a good cornice that I got to knock down on Alec below! As we headed down the clouds came in a it started snowing so perfect timing saw us back in the cafe as the weather crapped out.

Sunday was the best weather day of the forecast and they were right. We had beautiful blue skies and it was well below freezing all day. The route we wanted to do did not have enough snow in it so we climbed the Runnel, another friendly grade II with an enjoyable chimney top pitch and some nice ice. We descended the Fiacaill Ridge (grade I/II) and then headed home for New Years eve.