Sunday, March 28, 2010

Carnedd Dafydd

For the second day of our winter skills course this weekend we headed up Carnedd Dafydd from Bethesda, passing under the Black Ladders. We managed to find some snow to play on at the col between Dafydd and Llewellyn but it was little warm and soggy. It was a beautiful day though and we had nice sunshine all afternoon giving fine views across the whole Park. We also saw an impressive rockfall down Western Gully as the ice continued to thaw - there is not a lot left now!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Welsh Winter Skills

It has been a beautiful day in Snowdonia and I have been out with Linda, Karen, Richard, David & Andy for the last of my winter skills courses for this winter. We headed up into Cwm Cneifion and found enough snow to look at use of the boot, axe and crampons as tools including some step cutting and some ice axe arrest. The snow as a bit soft and sugary but the main gully lines such as Easy Gully and Tower Gully are still complete and might make a nice outing tomorrow if the forecast of lower temperatures is correct for the morning. A great day out in the sunshine.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Home in Wales

I am back home in Wales now after another good two weeks North of the Border. With the lighter evenings and warmer days the rock climbing season is beginning. If you are interested in learning to lead this spring I have 1 space on a 5 day course from the 26-30 April. Full details here:

I saw this and thought of you

Why do we climb? from Alexandre Buisse on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Steep Ice & Baguettes

No we haven't flown out to Chamonix but headed for the Ice Factor instead. It has been a very wet and warm day here in Fort William so we spent the day climbing steep ice at the largest indoor ice climbing wall in the UK. It is rare to be able to coach ice climbing from the ground outside because I am normally a ropes length away above my seconds so we made the most of the facility and improved Simon & Pauls movement skills looking at body positioning, footwork, axe placements and ice climbing efficiency. Fingers crossed it all cools down again soon.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The long walk

Simon, Paul and I decided to head up to the Ben today. The forecast promised temperatures above freezing over the tops and 70mph gusts so we decided the only place to find climbable ice would be on the highest mountain in the UK. After an early start we reached the CIC hut to find the temperature was 6c and the wind was as strong as promised.

With the lower crags running with water and the tops being battered by the wind we decided that the main learning point for the day would be the difficult decision to retreat! Ice climbing is always more sensible when the temperature is below freezing so we had a skills day instead. Routes like Comb Gully and Thompsons Route were climbed yesterday and at the moment the forecasters are giving a 50% chance of a return to colder temperatures for the weekend so fingers crossed as the climbing could then be superb!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Twisting the day away

I have been joined for 3 days by regular client Paul and Simon who was with me last week for a winter climbing course. For our first day today we headed up into Stob Coire nan Lochain and climbed Twisting Gully (III, 4). The snow above about 900m had refrozen and we had some nice neve on the route although the ice pitch was on the thin side of climbable! We walked in under drizzly skies but enjoyed some views as we climbed and even some sunshine on the top. Teams were also climbing Dorsal Arete, NC Gully and SC Gully.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Go East - life is brighter there

This morning the rain was drumming down in Fort William and the weather forecast promised sunshine East of the A9 so we headed to the Cairngorms. We were in total white out conditions for most of the day! We climbed Hidden Chimney (II/III) in Sneachda and had to rely on a compass just to find the crag! The snow was slightly soft due to the warmer temperatures and it was lightly snowing/sleeting on and off throughout the day. Having climbed the route we had some great navigation practice descending via point 1141 in zero visibility. A real Scottish day!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

East Ridge of Carn Dearg Meadhonach

Today Simon, Jim and I were joined by my friend Dave who is preparing for his MIC assessment. Dave lead the rope for the day whilst I acted as team photographer on a day that was not great for photos! It was drizzly and warm all day. The snow pack is nice and soggy and so with a good freeze will be fantastic. The freezing level was above the summit all day and there was a good breeze too. A return to more normal conditions!

Snowdonia Conditions

Hi Rob - Conditions on Wednesday in the Craig y Ysfa were a little soft - Jo and I did Amphitheatre gully. It was soft sugary stuff with solidish foot placements, poor gear on the last pitch made it feel all of the 2/3 when topping out over the steep exit. It was fun but maybe we should have gone higher that day. Yesterday after a heavy frost (-4 in the valley), it was a completely different story. Back to Alpine Wales in the Ladders, bomber neve and great ice, brilliant clear blue skies. Took Jo up Playschool, which was same as other day, a direct start took in the ice under Eastern Gully. There were teams all over the cwm, Eastern, Western, Pyramid, Pyramid Buttress and perhaps Somme (bit far to see). Had a mail off someone in Western who said, 'Andy and I did Western yesterday following the direct line up the hanging chimney in the central part and then the direct "Right Hand Finish" up to the top. It gave 6-7 pitches of sustained climbing in the upper grades. Fantastic climbing and in good, quite benign condition.' We went for a recce rest day today low in Cwm Cneifion by Pinnacle arete, warmer last night and snow sugary again but ice looked ok higher up. Off to Snowdon tomorrow, and hopefully a bit colder tonight to firm things up again.
Take it easy,

Friday, March 12, 2010

Dorsal Arete, Glen Coe

I have been joined for 3 days by regular client and friend Simon and by Jim who is on my mentor scheme for a winter mountaineering course. For our first day today we headed into Stob Coire nan Lochain and climbed Dorsal Arete. It was fairly quiet and we had the route almost to ourselves. There were other folk on Y Gully, Twisting Gully and SC Gully all reporting good snow conditions. It was dry and bright all day with some cloud swirling about but some nice sunshine in between. It was below freezing on the route. A lovely day again!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Curved Ridge

Karolina, Matt and I headed up Curved Ridge (II/III) on Buachaille Etive Mor today for the final day of their 3 day winter mountaineering course. We had another glorious day of sunshine, no winds and stunning views. I even climbed without gloves for a while on the lower rock section! The snow was good but getting a little slushy in the sunshine, we met two climbers at the top who had climbed Crowberry Gully and reported cruddy snow and conditions in need of a thaw/refreeze. Another great day!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Another day in Paradise

North Face of the Ben

Surveying our route

It has been another absolutely incredible day today here in the Highlands. Today Karolina, Matt and I headed up the East Ridge of Carn Dearg Meadhonach (II), this time with the precaution of plenty of sun cream!! The snow was bullet hard neve the whole route and the ridge gave us a wonderful Alpine style journey where we looked at rope and belay techniques for winter mountaineering and just gawped at the views from the top once again. The North Face of the Ben looked good and there were teams climbing Tower Ridge, Ledge Route, Point 5 and folks heading into the bottom of Zero Gully.

Monday, March 08, 2010

North Wales Climbing Conditions

Hi Rob,
Found a buddy to go with to the hill today. He wanted to do Pyramid Gully on the Ladders. Awesome ice and neve after a proper frost has kicked in again over the last couple of nights. Topped out at 1200 so it would have been rude to finish at that time. Back into the cwm and did Playschool, with a lovely icefall direct start into Eastern Gully and the foot of Playschool. What can I say, Welsh alpine winter just goes on and on!
Hope you have the same up there,

Aonach Mor in the sunshine

I have been joined for 3 days by Matt & Karolina for a winter mountaineering course here in the Highlands of Scotland. Today we had beautiful weather with blue skies, sunshine and no wind and ascended Aonach Mor via Aonach Nid. Along the way we refreshed basic winter skills and looked at snow belays, abseiling and ropework. The views from the top were stunning and we have all suffered a bit from sunburn!!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Ski Touring in the Cairngorms

I joined my friend Bryn in the Cairngorms today for a day of ski touring. We arrived at about 9:00am this morning to find the two upper car parks already full. We skinned up Cairngorm avoiding the large lift queues and then headed over the plateau above Sneachda and Lochain before descending below Lochain. The snow on the plateau was pretty cruddy with a breakable crust making the skiing hard work but the descent from Lochain to the car park was a joy and took just 10 minutes! We had some stunning views and the snowcover is brilliant.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Climbing Snowdon for Dads Birthday

Yesterday was my Dads 60th birthday so he and Mum drove up to Wales and the three of us (plus Skye) headed up Snowdon. It was one of the most beautiful days that I have ever had on the mountains of North Wales. We had views to Ireland and the Isle of Man, were sunbathing whilst lying in the snow on the summit and had superb snow conditions all the way up. The pictures tell the story far better than I can. A magical day. Thanks Mum & Dad!

Trail Gear Guide for Scrambling

If you are looking at getting into scrambling or moving onto the harder grade 2 and 3 scrambles then you might like the latest feature I have done for Trail Magazine. It is a 4 page feature on the gear that I use. You can read it by following the link from this page on my website.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Climbing in Cwm Glas

After being so impressed with the conditions in Upper Cwm Glas on Saturday Huw and I decided to head back up there today. On our way up we were distracted by some beautiful looking ice that appeared to be calling us from the other side of Cwm Glas. We made a beeline for the second icefall from the right as shown in the photo below.
This is Face Route (IV) and it looked like it had stepped straight out of the Alps and into Wales. Unfortunately it was sun-baked and very thin and brittle, with water running down behind it and either side of it! I climbed the first 30feet or so, got a shower of ice that was falling from above and then lowered off with my tail between my legs!
We followed a gully line into Upper Cwm Glas and headed for Waterslide Gully instead. Huw had climbed Infidelity on Saturday which has the same guidebook grade of IV, 5 and reported good conditions.
The guidebook warns that the first pitch is hard if thin. I climbed an intro pitch and put a stance below the crux chimney that had a nice looking line of snow/ice in the back. Huw lead off only to find himself swiftly back below my belay having taken a 20 foot whipper with no gear! He got back on and after a bit of belay re-arrangement he pulled of a fantastic lead in very thin conditions and with little gear. This pitch felt harder than anything that we had climbed all winter and we have both climbed technical 6.

I lead the next pitch which was a very delicate ice pitch but good fun and we both felt was bout technical 5 but sustained and with little gear on thin ice. We both admitted afterwards to feeling more worried belaying than leading on the two hard pitches!
We then had two easier pitches to the top of the Clogwyn y Person arete and some stunning views. I was on Crib Goch on Saturday and was impressed with the amount of snow up there and it was even better today to be able to see it all. It was positively Alpine and in brilliant condition with good solid neve and a lovely track to follow. The best I have ever seen it. We then descended Parsley Fern Gully which in its current condition gave a great bumslide down! A cracking day out. We felt that the route in its current condition (and its hard to envisage it getting much better nowadays) would get V, 6,5,3.