Thursday, September 30, 2010

Advanced Scrambling Course Day Two

This morning it was pretty wet and wild in Snowdonia and with the boys keen to get onto a grade 3 scramble we headed up into Cwm Cneifion. A pitch on the Cneifion Arete saw us looking at abseil retreats and we decided to head up the Gribin Ridge and over the Glyders instead. On the way down we got the boys on the sharp end to refresh the skills that we had looked at yesterday and the weather improved as we made our descent. A good day was had by all in spite of the damp start!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Advanced Scrambling Course

I have been joined for a couple of days by repeat clients Vic & Paul for some grade 2 and 3 scrambles here in Snowdonia. The weather this morning was truly shocking with high winds and lashing rain! Nevertheless it was nice to be out and we headed into Cwm Idwal and climbed North West Face Route. We also got the boys taking coils for themselves and revised the most useful knots and belay techniques and did a spot of abseiling.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Traverse of the Matterhorn

Panoramic view from the Carrel Hut over Italy
Last weekend I travelled out to Italy with my good friend and regular Alpine partner Alec. We had both wanted to climb the Matterhorn for some time but on previous visits had never found it in condition. The mountain is most often climbed via the Hornli ridge from Zermatt in Switzerland but is deemed out of condition if there is snow on the lower sections. It is very long (1200m) and gives sustained climbing/scrambling to its 4478m summit and so requires good conditions. This time we decided to climb it from the Italian side via the Lion Ridge (aka The Italian Ridge). 
The Matterhorn from Cervinia
We arrived in Cervinia on Sunday afternoon with a forecast of 3 days of good weather and decided to acclimatise on the route itself rather than lose the weather window. We walked up to the Abruzzi Hut that evening at 2800m only to find that it was closed for refurbishment. Normally huts have winter rooms that are left unlocked with a stock of blankets for use out of the main season but this one did not. We improvised and slept in a half finished open fronted building on wooden planks. We had not carried bivvy kit so had no sleeping bags, mats etc and so had a pretty chilly character building night! 
Our improvised hut

The next morning the early arrival of the builders saw us scurrying away and up towards the Carrel Hut at 3829 m on the Italian Ridge. The route up was out of condition without the usual snowfield on the Tete de Lion and we had to endure some horrible grade 2 scrambling on steep ground where every hold was loose. We had no choice but to solo up it as the rock was too crap for anchors, we moved carefully and were glad to reach the Col de Lion. From here we joined the Italian Ridge and the rock improved as we got higher and pulled our way up the first of the fixed ropes.

We had the hut to ourselves and enjoyed an afternoon of sunbathing and a good nights sleep under several blankets!

The route is a rock route and there is little to be gained from an early start so we waited for the sun to rise and set off at about 8:00am for our summit day. It was well below freezing and there was verglass on the rocks so we spent the entire day in crampons. The ridge gives over 650m of climbing with fixed ropes on the steeper sections. We headed up the Great Tower (about Hard Severe if climbed free but we used the fixed ropes!), across the famous toe traverse of the Mauvais Pas, up the Linceul icefield and onto Pic Tyndall (4241m) for a mid morning cereal bar.

Pic Tyndall 

The Echelle Jordan (a fixed ladder!)

We reached the summit at lunchtime and were pleased to only be about 15 minutes off the guidebook time with our limited acclimatisation. We had also not seen anyone else all day which was a real bonus on the Matterhorn!
Alec on the Italian Summit

Me approaching the Swiss Summit

A beautiful slender snow ridge links the Italian and Swiss summits and we followed it to pose on both summits and look down into Zermatt below. We had decided that a traverse of the mountain would be very aesthetic and so descended the Hornli Ridge. This was much more shaded than the Italian Ridge and so was plastered in snow for most of its 1200m to the Hornli Hut. The guidebook suggests a descent time of 6 hours or more and the continuous down climbing, occasional abseiling and tricky route finding was knackering! We were a bit slower than the guidebook suggested and enjoyed the final section in the light of the full moon. A Swiss team passed us half way down but took a different route to us lower down and so we were lucky to pip them to the hut and get the last two beds in the winter room, albeit without blankets again!

The following morning we headed across the Furgenn glacier and over the Breuiljoch to descend back into Italy for a well earned pizza and pint! With a poor forecast for the rest of the week we got back in the car and drove home. The rest of the trip photos can be see here:

Friday, September 17, 2010

Off to the Alps

I am going to the Alps tonight with my friend Alec for a quick hit climbing trip. I will be back on the 28th September so apologies that emails and phone calls won't get returned until then.

Rock Climbing at Tremadog

I have been joined for the day by Jim who is on my instructor mentor scheme and his friend Paul. Jim passed his ML a couple of weeks ago and is now focusing on his climbing for his SPA. Today we headed for Tremadog and climbed Poor Mans Peutrey (S) in 4 pitches with Jim leading and me alongside on a rope coaching. We then looked at multi pitch abseiling to descend the crag. It stayed dry for most of the day, a lot drier than it did on the mountains thats for sure!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

AMI Workshop for MIA Trainees

For the second day of the AMI workshop the trainees decided that they would like to look at teaching multi pitch climbing and teaching lead climbing in a multi pitch setting. We headed to Tryfan Bach and a moist start turned into a nice day with a good breeze that soon dried the crag. The trainees worked in two teams of three with me alongside them. They took it in turns being the instructor and we looked at goal setting, coaching skills, structuring a teaching day and the mechanics of delivering a progressive and safe teaching day. I wish all the the guys the best of luck in forthcoming assessments.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

AMI Workshop for MIA Trainees

Yesterday I was out with Kate who is on my mentor scheme. Kate wanted a rock climbing day and with the wind and rain rattling the rooftops we headed to the climbing wall for the morning to do some movement coaching and belay skills. We then headed outside as the sun came out and climbed at Lion Rock with Kate leading and looking at stance management. As we finished our day my pager went off and I was soon being winched out of a Sea King over the Trinity Face of Snowdon on a rescue with the Llanberis Team.

Today I have been working for the Association of Mountaineering Instructors (AMI) on a workshop for trainee instructors preparing for their MIA assessment. Today was an open workshop with no set title and 6 trainees. They chose to do a mountain day looking at how to look after two clients on grade 2 and 3 scrambles. We worked in Cwm Idwal and got very wet but still had an enjoyable day with lots of learning!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Scrambling in the Pass

For the final day of their 5 day scrambling course John, Kieran and I headed into the Llanberis Pass to do some low level roped scrambling, avoiding the worst of the gale force winds and heavy rain that was lashing the summits. We looked at taking coils and got the boys leading for themselves to look at direct and indirect belays and they also did an abseil retreat off the route. A good finish to a great week.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

North West Face Route, Cwm Idwal

Today John, Kieran and I were joined by Simon who is preparing for his MIA assessment and wanted to spend a couple of days observing some roped scrambling. We went into Cwm Idwal and climbed North West Face route (2), merging into the Idwal Staircase (2) before descending Seniors Gully (1). We also did a spot of abseiling to introduce the guys to the skills involved in managing a descent. It stayed dry all day and we had some more nice views.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Snowdon via Crib Goch

Today has been a lovely day here in Snowdonia. John, Kieran and I made the most of the sunshine by climbing Snowdon via Crib Goch. There were a couple of groups out doing the same thing but otherwise we enjoyed solitude compared to how busy it has been this summer. The views were stunning with crystal clear skies and we even had a cup of tea in the summit cafe. A contrast to yesterdays weather!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Gribin Ridge & over Lliwedd

For the second day of our scrambling course John, Kieran and I headed up the Miners Track from Pen Y Pass, up the Gribin Ridge (1) and over Lliwedd. It was pretty wet at times but the wind was not too bad and we all enjoyed being out in harsh conditions in good gear! The weather meant that the guys had to work hard on good foot placements and it was nice to drop out of the clouds and enjoy the view - Autumn is on the way!

Monday, September 06, 2010

5 day Classic scrambles course

I have been joined for the week by John and Kieran for a 5 day classic scrambles course here in Snowdonia. It was pretty poor forecast with high winds and so we stayed low, ascending Little & North Gullies on Tryfan before breaking off right to avoid the summit and joining the lower section of the North Ridge for our descent. We covered fundamental movement skills, risk assessment & management and some basic ropework as well as doing some great scrambling. It stayed dry despite the forecast but was very blustery. We were also joined by Kate from my mentor scheme.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

2011 Dates Now Online

I have now updated the diary page on the website for 2011 open course dates and expeditions. My winter courses are filling up fast and I have two exciting expeditions taking bookings now. In February I am running a snowshoe trip to Norway for a 5 day expedition across the Hardangervidda Plateau supported by a dog sled team and with a snowmobile ride up onto the plateau.
In October I am running a trip to Morocco to climb Toubkal, the highest peak in the Atlas Mountains over the course of an 8 day expedition which will suit those with limited holidays.
You can check out dates and prices here:

Friday, September 03, 2010

Advanced Scrambling Course

I have been out with George & Paul today who have both been doing some bodying for SARDA Wales over the last 18 months. They joined me for a two day advanced scrambling course and yesterday Bryn took them up the Clogwyn Y Person Arete for their first day out. Today I took them onto the Idwal Staircase where they lead the upper section for themselves. We did a spot of abseiling and then headed into Cwm Cneifion and climbed the Cneifion Arete in beautiful sunshine. A great day out in lovely weather.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Private Guiding - Crib Goch

Monica and I headed over Crib Goch today. It was incredibly warm as we walked up the Pyg track and we  were glad of a slight breeze as we made our way up the East Ridge and across Crib Goch. As usual we saw a wide range of equipment from the obligatory man in sandals to a roped pair, all doing the same route. It was a stunning day to be up there and we had lovely views and moved well. The top photo shows Neil from the Llanberis Team swinging a glow stick last night - we weren't raving just playing helicopters!