Monday, January 31, 2011

Winter Skills 5 day course

I have been joined by repeat clients Julian and James for a five day winter skills course here in Scotland. Today the weather has been ideal for testing kit with strong winds and heavy rain. We headed up to Aonach Mor and looked at axe and crampon skills and introduced avalanche avoidance skills. The Gondola closed mid morning so we had to walk down but still had a fun day out. 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Avalanche Rescue & Transceiver Training

I have been on a course today at Glenmore Lodge looking at the use of transceivers and companion rescue in an avalanche. We spent the morning looking at the transceivers and how they work and made the most of the excellent new transceiver park that is available for use all year round for transceiver training. The park consists of some permanently buried transceivers that can be found and then felt under the probes through wood chips. This simulates searching and probing snow. After lunch we then headed up the hill and repeated the exercise in real snow looking at how to dig out an avalanche victim. A great day with lots of new skills that I hope never to need!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Climbing in the Cairngorms

I am in Aviemore this weekend for the Association of Mountaineering Instructors AGM. Bryn and I drove up from Wales together yesterday and had a day climbing in the Cairngorms today. This morning we headed to Hells Lum (III) which we climbed in bright sunshine on good neve and topped out for a lunch and a sun bathe with stunning views over the Cairngorms and a cloud inversion over Aviemore. We then dropped down into Sneachda and climbed Fingers Ridge (IV,4)  in more normal weather as the cloud swept in and the wind picked up. Nevertheless the climbing was brilliant with good placements, good gear and of course plenty of banter. A very nice day in the mountains.   

Sunday, January 23, 2011

No snow here in Wales

The lack of snow here in Wales has meant that I have had to cancel 6 days of winter climbing work and a day of winter skills work since I got back from Scotland on Tuesday which is a real shame. I've made the most of the unexpected time off though and have been on some lovely walks with the dog and the kids, done some Search Dog Training and a Mountain Rescue First Aid assessment today. The weather is pretty with blue skies, sunshine and cold temperatures its just a shame theres no ice or snow! Back to Scotland on Thursday for some climbing, the AMI AGM and a couple of weeks work. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dorsal Arete, Glen Coe

Naomi, Will and I headed up into Stob Coire nan Lochain today and climbed Dorsal Arete. It was snowing heavily over about 800m most of the day and we had some significant snowfall as we climbed. There was also a fairly strong Westerly wind so there will be some fairly sizeable accumulations of windslab over the next day or so. We had some lovely climbing conditions with the snow re-frozen to give nice neve on the route, the spindrift effect as we climbed the fin and the entire Coire to ourselves. A brilliant last day of the course.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Cor Blimey

Its been pretty wild again here in Scotland and so Will, Naomi and I decided to enjoy the steep ice and warm rock of the Ice Factor in Kinlochleven. The centre has the worlds biggest Ice Climbing indoor wall and is great for coaching technique. We looked at some rope skills in the rock wall this morning, climbed some steep ice for a couple of hours and got Will & Naomi climbing very well and then after a spot of lunch we did some movement coaching and abseiling on the climbing wall. A good use of a warm, wet and windy day. Its all looking much better from tomorrow onwards though, the winds and temperature are dropping and there's some more snow due for the summits.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Winter Mountaineering Course

I have been joined by repeat clients Naomi and Will for a three day winter mountaineering course in Scotland. The weather forecast was predicting heavy persistent rain, winds gusting 90mph on the summits and temperatures of 4 degrees c at 900m and was pretty accurate! We headed down to Glencoe and sought shelter under the cliffs of Stob Coire nan Lochain and Stob Coire nam Beith where we looked at avalanche avoidance, swollen stream crossings(!), tieing into the rope, body belays, rock anchors in winter and abseiling off the route. We were glad to join the throngs of other people by the fire in the Clachaig at the end of the day to dry out and recover from our thrashing! Once the temperature drops again we will have some fine neve to play on so roll on Monday!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Beinn Udlaidh

Alec, Dave, Bryn and I headed to Beinn Udlaidh today to get some climbing done. The forecast promised rising temperatures as the day went on but we enjoyed a couple of pitches of sticky ice on Tinkerbell (III, 4) on the right hand side of the Corrie. The classic routes like Peter Pan Direct and Cut-throat had not touched down or perhaps had melted back over the last couple of days. We could not see Quartz Vein Scoop as the clag was in and we were keen to avoid any cornices that might have formed at the top of the route. It was very wet and warm all day but good fun nonetheless!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Another beautiful day

Bryn and I headed into Glen Nevis this morning to see if Steall Falls were in condition for climbing, they weren't! It was however a very beautiful morning for a walk and left us the option of an afternoon of skiing back at Nevis Range. We joined up with friends Dave, Andy and Alec and the snow was still incredible so we weren't too disappointed! The clear skies and clarity of the light meant that the views were stunning as you can see from the photos that were only taken on my phone.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Fresh powder day

I have got a few days off now to do some climbing with friends Dave, Bryn, Alec and Andy. This morning we woke up to lots of fresh snow and the avalanche forecast was High on most aspects so skiing rather than climbing was the order of the day. After a morning catching up on admin Bryn and I headed to Nevis Range and were glad of four wheel drive and snow tyres once more to get to the car park! The skiing was incredible with just under knee deep fresh powder across the whole mountain which gave really nice soft landings every time I fell over!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Winter Skills Weekend in the sunshine

When I woke up this morning I could hear rain hammering against the window, it was still very dark but the prospects of another sunny day looked unlikely. Having looked at the weather and avalanche forecasts together the team and I decided that Glen Coe offered the best bet and so we went up Buachaille Etive Beag. There was fresh snow on the road through the Coe and the whole mountain had a nice fresh layer of powder. We used the skills that we had covered yesterday to complete our journey to the summit and along the way refreshed our memories on the key skills including avalanche avoidance. We had some stunning panoramic views and the temperature dropped as the day went on, the skies were once again blue and the sun was shining. A great weekend. There are several weakly bonded layers within some fairly significant areas of windslab across the mountains at the moment and so care is required. Be sure to visit the SAIS website and take care.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Winter Skills Weekend

I have been joined for the weekend by Graham, Gavin, Ian, Richard, Andrew and Steve for a winter skills course. It has been another lovely day here in the Highlands and we enjoyed some lovely views from Aonach Mor. The temperature was well below freezing and the skiiers were enjoying some fresh snow. We looked at kicking steps, cutting steps, use of crampons, ice axe arrest, avalanche avoidance and enjoyed lunch in the snow shelter my group built on Thursday. Another great day out.

The Cold Snap Continues

I came across this article on the BMC website. It explains why we have been having such great winters for the last couple of years and why we are likely to have a few more yet. Have a read here:  If you want to get out and make the most of it I have 3 spaces on my five day winter skills course in the first week of February in Scotland. Get more details here:

Friday, January 07, 2011

Ben Nevis

We had a fantastic finale to our winter skills week today, we headed up Ben Nevis in wonderful weather and enjoyed some stunning views all the way up and from the summit. The wind was light, the skies blue and we had snow to play in most of the way up. We also enjoyed a great glissade down the red burn to speed the descent!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Shelter Building Day

Today we decided to give our legs a rest and give the upper body a workout instead. We headed to Aonach Mor and looked at emergency and planned snow shelters. We built a shovel up and then looked at emergency use of the rope to approach a cornice edge. It was another lovely day with little wind, temperatures of about -8 at 900m and some fresh snow showers.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Stob Ban, Glen Nevis

Scotland put on a show for us today and showed us why its mountains are world class. We headed up Stob Ban from Glen Nevis, it had snowed overnight to the road and there was a beautiful Alpen Glow to the sky as we left the car park. As we ascended we enjoyed some stunning views down the Glen with a lovely cloud inversion and put some fresh tracks in on the path. The snow was quite deep high up and gave us lots of opportunity to look at avalanche avoidance and safe travel techniques before pulling up onto the Col. We donned crampons on the wind scoured snow and followed the Alpine style ridge upto the summit in stunning blue skies and with no wind. As we descended we had more snow and a fine sunset as we reached the car park. A brilliant day.